Washington observer scopes out congressional 2011 priorities


The takeover of the House of Representatives by Republicans signals a new set of priorities for Congress – or for half of Congress, at any rate – and according to one close observer of the Capitol Hill scene, a rollback of the FCC’s network neutrality proposal and the search for spectrum will be two of the biggest issues there this year.

The predictions come from Catherine McCullough of Meadowbrook Strategic Government Relations LLC, guest-blogging for law firm Fletcher Heald & Hildreth’s CommLawBlog.

McCullough noted that new House Commerce chair Fred Upton (R-MI) didn’t waste any time at all in getting on the network neutrality issue, and said it would likely be a focal point for him and Communications Subcommittee chair Greg Walden (R-OR).

She noted that in the Senate, returning Commerce chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has already done some signaling of his own – on the spectrum issue. She noted his proposal to hand D block spectrum over to public safety users, while allowing the FCC to go into the incentive auction business.

McCullough expects FCC reform to be a hot issue in the House, with Republican leadership anxious to revive efforts to put the Commission on a shot clock – forcing it to make regulatory decisions in a timely manner.

Although many broadcasters expect retransmission consent to be a hot topic on the Hill this year, McCullough made no mention of it. She did notice, however, that broadcasters may enter any issue with an ace in the hole.

“Look for Communications Subcommittee Chair Walden to have a strong hand in the negotiations here on the House side,” she wrote, discussing the spectrum issue. “His background as an owner and operator of radio stations makes him a natural ally for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) and its efforts to get its members to give up as little spectrum as possible for as much as possible.”