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House E&C Approves FCC Report Consolidation Bill

The House Energy and Commerce Committee Wednesday voted to
approve a bill that would consolidate eight FCC annual reports to Congress,
including the video competition and cable price reports, into a single biennial
report. It also repeals the annual telegraph report still on the books, which
became a symbol of the need for reform of the congressional reports.

That unanimous voice vote followed the approval, also
unanimous, of a bipartisan amendment added to address concerns by some FCC
staffers. As B&C previously
reported, the amendment would give FCC chairmen installed in the last quarter
of even years (when the biennial reports are due) a little more time to
complete their portions of the report, and would also clarify that the bill
does not impair the FCC's ability to issue other reports.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the House
Communications Subcommittee, withdrew an amendment to the bill that would have
required the commission to include in its consolidated Communications
Marketplace Report an examination of below-the-line items, those
administrative, service and other fees that she says are not easy to find and
are not the government-mandated taxes and charges -- like Universal Service Contributions,
for example.

That came after her Republican colleagues promised to
continue discussions about how to increase bill transparency. She sent letter
earlier this month to major carriers and ISPS seeking info on the
"below-the-line" fees.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is spearheading an essentially identical bill in the Senate, which he introduced this week, though ti will have to be reconciled wit the amended E&C version if--more likely when--that passes the full House.