Legislative Activity

House Introduces Three Draft Bills on FCC Transparency

On April 21, members of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee (House Commerce Committee) introduced three draft bills aimed at improving transparency at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The first, offered by Communications and Technology Subcommittee Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH), would require the FCC to publish a list of items that are placed on delegated authority and are thus decided at the bureau level. The second, offered by Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), would require the FCC to publish the draft of a rulemaking, order, report, or any other action when it is circulated to the commissioners for a vote. The draft bill does not prevent the FCC from making changes to the item after it has been circulated, but allows the public to see what the Chairman is proposing to the rest of the Commission. The third, offered by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), would require the FCC to publish new rules on the same day that they are adopted. All three draft bills will be discussed at a hearing to take place on Thursday, April 30, which will include testimony from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly.

Smartphone Theft Prevention Act Introduced

On April 23, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced companion bills, H.R.2024 and S.1076, both titled the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act. The bills would require mobile service providers and smartphone manufacturers to give consumers the ability to remotely delete data from smartphones and render smartphones inoperable. Specifically, the legislation would require manufacturers to include technology that would deter theft of mobile phones by giving consumers the ability to remotely wipe data off of their phones and render the device useless on any network. The legislation also includes provisions requiring manufacturers to include a technology that would make it impossible to reactivate or reprogram the phone if stolen. The House bill has been referred to the House Commerce Committee and the Senate bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

House Introduces Bill Addressing Retransmission Consent Issues for Music

On April 23, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced H.R.1999, the Protecting the Rights of Musicians Act. The bill would deny the right to grant retransmission consent to a television broadcast station if an AM or FM radio broadcast station licensed to the same licensee transmits a sound recording without providing compensation for the programming. The bill aims to close a loophole in the current law that only applies to AM/FM radio stations by conditioning the ability of broadcasters to opt for retransmission consent payments on whether radio stations they own pay the performers for their music. Currently, satellite radio stations and cable and satellite television stations pay musicians for their performances while the AM/FM radio stations do not. The bill was referred to the House Commerce Committee for consideration.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Thursday, April 30:  The Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a hearing entitled “FCC Reauthorization: Improving Commission Transparency.” The hearing will feature testimony from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly.

Regulatory Activity

Oppositions Due May 11 for 911 Location Accuracy Petition for Reconsideration

On April 21, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comment on a Petition for Reconsideration (Petition) from the Boulder Regional Emergency Telephone Service Authority (BRETSA) of the FCC’s Fourth Report and Order released on February 3, 2015, which adopted measures to enhance the ability of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) to accurately identify the location of wireless 911 callers when the caller is indoors. The FCC’s wireless E911 location accuracy rules established time frames by which Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) providers must be able to determine the horizontal and vertical location of 911 callers. The rules are summarized in our blog post here. BRETSA contends that the rules do not accurately reflect how Automatic Location Information is used in emergency response and inadequately address location accuracy for wireless 911 call routing purposes. BRETSA also asks the FCC to reconsider its rules relating to the location accuracy test bed procedures to: (1) adopt recommendations from the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions Emergency Services Interconnection Forum (ATIS ESIF) to produce more reliable results, (2) provide procedures for PSAPs to establish aprima facie case of non-compliance based on actual performance, (3) make the test bed results public, and (4) ensure that compliance of any technology is not assumed prior to completion of test bed testing. Finally, BRETSA requests that the FCC retain its authority to approve or disapprove of location technology selected by CMRS providers. Oppositions to BRETSA’s Petition are due May 11, and replies are due May 19.

Comments Due May 14 on Proposed Changes to Competitive Bidding Rules

On April 17, the FCC issued a Public Notice seeking more detailed comment on proposed changes to its competitive bidding rules to ensure that small businesses, rural telephone companies, and businesses owned by women and minority groups (collectively, “designated entities”) have an opportunity to participate in the provision of spectrum-based services while ensuring that there are adequate safeguards to protect against unjust enrichment to ineligible entities. Comments on the FCC”s proposed changes are due May 14, and reply comments are due May 21.

NTIA’s Commerce Spectrum Management Advisory Committee to Meet May 12

The National Telecommunications Industry Association’s (NTIA’s) Commerce Spectrum Advisory Committee (CSMAC) will meet on May 12. CSMAC advises the head of the NTIA on needed reforms to spectrum policy and management to maximize the public benefits of spectrum and make wireless services available to all Americans. At its May 12 meeting, CSMAC will hear reports from Subcommittees, including the Federal Access to Non-federal bands (Bi-Directional Sharing) and Industry and Government Collaboration subcommittees. The NTIA will post a detailed agenda for the meeting here. The meeting will be held from 1:30 to 4:30 PM Mountain Daylight Time at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado.