Legislative Activity

House Democrats Introduce Infrastructure Bill that Includes $40 Billion for Broadband

On May 17, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) introduced H.R.2479, the Leading Infrastructure for Tomorrow’s America Act (LIFT America Act). According to a press release on Rep. Pallone’s website, the legislation “sets out five years of funding for essential infrastructure improvements, job growth, and greater protections for public health and the environment.” The bill provides $40 billion for fiscal years 2018 through 2022 to establish a program for “the deployment of secure and resilient broadband to expand access for communities nationwide while promoting security by design.” Seventy-five percent of those funds would be available to private entities to deploy broadband in unserved areas through a “national reverse auction” to be conducted by the Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information (Assistant Secretary) of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration. The remaining twenty five percent of the authorized amount would be distributed to the states, which would then be authorized to distribute funds at the state level to facilitate broadband deployment. The legislation requires that any project funded by the program “[p]rovide broadband with a download speed of at least 100 megabits per second, and a latency that is sufficiently low to allow real-time, interactive applications” except in remote areas, as defined by the Assistant Secretary, where a download speed of 25 megabits per second would be required. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources for further consideration.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Adopts NPRM Proposing to Reverse Title II Classification of the Internet

As we previously reported, on Thursday, May 18, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) took a major step toward reversing the 2015 order reclassifying the Internet as a Title II service. According to an FCC news release, the rollback will help to “restore Internet freedom and promot[e] infrastructure investment, innovation, and choice by proposing to end utility-style regulation of broadband Internet access service.” In pertinent part, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, or NPRM—which was adopted under a 2-1 party-line vote—will propose to (1) reverse Title II government regulation on Internet Service Providers; (2) “return to the Commission’s original classification of mobile broadband Internet access service as a private mobile service;” and (3) eliminate the “Internet conduct standard created by the Title II Order.”

Finally, the NRPM will also seek comment on whether the FCC should retain certain “bright-line rules” adopted under the Title II Order.

Blue Alert Proposal Likely to be Adopted at June FCC Open Meeting

At an event hosted by the Department of Justice on Friday, May 19, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced a proposal to “add an alert option to the nation’s Emergency Alert System (EAS) to help protect our nation’s law enforcement officers.” As explained in a news release issued the same day, this so-called “Blue Alert” would be used to “notify the public through television and radio of threats to law enforcement and to help apprehend dangerous suspects.”

Specifically, Blue Alerts will be used to warn the public when, among other things, “there is actionable information related to a law enforcement officer who is missing, seriously injured or killed in the line of duty, or when there is an imminent credible threat to an officer,” thereby alerting the public to violent suspects that might be in a community, and providing instructions on what to do upon encountering the suspect in question. Chairman Pai analogized the Blue Alert to Amber Alerts, noting that, “[a]s we have learned from the very successful AMBER Alert initiative for recovering missing children, an informed public can play a vital role in assisting law enforcement. . . . By expanding the Emergency Alert System to better support Blue Alerts, we could build on that success – and help protect those in law enforcement who risk their lives each day to protect us.”

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopting the Blue Alert proposal is likely to be adopted at the FCC’s June 22nd Open Meeting.