Skip to main content

House E&C Gets Plenty Of Advice On Comlaw Revamp

The House Energy & Commerce Committee is getting a sense of what the FCC faces as it processes a boatload of comments solicited in the ongoing communications reg rewrite initiative launched by chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

The pair announced a multi-year deep dive on revamping the Communications Act last month, and sought input as they kicked off the review with a white paper and hearing featuring former FCC chairmen providing their perspectives.

If the Broadband for America submission is any gauge, cable operators have a lot to say about revamping regulations, much of it about not presumptively applying legacy regs to IP delivery and not singling out one stakeholder for special regulatory treatment.

The IP issue has been much in the news this week as the FCC launches a series of trials to gauge the impact of that transition on various public interest and competition goals.

Here is a sample of the input coming into the committee, according to filings provided by the parties. The committee has not yet posted these and others on its site, but plans to.

Broadband for America (Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, Charter are members): "1) Ex post rules and approaches should be preferred over ex ante [see above]) rules, and the latter should require demonstrated market failure or evidence that the benefits far exceed the costs. 2) Deployment of broadband will enhance competition across the Internet ecosystem, further obviating the need for regulation. 3) A global Internet cannot be subject to balkanized regulation. In the U.S., all policies governing the Internet ecosystem should be at the federal level; 4) technological differences are not an appropriate basis for regulatory or jurisdictional distinctions. 5) Any rules intended to advance social responsibilities must be borne equitably by all relevant participants in the Internet ecosystem. 6) With regard to legacy communications services regulation, rapidly changing competitive dynamics, and the realities of an IP ecosystem make it essential to revisit the purpose and role of those rules. 7) Regulatory barriers that impede sunset of legacy services and transition to IP networks and services must be eliminated; 8) legacy rules should presumptively not apply to the Internet ecosystem.

Mobile Future (Verizon and AT&T are members): 1) "Rely on dynamic competitive forces, rather than ex ante [before the fact] regulations that prevent experimentation and innovation. 2) Promote access to spectrum resources, particularly from the Federal Government, needed to fuel innovation and investment and meet consumer demand. 3) Adopt a federal framework that eliminates the current patchwork quilt of state and local regulations that inhibit innovation and sow confusion. 4) Provide for public safety, consumer protection, and other social-policy priorities (e.g.,accessibility) in a technology-neutral way across the Internet ecosystem as a whole via targeted provisions in areas that competition alone may not address."

CenturyLink: The telecom said the Congress should create a new Communications Act founded on the following principles: "1). Similar services, meaning those that are used interchangeably, should be subject to the same regulation, regardless of technology and provider.  2) While Congress may not be able to “future-proof” new communications legislation, it can dramatically increase its staying power by grounding it in fundamental narrowly-defined public interest principles, rather than detailed prescriptive regulation. 3) All the Communications Act’s provisions should be subject to automatic sunset provisions, by which statutory obligations would cease to be in force after a certain date unless affirmatively retained and justified by the FCC."

Public policy think tank the American Enterprise Institute: "[M]erge the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) competition and consumer protection functions with those of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), combining the FCC’s industry expertise and capabilities with the generic statutory authority of the FTC."

Free market think tank Free State Foundation: "1) In updating the Communications Act, a clean slate approach is needed to adopt a "replacement" regime—a new Digital Age Communications Act. 2) Generally, the broad delegation of indeterminate authority to the FCC to regulate 'in the public interest' should be replaced with a marketplace competition-based standard, so that, except in limited circumstances, the FCC's regulatory activities will be required to be tied to findings of consumer harm resulting from lack of sufficient competition. 3) With a competition regulatory standard in place that is generally applicable to all entities providing electronic communications subject to the Commission's jurisdiction, the existing 'silo' regime, which results in the regulation of entities providing comparable services in a disparate manner, should be eliminated in favor of FCC authority over all electronic communications networks."  "1) A clean-slate rewrite based on consumer-centric principles that are technologically and competitively neutral and based on market economics and competition. 2) A clean slate repeal that variably sunsets all static-technology-specific communications laws and replaces them with dynamic, universal and timeless, consumer-centric principles and social values: market competition, public safety, consumer protection, privacy & universal service. 3) A universal economy-wide communications law is applied in a consumer-centric, technology-neutral way so that consumers can know what basic communications protections they enjoy regardless of technology, circumstance, or time period. 4) A clean-slate replacement of the current static, unaccountable, and dysfunctional spectrum process with a modern, dynamic, and accountable management of this critical communications resource."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.