In a time of so much partisan rancor up on Capitol Hill, Congress stuck an unusual bipartisan tone yesterday.
The subject? The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA.
The TCPA is an antiquated law from the 1990s, written before cell phones were common technology, when relatively few cell phone numbers were reassigned, and before text messages were even invented. Originally designed to prevent people from receiving unwanted telemarketing calls, the law has morphed into mostly a tool for trial lawyers looking to score a big payday.
At the meeting of the House Energy and Commerce Committee on FCC oversight (see the video clip above), Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) queried FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler about if the Commission’s recent ruling on the TCPA would apply to legislators looking to inform their constituents of upcoming tele-townhall meetings. Wheeler acknowledged that, yes, that would indeed create liability for the members of Congress under the TCPA.
This drew immediate concern from both Walden and ranking committee member Anna Eshoo (D-CA). Eshoo noted that the 1991 law mirrored the technology of the time — noting just how dramatically different technology is 24 years later — before suggesting that the TCPA needs to keep pace with advancing and changing technology.
Eshoo wasn’t alone. Rep. Ben Lujan (D-NM) explained how important tele-townhall technology was for keeping in touch with his constituents, and how impractical it would be for them to travel hours in his rural district for an in-person townhall meeting.
Rep. Walden noted the bipartisan consensus on the committee for modernizing the TCPA.
Perhaps (we hope), the two parties have found an issue they can work together on, after all: TCPA reform.