House Passes FCC-Blocking Finance Bill
The House late Thursday passed a finance bill (H.R. 5485) that cuts the FCC budget and would prevent it from enforcing its net neutrality rules, implementing a new set-top box proposal, regulating broadband rates, or adopting new broadband privacy rules.
The prohibition on the privacy rules was a last-minute addition to that laundry list thanks to an amendment from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)—approved by a vote of 232 to 187.
The amendment prohibits "the use of funds to implement, administer or enforce any of the rules proposed in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted by the FCC on March 31, 2016 (FCC 16-39), intended to regulate consumer privacy obligations as necessitated by the FCC's net neutrality regime."
The vote on the underlying bill was 239 to 185.
The White House has signaled it will almost certainly veto the bill if those provisions remained since the President publicly called for the new Open Internet order reclassifying ISPs under Title II and backed "unlocking" set-top boxes.
Here is the other FCC-related language in the bill as passed:
"Sec. 629. None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be used by the Federal Communications Commission to modify, amend, or change the rules or regulations of the Commission for universal service high-cost support for competitive eligible telecommunications carriers in a way that is inconsistent with paragraph (e)(5) or (e)(6) of section 54.307 of title 47, Code of Federal Regulations, as in effect on July 15, 2015: Provided, That this section shall not prohibit the Commission from considering, developing, or adopting other support mechanisms as an alternative to Mobility Fund Phase II.
"Sec. 630. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce any rule (as defined in section 551 of title 5, United States Code), or any amendment or repeal of an existing rule, that is adopted by vote of the Federal Communications Commission after the date of the enactment of this Act, unless the Commission publishes the text of such rule, amendment, or repeal on the Internet Web site of the Commission not later than 21 days before the date on which the vote occurs.
"Sec. 631. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to regulate, directly or indirectly, the prices, other fees, or data caps and allowances (as such terms are described in paragraph 164 of the Report and Order on Remand, Declaratory Ruling, and Order in the matter of protecting and promoting the open Internet, adopted by the Federal Communications Commission on February 26, 2015 (FCC 15–24)) charged or imposed by providers of broadband Internet access service (as defined in the final rules in Appendix A of such Report and Order on Remand, Declaratory Ruling, and Order) for such service, regardless of whether such regulation takes the form of requirements for future conduct or enforcement regarding past conduct.
"Sec. 632. None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to implement, administer, or enforce the Report and Order on Remand, Declaratory Ruling, and Order in the matter of protecting and promoting the open Internet, adopted by the Federal Communications Commission on February 26, 2015 (FCC 15–24), until the first date on which there has been a final disposition (including the exhaustion of or expiration of the time for any appeals)..."
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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.