Deborah D. McAdams /
Lawmakers to Update '96 Communications Act
Upton, Walden, shoot for 2015
WASHINGTON — Congress fixing to commence work on the
Communications Act, v. 3.0. House Energy and Commerce Committee
Chairman Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Rep.
Greg Walden (R-Ore.) announced their intent to update the Telecommunications
Act of 1996, itself the first update of the original Communications Act, forged
in 1934. Walden and Upton announced their intention on Google Hangouts.
“We thought we’d have a little discussion today about our activities in the
months ahead,” Upton said. “It’s been quite some time since there’s been any
type of update or hearings reviewing the Communications Act, and we’re
prepared, in essence, to talk about a launch of a number of hearings that we
will have next year, a number of white papers examining a whole number of
different issues. Our goal, in fact, will be to use theses hearings throughout
the course of the next year to begin to actually launch an update beginning in
Walden stressed the emergence of the Web as a leading communications medium
since the last update.
“Google is now the elder statesmen in the tech world, if you think about it,”
Walden said. “Google’s been around about 15 years. Twitter’s just six years
old. A lot has happened since the last update.”
The two sat in front of a white board with the hashtag, #CommActUpdate. The
purpose, Walden said, was to cull as much public feedback as possible. They
brought in former Federal Communications Commissioner Robert McDowell, who
is now with the Hudson Institute.
“Even the 1996 Act was based on the 1934 Act. It didn’t modify the foundation
of the ’34 Act,” he said.
Consumers don’t care what medium carries their information, though laws are
applied to physical and wireless mediums differently, he said.
The primary intention of the ’96 Act was to bring some regulatory relief to
carriers. Upton mentioned the goal of supporting competition, while Walden
brought up freeing up more spectrum for broadband. Upton also reiterated the
intent for the subcommittee to “develop and publish a number of white papers
finding specifically what’s going on today, and what are the questions we need
to ask ourselves today… what laws are cumbersome, which ones are not.”
The ’34 Act, signed by President Franklin D.
Roosevelt, created the Federal Communications Commission, which is charged with
carrying out the laws laid out in the Act. The commission took about five years
to implement the 1996 Act.