Senate Panel Acts on FCC, Internet Legislation

This week the Senate Commerce Committee advanced legislation aimed at updating the FCC and addressing the “Internet of Things.” Receiving top billing at a full committee mark-up was the FCC Reauthorization Act (S. 2644), a top priority of Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.). In addition to reauthorizing the agency for two years, the bill seeks to modernize the Commission’s regulatory fee structure, increase agency transparency, require spectrum reports, and clarify procedures in the event of vacancies at the Commissioner level. Calling work on the measure “long-overdue,” Sen. Thune said, “Today, the Commerce Committee approved a measure to reauthorize the FCC for the first time in 25 years.” 

While that legislation passed in a bipartisan fashion, another bill, the FCC Process Reform Act (S. 421), sponsored by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), was advanced on a party-line vote. Aimed at enhancing FCC transparency and efficiency, this bill includes provisions that would lead to new timelines for FCC proceedings, publication of proposed rule texts, and required online disclosure of more FCC documents. Referencing the controversial net neutrality proceeding, Sen. Heller said, “We cannot have an independent agency that looks like it is playing politics rather than actually advocating for the public interest. The consumers and the marketplace deserve a better understanding of the procedures the FCC goes through to reach a decision.” The House passed similar legislation in November.  

A third communications-related bill was approved with broad agreement. The Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things Act (S. 2607), sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), notes that an estimated 50 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by the end of the decade and this “Internet of Things” could generate trillions of dollars in economies worldwide. The bill would establish a working group to investigate and report back to Congress about this growing sector, and it would call on the FCC to explore relevant spectrum needs and challenges.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: April 29, 2016

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