Senate Commerce Circulates New Text for FCC Reauthorization

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By Lydia Beyoud

April 22 — The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee has circulated a substitute amendment to incorporate anti-spoofing and 9-1-1 accessibility measures into an FCC reauthorization bill.

The panel has planned an April 27 markup of the bill (S. 2644) by committee chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), along with several other measures.

The committee delayed its consideration of the bill to buy Thune more time to round up bipartisan support for it.

The substitute obtained by Bloomberg BNA incorporates language that would crack down on international caller spoofing, or the practice of intentionally using an inaccurate or false caller ID under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. A provision under Sec. 227 of the Communications Act of 1934 would be expanded to encompass function-based voice services or text messages sent using text messaging services, while eliminating a former technology-based definition of covered services.

It would also clarify the definition of what constitutes a text message, excluding real-time, two-way voice or video communications. The provision would specifically eliminate mention of covered services as telecommunications service or IP-enabled voice services.

The amendment also contains language based on a bill (S. 2553) by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) known as the “Kari's Law Act of 2016.” That language would amend Title VII of the Communications Act to make it easier for people to dial 9-1-1 through an automatic configuration that avoids requiring them to dial any additional digits. The provision would apply to multiline phone systems within two years of enactment.

DIGIT Act Changes

The Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee also plans to vote on a substitute amendment to a bipartisan bill (S. 2607) by Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) that would help plan for the spectrum needs and interagency coordination necessary to support the growing Internet of Things.

Fischer's bill embodies the Senate's cautious approach to trying to legislate around new technologies that Cisco Systems Inc. predicts will generate trillions of dollars globally and include more than 50 billion Internet-connected devices by 2020.

Sense of Congress language included in the previous version of the bill stating that policies governing the IoT industry should maximize the potential and development of the technology to benefit of “all stakeholders”—including consumers, government and businesses — would be tweaked under the substitute.

The amendment also further defines the scope of a federal working group to be drawn from agencies including the Department of Transportation, Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission, consumer groups, manufacturers, industry groups and rural stakeholders, among others.

The group would work to identify policies to promote IoT deployment, protect users of the technology and identify policies, legislation or programs that may hinder its development.

Fischer's bill would also direct the FCC to issue a notice of inquiry seeking public comment on current and future IoT spectrum needs. The agency would have to report back within a year of enactment.

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Keith Perine at kperine@bna.com

For More Information

Text of the FCC reauthorization substitute amendment is at http://src.bna.com/elT.

Text of the DIGIT Act substitute amendment is at http://src.bna.com/elR.