House Approves Broadband Bills

The House Monday (July 23) passed a trio of communications bills, two broadband-related and a bill targetting pirate radio.

They had passed unanimously earlier this month out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

Related: House E&C Approves Bipartisan Broadband Bills

H.R. 3994, the Advancing Critical Connectivity Expands Service, Small Businesses Resources, Opportunities, Access, and Data Based on Assessed Need and Demand (ACCESS BROADBAND) Act, creates an Office of Internet Connectivity and Growth within the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, which is the White House's chief telecom policy advisor.

The bill was amended before passage out of the committee to more clearly define broadband support and better identify which programs offer broadband support, which were billed as technical corrections.

Also getting the nod was the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018 (H.R. 4881), which directs the FCC to create a task force to "meet the connectivity and technology needs of precision agriculture in the United States." Those are broadband-enabled technologies that allow farmers to collect data in real time on cropland
and ranchland.

Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) added a bipartisan amendment that includes the definition of broadband access currently in the federal code but also allows it to "evolve" based on FCC findings. It also adds members to the task force with expertise in broadband data collection, geospacial analysis and coverage mapping.

Update: H.R. 6032, the State of Modern Application, Research, and Trends of IoT (or SMART IoT) Act, which was reported out of Digital Subcommittee last month, was not among the bills getting voted, as initially reported.

Finally, the House also approved H.R. 5709, the Preventing Illegal Radio Abuse Through Enforcement (PIRATE) Act. That bill boost fines and enforcement against pirate radio broadcasters, who can represent a threat to licensed broadcasters and the life-saving information they provide, bill sponsor Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.),
vice chairman of the subcommittee, has said.

“The time is right to simplify access to federal broadband resources for families, small businesses and communities in the country’s most difficult to reach areas," said USTelecom President Jonathan Spalter of passage of the ACCESS BROADBAND Act. "We thank Representatives Paul Tonko and Leonard Lance for their commitment to universal connectivity, and we urge the Senate to pass similar legislation to bolster NTIA’s capacity to close the digital divide.”

John Eggerton

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.