Committee Holds First #CommActUpdate Hearing

January 15, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – The Communications and Technology Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), today held its first hearing focused on the committee’s plans for an open and transparent multi-year process leading to a comprehensive #CommActUpdate.

“Few sectors of our economy are equal to the communications and technology sector when it comes to innovation, investment in the American economy, and job creation. In these tough economic times, we as policymakers should be committed to fostering this critical sector of the economy. Yet the laws that regulate this industry are outdated at best and some are affirmatively damaging,” said Walden. “It’s time for our laws to reflect our modern technological landscape – one grounded in the networks and services of our past and driven by our IP and mobile future.”

“The changes in technology since the last update in 1996 have been dramatic and existing laws have failed to keep pace with the vibrant and dynamic telecommunications industry. The communications and technology sectors have consistently been areas of American leadership, innovation, and job creation, but the Communications Act is showing its age and our continued international leadership is at stake,” added full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). “Yesterday’s net neutrality decision, while a victory for consumers and the economy, illustrates the uncertainty flowing from the current statutory scheme and the need for this action. It’s time to revamp these laws to reflect the new competitive landscape and changing consumer expectations.”

Former Chairman Richard Wiley cited his almost five decades in the telecommunications sector in explaining that history shows that innovation happens most when a light regulatory touch is applied. With regard to the #CommActUpdate, he said, “I would suggest that the objective of a statutory rewrite should not be to legislate premised on the current state of the marketplace or even on predictions of what it may look like in the future. Instead, Congress should consider a flexible and technologically neutral framework that will be capable of adapting to technical invention and innovation, whatever it may prove to be.”

Former Chairman Michael Powell similarly suggested that any update to the law needs to provide a legal and regulatory framework that mirrors the “simplicity” that has allowed innovation to flourish over the past twenty years. “This market requires a greater degree of business flexibility, fewer prescriptive rules, and an assurance that any government involvement is applied on a technology-neutral basis and creates a better investment climate,” said Powell. “Rather than dialog and debate around well-worn constructs like regulation and deregulation, free markets versus industrial policy, and competition and monopoly, we should talk more about simplicity – guiding our companies and our regulatory policies by the concept.”

“Neither we, nor the august panel before us can predict the future and what technological changes it will bring. But by learning the lessons of the past, we can do our best to create a legal and regulatory environment that will foster innovation and competition, encourage consumer choice, and optimum services,” concluded Walden.

Background
In December, Upton and Walden announced that the committee is beginning work this year on a comprehensive #CommActUpdate, including a white paper series that seeks to understand areas where the law is no longer working effectively and find ways to improve it to foster an environment for innovation, consumer choice, and economic growth. The first white paper, released last week, focuses on broad thematic concepts for updating the Communications Act.

To view pictures from today’s hearing, click here.

Click here for the committee’s one-stop-shop for the #CommActUpdate.

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