Legislative Activity

House Subcommittee Schedules Markup Of STELA Reauthorization Bill

The House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology has scheduled a markup of draft legislation to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA). The subcommittee will convene for opening statements on Monday, March 24 and will reconvene this Tuesday, March 25 to complete its consideration of the draft bill. The STELA reauthorization legislation still must be considered by the House and Senate Judiciary Committees, as well as the Senate Commerce Committee. The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on STELA for this Wednesday, March 26. The hearing is expected to include testimony from stakeholders, including DISH, Schurz Communications, the Writers Guild of America West, and Public Knowledge.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Monday, March 24: The House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hear opening statements on draft legislation to reauthorize STELA.
  • Tuesday, March 25: The House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will continue its markup of the draft STELA reauthorization legislation.
  • Tuesday, March 25: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government will hold a hearing on the budget for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
  • Wednesday, March 26: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the reauthorization of STELA.
  • Wednesday, March 26: The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on protecting personal consumer information from cyber attacks and data breaches.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Tentative Agenda for March 31 Open Meeting

The FCC is expected to consider the following items at its open meeting on March 31:

  • Amendment of the FCC’s Retransmission Consent Rules: The FCC will consider an order implementing rule revisions and clarifications intended to facilitate fair and effective completion of retransmission consent negotiations. Such revisions are expected to include a restriction on television broadcast stations’ ability to engage in joint retransmission consent negotiations. The FCC also will consider a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNRPM) proposing to eliminate the network non-duplication and syndicated exclusivity rules.
  • Broadcast Ownership Rules Quadrennial Review: The FCC will consider an FNPRM that initiates the 2014 Quadrennial Review of broadcast ownership rules, addresses issues referred to the FCC by the Third Circuit’s remand of the 2008 Diversity Order, and a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to define and require the disclosure of certain sharing agreements between broadcast television stations. The accompanying Report and Order is expected to determine that certain television joint sales agreements result in attributable station ownership interests for purposes of complying with the FCC’s broadcast ownership limits.
  • Increasing Utility of Unlicensed Spectrum in the 5 GHz Band: The FCC will consider a First Report and Order that would revise rules to make 100 MHz of the 5 GHz UNII-1 band unlicensed spectrum more useful for consumers and businesses, and reduce the potential for harmful interference to incumbent users.
  • Meeting the Nation’s Demand for Licensed Spectrum: The FCC will consider a Report and Order that would adopt allocation, licensing, service, and technical rules to make available for auction 65 MHz of AWS-3 spectrum for flexible use services, including mobile broadband.

FCC Reforms To Raise Universal Service Rates For Some Rural Customers

Last Thursday, March 20, the FCC announced that, as a result of its universal service reforms, the minimum universal service rate carriers will be allowed to charge customers will rise from $14 to $20.46 per month. The minimum rate increase is the product of the FCC’s universal service reforms intended to eliminate excessive subsidies and contain the costs of the universal service subsidy program. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai criticized the rate increase, stating that it will cause over a million customers in rural areas to face a rate hike of up to 46 percent in the next few months. Commissioner Pai further argued that the FCC should not add to the economic challenges consumers are facing by increasing their phone bills. Instead, he said, “Let’s freeze the floor indefinitely and reexamine this misguided policy.” To lessen the impact of the rate increase, the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau is proposing an extended phase-in for the increase.

This Week’s Deadlines:

  • Monday, March 24: Comments are due in response to the petition for rulemaking filed by ACA International, requesting that the FCC address several issues related to the rules implementing the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.
  • Tuesday, March 25: Reply comments are due in response to the FCC’s NPRM proposing to eliminate the commission’s sports blackout rules.