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Agency must be nimble as Congress updates obsolete law [Legal Monitor Worldwide]
[February 11, 2014]

Agency must be nimble as Congress updates obsolete law [Legal Monitor Worldwide]

(Legal Monitor Worldwide Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) The Federal Communications Commission needs to remain nimble to respond to evolving technologies as Congress considers rewriting the agency's foundational law, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is pushing to rewrite the Communications Act. The 1934 law, updated most recently by the Telecommunications Act of 1996, governs the way Wheeler's agency regulates the communications industry. "All of us have observed the growing convergence of previously separate and distinct communications services and with it, inevitably, the growing obsolescence of the Communications Act's categories," Wheeler said. Due to the speeds of evolving technologies, a new communications law "will be out of date the moment it is signed," he said.

"The only way to deal with this reality is to have an expert agency capable of being as nimble as the innovators redefining technology and redefining the marketplace." Speaking at a Silicon Flatirons event Monday, Wheeler said that he will, "in the coming days," outline the FCC's plan to move forward after a federal court overturned the agency's net-neutrality rules earlier this year.

The court affirmed the agency's authority to protect public interest by promoting broadband deployment, he said.  "The FCC has the authority it needs to provide what the public needs — open, competitive, safe, and accessible broadband networks. … What remains open is not jurisdiction, but rather the best path to securing the public interest." Responding to the court's decision to overturn the net neutrality rules is "the most obvious case where the Commission must act anew," Wheeler said.

Wheeler also previewed an item in front of the Commission at its next open meeting regarding close captioning on television programming.

For years, advocates for the deaf and hearing-impaired community have been asking the Commission to improve quality of closed captioning on television programming, he said.

"Those of us who are audio oriented wouldn't put up for a heartbeat with what those who are deaf and hearing-impaired have had to put up with," Wheeler said.

At the FCC open meeting next week, the Commission will discuss steps forward to improve closed captioning quality after an agency process that involved soliciting feedback from stakeholders.

"Three months of a multistakeholder process have a product that is going to improve the quality of closed captioning," Wheeler said.

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