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FCC Fail: Not the Time for a Lovefest

11:30 AM -- CHICAGO -- The Cable Show -- Julius Genachowski's most interesting comments here came in the first minute after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman took the stage. As he sat down next to Michael Powell, his predecessor at the FCC and current National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) CEO and president, Powell joked, "I'm used to sitting in that chair."

"Well, Mr. Chairman, you can have it back," Genachowski said.

"Never," Powell said. "Been there, done that."

The two old friends then proceeded to have a pleasant chat that carefully avoided any controversy -– probably the one person who isn't going to throw hardball questions at an FCC chairman is a former FCC chairman.

So what did we learn? Well, Genachowski thinks the U.S. cable industry is uniquely strong compared to cable elsewhere in the world, REALLY loves that cable takes broadband to 93 percent of U.S. homes, believes new wireless devices are dramatically reshaping that industry making new spectrum mandatory and that broadband is the engine of U.S. economic recovery.

The only thing that was mildly newsworthy was Genachowski's mention of a new FCC task force on broadband adoption to address the fact that one-third of the Americans who could buy broadband don't.

"I'm calling on cable and others in the broadband industry to step up on help close the broadband gap," Genachowski said.

Universal Service Fund reform got a brief mention, but any temptation to further regulate broadband was completely ignored. Nor was there any discussion of the impact on mega-mergers and how the FCC might react to further consolidation. The chairman had little coherent to say about cable's participation in the wireless segment, but then after he botched the name "Brighthouse" -– first trying Brightcove and Brightstar before getting a rescue from Powell –- he may have been too flustered to say much more.

There are still real issues before the FCC that need to be tackled, and it seems a shame to waste an opportunity to talk openly about them. Kevin Martin was certainly cable's least-favorite FCC chairman in recent years, and he tended to show up most often as a video image, but at least he tackled things head-on. The Genachowski-Powell lovefest did little in that regard.

— Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

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