Members of the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday that aims to promote efficiency at the FCC by consolidating eight required agency reports to Congress into a single, biennial document. Sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and by ranking House Communications & Technology Subcommittee member Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015 (H.R. 734) was adopted unanimously by voice vote. Specifically, the measure combines separate FCC reports to Congress on (1) the deployment of advanced telecommunications capabilities pursuant to Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, (2) the ORBIT Act, (3) satellite competition, (4) international broadband data capabilities, (5) competition in the video program distribution market, (6) cable industry pricing, and (7) wireless competition. The bill also incorporates into the combined report the FCC’s triennial report to Congress on market barriers affecting small businesses and entrepreneurs.
H.R. 734 is nearly identical to a similar bill that passed the House last year but later stalled in the Senate. Eshoo confirmed that H.R. 734 (1) clarifies that the FCC’s report on Section 706 “does not in any way impact or alter the explicit grant of broadband authority” affirmed by the DC Circuit Court in the Verizon Open Internet case last year, and (2) “preserves the FCC’s obligation to examine how retransmission consent fees impact a consumer’s monthly bill.” As Scalise lauded the bill as “an important, bipartisan reform that shows that Congress can work together to get the kinds of things done that actually make things simpler in the real world,” ranking House Energy & Commerce Committee member Frank Pallone (D-NJ) predicted that, once the bill is enacted, the FCC will be able to use its resources more efficiently to take a more “holistic” view of the marketplace. The Senate is now expected to take up the measure.