With a Democratic majority in place, what does 2007 look like for the cable industry? NCTA pres/CEO Kyle McSlarrow says the verdict’s still out. "I’m personally expecting to attend a lot of hearings" as the new leadership studies the evolving telecom industry, he told CableFAX. "We have to give them some time to figure out what agenda is… I do expect there to be a lot of activity involving telecommunications. I’m just not sure there will be a massive rewrite" immediately.
Beyond McSlarrow’s comments, common sense suggests Congress will pay close attention to federal agencies led by administration appointees (i.e., the FCC). It’s not clear what happens to the House and Sen Commerce committees’ telecom bills that failed to pass this year. (Why, oh why, didn’t we take up Rep Joe Barton (R-TX) on his bet? "I am a pretty good poker player; the odds are 2 to 1 that the president is going to sign a bill," he said during a press conference this year, goading reporters to gamble against him). While members voted the Sen Commerce bill out of committee largely along party lines, it’s likely to at least serve as a jumping off point next year given its scope.
On the House side, Commerce member Hilda Solis (D-CA) told C-SPAN’s Washington Journal that she expects continued debate but also the ability to "bring out more witnesses on our side, the Democratic side, and I think that that’s going to be very important… My perspective is always coming from the consumers… how can we keep costs low, not impeding technology and make it available to those areas that currently don’t have access to a lot of the high technology."
One issue facing Dems is net neutrality—especially considering interest from groups like MoveOn.org. But given the Dems’ slim majority, it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to enact legislation. Franchising relief seems less important for Congress. "I expect the center of gravity for video franchising to be both at the FCC… and in the states," McSlarrow said. Indeed, the Commission is set to vote on a video franchise proposal Wed that reportedly treats cable and phone differently in some areas.
As for the states, "there is no cookie cutter recipe for how states will tackle it," McSlarrow said, noting that he doesn’t think any of the laws in states with statewide franchising look exactly alike. "The operators on the ground have to figure out what’s in their best business interest and make judgments accordingly on how they’re going to interact with that process."