Late last year, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee took a significant and much-needed first step forward in modernizing our nation’s telecommunications laws. CenturyLink commends Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden for launching an important initiative that will better reflect the changing marketplace and encourage the development of new, faster services at lower costs for consumers.
The various titles and major amendments to those titles in the Communications Act were adopted to address specific technologies and market conditions that existed at the time. While they were coherent and reasonable frameworks for those technologies and market conditions in 1996, they no longer make sense or serve the public interest because of the vast changes in technologies and market conditions.
Most of the Communications Act’s market-opening and consumer-protection provisions have now become impediments to competition and innovation. If the Communications Act is not substantially reformed and harmonized, the legislative framework can only harm the public interest and hold our nation back as we compete in the global marketplace. We must also realize, consumer demands and technology are evolving so rapidly, Congress should move quickly to make sure laws keep pace with on-going changes.
CenturyLink believes Congress should forge a new Communications Act founded on three basic principles:
- Competitive and Technological Parity. Similar services, meaning those that are used interchangeably, should be subject to the same regulation, regardless of technology and provider. In particular, Congress should modernize incumbent provider-specific regulation, which threatens to slow the ongoing IP transition and dampen further competition and innovation for customers.
- Narrowly-Defined Public Interest Principles. While Congress may not be able to “future-proof” new communications legislation, it can dramatically increase its staying power by grounding it in fundamental narrowly-defined public interest principles, rather than detailed prescriptive regulation.
- Meaningful Periodic Review. All the Communications Act’s provisions should be subject to automatic sunset provisions, by which statutory obligations would cease to be in force after a certain date unless affirmatively retained and justified by the FCC.
CenturyLink believes that communications legislation rooted in these principles will successfully guide the industry, enabling it to provide yet unforeseen communications technologies and services to the benefit of all Americans.
You can read the full text of the comments CenturyLink submitted to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee here.