By a unanimous voice vote on Tuesday, members of the U.S. House of Representatives amended and approved the Communications Act Update Act of 2016 (S. 253), a package of eight FCC process reform and other telecommunications-related bills which had previously been cleared by the House or adopted unanimously by the House Energy & Commerce Committee.
In addition to streamlining the FCC’s rulemaking and licensing processes, the bills included in S. 253 also seek to boost broadband deployment and voice call reliability in rural areas while improving fixed and wireline network reliability during natural or manmade disasters. Provisions of the Kari’s Law Act of 2015 (H.R. 4167) would prohibit the sale or production of multi-line telephone systems unless they are configured to allow direct access to emergency 911 services without the need to dial “9” or input some other access code. The Anti-Spoofing Act of 2016 (H.R. 2669), meanwhile, targets the growing problem of caller ID “spoofing” in which scammers disguise their phone numbers to make it appear that they are calling from a government agency, bank, police department, or credit card company. Under the Amateur Radio Parity Act (H.R. 1301), the FCC would be required to amend its rules “to prohibit the application to amateur stations of certain private land-use restrictions.”
The Communications Act Update Act is now slated to move to the Senate for further consideration. Asserting that S. 253 “encompasses nearly two years of legislative activity,” House Communications & Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden R-OR) lauded the measure as “further evidence of our dedication to advancing thoughtful solutions that empower consumers and small businesses, make the FCC more transparent, and enhance our public safety communications networks.” As Shirley Bloomfield, the CEO of rural broadband association NTCA observed that the bill “includes . . . provisions of great significance for rural Americans,” FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai voiced hope that “the U.S. Senate will act quickly to send this bill to the President for his signature.”