Legislative Activity

This Week’s Hearings And Meetings:

  • Thursday, May 1: The House Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing titled “Telehealth to Digital Medicine: How 21st Century Technology Can Benefit Patients.”
  • Thursday, May 1: The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a markup of the Patents Transparency and Improvements Act of 2013 (S. 1720).

Regulatory Activity

FCC April 23 Open Meeting

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took the following actions at its April 23 open meeting:

  • The FCC released a Report and Order – as well as a Declaratory Ruling, Order, Memorandum Opinion and Order, and Seventh Order on Reconsideration – intended to expand opportunities for robust broadband deployment in rural America. The Report and Order is designed to advance a key goal of the FCC’s 2011 universal service reforms by targeting subsidies for broadband and voice service to rural areas where they are most needed. The first phase of the Connect America Fund (CAF) invested $438 million to deploy broadband service to 1.6 million previously unserved Americans, $300 million to expand advanced mobile wireless service, and nearly $50 million to provide for improved mobile voice and broadband service on Tribal lands. This second phase of CAF is set to connect five million rural Americans to broadband and is projected to result in a nearly 70% increase in annual support for broadband and voice service in areas served by the nation’s largest traditional local providers, providing nearly $9 billion to expand broadband in rural areas over five years.
  • The FCC released a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that proposes rules for a new Citizens Broadband Radio Service, advancing the FCC’s efforts to meet the growing consumer demand for spectrum. The FNPRM proposes to make 150 MHz available in the 3.5 GHz band for general consumer use, carrier-grade small cell deployments, fixed wireless broadband services, and other innovative uses. The FNPRM contemplates a three-tiered access and sharing model comprising federal and non-federal incumbents, priority access licensees, and general authorized access users, and seeks comment on extending the proposed service to 3700 MHz.

Tentative Agenda for FCC May 15 Open Meeting

The FCC’s tentative agenda for its May 15 open meeting includes the following items:

  • Net Neutrality Proposal: The FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) addressing the remand by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit of portions of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order. The proposed rules, developed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, reportedly would reinstate the commission’s prohibition against Internet service providers (ISPs) blocking any legal content or slowing down content in an anticompetitive manner. The proposed rules, however, are expected to depart from the commission’s previous net neutrality rules by allowing ISPs to negotiate with content companies willing to pay to have their content placed in priority fast lanes for higher-speed delivery to consumers. ISPs reportedly would be required to act in a “commercially reasonable” manner in negotiating such preferential delivery deals with content companies, and the agreements would be subject to review by the FCC on a case-by-case basis. The proposed rules also are expected to require ISPs to offer a certain baseline level of service to subscribers. Reports of Chairman Wheeler’s proposal were met with opposition from public interest groups. Free Press, for example, stated that “[w]ith this proposal, the FCC is aiding and abetting the largest ISPs in their efforts to destroy the open Internet.” Chairman Wheeler responded, however, that reports that the FCC is gutting the open Internet rules are “flat out wrong” and that there is no “turnaround policy” with respect to the commission’s previous commitment to requiring ISPs to treat all web content equally.
  • Broadcast Incentive Auction: The FCC will consider a Report and Order adopting rules and laying the groundwork for the planned broadcast television spectrum incentive auction.
  • Mobile Spectrum Holdings: The FCC will consider a Report and Order modifying its policies and adopting rules regarding the aggregation of spectrum for mobile wireless services through initial licensing and secondary transactions to preserve and promote competition.
  • Wireless Microphones: The FCC will consider a Report and Order to provide a limited expansion of the class of wireless microphone users eligible for licenses.