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Congressional Panel at The Cable Show Highlights Spectrum, Net Neutrality, and Universal Service Issues

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WASHINGTON, June 11, 2013 - Spectrum policy, net neutrality, and Universal Service Fund reforms were among the topics discussed by congressional staffers at The Cable Show panel entitled “Capitol Perspectives: Commerce Committee Staffers on Communications Policy.”

The panel, held at the annual convention of the National Cable and Telecommunications Associations on Monday, consisted of eight staff members from both the House and Senate Commerce Committees. Spectrum policy was a major issue for the panelists.

Kristen Sharp, legislative director for Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., noted the importance of pushing the Defense Department to make more efficient use of its spectrum to free it up for other uses. A government incentive auction, similar to those held for corporations, to serve this purpose was suggested by Neil Fried, chief counsel for the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. Sharing of spectrum was also discussed, although panelists also noted the importance of preventing Wi-Fi from interfering with crucial transportation communications.

“At the end of the day, safety is of critical importance,” David Quinalty, policy director for the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee, said.

Net Neutrality was one of the more divisive issues for the panel. David Grossman, senior technology policy advisor for Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., attributed the rapid innovation of internet-related technology to the Federal Communications Commission’s open internet rules. Quinalty, in contrast, claimed the regulations were unnecessary and that the industry would maintain current practices without such rules.

“Net neutrality continues to be a solution in search of a problem,” Quinalty said.

The panelists also debated the effectiveness of USF reforms. Despite some flaws, John Branscome, senior counsel for the Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., asserted that the program had been reasonably successful in targeting areas in need of broadband service. Grossman, however, was more critical of the fact the many areas still lack coverage.

“A lot of cracks have shown in the mission of the fund,” Grossman said.

Josh Evans is a political science major at Grove City College. He is originally from Dover, Florida. An intern at the National Journalism Center in the summer of 2013, he is a Reporter for Broadband Census News and the News Editor for The Collegian at Grove City College.

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