Plans Announced to Update the Communications Act of 1934
The US House Communications and Technology Subcommittee has announced plans for a multi-year effort to examine and update the Communications Act of 1934, the overarching law under which the FCC functions. The subcommittee, part of the US House Energy and Commerce Committee, is chaired by Oregon Republican Greg Walden, W7EQI. Walden and Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Fred Upton of Michigan made the announcement December 3.
“Today we are launching a multi-year effort to examine our nation’s communications laws and update them for the Internet era,” Upton said in a news release. “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.”
ARRL CEO David Sumner, K1ZZ, noted that the most recent significant update of the Communications Act was in 1996. “Under the leadership of Greg Walden, the subcommittee and its staff are well equipped to take up the challenge,” Sumner said. “The ARRL will be monitoring the work closely as it goes forward next year and beyond.”
The plan was made public via Google Hangout, where the committee leaders were joined by former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who said he was “delighted” to learn of the update plans. Upton explained that the process, to start in 2014, will involve a series of white papers and hearings focusing on what might be done “to improve the laws surrounding the communications marketplace as well as a robust conversation utilizing all platforms of digital media.” He suggested a bill would be ready by 2015.
Walden said, “A lot has happened since the last update” and that the Communications Act is “now painfully out of date.” He pointed out that the Act, drafted during the Great Depression, was last updated “when 56 kilobits per second via dial-up modem was state of the art.”
Upton said, “We must ensure that our laws make sense for today but are also ready for the innovations of tomorrow.”
Walden said he wants to open the discussion to input from everyone. Interested parties may follow the plan’s progress via Twitter. “It’s important for people to have an opportunity to weigh in,” he said. “This is really a public process to get better public policy.”