House Sets Debate Rules for Rate Reg Bill

The House has agreed to the rules for Friday's debate and vote on the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act (H.R. 2666) and the three Democratic amendments that will be introduced.

That bill would prevent the FCC from regulating broadband rates, either beforehand via phone-style rate regs or after the fact through its enforcement authority.

There will he an hour of debate equally divided, but with no points of order against the bill.

The amendments will get 10 minutes of debate time apiece. One "[p]reserves the FCC's authority to accelerate the deployment of broadband internet access service to low-income consumers." Another "states that nothing in H.R. 2666 shall affect the authority of the Commission to act in the public interest, convenience, and necessity."

A third, which might have trouble in the Senate, where germaneness of amendments is required, "clarifies that nothing in H.R. 2666 would prevent the FCC from requiring that TV broadcast stations, AM or FM radio broadcast stations, cable operators, direct broadcast satellite service providers, or satellite digital audio radio service providers to upload the public inspection file in a format that is machine-readable, to the extent such station, operator, or provider is required to make material in its public inspection file available on, or upload such material to, an Internet website."

No other amendments will be allowed, including one that would have been offered up by Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) that would require the FCC to toughen its political ad disclosure rules for TV and radio political ads, something Yarmuth has been pushing for in stand-alone legislation.

Yarmuth is also a co-sponsor of the above amendment on machine readable formats, which is another way to give the public more transparency about political ads.

The bill is likely to pass along party lines after contentious debate, but without the amendments, after which it goes to the Senate. The President has threatened to veto it, so its ultimate prospects are dim to none.

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.