House Passes Three Communications Bills

Capitol Hill
(Image credit: Architect of the Capitol)

The House has passed three bipartisan bills to strengthen communications networks, including one exploring whether to extend emergency alert mandates to the internet and streaming services.

H.R. 6096, the Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement (READI) Act of 2020 requires the FCC to "examine the feasibility of modernizing the Emergency Alert System by expanding alert distribution to the internet and streaming services." It also amends the Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act "to classify emergency alerts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a type of alert that commercial mobile service providers may not allow subscribers to block from their devices." It also directs the FCC to "facilitate coordination with State Emergency Communications Committees in developing and modernizing State Emergency Alert System plans."

H.R. 6624, the Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act of 2020 "creates a new grant program through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to promote technology that enhances supply chain security and market competitiveness in wireless communications networks."

H.R. 7310, the Spectrum IT Modernization Act of 2020, requires the National Telecommunications & Information Administration to report to Congress on any plans to modernize its IT systems on managing federal spectrum.

All three passed by voice vote.

“From keeping Americans better informed during emergencies to promoting 5G coordination, competitiveness and security, these three bills will create a better, safer communications network for us all,” said House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Communications Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.). The bills came out of the E&C committee. “At its core, our telecommunications infrastructure exists to serve the public interest and connect our nation, and we are proud of the bipartisan work that went into advancing that goal with these three bills. We thank all our colleagues for working with us to get such important legislation passed today," they said.

E&C ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Communications ranking member Bob Latta (R-Ohio) said of the votes: “The COVID-19 pandemic put a much-needed focus on the need to ensure all Americans are connected, especially during times of emergency, and that our networks are secure. The bipartisan bills passed today help accomplish these goals by investing in our communications infrastructure, promoting secure technology development, and ensuring preparedness for future emergencies. We thank our colleagues for coming together to pass these bipartisan bills and urge the Senate to take swift action."

Mobile net software provider Mavenir praised passage of the USA Telecommunications Act, which the company called "another step forward in modernizing our nation’s mobile networks and promoting a more competitive and innovative 5G ecosystem," adding: "We welcome this widespread support for programs that support OpenRAN deployment, which will make a meaningful difference for the operators and vendors committed to fostering a more diverse supply of secure 5G infrastructure."

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.