House Subcommittee Advances Bipartisan FCC Reauthorization Bill


10/13/2017 3:18 PM

For the first time in more than 25 years, lawmakers will consider legislation to reauthorize and reform the FCC.

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The U.S. House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology has advanced draft legislation to reauthorize and reform the Federal Communications Commission to the House Energy and Commerce Committee after a markup and voice vote on Oct. 11.

The legislation to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to reauthorize appropriations for the FCC is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., chairman of the subcommittee.  

“The FCC is charged with the administration of the Communications Act and other statutes that govern our country’s communications policy,” Blackburn said in an opening statement at the subcommittee markup. “The agency plays an increasingly important role as society becomes more dependent on technology, and the authorizing statute needs to be updated to reflect the current state of the communications marketplace.”

The legislation also provides for certain procedural changes to the rules of the FCC “to maximize opportunities for public participation and efficient decision making, and for other purposes,” according to a news release from the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The Oct. 11 markup of the legislation, which would reauthorize and reform the FCC for the first time since 1990, was brief, according to an article from Broadcasting and Cable

“One reason for the smooth sailing is that some amendments will not be introduced until the full committee mark-up and the various provisions already in the draft include bills backed by Democrats, including boosting public safety, wireless coverage data collection, cybersecurity, and bipartisan FCC process reform language that has twice passed the House,” according to the article.

Blackburn introduced a draft of the legislation in July including ongoing efforts to improve the FCC’s process and transparency to ensure continued growth and innovation in the communication ecosystem, ACA International previously reported.

Since then, Blackburn said in her Oct. 11 opening statement, “staff has been working on a draft that makes technical changes to the existing Communications Act and also incorporates a number of bipartisan measures focused on agency efficiency and transparency and public safety.”

According to a summary of the legislation from the Oct. 11 markup, in addition to authorizing appropriations for the FCC, it includes a number of reforms to improve the agency’s process and fee structure.

The legislation: “amends the commission’s fee collection authority to more accurately reflect today’s communications marketplace. It creates parity between the agency’s application fee and regulatory fee structure and allows additional flexibility to amend the fee schedule”;

“Includes the text of HR 290, [the] FCC Process Reform Act of 2017, which passed the House unanimously in January 2017. This title requires the commission to establish rules and procedures governing FCC process that will enhance agency transparency and provide more accurate agency performance measures”; and

“Makes a number of additional agency reforms, including establishing the independence of the FCC’s Inspector General and elevating the agency’s Chief Information Officer.”

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly issued a statement following the subcommittee’s markup:

“I applaud the Subcommittee on its markup of the FCC Reauthorization Act. This legislation codifies key process reforms Chairman [Ajit] Pai and I have championed and that have been adopted into our daily procedures at the Commission. Making these permanent will ensure certainty and transparency to the agency for the future. I look forward to working with the Committee on additional items to further strengthen FCC process and on other key issues.” 

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