Upton, Walden Plan To Update Comm. Act

Via a Google Hangout, key House committee chairmen Greg Walden (left) and Fred Upton launched a multiyear effort to examine the nation's communications laws and update them for the Internet era. Former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell also speaks during the video.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., today announced plans to update the Communications Act.

The announcement was made via a Google Hangout, similar to a video Skype or FaceTime call.

“Today we are launching a multi-year effort to examine our nation’s communications laws and update them for the Internet era,” Upton said. “The United States has been the global leader in innovation and growth of the Internet, but unfortunately, our communications laws have failed to keep pace. Throughout the recent economic downturn and recovery, the communications and technology sectors have remained stalwarts of our national economy — providing services that consumers demand while investing, innovating and producing the high-quality jobs that all American strive for.”

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement: “NAB salutes the vision of Chairmen Upton and Walden in proposing a holistic review of U.S. telecommunications policy. There can be little doubt that in this multichannel, multiplatform communications world, local broadcasting remains the essential and indispensable programming source in every American community. We look forward to working with Chairmen Upton and Walden and other members of the Energy & Commerce committee as they consider telecom legislation that sustains a robust future for local broadcasting.”

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Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, said the organization has long maintained that the Communications Act is outdated.

“Since their creation, the landscape has been transformed – new, unimagined products and services as well as dramatic changes in market structure.  We are prepared and pleased to work with Chairmen Upton and Walden and the entire Committee to carefully re-examine the aging Communications Act,” he said in a statement.

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The last time the Communications Act was updated was 18 years ago, said Walden.

“…No one could have dreamed of the many innovations and advancements that make the Internet what it is today,” he said. “Written during the Great Depression and last updated when 56 kilobit per second via dial-up model was state-of-the-art, the Communications Act is now painfully out of date.”

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Updating the act will involve a series of white papers asking questions about what can be done to improve the laws surrounding the communications marketplace as well as a conversation utilizing all platforms of digital media.

The committee’s efforts are being tracked on Twitter using the hashtag #CommActUpdate.


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