House Passes Veterans Broadband Access Bill

The House has passed a bill with a directive likely to get action in a Trump FCC given the President-elect's commitment to helping out veterans.

H.R. 6394, the Improving Broadband Access for Veterans Act of 2016, passed the House on suspension of the rules, a way to fast-track noncontroversial bills that limits debate, prevents amendments, and requires a 2/3 majority for passage.

It requires the FCC to study and report back to Congress on the availability of broadband access to veterans. Broadband is a critical tool for getting into the workforce, so it is a critical tool for helping veterans do that after their military service has ended.

The FCC has a year from enactment--the bill still needs to pass the Senate and be signed by the President--to report back to Congress on access, particularly for low-income vets and ones living in rural areas, where there is the toughest business case for building out networks.

But the FCC would have to do more than produce a state of the marketplace report. Congress wants recommendations on how to promote access.

The FCC won't have the full year to work on the report. It is required to put it out for public comment before submitting it.

The FCC already provides broadband subsidies for rural and low-income residents, increasingly for mobile as well as fixed broadband, and an e-rate (education rate) subsidy that includes access at public libraries, but it does not have a targeted subsidy for veterans.

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.