Skip to main content

FCC Decisions Implicated in Rider Showdown

It may or may not come to a showdown this week over FCC-related riders on bills being worked on and into an omnibus appropriations bill that needs to pass to keep the government open.

A budget bill passed in October, but the omnibus specifies what that total will be spent on, including for agencies like the FCC.

There is a Dec. 11 deadline for appropriating the money or the government runs out of funds, though it it likely that a short continuing resolution will be passed--say a week or so--to avert a shutdown at allow them to continue to work on a bill.

According to reports, the FCC appropriations bills submitted last week by House speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would include the FCC-related amendments added by Republicans to the FCC appropriation bills. Those include riders on FCC appropriations that would 1). Those would grandfather all the joint sales agreements struck before the FCC's March 2014 rule change that would have been in violation after the change (Congress has already delayed implementation of the unwinding of those, but the rider would permanently grandfather them) and 2) that would block implementation of the FCC's network neutrality rules until the court challenges had been resolved--oral argument before a three-judge panel was last week, but it could go to the full court or the Supreme Court, taking at least a year--and would not allow the FCC to use the new rules to impose rate regulation--FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he has no plans to do so.

The JSA-grandfathering bill is the most likely to survive. Some Democrats have also expressed concerns about the impact of the JSA ruling. The White House has come out strongly for the new network neutrality rules and the President might even veto the entire bill of those poison pills remained.

Public Citizen has been pushing for a no-rider policy on the Ryan spending bill, calling those riders "little more than special favors for ideological extremists and sweetheart deals for big corporations."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.