Diller calls for rewrite of US telecommunications law

IAC Chairman Barry Diller told a Senate panel Tuesday that the U.S. telecommunications law must be rewritten because of the advance of the Internet.

Diller said changes in media brought about by online content have made the 1996 Telecommunications Act largely useless, and to a great extent an impediment to progress.

“The laws we have … do not address the reality of this new force,” Diller said, referring to the Internet.

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The 1934 U.S. telecommunications law was written for a world of radio and television, and the 1996 revision of the law was inadequate, Diller said.

Diller also lamented the state of broadband Internet access in America.

“We do not have a 'first rate broadband infrastructure in this country,'” he said in response to a question from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) on the readiness of nation's communications infrastructure to handle new online video offerings.

“We are slower and less deployed than 15-18 countries,” he said. “[W]e need as good a system as any in the world … and right now, we don't [have one].”

New online video offerings from Netflix and Amazon are straining the limited broadband capacity in the U.S., Diller complained. He said the government needs to step in to find a solution, declaring, “We need a national policy for broadband.”

Diller did see a bright spot in the incentive auctions allowed by last year's payroll tax cut bill, which will let television stations sell some of their excess capacity to broadband providers.

“Efforts to free up spectrum … should be mandated for the widest broadband coverage,” he said.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) agreed that “we were really behind the curve” the moment the ['96 Act] was signed. “We have to do a better job of managing and releasing [more] spectrum … and pushing [wireline] broadband networks to underserved regions.”

Kerry noted that then-President George W. Bush had said everyone in America would be wired during his presidency. Kerry noted that “we're light-years behind” that goal.

Kerry suggested that efforts to allow the free market alone to push broadband deployment nationwide have failed. “We're not doing what we need to do by any sense of the imagination,” he said, adding that “[w]e have to protect net neutrality,” an effort he called “critical.”

On a separate issue, Diller offered his opposition to the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, which was opposed by much of Sillicon Valley but was supported by Hollywood.

“I did not think SOPA was good legislation,” he said, calling the failed bill “a ridiculous overreach.”

“Current law is fine,” he said.

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