House Commerce Assignments Made

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will likely re-examine telecom reform and play with the DTV converter box program, has been formed. With Congress under the control of the Democrats, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan will chair the committee as he did before the GOP takeover in 1995.

Ranking Democrats include Henry Waxman of California, Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Rick Boucher of Virginia. When the committee passed a telecom bill last year under the leadership of Texas Republican Joe Barton, Markey tried to attach a network neutrality amendment that was summarily shot down. As passed, the bill focused entirely on video franchising, but the companion bill in the Senate included everything from a GI phone call subsidy to Internet kiddie porn and about 10 more disparate items. Senate Democrats successfully blocked the bill because it did not include the type of network neutrality protections they favored. "Network neutrality" is the term du jour for preventing broadband providers from manipulating traffic on their networks. The issue has already been revived on that side of the Capitol, giving Markey a bit more ammunition should he take up the cause again.

In the DTV deadline bill passed during the previous Congress, Markey and Boucher wanted to allocate more money to the converter box fund, while Barton wasn't keen on putting a single dime into it. Ultimately, up to $1.5 billion was set aside to subsidize and distribute the boxes, which will allow analog TVs to decode digital signals when analog broadcast transmitters go dark Feb. 17, 2009.

Other Democrats on the committee include Henry A. Waxman, Lois Capps, Jane Harmon, Hilda Solis and Anna Eshoo of California; Edolphus Towns, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Engel of New York; Frank Pallone, Jr. of New Jersey; Bart Gordon of Tennessee; Bobby Rush and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois; Bart Stupak of Michigan; Albert Wynn of Maryland; Gene Green and Charlie Gonzalez of Texas; Diana DeGette of Colorado; Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania; Tom Allen of Maine; Jay Inslee of Washington; Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin; Mike Ross of Arkansas; Darlene Hooley of Oregon; Jim Matheson of Utah; G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina; Charlie Melancon of Louisiana; John Barrow of Georgia; and Baron Hill of Indiana.

Republican members include Barton, Ralph Hall and Michael Burgess of Texas; Dennis Hastert and John Shimkus of Illinois; Fred Upton and Mike Rogers of Michigan; Cliff Stearns of Florida; Nathan Deal and Charlie Norwood of Georgia; Ed Whitfield of Kentucky; Barb Cubin of Wyoming; Heather Wilson of New Mexico; John Shadegg of Arizona; Chip Pickering of Mississippi; Vito Fossella of New York; Steve Buyer of Indiana; George Radanovich and Mary Bono of California; Joe Pitts and Tim Murphy (the committee's lone freshman) of Pennsylvania; Greg Walden of Oregon; Lee Terry of Nebraska; Mike Ferguson of New Jersey; Sue Myrick of North Carolina; John Sullivan of Oklahoma.

Republicans on the telecom subcommittee include Hastart, Upton (who chaired it in Congress No. 109), Stearns, Deal, Cubin, Shimkus, Wilson, Pickering, Fosella, Radanovich, Bono, Walden, Terry and Ferguson. Democrats were not yet listed at press time, although Markey was tapped as chair.