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Telecom Act Update Now Senate Committee Priority

Sen. Thune plans to start review in next few months

While congressional lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been suggesting for a while the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is due for an overhaul, now new Senate Commerce Committee Chairman, South Dakota Republican John Thune, says it’s a priority this year.

House leaders have actually been reviewing the act for a year. The Telecommunications Act, also called the Communications Act, is itself a major overhaul of the original Communications Act of 1934.

This week, Thune told attendees of an event at the American Enterprise Institute that since Republicans are now in charge of the upper chamber he would begin a similar process in the next few months. “Updating the Communications Act is no small undertaking, but it would be a dereliction of duty if Congress did not at least try to modernize the law,” he stated.

He said it’s too soon to predict what the final outcome will look like, however he didn’t rule out moving a large bill similar to the 1996 package. An alternative is breaking it up into smaller bills thematically by topic.

The Internet was in its infancy when the much older act was updated in 1996, so that version doesn’t reflect broadband or email or any of the technologies we take for granted today. House Commerce Committee and Michigan Republic Chairman Rep. Fred Upton and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman and Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden have said that’s why an update is needed.