Republicans To Speed Infopike Bill

Legislation to rewrite the 1934 Communications Act will be assigned to the congressional fast track, with final passage possible as soon as July 4, the new chairman of the House telecommunications subcommittee said Jan. 24.

An optimistic Rep. Jack Fields (R-Texas), only 20 days on the job, said a House bill will be introduced by mid-February, concurrent with hearings to be completed by month’s end. A consensus bill is expected to follow a parallel track in the Senate, he said.

Although he declined to offer specifics, Fields told a luncheon gathering of the Media Institute that the bill will include many of the concepts included in last year’s measure. But he said it would be “more pro-competitive” than the version that died at the 11th hour of the congressional term.

It will include provisions affecting broadcast ownership, cable TV and telco issues, children’s television and international competition. “We are not going to have the train wreck that occurred in the Senate last year,” he vowed.

The bill will reflect fundamental Republican interests, such as “unleashing the capital that is parked on the side of the information superhighway.” That includes ensuring that foreign markets are opened to U.S. media companies, he said.

He said congressional Republicans gained valuable insight into the concerns of communications companies during last week’s Capitol Hill powwow of media chieftains.

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