House E&C Releases First Communications Law Update White Paper

House Energy & Commerce Committee Republican leadership issued its first white paper Wednesday in a planned series of publications to help modernize communications laws.

The paper essentially teed up the key questions on which the committee wants stakeholder and public input in the year-long information gathering before the committee starts working on new legislation, targeted for 2015.

"This #CommActUpdate (the committee has set up a Twitter home for the effort) is critical to ensuring that the communications and technology sectors, the bright spot of our national economy, have laws and regulations that foster continued innovation and job creation," said E&C Chair Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Communications Subcommittee chair. "This is the first step in a multi-year open and transparent effort and we look forward to broad input from the many interested parties."

The question teed up in the first white paper are:

1. "The current Communications Act is structured around particular services. Does this structure work for the modern communications sector? If not, around what structures or principles should the titles of the Communications Act revolve?

2. "What should a modern Communications Act look like? Which provisions should be retained from the existing Act, which provisions need to be adapted for today's communications environment, and which should be eliminated?

3. "Are the structure and jurisdiction of the FCC in need of change? How should they be tailored to address systemic change in communications?

4. "[T]he rapidly evolving nature of technology can make it difficult to legislate and regulate communications services. How do we create a set of laws flexible enough to have staying power? How can the laws be more technology-neutral?

5. "Does the distinction between information and telecommunications services continue to serve a purpose? If not, how should the two be rationalized?"

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.