Updating the Statutory Framework for Communications for the Digital Age

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on October 21, 2013

CRS – Updating the Statutory Framework for Communications for the Digital Age: Issues for Congress. Charles B. Goldfarb, Specialist in Telecommunications Policy. September 30, 2013
“The statutory framework for the communications sector largely was enacted prior to the commercial development and deployment of digital technology, Internet Protocol (IP), broadband networks, and online voice, data, and video services. These new technologies have driven changes in market structure throughout the communications sector. Technological spillovers have allowed for the convergence of previously service-specific networks, creating new competitive entry opportunities. But they also have created certain incentives for market consolidation. Firms also have used new technologies to attempt to “invent around” statutory obligations or prohibitions, such as retransmission consent and copyright requirements. In addition, firms have developed new technologies that are attractive to consumers because they allow them to avoid paying for programming or allow them to skip the commercials that accompany video programming, but present a challenge to the traditional business model. The expert agencies charged with implementing the relevant statutes—the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Copyright Office—have had to determine if and how to apply the law to technologies and circumstances that were not considered when the statutes were developed. Frequently, this has led parties unhappy with those interpretations to file court suits, which has delayed rule implementation and increased market uncertainty. The courts, too, have had to reach decisions with limited guidance from the statutes.”

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