Congress Looks to Update Communications Act

Lora Bentley

On the heels of the Federal Communications Commission's decision to partially reclassify broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act as a means of restoring its authority to implement portions of the National Broadband Plan, Democrats in the House and the Senate announced Monday they plan to "review" the Communications Act -- perhaps with an eye toward updating it to include the Internet as a means of communication.


The New York Times reports Sen. John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Rep.Henry Waxman, D-Cal., said next month they will "examine how the Communications Act meets the current needs of consumers, the telecommunications industry and the [FCC]."


Representatives of the industry and consumer groups say the move is a good one. AT&T SVP James Cicconi said, "The FCC's authority should be determined by the Congress itself..." Public Knowledge co-founder Gigi Sohn added, "The world has changed considerably since 1996." Yeah. That seems obvious, but a reminder never hurts, I guess.


The Open Internet Coalition also issued a statement in support of the congressional review. Executive director Markham Erickson said:

We are pleased to see Congress working alongside the FCC to address the implications of the Comcast v FCC decision. Our view from the day the case was decided was the FCC needed to act immediately to provide a stopgap protection for consumers and Congress needed to revisit the Communications Act for changes over the longer term.


Of course, the key words there are "over the longer term." It took Congress five years to pass the Communications Act of 1996, so retooling it won't be a quick job.

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