June 30, 2005

FCC’s Abernathy pushes for full commission

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Departing Republican FederalCommunications Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy said on Thursdaya full slate of commissioners was needed to address the rapidchanges in the communications sphere.

The FCC is split evenly with two Republicans and twoDemocrats with one open Republican seat. Abernathy has said sheplans to leave this year, and the Bush administration has yetto nominate any replacements.

Abernathy said she would stay for the "foreseeable future"but she said that without a full complement of commissioners,the work of the agency may be hampered.

"It's certainly to everyone's benefit to have a full andcomplete commission to deal with a lot of the issues that arecoming back to us from the courts as well as the mergers," shesaid on Thursday.

The agency has several acquisitions to consider and mustdecide what regulations, if any, should be applied to newInternet-based products such as video and high-speed Webservices.

And, the agency plans to soon ask for public comment onmedia ownership regulations, which were sent back by a federalappeals court in 2004 for better justification or to berewritten.

Some communications industry representatives have grumbledprivately that the White House has yet to name anyreplacements. But Verizon Communications, which is seeking FCCapproval to buy MCI Inc., went public earlier this month.

"We need a fully functioning FCC," Tom Tauke, Verizonexecutive vice president for public affairs, said on June 6."It's hard to make bold policy when you have one vacancy andtwo lame ducks."

The term of one of the Democrat commissioners, MichaelCopps, expires on Thursday, but he can remain at the agencyuntil next fall unless a replacement is confirmed by the U.S.Senate.