Just before adjourning for the Congressional summer recess last Friday, Senate lawmakers adopted six telecommunications-related bills that, among other things, would free up additional spectrum resources below 6 GHz for broadband services and eliminate regulatory and other government barriers to the development of the Internet of Things (IoT).

By unanimous consent, Senate members approved (1) the MOBILE NOW Act, (2) the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act, (3) the Spoofing Prevention Act, (4) the Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things (DIGIT) Act, (5) the Kari’s Law Act, and (6) the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act. With the exception of the DIGIT Act, all of the bills were approved without changes from the versions approved last January by the Senate Commerce Committee. The MOBILE NOW Act had been resurrected earlier this year after a version of that bill introduced last year stalled as a result of partisan disagreements over efforts at that time to re-confirm Jessica Rosenworcel as an FCC commissioner. (Rosenworcel, who was forced to relinquish her FCC seat in January when the 114th Congress concluded its business without acting on her previous nomination, will soon return to the FCC as a result of the Senate’s vote last week to approve her recently revived nomination.)

In addition to requiring the federal government to free up an additional 255 MHz of spectrum below 6 GHz for broadband use by 2020, the MOBILE Now Act (among other things) also codifies a 2010 Obama Administration executive order which mandated the release of 500 MHz of federal and non-federal spectrum resources for fixed and mobile broadband services by 2020. The DIGIT Act, which was amended in the nature of a substitute offered by Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), would require a federal interagency working group to submit a report to Congress on recommended steps to eliminate regulatory and other barriers to IoT development. Under the substitute version of the DIGIT Act, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would be added to a list of agencies from which the Secretary of Commerce would select members of the federal working group to be tasked with developing the interagency report. 

Under the Improving Call Quality and Reliability Act, the FCC would be directed to (1) adopt quality standards that would combat the problem of dropped or incomplete voice calls in rural areas, and (2) enact rules that would require intermediate providers of voice calling services to register with the agency. Meanwhile, the Spoofing Prevention Act would expand existing prohibitions against the use of false caller ID information to text messages and international calls. The Kari’s Law Act would require hotels, businesses and other operators of multi-line telephone systems to enable callers to connect to emergency 911 services without having to dial “9” or use a similar dialing code to reach an outside party. Several reports that the FCC must submit to Congress pursuant to statutory obligations would be consolidated into a single report pursuant to the FCC Consolidated Reporting Act.