WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, today held a hearing to discuss draft legislation addressing wireless consumer issues and community broadband services.

Chairman Markey delivered the following opening statement:
(A copy of Chairman Markey's draft legislation is available HERE .)

"Good morning.  Today the Subcommittee is holding a legislative hearing on draft legislation addressing wireless issues and community broadband services. This legislation is currently in discussion draft form in order to facilitate input from consumers, from industry, and other interested parties for improvements and clarifications. 

"The draft bill contains three key sections.  The first section seeks to create a policy framework for wireless services by providing for essential consumer protection rules at the national level, as well as by establishing an effective role for States in supplementing Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforcement efforts.  This first section addresses wireless early termination penalties, wireless plan and contract disclosures, so-called "truth-in-billing" rules, and service quality reporting.  It tasks the FCC with promulgating these rules to reflect a nationwide wireless marketplace, consistent consumer protection rules, and the bill pre-empts the States, except in limited circumstances, from creating their own, differing rules for such issues.  The draft bill also specifically authorizes States to enforce the national rules, which I believe is indispensable for purposes of ensuring meaningful consumer protection.

"The second section of the bill clarifies that municipalities have the freedom to provide telecommunications services to their citizens.  It reflects legislation introduced this Congress by our colleagues, Mr. Boucher and Mr. Upton and I commend them for their efforts.  If a particular community is unhappy with the wireless, broadband, cable or phone services offered in its area, it should possess the clear freedom under the law to take action on its own to deploy and offer such services.  The idea of municipal empowerment for broadband and other services is built upon provisions that I battled to make law with respect to municipal cable systems as part of the 1992 Cable Act.  I believe that as we establish a national policy for wireless consumer protection and State enforcement in this draft, it is simultaneously important to establish that municipalities can take action to offer wireless service on their own, or any other communications service for that matter.

"The final section of the bill seeks to make the government more efficient in its spectrum use and requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), in the Department of Commerce, to conduct a full assessment of government use of the spectrum.  As part of this assessment, the NTIA is instructed to not only identify frequencies that may be made available to re-allocate from the government to the FCC for subsequent use, but also to identify frequencies in government bands that could be made available for sharing with non-governmental users.

"I look forward to working with Subcommittee Ranking Member Mr. Stearns, Full Committee Ranking Member Mr. Barton, Full Committee Chairman Mr. Dingell, Mr. Boucher, Mr. Upton and other colleagues to see if we can make progress soon on this legislative package.

"I also want to thank our expert panel for coming this morning and look forward to their testimony.  Thank you."

February 27, 2008

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