Our nation’s economy depends on our ability to make technological advances that allow us to innovate and grow. From the earliest days of the telephone to today’s wireless broadband Internet, the communications sector has been a driver of technological change and economic activity for more than a century.
Our national passion for innovat ion has allowed us to bring people together in profound new ways to communicate, conduct business, interact with government, and open up new worlds of information, not just here, but around the globe.
Last week, the annual International CES again took center stage in the tech world. Tens of thousands of people — from eager consumers to passionate inventors — descended upon Las Vegas to see the latest and greatest advancements in innovation and technology. We are living in a golden age of innovation that has fostered broad investment, competition and consumer choice. But without laws that acknowledge changes in technology, our ability to continue to lead the world in the information age is threatened.
We cannot afford to ignore the burdens and barriers created by our antiquated communications laws. The House Energy and Commerce Committee is launching a multiyear process to update the Communications Act, the law that governs such a critical piece of our national economy.
Originally written in 1934, and last updated before most Americans could fully grasp the Internet’s potential in 1996, the Communications Act governs with rules that are losing relevance by the day.
Our work will be exhaustive, inviting industries, innovators, consumers and citizens to join us in an open dialogue. The communications and technology sectors — and the laws that govern them — are complex and interconnected. We need a broad, open conversation about the successes and failings of the Communications Act in order to honestly consider the sweeping changes many have long sought. And we need to be open to new ideas that will help ensure our laws can keep pace with our future. In fact, just last Wednesday (Jan. 8) we released the first in a series of white papers seeking public input on the Communications Act.
The committee’s examination of the satellite-television law, for instance, has reminded us that more nuanced laws governing different forms of communication are woefully out of sync with each other. Instead of forcing small businesses and job creators across the country to navigate a plethora of inconsistent laws, we hope to bring uniformity and predictability to these sectors.
In light of our efforts to make government more modern, predictable and transparent, the committee recently approved the FCC Process Reform Act on a unanimous, bipartisan vote. It is these same motives that drive our work on the Communications Act. Rather than tinker around the edges, we want to understand how we can make government work better for the people who drive innovation and all of us who are beneficiaries of their hard work.
We can’t predict the future any better than we can change the past, but we can provide an environment that fosters innovation and competition to provide the cuttingedge communications and technologies on which so many Americans rely.
This Communications Act Update is imperative to ensure continued American leadership in improving the connectivity and access to information enjoyed by all Americans. The Communications Act has had a profound impact in shaping the communications landscape. It is beyond time we examine the law and find ways it can be updated to better meet the needs of today and promote the innovations of tomorrow that were on display at CES.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) is chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommitee on Communications and Technology.
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