Legislative Activity

Senate Commerce Committee Assignments Announced

On January 8, the Senate officially ratified Sen. John Thune (R-SD) as Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee for the 114th Congress. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is the Ranking Member for the committee. Sen. Thune announced that Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) will serve as the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet once the full committee approves panels at the first official meeting.

Subcommittee Assignments Announced for Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee

On January 8, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) announced the subcommittee assignments. Of particular interest, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was assigned to be the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, and Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) was assigned to be the Vice Chairman. Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) was assigned to be the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law, and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) was assigned to be the Vice Chairman.

Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2015 Introduced in House and Senate

On January 7, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2015, H.R. 196 and S.40, respectively. The House and Senate bills would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to use its existing authority to prohibit paid prioritization agreements between internet service providers (ISPs) and content providers. The legislation would also prohibit broadband providers from giving preferential treatment or priority to the traffic of content, applications, services, or devices that are provided or operated by that broadband provider or an affiliate of the broadband provider over the traffic of providers. The bills ask the FCC to promulgate regulations to this effect no later than 90 days after the bills are enacted. Introduction of the House and Senate bills on this subject comes weeks before the FCC is to vote on new net neutrality regulations on February 26, which is discussed below.

Bills to Prohibit Universal Service Support for Wireless Telephone Service Introduced in Senate and House

On January 7, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) introduced a bill, S. 56, which would prohibit universal service support of commercial mobile service through the Lifeline universal service program. The Lifeline program provides discounts on monthly telephone service to qualifying low-income consumers. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. On January 9, Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA) introduced a companion bill in the House, H.R.266, which was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, January 13: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a full committee organizational meeting to adopt rules for the Committee, appoint subcommittee chairmen and ranking members, and adopt a Committee oversight plan.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda for January Open Meeting

On January 8, the FCC announced a tentative agenda for its January 29 Open Meeting. The agenda includes the following items:  (1) the Commission will consider a Report and Order on location accuracy for emergency calls, the aim of which is to ensure that wireless caller information is automatically provided to public safety officials for all wireless calls to 911, and (2) the Commission will hear a presentation on the new Consumer Help Center.

FCC to Vote on New Net Neutrality Regulations on February 26

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the FCC will vote on new net neutrality regulations at its Open Meeting on February 26, roughly a year after the D.C. Circuit struck down significant portions of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order. The vote centers on whether the FCC should adopt rules regulating how broadband providers treat traffic on their networks. Chairman Wheeler is expected to circulate a proposal to his fellow Commissioners on February 5, and early indications suggest that Wheeler’s pending proposal will back strict net neutrality rules and may reclassify broadband under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, while forbearing from applying certain provisions of Title II.

Comment Deadlines Set for Internet Protocol (IP) Transition Proceeding

Comment dates have now been set for the FCC’s November 25, 2014 Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking public comment on competition, consumer protection, universal service, and public safety concerns relating to the transition from legacy networks to all-Internet protocol networks. Comments are due February 5, and reply comments are due March 9. In particular, the Commission seeks comment as to how to: (1) ensure reliable back-up power for residential fixed IP-based voice and data services, (2) ensure that consumers are informed about their choices and services when legacy services are discontinued, and (3) protect competition by ensuring that discontinuance of legacy services does not deprive small- and medium-sized business, schools, libraries, and other enterprises of their choice of the service that best suits their needs.

FCC Extends Comment Deadlines for Satellite Competition Report

At the request of the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), the International Bureau (IB) has extended the comment deadline for the FCC’s Fourth Satellite Competition Report (“Report”), which will analyze the state of competition in the satellite market from 2011 through 2013. Comments are now due February 6, and reply comments are due February 23. IB’s decision to extend the comment deadline for the Report is intended to allow interested parties additional time to focus on other pending proceedings of concern to the satellite industry, including: reform of the Part 25 regulatory framework, use of spectrum bands above 24 GHz, and development of Commission positions for the 2015 World Radio Conference.

FCC Extends Comment Deadlines for Incentive Auction Procedures

The FCC has extended comment deadlines in the Broadcast Incentive Auction proceeding that were originally announced in a December 17, 2014 Public Notice. Comments are now due February 13, and reply comments are due March 13. The Commission seeks comment on proposals for auction design issues, such as the broadcast television spectrum clearing target, opening bid prices, benchmarks for the final stage rule, and the final television channel assignment process.