Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania


November 9, 2012

President Barack Obama's reelection means a Democrat will remain in the driver's seat at the Federal Communications Commission next year. But just who that Democrat will be is an open question. Current FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski is coy about his plans, but most observers say he is ready to leave the agency in the coming months. If the chairman departs, as expected, whomever Obama taps to succeed Genachowski will have to decide how to try to handle the agenda he leaves behind.

The two other Democrats already on the commission - Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel - are seen as contenders to succeed Genachowski. Both have powerful political backers on Capitol Hill. Other names bandied about include National Telecommunications and Information Administration Administrator Larry Strickling; former Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association head Tom Wheeler; Scott Harris, executive vice president of Neustar; and Blair Levin, a former FCC chief of the international bureau who also oversaw preparation of the National Broadband Plan. Public Knowledge CEO Gigi Sohn, for one, hopes the next chairman is a woman. "In the election year of the woman, the FCC needs a female chair," Sohn said.

Many industry insiders think the chairmanship will go to a Washington outsider, possibly someone from one of the state public utility commissions. "I think it's going to come in from left field," said one telecommunications industry executive. An FCC spokesperson said Wednesday that "Chairman Genachowski is focused, and plans to remain focused, on an ongoing agenda to unleash the benefits of broadband, driving economic growth and opportunity for all Americans, and helping ensure that the U.S. maintains the global leadership it has regained."

Whoever helms the commission will have to deal with a string of court challenges to Genachowski's policies. It's likely that at least some of the challenges to the net neutrality rules, data roaming requirements or Universal Service Fund reform will succeed and throw issues back to the agency. "Unless we have a shocker and the FCC goes three for three [in the courts], it's all going to fall back to the FCC to fix it," Sohn said. In any case, Obama's victory means the commission remains in Democratic hands and that Genachowski's initiatives, from a first-ever incentive auction for a big slice of the airwaves to network neutrality, will continue. While conservatives have vilified Genachowski, liberals have also been critical. The liberals are hoping that a new chairman will move the commission to the left. "It's all about the FCC's power to protect the consumer," Sohn said. Politico

CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves has not been shy about his ill feelings towards the AutoHop, a new feature from satellite broadcaster Dish Network that makes skipping ads in TV shows recorded off of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox as easy as pushing a button. "I can't produce premium shows like 'CSI' without advertising," Moonves told the Los Angeles Times this year. He reiterated that thought on a call with Wall Street analysts Wednesday saying, "the fact of the matter is, we produce content and need to get paid for it."

But every man apparently does have his price, even Moonves. S&P Capital analyst Tuna Amobi asked Moonves on the call if there were "any scenarios where you might consider trading off advertising revenue if you felt that you could be adequately compensated by pay TV affiliate operators that are offering ad skipping functionalities?" "I suppose if Dish wanted to pay us $5 a sub, we might consider letting them do that," Moonves responded. Although Moonves was being flip, his remark points to what this battle is really about -- and it's not just skipping commercials.

Dish's AutoHop works only on the four big broadcast networks even though cable television has a lot more commercials per hour on average. Dish has said the AutoHop feature on its digital video recorder works only on broadcast shows because those are the most popular programs. But many cable programs have audiences as big as broadcast shows. This is really about leverage. Broadcasters such as CBS are seeking higher payments from pay-TV distributors such as Dish. The AutoHop gives Dish leverage to try and lower so-called retransmission consent fees.

Negotiations over the AutoHop will likely have to wait until the law weighs in. CBS, NBC and Fox have sued Dish claiming the AutoHop violates copyright infringement. No trial dates have been set. On Wednesday, Fox's request for a preliminary injunction to stop Dish from offering the AutoHop was denied.

Dave Shull, Dish's senior vice president of programming, said Moonves and other broadcasters "would do well to tune into the consumer. Give the customer choice and control, give the customer a better experience and you will win every single time." The choice CBS and others may ultimately make though will be to not sell programming to Dish. Los Angeles Times

Twitter said that it mistakenly reset the passwords of "a large number" of its more than 140 million active users while conducting routine security screening to identify accounts that may have been compromised. "In instances when we believe an account may have been compromised, we reset the password and send an email letting the account owner know this has happened," Twitter said in its blog on Thursday. "In this case, we unintentionally reset passwords of a larger number of accounts, beyond those that we believed to have been compromised." Carolyn Penner, a spokeswoman for the social-networking site, declined to say how many Twitter accounts were affected by the error. She said that there had not been a security breach. Reuters

Democratic challenger Sheamus Bonner on Thursday conceded the 163d District state House race to incumbent Nicholas A. Micozzie, a Republican who has represented the Delaware County district for 34 years. "We started this process to make sure that every voice in this district was heard," Bonner said in a statement. "After the first day of counting provisional ballots, we determined that there were simply not enough remaining votes to close the gap."

In an interview, Bonner, a former Army paratrooper and corrections officer, said he had told Micozzie that he would work with him. "I will continue to fight for the middle class and unions and the people of the 163d," Bonner said. Bonner's announcement came on the day Delaware County started counting provisional ballots and the day before the beginning of the official final count, which will include absentee ballots. Unofficial vote tallies of machine ballots had Bonner trailing Micozzie, who was first elected to the House in 1978, by 354 votes, by 14,003 to 13,649.

Micozzie, chairman of the House Insurance Committee, won the 2010 election by a comfortable margin, with 57 percent of the vote. That was not the case this time. "I'm glad it's over, and now we go to work," Micozzie said in an interview. He said Bonner had called him to concede and say he would support Micozzie's efforts to help constituents. Micozzie attributed the closeness of the race to Democratic voter turnout and what he considered negative campaigning. In Montgomery County, the race between GOP Rep. Tom Quigley and Democratic challenger Mark Painter remained unresolved. Unofficial tallies had Quigley trailing Painter by 216 votes.