House Democrats issue a report accusing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin of egregious abuses of power, suppression of information and manipulation of data. Among the charges: burying engineering reports that said broadband over power lines wasn't ready for prime time and reversing a decision that found Verizon guilty of violating Customer Propriety Network Information rules.
U.S. House Democrats released the results of their yearlong investigation of
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin's handling of the
agency. Although the report found Martin guilty of the "most egregious
abuses of power, suppression of information and manipulation of data," the
probe stopped short of accusing Martin of breaking any laws.
and Distrust: The Federal Communications Commission Under Chairman Kevin J.
Martin-was prompted by allegations that Martin manipulated or
suppressed information to foster his own agenda, particularly his interest in
forcing cable companies to offer a la carte programming.
The investigation also found that Martin hasn't handled FCC affairs in an
open and transparent manner and accuses Martin of creating a climate of
distrust, suspicion and turmoil among the five members of the FCC.
In addition, the report found Martin ignored complaints of radio frequency
interference caused by BPL (broadband over
power lines) and reversed an FCC Enforcement Bureau conclusion that Verizon was
guilty of violating Customer Propriety Network Information rules.
"Our investigation confirmed a number of troubling allegations raised
by individuals in and outside the FCC," Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.,
chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, said in a
statement. "The Committee staff report details some of the most
egregious abuses of power, suppression of information and manipulation of data
under Chairman Martin's leadership."
Robert Kenney, an FCC spokesman, promptly downplayed the investigation.
"It appears that the [House Energy and Commerce] Committee did not find
or conclude that there were any violations of rules, laws or procedures
following a yearlong investigation," Kenney said. "Chairman Martin
has followed the same procedures that have been followed for the past 20 years
by FCC chairmen, Democrat and Republican alike."
In October 2004, the FCC issued a final decision authorizing the operation
of BPL and set rules to protect licensed
incumbents operating near power lines. However, as a court case later revealed,
the FCC also withheld engineering reports about potential interference
In April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit, said the FCC
played "hide and seek" with the engineering data supporting the BPL
order and that the agency "cherry-picked" its data. While advances in
BPL technology eventually made the whole
issue moot, the Democrats noted that the fact that the "FCC withheld the
required engineering reports in this matter indicates poor judgment and an
attempt to hide critical weaknesses in its decision."
"Any of these findings, individually, are cause for concern," said
Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce
Committee. "Together, the findings suggest that, in recent years, the FCC
has operated in a dysfunctional manner and commission business has suffered as
a result. It is my hope that the new FCC chairman will find this report
instructive and that it will prove useful in helping the commission avoid
making the same mistakes."