Senate tech chairman looks forward

The head of the Senate Commerce subcommittee on technology, communication and the Internet wants to shake up the Federal Communications Commission and open up the nation’s airwaves.

Sen. Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerThe Hill's Morning Report - Sanders repeats with NH primary win, but with narrower victory Senators press NCAA on compensation for college athletes Overnight Defense: Inside Trump's 4B Pentagon budget | Highlights include .4B for Space Force, preview of Air Force One paint job | Senate eyes Wednesday debate on Iran war powers | 109 US troops diagnosed with brain injuries from attack MORE (R-Miss.) on Tuesday said that modernizing the Communications Act “would be one of the committee’s top priorities” over the next two years.


“With all the growth in the technology space, the question is a fresh look and what updates are needed to foster continued innovation and competition.”

The law, which was last updated in 1996, outlines the broad authority of the FCC and gives it powers to regulate television, radio, telephone and other services. GOP leaders in both chambers have spent months eyeing an update, which they say is necessary to bring the law into the 21st century.

Wicker, who took the gavel of the subcommittee this year, also pointed to oversight of the FCC and said that he wanted to ensure the agency was doing all it could to promote broadband access in rural areas.

Finally, he told the crowd at a policy conference being held by the Comptel trade group that he wanted to build on the progress of the FCC’s recent auction of AW-3 airwaves, which brought in nearly $45 billion to the federal government.

“Our opinion is that the AWS-3 auction was not only successful, it was surprising successful,” he said.

“We are hopeful that the incentive spectrum auction of lowband can be successful also,” Wicker added, referring to an even more complicated auction scheduled for next year.

Wicker’s panel has its plate full this year and may be able to make significant progress on some of the relatively bipartisan issues, such as supporting rural broadband and the spectrum auction.

Some of the efforts might be undercut by lingering animosity over net neutrality, however, which has become increasingly partisan in recent weeks and could end up stalling compromises over major issues such as updating the Communications Act.