Business Groups Announce Formation of Coalition to Advocate Rewrite of Telecom Laws

April 12, 2005. Representatives of business groups, and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), held a news conference in a House Commerce Committee hearing room to announce the formation of a coalition named TeleConsensus, which advocates updating U.S. telecommunications laws.

Rep. Barton, the Chairman of the House Commerce Committee (HCC), stated that the HCC will hold a number of hearings "this Spring and this Summer" to try to develop consensus "on what needs to be done to revamp our telecommunications laws".

Rep. Joe BartonRep. Barton (at right) said that he plans to work "on a bipartisan basis" to "put together a bill that becomes law". He said too that communications technology has changed significantly since the last major rewrite of telecommunications laws in 1996. However, he offered no specifics regarding the likely contents of any bill. Nor did he advocate any specific statutory changes.

After opening comments by Rep. Barton, and the other participants, Rep. Barton took one question regarding indecency, and then left.

The other participants at this event were Thomas Donohue, P/CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, John Engler, P/CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and Harry Alford, P/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC).

Donohue stated that the U.S. is "crippled by a multitude of legacy regulations".

The speakers were vague about specific changes to telecommunications law. Teleconsensus has not yet released any draft legislation, or outline of draft legislation.

However, Teleconsensus did release six vaguely worded guiding principles:

  "1. Federal telecommunications laws must be updated to foster innovation, expand consumer choice, spur investment, create jobs, enhance efficiency, and increase productivity.
  2. Telecommunications markets should be driven by consumer demand, advances in technology, and competition between telecommunications companies, while encouraging public safety, consumer protection, and access for people with disabilities, as well as other public interest goals.
  3. Universal service, which ensures affordable basic telephone service for all Americans and Internet access in the nation's schools and libraries, is an important national commitment and must be preserved.
  4. Government should not burden consumers with discriminatory or excessive telecommunications taxes, nor should obsolete regulations limit Americans' access to innovative services and choices.
  5. Consumer choice and private-sector investment should drive the deployment of high-speed Internet access into our communities.
  6. Additional spectrum should be allocated for innovative wireless services."

Back in October of 2004 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report titled "Sending the Right Signals: Promoting Competition Through Telecommunications". See, story titled "US Chamber Offers Communications Policy Recommendations" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 993, October 8, 2004. The just announced coalition builds upon this study.

The coalition's members include the Chamber, NAM, NBCC, and other business groups. BellSouth, Verizon, SBC, T-Mobile USA, Time Warner, and the Electronic Industries Alliance are also members. The coalition is seeking more members.

Bill Kovacs, of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will coordinate the efforts of Teleconsensus. See also, US Chamber release.