By a vote of 30-17, members of the House Appropriations Committee approved financial services legislation last Thursday with FCC-related policy riders that pertain, among other things, to the agency’s ongoing set-top box rulemaking proceeding and to the regulation of broadband service caps and data rates.  The financial services bill, which includes language prohibiting the FCC from implementing the 2015 Open Internet order pending resolution of all outstanding legal challenges, was adopted days before the DC Circuit Court decided to uphold the Open Internet rules in their entirety.  Specifically, the bill 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 the aforementioned provision on the Open Internet rules, the bill would also (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.  The measure also specifies that any previously-enacted “grandfathering” of broadcast television station joint sales agreements would apply “regardless of any change in the ownership of the stations involved in such agreement.”

As Anders Crenshaw (R-FL), the chairman of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, explained that the purpose of the riders is “to turn the FCC’s focus to ‘mission critical’ work and away from politically charged rulemakings,” committee members rejected amendments offered by ranking committee member Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY) and by ranking subcommittee member Jose Serrano (D-NY) that would have stripped the riders from the bill.  Emphasizing that, since the Open Internet rules were adopted, opponent fears about their impacts have not materialized, Serrano insisted, “there is no reason to continue the crusade.”