Draft FCC Consolidated Report Bill Doesn't Reflect 2014 Legal Changes, Democrats Say

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By Lydia Beyoud

Feb. 3 — A discussion draft to combine multiple FCC reports mandated by Congress into a single, biennial report is to be marked up and voted on Feb. 4 by the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee.

However, the STELA Reathorization Act (STELAR), signed into law in December, and a federal appeals court's ruling in January 2014 that overturned the Federal Communications Commission's 2010 net neutrality rules will require the discussion draft to be updated from its current text to reflect their changes, according to a memorandum from the Democratic minority obtained by Bloomberg BNA.

STELAR renewed the country's satellite TV laws, allowing 1.5 million consumers to continue receiving broadcast signal for another five years.

In passing STELAR, “Congress modified certain aspects of the FCC's annual cable pricing report,” specifically requirements for the FCC to provide more transparency on how retransmission consent deals between content providers and broadcasters affect cable rates, the memo said.

The discussion draft would combine this pricing report into the larger biennial report, but the draft text doesn't mention the new report, the memo said.

Further, the discussion draft hasn't been revised to reflect the D.C. Circuit Court's determination in Verizon Comm'ns v. FCC that would impact the FCC's Section 706 Broadband Progress Report requirements, the memo said.

The FCC is required to report annually on whether broadband Internet service is being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion,. The D.C. Circuit “affirmed that the FCC is required to take ‘immediate action' to ‘accelerate deployment' of broadband if the Commission finds in the 706(b) report that broadband is not being deployed” as mandated, the memo said.

Democratic staff plan to discuss how to address revisions to the draft text through a bipartisan managers' amendment offered at the meeting mark up, it said.

Consolidated Reporting Purpose

Prior iterations of the subcommittee's draft Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015 were passed in the House in May 2012 on a voice vote and by a unanimous vote in September 2013.

Similar legislation (S. 253) was introduced Jan. 26 in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.).

The bill would “cut red tape and modernize the FCC,” subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said in a Feb. 2 news release. “A more efficient FCC will encourage further innovation, investment, and job creation, things that we can all get behind,” Walden said.

Consolidation would reduce the FCC's reporting burdens and make the reports more meaningful, the committee said in a memorandum released Feb. 2.

The draft legislation also proposed a “State of the Industry” report, which would focus on challenges and opportunities in the telecommunications marketplace, and require the head of the FCC to outline the agency's plans for acting on the report's findings, the committee said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydia Beyoud in Washington at lbeyoud@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Rothman at hrothman@bna.com

Texts of the discussion draft, markup notice and a background memorandum are at http://op.bna.com/der.nsf/r?Open=tbay-9tdpmd.

Text of the Democrats' memorandum is at http://op.bna.com/der.nsf/r?Open=sbay-9tdtxg.