At CES, Martin touts rights of consumers

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LAS VEGAS -- Preaching to the choir at CES, FCC chairman Kevin Martin on Wednesday emphasized the need to continue to protect the rights of consumers when it comes to how they use the Internet.

Martin spoke on topics ranging from net neutrality to the digital transition of television during a session at the International Consumer Electronics Show, which was moderated by Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Assn.

"The Commission has tried to adopt basic principles so that consumers continue to get access to everything that's free over the Internet," Martin said. "On the other hand, the operators themselves have an interest in selling speeds and services to consumers -- so we're trying to embrace both aspects."

Martin said that the FCC will continue to try to balance the need to provide copyright protections for content owners with consumers' expectations for fair-use policies.

"First and foremost, we want an environment where private carriers are deploying in broadband," added Martin, while also noting that there are times when local municipalities need to play a role -- for instance, when small carriers don't show up to service an area.

"There has to be a balance," he said. "You don't want to end up encouraging the government to be building networks."

For his part, Martin said he was most proud of what the FCC has accomplished in terms of striving for 100% broadband deployment.

"It's going to be the way in the future that consumers are connected and impacts every aspect of our lives," he said.

While Martin noted all that's transpiring in the wireless world, and specifically mobile TV, he also gave a brief synopsis regarding the transition to digital television -- one that he said not only presents greater opportunity for mobile but that has potential confusion in store for the consumer.

"The role of the commission is about trying to make broadcasters aware of the opportunities with digital and the certain carriage rights involved," Martin said.

Martin also reiterated his past message that there needs to be more competition in the cable industry in order to bring prices down.

In December, he proposed changes to the way franchise rules are imposed on telcos seeking to enter the subscription TV business, with a view based on increasing broadband penetration and promoting competition, particularly for cable operators.
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