Telcom Update Teed Up In House

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A telcom bill rewrite is on the way, or at least the first bite at the apple.

According to a Hill source, House Commerce Committee staffers and members have gotten the word that a preliminary draft of legislation updating and re-crafting the 1996 Telecommunication Act will be handed out Thursday.

Rep. Fred upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the Telecommunications Subcommittee, has called an 11 p.m. meeting to distribute the 70-page discussion draft, which is essentially a conversation-starter that will be subject to changes following negotiations and meetings among members.

The bill will try to come up with regs and rules of the road for broadband video, voice, and Internet, essentially filling in areas where technology has outstripped the 1996 rewrite of the 1934 Act.

Meanwhile, Oct. 26 is the new deadline for a DTV transition bill from both House and Commerce.

Those bills had been expected to beat a telcom rewrite out of the gate. The deadline--though informal--for those bills had been Sept. 16, but Katrina played havoc with Hill hearings and due dates. The budget committees have set that deadline for committees to report on legislation that could affect the budget next year and five years down the raod. The return of analog spectrum--likely in 2009--triggers auctions that could mean billions to the treasury.

Also, look for the Commerce Committee to call a hearing in the next couple of weeks on communications failures during Katrina. DTV issues, specifically the need for a hard date for return of analog spectrum, will come up in that hearing, said a committee source, though whether the draft of a DTV transition bill will surface as well is unclear.