News Ticker

Katy on the Hill returns June 15

We’re going away on a vacation we booked months ago.  (There’s just two of us), so we hope you’ll understand. We really appreciate our readers and the increasing support you’ve been giving us.

This is one of those times when I wish for a clone. Instead, I’ll have to settle for a crystal ball.

Here’s what could happen while we’re away:

—The DC circuit court of appeals is likely to issue a ruling on motions filed by telecom and cable groups to stay the Federal Communications Commission’s open Internet order. If the court doesn’t issue a stay, the order goes into effect June 12. Anticipating a favorable ruling, the FCC enforcement bureau issued some loose guidance about how it will treat privacy under the order.

—Regulators could approve soon the $48.5 billion AT&T-DirecTV deal, creating the largest multichannel video program distributor with 26 million video subscribers. The FCC will likely impose some conditions, though it’s hard to predict if those conditions will be any tougher than the voluntary sweeteners AT&T offered when it first announced the deal: a promise to market broadband as a stand alone service, a commitment to build-out broadband in 13 mill. mostly rural customer locations, and an agreement to abide by the FCC’s 2010 net neutrality principles of no blocking, and no throttling

—Keep your eye on the deals. Mobile and broadband companies that distribute content are consolidating and the trend appears far from over. Already this summer there have been three: Altice’s agreement to buy Suddenlink, Charter’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable & Bright House, and Verizon’s purchase of AOL. We should find out soon whether it will be FTC or DOJ that reviews Verizon-AOL. Just like last summer, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has three deals to review. This time it’s AT&T-DirecTV, Altice-Suddenlink, and the Charter combo deals.

—June 2 is the deadline for comments on the FCC’s plan for how it will set a spectrum clearing target for the broadcast incentive auction.  The first scenario the FCC offered has been challenged by GOP Commissioners Pai and O’reilly.

—Watch for the FCC to finalize its agenda for its June 18 monthly meeting on June 11. One item already on the agenda for a vote is chairman Wheeler’s proposal to crack down on robocalls and spam texts to cell phones. The proposal would allow carriers to offer robocall blockers, give consumers more control over who gets to call their numbers, and clarify the definition of autodialing technology to make sure any auto technology would require express written consent from consumers. Another item is a set of proposals from Wheeler to “reboot” the Lifeline program to include subsidies for Internet service.

—Will patent reform move? Senate judiciary chairman Chuck Grassley said he would hold over the PATENT Act S1137 until after the break; it’s not on the committee’s schedule as part of a June 4 executive business meeting. House judiciary chairman Bob Goodlatte, author of the Innovation Act HR 9, delayed the mark up of that bill.