Former Members of Congress Join Forces as Co-Chairs of New Telecom and Internet Policy Task Force

by mmtcbbsj on January 16, 2013

Throughout 2012, the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC) collaborated with a number of bipartisan parties to investigate whether there was a need to rewrite Congress’ current telecommunications policy. As a result of these meetings, the parties decided to move forward with advocating for telecom policy reform, thus forming a taskforce gathered to design and advocate for telecom and Internet policy reform through legislation, rulemaking, executive orders, public-private partnerships and best practices.

Two recently retired Members of Congress, the Honorable Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY) and the Honorable Clifford “Cliff” Stearns (R-FL), have joined forces to co-chair the Taskforce.

Together, former Congressmen Towns and Stearns have more than 50 years of experience as members of the House of Representatives. They served together on the House Energy and Commerce Committee as well as its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology (formally the Telecommunications Subcommittee) and the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.

The Inaugural Meeting of the Taskforce is today, January 16, 2013, at 7:30 PM during the MMTC Broadband and Social Justice Telecom Policy Summit – Westin Georgetown Hotel, 2350 M St. NW, Presidential Suite (#810), Washington, DC.

Following are official statements from the Taskforce’s co-chairs, Ed Towns and Cliff Stearns.

Statement of Hon. Ed Towns

Subsequent to announcing my retirement from Congress in 2012, I have decided to serve the nation in a new role as co-chair of the New Telecommunications and Internet Policy Taskforce.

Having served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Subcommittee on Communications and Technology since 1989, I have always believed that Congress should be more proactive with regard to updating our nation’s antiquated telecommunications laws and our current communications infrastructure. I am glad that my co-chair, the Hon. Cliff Stearns of Florida – whom I worked alongside during our time as members of the Energy and Commerce Committee – shares my belief. It is with great gratitude that I co-chair this taskforce with him.

The sense of urgency for Congress, the FCC and the White House to focus their efforts on reforming current telecommunications laws and policies has never been greater. Over the years, I have witnessed how our nation’s aging and outdated communications infrastructure has failed to protect our citizens in times of disaster, most notably during the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe and most recently during Superstorm Sandy. Over the years, I have observed how communication technology disparities persist in our communities of color, and I have witnessed the obstacles for new and small businesses attempting to enter the telecommunications industry, despite programs and policies enacted to prevent these events from occurring.

Our taskforce will work tirelessly to pave the way for much-needed communications infrastructure to better serve our citizens when disaster strikes, eliminate the digital divide in communities of color, and eliminate the barriers to entry facing small businesses in the rapidly increasing and lucrative field of telecommunications.

As I have stated before in regards to telecommunications reform, I am committed to redoubling my efforts to ensure that Congress updates its laws so that communications can become a bridge of access and not a barrier of exclusion.

Official Statement of Hon. Cliff Stearns

After successfully serving my entire political career as Florida’s Sixth Congressional District Representative for 24 years, I am honored to announce that I will continue in public service as co-chair of the New Telecommunications and Internet Policy Act Taskforce. I look forward working to working with our team of former regulators, academia scholars and industry experts to create and advocate for vital reformations of telecommunications laws tailored for the digital age.

It is also with great pleasure that I will be serving as co-chair alongside former New York Congressman Ed Towns, whom I have worked with during our many years as members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

The time for comprehensive telecom policy reform is overdue. Since the Telecommunications Act of 1996, technology has evolved rapidly and has converged.  On the one hand, technology has been beneficial while our archaic telecom laws are further dividing the nation and preventing a substantial number of Americans from fully participating fully in the communications industry.

If we want to make sure that all Americans have a fair shot at taking advantage of the vast opportunities available in the communications industry, we must comprehensively reform the telecom laws, regulations and policies currently in place.

I am firmly committed to working with this impressive group to create legislative, regulatory and private sector initiatives beneficial to all Americans.

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