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House FCC Reauthorization Bill Would Cap USF

House Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden has released a draft of legislation reauthorizing the FCC that would include capping the Universal Service Fund, capping the FCC's appropriation for the next four years, and create an independent inspector general.

“This bill addresses the commission’s disproportionate FY 2016 budget request, the runaway growth in the Universal Service Fund, and ensures that the FCC’s Inspector General can conduct oversight of the commission without fear of reprisal from a chairman," Walden said in releasing the draft. "The public interest is always better served when government watchdogs can operate independently. I look forward to a spirited discussion with my colleagues and the FCC’s five current commissioners on Thursday.”

The bill, which comes in advance of the March 19 House FCC oversight hearing, would:

1."Authorize Federal Communications Commission appropriations at the current level for the next four fiscal years."

2. "Authorize appropriations to the commission for spectrum auction expenses at the current level through 2022 - the last year of existing FCC auction authority."

3. Authorize $9 billion per year in appropriations — to be offset by fund contributions — for the support of Universal Service programs. This would cap the Federal Universal Service Fund at $9 billion per year, limiting the growth in the fund, and thus the amount of money the FCC extracts from consumers each year.

4. "Authorize the commission to make changes to its schedule of fees to reflect changes in the composition of the commission’s work and the rate of inflation."

5. "Create an independent Inspector General at the FCC, removing the ability of the Chairman to hire or fire the Inspector General."