The last major overhaul of American telecommunications law was eighteen years ago. Telecom professionals say the Telecommunications Act of 1996 has become antiquated in key aspects, and is thus unable to meaningfully regulate today’s increasingly integrated communications technologies.
How Congress and regulatory agencies should update the law to keep pace with ever-more-rapid changes has been the focus for several years of an annual symposium sponsored by the Columbus School of Law’s CommLaw Conspectus: Journal of Communications Law and Technology Policy, and the law school’s Institute for Communications Law Studies in association with the Federal Communications Bar Association.
The 2014 symposium, “Telecom in the 21st Century: Tech Revolution and Regulatory Evolution” was held on April 1 in the downtown Washington, D.C., conference room of Wiley Rein LLP.
Experts from the public and private sectors came at the overhaul issue again from two panel perspectives, “The Future of Spectrum Sharing,” and a second panel, titled “The Future of Competition in an IP World.”
On the first topic, panelists were in general agreement that increasing demand for finite bandwidth space probably means more sharing in the future between the private sector—such as companies that provide mobile communications devices—and the federal government, which has sole control over some parts of the broadcast spectrum for emergency, military, and satellite purposes.
“What we need in the long run is a use it or share it approach, by identifying underutilized federal bands,” said Michael Calebrese, director of the Wireless Future Project.
Kathleen Ham (left) Vice President, Federal Regulatory T-Mobile USA, and a 1987 graduate of Catholic University’s communications law institute, noted that today’s electronic devices can operate in closer proximity on the bandwidth than ever before.
“It’s a good thing to prod the federal government on the use of spectrum,” Ham said. “When you can squeeze more bandwidth out of spectrum through better technologies, that is something we should care about.”
The morning long program was introduced by Alex Kalim, Editor-in Chief, CommLaw Conspectus, and law school Dean Daniel F. Attridge.
Closing thoughts were offered by Professor Donna Coleman Gregg, director of the Institute for Communications Law Studies at The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.
Panel One: The Future of Spectrum Sharing
Scott Delacourt, Partner, Wiley Rein
Michael Calebrese, Director, Wireless Future Project
New America Foundation Open Technology Institute
Kathleen Ham, Vice President, Federal Regulatory T-Mobile USA
Jonathan Leibovitz, Deputy Bureau Chief, Wireless Telecommunication Bureau, Federal Communications Commission
Peter Tenhula, Senior Advisor, Department of Commerce, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
Panel Two: The Future of Competition in an IP World
Russ Hanser, Partner, Wilkinson Barker Knauer
Harold Feld, Senior Vice President, Public Knowledge
Angela Kronenberg, Chief Advocate and General Counsel, COMPTEL
Robert Quinn, Senior Vice President,
Federal Regulatory and Chief Privacy Officer, AT&T
Michael Romano, Senior Vice President of Policy, NTCA, The Rural Broadband Association