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Senate Passes FCC Report Consolidation Bill

The Senate has unanimously passed S. 253, the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015.

That is the bipartisan bill that consolidates eight separate FCC reports to Congress, including the FCC's Sec. 706 report, into a single report on the state of the communications marketplace. It also gets rid of some outdated reports, including one on competition to the telegraph.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and cosponsored by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), is the Senate version of a House bill that passed 411 to zip in February.

Had the bill passed in the exact same form in the Senate, it could then have gone to the President's desk, but according to a Senate source speaking on background there was a small change to the bill related to an international data report and some other changes that will require the House to vote the Senate bill.

Among the main differences, according to s Senate source speaking on background, were:

1. The Senate bill retains the annual report on broadband deployment required by Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996;

2. retains the cable rates report, though going forward it will be produced every two years (as part of the larger communications marketplace report required by the bill), rather than each year;

3. would not subject the FCC to a two-year score card where it has to document and defend its activities; and

4. includes language sponsored by Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that would retain the FCC’s International Broadband Data Report, including that report in the larger communications marketplace report required by the bill. 

It is unclear whether the changes, and others said to be in the bill, will mean any hiccup in swift House passage, like having to conference the two bills.

"A centralized and consolidated report from the FCC will ensure Members are provided key information every Congress on competition in voice, video, and data delivery, while also eliminating outdated reports," said Heller following the bill's passage. "We simply cannot move on a broad telecommunications rewrite without a clear picture of where the market is working and where potential failures exist, which this report will provide,” he added.

“This is an important step in our efforts to support the FCC’s ongoing work,” said Schatz. “Consolidated reporting will help streamline some FCC reporting requirements and saves resources while ensuring transparency, which helps us protect consumers and gauge the competitive telecom landscape."

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.