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Sen. Thune Expects Senate to Revisit Subscription TV Laws

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, warned Tuesday against applying "archaic telephone regulations to the digital ecosystem." He also said he expected the Senate this year to "revisit the laws governing subscription television services."

That came at the State of the Internet conference in Washington, according to a copy of his remarks supplied by the Senator's office.

Thune was talking about the transition to Internet Protocol delivery, something the FCC is taking up this week at its public meeting with the planned launch of a series of tests to determine how communications delivered by copper wires translates to the Internet.

"Status quo" is a four-letter word in this community and "disruption" the highest virtue. And that’s why it amazes me when so-called "advocates" for the Internet want to constrain today’s marketplace with policy thinking from the last century.

While arguing for not grafting old regs on new tech, Thune pointed out that while the private sector gave the world the iPhone, wifi and more, the government "has come up with things like an 'Internet kill switch,' the ITU, net neutrality, SOPA/PIPA, and the NSA."

Thune said that the three things Congress needs to do foster innovation, including by getting out of the way of it, are:

1) Get rid of obsolete laws; 2) modernize the ones that don't need scrapping--like the subscription TV service laws written "before streaming video, before cloud DVRs, and even before satellite TV became widespread" and ripe for update; and, finally, an area where the government needs to be active 3) protecting the Internet from threats abroad.

Thune called on the private sector to tackle the digital divide with a bit more gusto, saying they, not government, were in the best position to help.

"While there is much the government can do, particularly with proper stewardship of the Universal Service program, I challenge the private sector to spend more time thinking about the digital divide," he said.

"Not every technology user is a young person with a good job living in a big city on the coasts. For many folks, the Internet is a foreign language and cutting-edge technology is financially out of reach. The government alone cannot bridge this digital divide. I encourage all the smart people out there in Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, and the Silicon Prairie to really think about the unique digital literacy and adoption challenges facing older Americans, consumers in rural communities, minority populations, and others for whom the promise of the Internet remains unfulfilled."

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.