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Congress investigating general revamp of telecommunications law

Nilay Patel
05.24.10
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We never had any doubt that Comcast's anti-net-neutrality court victory would prove to be more of a defeat in the long run, and that's exactly how it's shaping up: some 74 Democratic members of Congress have voiced concerns about the FCC's plan to re-classify broadband as a more highly-regulated "telecommunications service" instead of as an "information service" in letter sent to FCC chairman Julius Genachowski today, and a group of Democratic senators and representatives are planning a series of meetings in June with the goal of revamping US telecommunications law in general. According to Senate staffers who spoke to the Washington Post, the idea isn't to pre-empt the FCC's plan, but rather to bring the law into alignment with the modern market instead of trying to fit a round peg into a square hole -- our current telecom law was enacted in 1996 and is based on law written in 1934, so a more modern revamp could bring sweeping changes to the way broadband providers are able to sell and manage their services.

We don't know what the specific agenda is yet, but we'd bet the FCC's recent finding that there's no "effective competition" in the wireless industry is sure to play a big part in these discussions, and we wouldn't be surprised to see some serious talk about cable providers and set-top hardware as well. Whatever happens, we'll be keeping a sharp eye on these meetings -- this is the first time we've seen the government take up the issue of modern telecommunications policy with this level of interest and momentum, and we've got a feeling some big things are afoot.

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