Legislative Activity

House Commerce Committee Approves FCC Consolidated Reporting Act

On February 12, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (House Commerce Committee) approved the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015 (H.R.734) by voice vote. The bill, introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA), seeks to improve congressional oversight and reduce reporting burdens by consolidating the reporting obligations of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Specifically, the bill would combine eight annual reports into a single biennial Communications Marketplace Report and repeal the annual Telegraph Report. Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced a companion bill in the Senate on January 26. The House bill now goes to the full House for consideration.

Senate Bill Introduced to Permanently Block Taxes on Internet Access

On February 10, Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act (S.431). The bill proposes to permanently extend the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA). The original ITFA from 1998 put a moratorium on state and local jurisdictions imposing new taxes on the Internet and other discriminatory taxes on e-commerce. While Congress has reauthorized the law five times, the current bill would permanently prevent taxation on Internet access and online sales.

House and Senate Introduce Wi-Fi Innovation Act

On February 10, the House and Senate introduced companion bills, H.R.821 and S.424, both entitled the Wi-Fi Innovation Act. The bills aim to expand the use of unlicensed spectrum by requiring the FCC to test the feasibility of opening the upper 5 GHz band, from 5850-5925 GHz, to unlicensed use. The bills further establish a study to examine Wi-Fi deployment in low-income communities and the barriers preventing deployment of wireless networks in low-income neighborhoods. In conjunction with the study, the bills also require the FCC to evaluate incentives and policies that could increase the availability of unlicensed spectrum in low-income neighborhoods. The legislation was sponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the Senate and Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) in the House.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, February 25:  The House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “The Uncertain Future of the Internet.”
  • Wednesday, February 25:  The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation will hold a hearing titled “Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance.”

Regulatory Activity

FCC Open Meeting February 26

On Thursday, February 26, the FCC will hold its monthly Open Meeting. The FCC will consider the following items:

  • Community Broadband: The FCC will consider a Memorandum Opinion and Order addressing petitions filed by two municipal broadband providers asking that the Commission preempt provisions of state laws in North Carolina and Tennessee that restrict the abilities of communities to provide broadband service.
  • Open Internet: The FCC will consider a Report and Order on Remand, Declaratory Ruling, and Order that responds to the Verizon v. FCC ruling and adopts Open Internet On February 4, the FCC released a Fact Sheet outlining the content of the draft Order.

The FCC’s meeting will be held at 9:30 am in Room TW-C305 of the FCC headquarters, and will be broadcast live at http://www.fcc.gov/live.

FCC Implements Provisions of the STELA Reauthorization Act

On February 18, the FCC released an Order implementing three provisions of the STELA (Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act) Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR). STELAR extended the retransmission consent exemption for carriage of distant network signals by satellite carriers, and also required the FCC to adopt certain other new rules, amend existing rules, and conduct analyses. The three provisions adopted in the Order will: (1) extend to January 1, 2020 the good faith negotiation requirements applicable to multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs); (2) prohibit same-market television broadcast stations from coordinating negotiations for retransmission consent unless those stations are under common de jure control permitted by FCC regulations; (3) prohibit a TV broadcast station from limiting the ability of an MVPD to carry into its local market TV signals that are deemed “significantly viewed” or that otherwise are permitted to be carried by the MVPD, with certain exceptions; and (4) eliminate the “sweeps prohibition,” which prohibited the deletion or repositioning of local commercial TV stations by cable operators during periods in which major TV ratings services measure such stations’ audience size.

FCC Seeks Comment on Part 74 Remote Pickup Station Rules

On February 18, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Order to propose changes to the Part 74 Remote Pickup (RPU) stations rules and resolve certain RPU-related issues raised in petitions to the FCC. An RPU station is a type of Broadcast Auxiliary Station that can be used to transmit material from a remote site back to the broadcast studio or production center, communicate concerning the production or technical support of a remote program, and support activities associated with the Emergency Alert System. RPU stations can only operate in analog (not digital) mode under the FCC’s current rules. The FCC determined that allowing RPU licensees to use digital equipment would enable more efficient use of spectrum, and accordingly proposed to allow RPU stations to use digital technologies. The FCC seeks comment on the costs and benefits of that proposal. Additionally, in order to provide an opportunity for meaningful comment on the proposed changes, the FCC denied as premature a waiver request that would have allowed broadcasters to use digital emissions in the VHF and UHF Bands while the rulemaking is pending.