The effort to craft the first major revision of the Communications Act in 18 years could be interesting but probably will end up to be a politically factious mess. House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said today that he plans hearings and studies for “a multi-year effort to examine our nation’s communications laws and update them for the Internet era.” Upton was joined in a Google Hangout announcement by Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., who says that they “plan to look at the Communications Act and all of the changes that have been made piecemeal over the last 89 years and ask the simple question: ‘Is this working for today’s communications marketplace?’” For example, he says that cable operators complained to him that they have to pay franchise fees but Netflix doesn’t. The GOP leaders didn’t include Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who’s also on the Communications subcommittee — and says he helped to write “every major telecommunications statute for the past three decades.” He urged his colleagues to proceed “with great care and attention to detail” and “in a bipartisan manner.”
Lobby groups saluted the effort. National Association of Broadcasting CEO Gordon Smith says his group will help lawmakers with a plan “that sustains a robust future for local broadcasting.” National Cable & Telecommunications Association CEO Michael Powell, a former FCC chairman, also pledged to join an effort “to carefully re-examine the aging Communications Act.” Comcast EVP David Cohen also joined the chorus, noting that with broadband and digital innovations “the silos of current regulation may not always fit technological realities.”
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