Neil Fried, Senior Counsel for Telecommunications, Energy & Commerce Committee, U.S. House of Representatives briefed the TBC’s Technology Legislative Task Force on telecommunications legislation to be addressed by Congress in 2008.
Fried participated in the February meeting via teleconference and highlighted issues including digital television transition, network neutrality, wireless state preemption rules, and the universal service fund.
According to Fried, the main focus of the House Energy & Commerce Committee this year will be educating the public about the digital television transition to occur next spring.
Effective February 19, 2009, all analog signals (the traditional method of transmitting television signals) will be switched exclusively to digital signals for television programming. Approximately "11 percent of the country relies on rabbit ears…to receive analog signals currently," said Fried. These consumers will have to either purchase a digital TV or a converter box in order to receive a visible signal.
To ease the cost of the transition, the U.S. government is supplying coupons for $40 discounts to consumers who wish to purchase a converter box. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Department of State are negotiating with Canada and Mexico over border-related issues to this new method of signaling. For more information on the digital transition, visit http://www.dtvanswers.com
Network neutrality, or "net neutrality," issues are also expected to be a hot topic in Congress for 2008. Net neutrality refers to the ability of the government to regulate broadband policies established by internet and cable companies, what supporters call "free speech issues" and opponents say would be overregulation.
In addition, Fried said that the House Energy & Commerce Committee is examining how states regulate terms and conditions of wireless service agreements and potential reform to the universal service fund, established to help provide access to telephone services for rural Americans.
The Technology Business Council’s Technology Legislative Task Force monitors technology and telecom issues. For more information on the work of this committee, contact Jane Edson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 214-712-1937.