Last night, Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) became Senator Ed Markey. That’s good news for Massachusetts, but also good news for those hoping to see a telecom agenda move through the Senate (assuming Markey is assigned to the Commerce Committee).
For those unfamiliar with Ed Markey’s track record on telecom and media, you should thank him every time you watch television with closed captions. That includes online. Markey has been a champion for the physically disabled and consumers generally, and the closed captioning rules in both the 1992 Cable Act and in the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 are the direct results of his efforts.
Markey’s return to the Commerce Committee in the Senate would be particularly welcome in light of the serious “brain drain” the Committee has suffered in terms of its Telecom leadership on both the Democratic and Republican side. Since last Congress the Committee has lost Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), all of whom had significant telecom expertise.
Markey — assuming he takes Kerry’s place on the Committee (as a member not as Chair of the Subcommittee) — will bring passion for critical telecom issues facing the Committee. In addition to being a champion for consumer protection generally, we can hope that Markey will remind his colleagues that there is more to the Incentive Auctions than maximizing revenue. In particular, on the critical issues of preserving spectrum for TV white spaces and using the auction to put spectrum in the hands of competitors, Markey has been a powerful voice in the House.
Equally important, Markey’s experience and ability to reach across the aisle will prove profoundly important as Congress overseas the transition of the telephone system. As one of the chief architects of the 1996 Telecom Act and one of the few members of the Committee whose tenure goes back to the 1992 Cable Act, Markey brings a perspective that would otherwise be absent after Senator Rockefeller retires. Markey actually remembers why we had these rules in the first place, and the important fundamental principles they are intended to protect and encourage.
While Congress has not yet become active on the PSTN transition, we can expect they inevitably will. When that happens, Markey’s experience in everything from Universal Service Fund to Accessibility issues will be critical to keeping the Committee on the right track.
Stay tuned . . .