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Communications Act to be Updated for 21st Century Communications Act to be Updated for 21st Century

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Communications Act to be Updated for 21st Century

The flood of innovation over the last two decades--such as the rise of smartphones--has rendered the Communications Act out-of-date.(Getty Images)

photo of Laura Ryan
December 3, 2013

Congress will review the Communications Act for the first time in 18 years to bring it up-to-date for dynamic nature of the Internet era, announced Reps. Fred Upton, D-Mich, and Greg Walden, R-Ore., Thursday via Google Hangout.

The respective Chairmen of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Communications and Technology Subcommittee, joined by former Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Robert McDowell, did not outline specific goals, but said it will be a multi-year examination of the law.

They said the hallmark act for the communications industry--first passed in 1934 and overhauled in 1996--is insufficient to meet the needs of the 21st century communications marketplace. 

 

"Written during the Great Depression and last updated when 56 kilobits per second via dial-up modem was state of the art, the Communications Act is now painfully out of date," Walden said. "Our goal is to make sure this critical sector of our economy thrives because of the laws around it, not in spite of them."

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., a crucial player in telecommunications lawmaking over the last 30 years, reaction was: proceed with caution.

"Changes should not be made simply for change's sake, but rather based on clear and documented need," Dingell said in a statement Tuesday.

Prominent industry organizations such as the National Association of Broadcasters and National Cable and Telecommunications Association have praised the move.

"We have long maintained that many of the laws governing the communications marketplace are frayed," said Michael Powell, president of the NCTA. "Since their creation, the landscape has been transformed – new, unimagined products and services as well as dramatic changes in market structure."

Congress's overhaul of the Communications Act in 1996 helped unleash the floodgate of innovation by establishing open competition policy framework to promote rapid development of the telecommunications and information industries.

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