• On August 25, 2005, Reuters reported that Thomas Barnett will be nominated by President Bush to lead the Justice Department’s antitrust division. In an announcement earlier in the week, the White House revealed its plan to nominate Barnett, who currently is the acting head of the division. He oversees competition cases, business mergers and investigations. Before that, he served as deputy assistant attorney general for civil enforcement at the division. Former antitrust chief Hewitt Pate left the position in June.
  • On August 23, 2005, USA Today reported that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin may be looking to increase high-speed Internet access across the country. A provision in the 1992 Cable Act could empower the agency to allow regional Bell telecommunications companies to challenge cable television operators in the video market. “Several weeks ago I asked the staff to explore what the commission can do to ensure that local authorities are not unreasonably refusing to award additional competitive licenses” for video,” Martin said. Permitting additional franchises, he added, “would promote competition and stimulate broadband deployment.” The move could upset local franchising bodies, which may view it as an infringement of their authority.
  • On August 15, 2005, the FCC took two actions to protect U.S. consumers from anticompetitive conduct in international telecommunications services markets and to ensure that they enjoy competitive prices as they make international calls. The first, the FCC adopted a Notice of Inquiry that seeks to build a record that would enable the Commission to better protect U.S. consumers from the effects of anticompetitive or “whipsawing” conduct by foreign carriers. “Whipsawing” generally refers to a broad range of anticompetitive behaviors in which foreign carriers or a group of foreign carriers exploit their market power in negotiating settlement rates with competitive U.S. telecommunication carriers. The second, the FCC resolved separately two remaining matters arising from previous Commission actions with regard to anticompetitive conduct on the U.S.-Philippines route. In particular, the FCC denied reconsideration of and affirmed its June 2004 order that upheld an International Bureau finding that six Philippine carriers had disrupted the U.S.-Philippine networks of two U.S. carriers in retaliation for their refusal to agree to the Philippine carriers’ demand for rate increases, and that, by this action, the Philippine carriers had “whipsawed” the U.S. carriers, to the detriment of U.S. consumers. In the same decision, the Commission found that the U.S.-Philippines route was benchmark-compliant and that there was insufficient evidence of remaining competitive concerns raised with regard to that route. Accordingly, the FCC lifted the ISP from the U.S.-Philippines route pursuant to the policies adopted in its 2004 ISP Reform Order.
  • On August 5, 2002, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin named Bruce Franca as Acting Chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology and Leslie Marx as Chief Economist. Bruce Franca has served as Deputy Chief of the Office of Engineering and Technology since 1987. Mr. Franca joined the Commission in 1974 as an engineer in the Aviation and Marine Division of the former Safety and Special Radio Services Bureau. He has also held positions in the Office of Plans and Policy and the Mass Media Bureau. Before joining the Commission, Mr. Franca worked for the Naval Ship Research and Development Center in Annapolis, Maryland; the Naval Electronics Laboratory Center in San Diego, California; and the Naval Applied Science Laboratory in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and has done graduate work in electrical engineering at the George Washington University. Leslie Marx joins the Commission under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act assignment from Duke University, where she serves as an Associate Professor of Economics at the Fuqua School of Business. Prior to joining Duke University, she was a professor at the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester. Ms. Marx graduated as valedictorian from Duke University and received her PhD in Economics from Northwestern University.
  • On August 5, 2005, the FCC loosened its regulations on high-speed Internet access offered by telephone companies, a move prompted by a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding similar rules for competing broadband services offered over cable modems. The FCC voted 4-0 to classify phone-delivered digital subscriber lines (DSL) as a lightly regulated “information service,” the same standard that applies to cable-based broadband. Until now, DSL has been a more heavily regulated “telecommunications service.” “This has been a grueling process,” said GOP Chairman Kevin Martin, who pushed the item and said it would “end the regulatory inequities that currently exist” between phone- and cable-delivered broadband. Republican Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy strongly backed the rulemaking but the two Democratic regulators, Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, offered grudging support. “The order is far from ideal in my mind,” Copps said, adding that he backed it after the Republicans showed flexibility on some issues and because the DSL reclassification was made inevitable by the high court. A key concern of the Democrats involved contributions to the $6.5 billion universal service fund. The fund provides phone subsidies to rural and low-income areas and has strong support on Capitol Hill. In the end, the FCC agreed to require phone providers of DSL to continue making their payments into the fund until the agency can devise a new contribution scheme. The Democrats, particularly Copps, had pushed for “network neutrality” provisions that would bar DSL providers from degrading or blocking services offered by competitors. Under the compromise, the FCC has adopted a set of principles on neutrality, but they are not enforceable, agency officials said. The agency also will seek to ensure that disabled Americans have access to DSL under the new regulatory regime and that consumer privacy is protected. In addition, law enforcement could wiretap phone calls made via broadband.

Authored by
Gregg Mendenhall