FCC Reauthorization Passed to Full House Committee

The House Communications Subcommittee amended a draft of the measure to reauthorize the FCC and voted unanimously to send it to the full House Energy and Commerce Committee. Several lawmakers discussed bills they want included. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), said he wants his Viewer Protection Act to be part of the FCC reauthorization. The Act ensures TV repack funds include money for consumer education about the channel moves. He said: “The bill should not move forward to full committee for markup until this is included.”

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) agreed, adding, “the DTV transition hinged on educating consumers” and the repack does too. The Radio Consumer Protection Act, which ensures radio station moves affected by the repack are funded too, should be part of the FCC reauthorization, said Rep. Bill Flores (R-TX).

Rep Raul Ruiz (D-CA) called for the inclusion of three amendments to “close the digital divide in Indian Country” to “ensure Tribes have a seat at the table at all times.” Meanwhile, Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA), called for the inclusion of his Rural Wireless Access Act, which calls for the FCC to update its broadband coverage maps to ensure rural areas are accurately reflected and “investment goes to the areas that need it most.” 

Subcommittee Chair Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said the revised draft includes the Sandy Act, which calls for a study of the public safety benefits, cost and technical feasibility of “making telecommunications service provider-owned WiFi access points, and other communications technologies operating on unlicensed spectrum, available to the general public for access to 911 services, without requiring any login credentials, during times of emergency when mobile service is unavailable,” according to the text.

The revision also elevates the Chief Information Officer job at the FCC to include “significant” responsibilities for planning and budgeting, said Blackburn. While the draft was passed quickly to the full committee on Wednesday, hashing out a final version will no doubt be more contentious.

The Competitive Carriers Association was especially pleased that the Rural Wireless Access Act was included. In addition to Loebsack, Ryan Costello (R-PA) co-authored the bill. CCA President/CEO Steven Berry said the measure would “create a statutory obligation for the FCC to use reliable and current data to guide rural support mechanisms, like the Universal Service Fund.”

October 13, 2017               

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