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House Passes FCC Process Reform Bills… Again

The House this week again passed some FCC process reform bills that had previously been passed. This time they were folded into the Communication Act Update of 2016. The vote was unanimous.

“This bill encompasses nearly two years of legislative activity," said Communications Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). "This legislation is further evidence of our dedication to advancing thoughtful solutions that empower consumers and small businesses, make the FCC more transparent, and enhance our public safety communications networks. The Communication Act Update of 2016 lays an important foundation as we work to update our laws for the innovation era."

The act is far from the Communication Act overhaul envisioned by members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee a couple years ago but includes eight individual bills that have already passed either the House or passed unanimously out of committee. To check them all out, go here.

The two FCC process reform bills that are part of that package are:

The Federal Communications Commission Process Reform Act ( H.R. 2583), which, among other things, would "set minimum comment periods for rulemaking proceedings; allow time for public comment by eliminating the practice of placing large amounts of information into the record on the last day of the public comment period; increase public transparency of items before the commissioners; require publication of the text of proposed rules; and, set timelines for FCC action on certain types of proceedings." That bill passed the House as a standalone Nov. 16.

The Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act (H.R. 734), which would "consolidate a number of existing reports required by law into a single, comprehensive report on the state of the communications marketplace." A similar stand-alone bill passed the House in two previous Congresses without getting onto the books. That bill passed the House unanimously in February 2015.

Also passed, again, as part of the package was the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act (H.R. 4596), which would extend the FCC's small business exemption from its Open Internet orders' enhanced transparency rules for another five years and apply it to systems of 250,000 for fewer. That bill passed unanimously March 16.

"This is straightforward, good-government legislation, and I hope that the U.S. Senate will act quickly to send this bill to the President for his signature," said FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, who has pushed for FCC reforms.

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.