Speaking on behalf of the Obama Administration, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) signaled Tuesday that House appropriations legislation containing FCC policy riders that pertain to the agency’s ongoing set-top box rulemaking proceeding and to the regulation of broadband service caps and data rates is likely to face a presidential veto if adopted in its current form.
Approved earlier this month by members of the House Appropriations Committee, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act (H.R. 5485) would set the FCC’s FY 2017 budget at $315 million, which is $69 million below the approved FY 2016 spending level and $43 million below the amount requested by the Obama Administration. In addition to barring implementation of the Open Internet rules pending resolution of all outstanding legal challenges, riders attached to H.R. 5485 would (1) prohibit the FCC from regulating broadband service rates and data caps, (2) postpone further FCC activity on proposed rules that would open set-top box streams to third-party developers until 180 days after the agency completes a peer-reviewed cost-benefit study, and (3) require the FCC to make the text of proposed rules available for public review at least 21 days prior to an FCC vote.
Outlining its concerns in a statement of Administration policy, the OMB objected to the proposed 14% cut in FCC funding, which would “force the FCC to scale back important work on public safety and wireless spectrum [and] delay efforts to modernize IT systems” at the agency. With respect to bill language that blocks enforcement of the Open Internet rules, the OMB argued that the FCC’s order “was issued after a lengthy rulemaking process that garnered input from four million Americans” and thus “ensures a level playing field that is increasingly vital to the future of the nation’s digital economy.” As it maintained that “the appropriations process should not be used to overturn the will of both an independent regulator and millions of Americans on this vital issue,” the OMB stressed that the Open Internet rules “have already been implemented in large part with little or no impact on the telecommunications companies making important investments in the U.S. economy.” Addressing bill language that would postpone further action in the set-top box proceeding, the OMB countered that the FCC “is already committed to a lengthy, thorough rulemaking process that would establish a robust record of comment and analysis” and that enactment of the rider would “unnecessarily [interfere] with these longestablished processes by requiring a delay of at least 270 days.”