This week, members of the Senate Commerce Committee adopted, on a bipartisan basis, a pair of bills that would reauthorize the FCC for the first time in 25 years and would direct the agency to “issue a notice of inquiry assessing the spectrum needs required to support the Internet of Things” (IOT). By a party line vote of 13-11 on Wednesday, the committee also approved the FCC Process Reform Act, which seeks to “provide for greater transparency and efficiency” in rulemaking and other procedures used by the FCC. All three bills are now slated for a vote on the Senate floor.
Co-sponsored by committee chairman John Thune (R-SD) and by ranking committee member Bill Nelson (D-FL), the FCC reauthorization measure was adopted unanimously with several amendments that Thune described as “non- controversial.” Included among these amendments are provisions which would (1) require the FCC to assess the impact of universal service support on broadband deployment on tribal lands, (2) mandate FCC reports to Congress on the post- incentive auction spectrum repacking process and the relocation of affected broadcast licensees, and (3) require the Government Accountability Office to study the impact of the Internet protocol transition. Committee members also agreed to incorporate into the reauthorization bill the Spoofing Prevention Act (S. 2258), which would require the FCC to “educate consumers on technological solutions” to combat the use of false caller ID information. The Kari’s Law Act, which would enable callers to reach emergency 911 services without dialing an addition code on multi-line telephone systems used by hotels and similar establishments, was also incorporated.
Known as the DIGIT Act (S. 2607), the IOT measure would direct the Department of Commerce to convene a federal interagency working group that would report on recommended steps to eliminate regulatory and other governmental barriers against IOT development. Mirroring legislation that passed the House last November, the FCC Process Reform Act (S. 421) would establish minimum periods for public comment in FCC rulemaking and other proceedings and would also require the FCC to publish the specific language of proposed rules at least 21 days in advance of an FCC vote. Notwithstanding Democratic opposition, committee members also added an amendment that would require the FCC to publish the text of any changes made to a rulemaking item after it is adopted by the agency. Endorsing the bill, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly observed that S. 421 would ensure “more reasoned and thoughtful consideration of Commission proposals by those inside and outside the agency” and “would not impede Commission deliberations or decision making in any way.”