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By Kyle Daly
June 9 — The House Appropriations Committee June 9 approved a draft fiscal 2017 appropriations bill that would slash Federal Communications Commission funding and prevent the agency from implementing several controversial rules and proposals.
The draft measure, approved on a 30-17 vote, would allocate $315 million to the agency, $43 million below the budget request and $69 million below the fiscal 2016 enacted level.
It also contains provisions that would block the FCC from taking action on any new rules unless the agency publishes the text of the rule at least 21 days before a vote; from regulating rates for either wireless or wireline broadband; from implementing its 2015 net neutrality rules until pending court challenges are resolved; and from moving forward with a proposal to open the pay TV set-top box market to third parties until after an academic institution completes a peer-reviewed study on potential effects.
The committee action reflects GOP lawmakers' opposition to a variety of FCC initiatives. It's not clear how closely any final spending bill will follow the committee-approved version, however.
The panel, on a voice vote, rejected an amendment by Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) that would have stripped out the text publishing, rate regulation and net neutrality provisions.
Speaking in favor of his amendment during a June 9 markup session, Serrano said the rate regulation provision was a veiled attempt to curb the FCC's ability to enforce net neutrality, while the provision specific to net neutrality was simply an attempt to keep the rules tied up in court indefinitely. He said the rule publication requirement amounted to House Republicans “trying to hijack the regulatory process.”
Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) spoke against Serrano's amendment. Crenshaw maintained that the three provisions Serrano targeted are intended to enhance transparency, deliver certainty on net neutrality and codify the forbearance from rate regulation to which FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has previously said the agency will adhere.
The set-top box proposal has proven controversial across party lines on Capitol Hill.
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