House, Senate Committees Pass Broadband Bills

The House Energy & Commerce Committee Tuesday approved a bill that would require federal agencies -- both the National Telecommunications & Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission -- to collect more, and more precise, data on the rollout of broadband service in the United States.

Congressional and FCC Democrats have been critical of the pace and character of the broadband rollout, with House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who was pushing the data-collection bill, and Energy & Commerce Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) concerned that rural and poorer areas are not getting the service as quickly as wealthier ones, hence the desire for a detailed map of just who is getting what and where.

Verizon Communications was quick to praise the bill. “Getting broadband to as many people as possible, no matter where they live, is an important policy goal,” Verizon vice president for federal government relations Peter Davidson said in a statement. “This legislation includes provisions that will help to identify those communities and parts of the country unserved or underserved by broadband.”

Elsewhere on the broadband-regulation front, the Senate Commerce Committee passed the Community Broadband Act, which ensures that states and public-private partnerships cannot be prevented from offering advanced telecommunications services in competition with private industry, with the caveat that if that the state regulates those competitors, it cannot favor its own service.

Bill supporter Free Press said the bill would promote what it said is a stagnant broadband market.

"The Community Broadband Act will provide local governments, schools, nonprofits and disadvantaged communities with faster, cheaper and more reliable broadband service," Free Press deputy policy director Shawn Chang said in a statement. "With millions still lacking the economic benefits of high-speed Internet, this legislation could not be more critical."

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.