WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday announced the creation of a new coalition to push for a re-write of the nation’s telecommunications laws.
The group, called TeleCONSENSUS – includes roughly 60 companies, local Chambers of Commerce and trade associations.
The group also includes three Baby Bells – Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), SBC Communications Inc. (SBC) and BellSouth Corp (BLS) – as well as the National Association of Manufacturers and Time Warner Inc. (TWX).
"The Telecom Act is almost 10 years old, which is an eternity in the high-tech world," said Thomas Donohue, chief executive of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking at the launch of the new trade group, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Commerce Committee, said he will "start with a clean sheet of paper" on telecom reform and hopes to have legislation through the House in the spring or summer and then "see if we can’t come together" with the Senate.
Reform backers say the 1996 Act, which didn’t even mention the Internet, is woefully outdated at a time when new technologies like Internet telephony, known as VOIP, and video over broadband are breaking down the walls that once separated different types of telecommunications services.
The Chamber estimates that reforming telecom laws would add 212,000 jobs over a five-year period and lead to $58 billion in new investment.
Donohue said the Chamber is prepared to commit between $100,000 and $500,000 annually on telecom reform advocacy.
Asked about reform prospects, Donohue said he doesn’t expect it this year but hopes telecom legislation can be enacted during the current two-year Congressional session.