The Communications Act of 1934 has been made largely obsolete. The Act’s original purposes of making a “rapid, efficient, nationwide and worldwide wire and radio communication” seems archaic in a world of smartphones and cloud computing. New technologies arise faster than Congress can regulate them, and the recent increase in litigation against the FCC has left the agency reticent to regulate. Congress amended the Communications Act in 1984 to address cable and again in 1996 to attempt to deal with the internet, but technology has moved beyond what legislators thought possible as little as 20 years ago.
Regulatory agencies must be adaptable in order to keep up with technological change. Decentralizing certain aspects of communications and reallocating some of the FCC’s current responsibilities would keep the agency focused on their original core mission of ensuring public access to communication and emergency services while also allowing for flexible multi-agency action in response to changing technological needs. For example, competition and ownership could be reviewed by the Department of Justice, which already reviews anti-competitive practices. Consumer protection can and should be handled through the Federal Trade Commission or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
It is time for Congress to pass a new Communications Act; one that allows for efficient responses to changing technology. The current Communications Act was designed for a world where instant communication was science fiction. Streamlining the FCC allows the agency to serve the public faster and more efficiently, all while ensuring the safety of US communications.