The unending fight over the 1996 telecom act

The battle continues between those who want to preserve the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and those who want to do away with it.

According to an analysis in Politico, some wireless carriers, led by Verizon, believe the FCC should have no regulatory power over the quickly expanding world of wireless and broadband, and that Congress must do away with the 1996 law. Defenders say that certainly the Act needs updating, but that Verizon’s position, wrote Politico analyst Eliza Krigman, is “simply a way for the wireless industry to escape communication regulations that should apply regardless of technological protocol.”

Verizon’s Executive Vice President of Public Affairs, Tom Tauke, said “There is a growing recognition that the communications statutes in place are obsolete,” although he admitted “There is less consensus on what the new policy should be.”

But Harvard Law professor Susan Crawford observed that regulatory power is as essential as ever, noting that it may be necessary to amend the 1996 Act to “protect consumers, ensure access to communication networks and create a level playing field for competitors.”

The issue may come to a head early next year when the U.S. Court of Appeals considers the FCC's net neutrality rules. If the Court rules against the FCC, Congress will need to act to frame FCC authority over broadband.

Should telecom rules be upgraded for wireless? (Politico, May 20, 2012)