House Subcommittee OKs Raft of Communications Bills

The House Communications Subcommittee has favorably reported 11 communications-related bills to the full committee for a vote, but over some Republican objections about the process. 

That came at a marathon markup Tuesday (March 10)

Those included bills mandating a C-Band auction--which the FCC is already planning to conduct--reinstating the minority tax certificate program, and reversing the congressional mandate to auction T-band spectrum now used by first responders. 

Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), ranking member of the subcommittee, said that while he appreciated the majority's interest in the topics of the legislation, which included public safety communications and diversity, some of the bills "are not quite ready for bipartisan support." He said the process was disappointing and that many of the bills could have gotten bipartisan support "had they been examined through regular order, which would have included legislative hearings and more time to vet them. Instead, he said, "it appears we will be frantically negotiating between the subcommittee and the full committee markup to cobble together bipartisan legislation." 

Latta said it was not a time to be negotiating by "least common denominator." 

The complete list of bills sent to the full committee follows: 

"H.R. 451, the 'Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act,' was introduced by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), Al Green (D-Texas) and Peter King (R-N.Y.). The Don’t Break Up the T-Band Act would repeal the requirement on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reallocate and auction the 470-512 MHz spectrum band, also known as the T-Band.  

"H.R. 5926, the 'Reinforcing and Evaluating Service Integrity, Local Infrastructure, and Emergency Notification for Today’s Networks Act' or the 'RESILIENT Networks Act,' was introduced by Pallone and Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.). The RESILIENT Networks Act requires pre-planned coordination among providers of advanced communications service to take effect during times of emergency, including roaming and mutual aid arrangements. It improves coordination between communications providers, 9-1-1 operators and public safety entities. The legislation also includes mechanisms to ensure first responders are provided network outage data to help guide disaster response.  

'H.R. 6096, the 'Reliable Emergency Alert Distribution Improvement Act' or the 'READI Act,' was introduced by Reps. McNerney, Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Pete Olson (R-Texas) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). The READI Act amends the Warning, Alert and Response Network Act to include emergency alerts from FEMA as a type of alert that subscribers of mobile service may not block from their devices, as currently, alerts from the President may not be blocked.   

"H.R. 4194, the 'National Suicide Hotline Designation Act,' was introduced by Reps. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) and Seth Moulton (D-Mass.). The National Suicide Hotline Designation Act amends the Communications Act to designate 9-8-8 as the universal dialing code for the Lifeline. It allows states to impose a fee or charge on commercial mobile or IP-enabled voice service subscribers’ bills for the support or implementation of 9-8-8 services.   

"H.R. 5918, the 'Emergency Reporting Act of 2020,' was introduced by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.). The Emergency Reporting Act requires the FCC to establish formal processes to take effect in instances when the FCC activates the Disaster Information Reporting System (DIRS).  

"H.R. 1289, the'Preserving Home and Office Numbers in Emergencies Act'; or the 'PHONE Act,' was introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson. The PHONE Act amends the Communications Act to prohibit providers of voice service from reassigning phone numbers of subscribers in an area covered by a major disaster declaration, for the duration of the declaration.   

"H. Res. 549, reaffirming the House of Representatives’ commitment to media diversity and pledging to eliminate barriers to such diversity, was introduced by Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.).   

"H.R. 3957, the 'Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act of 2019,' was introduced by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.). The Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act would reinstate the tax certificate program at the FCC, which would incentivize sales to women and members of minority groups and encourage investment of capital in stations owned by women and members of minority groups. The bill also requires the FCC to make recommendations to Congress for increasing the number of broadcast stations owned by women and members of minority groups and submit to Congress a report every two years that states the total number of broadcast stations that are owned by women and members of minority groups.  

"H.R. 5567, the 'Measuring the Economics Driving Investments and Access for Diversity Act of 2020' or the 'MEDIA Diversity Act of 2020,' was introduced by Reps. Billy Long (R-Mo.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas). The MEDIA Diversity Act requires the FCC to consider, with the input of its Office of Communications Business Opportunities, market entry barriers for socially disadvantaged individuals in the communications marketplace. 

Related: FCC Ownership Data Still Bad for Diversity   

"H.R. 5564, the 'Enhancing Broadcaster Diversity and Inclusion by Verifying and Ensuring the Reporting required by Statute Is Transpiring and Yielding Data Act' or the 'Enhancing Broadcaster DIVERSITY Data Act,' was introduced by Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.). The legislation requires the FCC to complete its rulemaking reviewing the FCC’s broadcast and cable equal employment opportunity rules. The bill also prohibits the FCC from substantially revising broadcast ownership data reporting requirements and requires the FCC to include an analysis of the data in its communications marketplace report. The bill also requires the FCC to create a public, searchable database of the broadcast ownership data collected by the FCC.  

"H.R. 4855, the 'Clearing Broad Airwaves for New Deployment Act' or the 'C-BAND Act,' was introduced by Doyle, along with Reps. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Matsui and Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.). The C-BAND Act requires the FCC to conduct a public auction of no less than 200 MHz and no more than 300 MHz of C-band spectrum by September 30, 2022. It also protects C-band-dependent users by requiring that they continue to receive equal or better service throughout and after the transition process."  

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.