FCCs Powell Riffs On DTV, Wireless, Regulation

In his CES 2004 keynote, FCC chairman Powell said it's unlikely the industry will meet its 2006 deadline to phase out analog TV.

LAS VEGAS—In a wide-ranging discussion here, Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell said it is "very unlikely" that the industry will meet its 2006 deadline to phase out analog television broadcasts in favor of DTV.

Powell spoke to Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro in a public discussion Friday morning here at the CES show here. Powell, who has consistently advocated that government take a limited role in determining public policy, maintained that stance while discussing spectrum auctions, copyright protection, and the need for technology in child-rearing.

Powell and other FCC commissioners raised eyebrows in 2003 when the Commission voted 3-2 to loosen ownership rules governing media conglomerates. "The issue that is important is that people disagree where the lines are drawn in this age of democracy," he said. "Ownership shouldnt last in the hands of any one in the government."

Powells consistent stance toward letting industry set its own direction, within broad FCC guidelines, prompted Shapiro to ask whether Powell was a regulator or de-regulator. "I refuse to be labeled, Gary," Powell quipped.

Powell answered Shapiros questions on a variety of topics. Powell said the FCCs to-do list in 2004 will involve looking more closely at the issue of licensed versus unlicensed RF spectra, which can either be used for regulated devices or deregulated for new technologies. The commission will also take a harder look at "everything over IP," including VOIP, and the "must carry" rule, which requires broadcasters to broadcast a legacy analog signal as well as a digital version.


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