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Focus on Regulation

House Energy and Commerce Committee Seek Comment on Communications Act Rewrite White Paper

Capitol domeCongress has once again taken up the idea of modernizing the Act to take into account “recent” innovations like the Internet, and is seeking public comment on some basic, critical issues about how the telecommunications industry is regulated.

On January 8, 2014, Reps. Fred Upton and Greg Walden of the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a white paper on modernizing the Communications Act, and seeking public feedback on 5 key questions:

  • Does the structure of the current Communications Act around particular services work for the modern communications sector? If not, what structures or principles should be used?
  • Which provisions of the current Act should be retained, and which eliminated?
  • Should the structure or jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission be changed?
  • How can laws be crafted with sufficient flexibility to keep up with the rapidly evolving nature of technology, or be more technology-neutral?
  • Does the distinction between information and telecommunications services continue to serve a purpose?

In framing these questions, the Committee noted that one of the most common criticisms of the Act is its organization into “silos,” with each title governing a specific sector of the communications economy, often with inconsistent approaches to definition and regulation.  The white paper asserts that regulatory uncertainty regarding Internet-related issues harms consumers and industry and specifically seeks comment on changes to the regulatory treatment of wireline and wireless broadband.  At the same time, the white paper also invites comment on “any aspect of updating communications law.”

Comments are due by January 31, 2014.