Hearing of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet - FCC Regulators and Management of Free and Open Internet

Statement

By:  John Kerry
Date: Nov. 30, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, today urged two new federal regulators to manage our airwaves and protect a free and open internet if confirmed to serve on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC.)

"The challenges that these nominees will face at the FCC are numerous," Sen. Kerry said at the nomination hearing for Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit V. Pai, President Obama's nominees to serve as Commissioners at the FCC. "They include how to better manage our spectrum for the future and ensure our public safety officials have the tools and space in the airwaves they need to protect us; complex questions on the value of open networks and how unlicensed and licensed spectrum operation can complement each other; and how to best ensure that the market is open to new entrants and innovation. And most importantly, they will have to resolve the questions that remain over how best to ensure that every American has access to the Internet over broadband, regardless of where they live or their economic status."

Senator Kerry's full statement, as prepared for delivery, is below:

Mr. Chairman, thank you. I know how gratifying it can be to see a member of your staff rise to receive this kind of recognition. I also know how hard it is to let a talented member of your team go.

I am very familiar with Jessica Rosenworcel's work, her passion for service, her commitment to the public interest, and her encyclopedic knowledge of telecommunications law. She has served all of us with distinction on this Committee.

Though I am less familiar with Mr. Pai's work, his reputation is stellar in the community of professionals that work on communications and his previous service here in the Senate is commendable. I intend to support both of the nominees.

Ms. Rosenworcel and Mr. Pai, you are each widely recognized for your even temperament. And in this policy space, you will need it. Big moneyed interests will lobby you to gain tactical advantage, public interest groups will push you to adhere to their sense of what is moral, and your every word will receive attention in the trade press and among investors trying to read the tea leaves of where the Commission is headed and what it will mean for the market. But as you know, your ultimate responsibility is to the American people.

As staffers you have felt some of this kind of pressure before. As Commissioners, you will feel it on a new scale. Ultimately, I believe that you will each have to listen to your own conscience and do that which you determine is most consistent with the law and in the public interest, and I trust that you will.

Mr. Chairman, this is an exciting time. We are in the early stages of an exciting socially networked, location aware, mobile device driven communications revolution. Satellites compete with cable and telephone companies to deliver multi-channel TV service. Broadcasters have entered the digital age and are delivering critical services in all of our communities in crisp and clear formats. And the descendants of the monopoly telephone company are competing to win our business for wired and wireless service at home and work on a daily basis. And all of that is good.

On the other hand, markets in each of these sectors continue to concentrate power in the hands of fewer and growing corporate conglomerates. That concentration is threatening the competition that the 1996 Act catalyzed. We still do not have the kind of diversity of ownership, voices, and representation in the media and communications that a healthy democracy needs. And the fervor against the role of government in our society by some on one extreme has reached the point that every time the agency acts to protect consumers or competition, incumbent companies push members of Congress to attack the Chairman and Commissioners.

The challenges that these nominees will face at the FCC are numerous. They include how to better manage our spectrum for the future and ensure our public safety officials have the tools and space in the airwaves they need to protect us; complex questions on the value of open networks and how unlicensed and licensed spectrum operation can complement each other; and how to best ensure that the market is open to new entrants and innovation. And most importantly, they will have to resolve the questions that remain over how best to ensure that every American has access to the Internet over broadband, regardless of where they live or their economic status.

I have a number of questions for the nominees but for now I want to congratulate them and reiterate my support. Ms. Rosenworcel and Mr. Pai, I look forward to hearing your testimony.