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FCC cancels meeting after warning

By , IDG News Service
December 12, 2008 09:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has cancelled an open meeting set for Dec. 18 after two high-ranking lawmakers asked Chairman Kevin Martin to hold off on some controversial items in the agenda and concentrate on the transition to digital television instead.

The commission had been planning to take up several issues at the meeting, including a proposal to auction off some wireless spectrum and set aside some of it for a nationwide wireless network with content controls. The plan mirrors a longstanding proposal by startup M2Z Networks and has been opposed by civil liberties groups as well as by carrier T-Mobile USA, which says the network would interfere with nearby spectrum it holds.

The agency announced the cancellation late Friday, the same day U.S. Representative Henry Waxman of California and U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia wrote the letter to Martin. The Democratic lawmakers said it would be counterproductive for the FCC to try to deal with controversial proposals when the nation didn't appear ready for the transition from analog to digital TV on Feb. 17, 2009. Waxman is the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees the FCC, and Rockefeller is expected to lead the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which deals with similar issues.

"We received the letter from Senator Rockefeller and Congressman Waxman today and spoke with other offices. In light of the letter, it does not appear that there is consensus to move forward and the agenda meeting has been canceled. The items will remain on circulation and the Commissioners can still vote on them," FCC spokesman Robert Kenny said in a statement.

On Tuesday, the Energy and Commerce Committee issued a report accusing Martin of abusing his power and breaking commission rules during his time in office. Martin, who was appointed by outgoing President George W. Bush, is expected to be replaced some time after President-Elect Barack Obama takes office on Jan. 20.

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