Verizon tells Congress to step up to the plate

Lawmakers in Congress have largely ceded their ground to regulatory bureaucrats, the head of Verizon told legislators on Friday.

In a letter to the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate Commerce committees, CEO Lowell McAdam lent support to congressional efforts to update the 1996 Telecommunications Act, saying the existing telecommunications laws and regulatory processes are “outdated and broken.”

“It is time for Congress to re-take responsibility for policymaking in the Internet ecosystem,” he wrote.

“It is time for Congress to assert its longstanding role of setting, in a bipartisan fashion, public policies for the communications sector that both protect consumers and provide incentives for investment and innovation in new products and services.”

In the short term, he urged lawmakers to come together on legislation to replace the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality regulations, which take the controversial step of reclassifying Web service to treat it like a public utility and “lead to far more questions than answers.”

GOP lawmakers have eyed some type of legislation for months but have yet to win over support of their Democratic colleagues.

More broadly, however, McAdam urged lawmakers to replace the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the sweeping bill undergirding the FCC’s authority. Legislators have made an update a priority for this year, though the controversy over net neutrality has largely derailed that effort to date.

In the nearly 20 years since that law was passed, "technology and markets have gone through several cycles, while law and policy have stood still,” McAdam wrote.

In his letter, he also pointed to the scuffle over the agency’s recent auction of some government airwave licenses, during which two Dish Network subsidiaries were able to obtain about $3 billion in government subsidies intended to incentivize small businesses to participate. The FCC has said it is reviewing the sales, and Chairman Tom Wheeler has pledged to initiate new rules to close any legal loopholes that may exist.