Communications Act to be Updated for 21st Century

People use mobile devices to record during the final day of the Democratic National Convention at Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The DNC, which concludes today, nominated U.S. President Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential candidate. 
National Journal
Dec. 3, 2013, 1:40 p.m.

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when 56 kilo­b­its per second via dial-up mo­dem was state of the art, the Com­mu­nic­a­tions Act is now pain­fully out of date,” Walden said.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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