While most the country has been occupied with the Sotomayor confirmation, we at FMC have also been keeping our eyes on another nomination process -- namely, who will fill a pair of important Federal Communications Commission posts.
When President Obama entered office, three out of the five FCC Commissioner spots, including the FCC Chairmanship, were vacant. Last month, the Senate confirmed Julius Genochowski to head up the agency; you can read about it here). On July 15, 2009, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing questioning Obama's nominees for the two remaining Commissioner seats.
So who, exactly, are these nominees? Well, first there's Mignon L. Clyburn, current head of the Public Service Commission of South Carolina and daughter of House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn. Prior to becoming a state regulator, the younger Clyburn ran The Coastal Times, a small Charleston newspaper. Next up is Meredith Atwell Baker, former head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, who was previously the Director of Congressional Affairs at the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association.
Senate Commerce Committee members grilled Clyburn and Baker about their positions on network neutrality, broadband deployment and spectrum reform, among other things. These topics might sound like high-fallutin? techie talk, but they're all issues that will have a real impact on musicians in the coming years.
Network Neutrality is essential to preserving an open, accessible Internet. It allows local and independent musicians to compete on a level technological playing field with the biggest companies by preventing telecom and cable giants from charging content providers a fee for faster delivery of their sites and services. FMC has long championed Network Neutrality -- check out our Rock the Net page to learn more.
A solid plan for broadband deployment would provide fast, affordable internet access to more American communities -- particularly those in rural areas. As music continues to shift away from a physical product, digital technologies have become the new standard for the distribution, access and promotion of music. Currently, many people don't have access to broadband Internet. In fact, the Washington Post recently reported that fifty percent of "core country music fans" lack any access in their homes. Without proper broadband deployment, artists? ability to connect with fans and sustain their careers could be greatly undermined.
Finally, spectrum reform would allow innovative wireless devices to operate across the country, making music truly mobile. In this instance, "spectrum" is basically shorthand for the entire range of frequencies used to broadcast content. Previously much of it was occupied by television and radio. However, as media is delivered digitally, more spectrum becomes available. In the future, we could see exciting new devices that could use this valuable resource to bring greater connectivity and enlarge the legitimate digital music marketplace. As the agency that licenses and oversees the public spectrum, the FCC must promote policies that foster competition in both wired and wireless networks. And they shouldn't stop there -- it's also high time for terrestrial commercial radio to recommit to the FCC's stated principles of localism, competition and diversity on the public airwaves. In fact, the sustainability of today's (and tomorrow's) local music communities depend on it.
So there you have it -- the next two FCC nominees have a major role in how, who and where people access to the Internet, as well as how local and indie artists interact with radio. On Tuesday, July 21, the Senate Commerce Committee approved the nomination of both candidates -- next up is the full Senate vote, which lawmakers are hoping to accomplish before August recess. Stay tuned for more updates!