House Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), said it has been 25 years since the FCC was reauthorized and it is time for Congress to provide closer oversight of the commission to “keep them on task” in a luncheon keynote at NATE UNITE 2018, held this week in Nashville. Blackburn
A bill sponsored by Blackburn, which passed the subcommittee last week, reauthorizes the FCC and reforms its processes to improve its efficiency and transparency. H.R. 4986, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act, maximizes opportunities for public participation its decision-making processes.
According to the bill, the commission would rethink its policies regarding treatment of comments, ex parte communications, and data or reports and how open they are to the public. Additionally, the FCC would post the status of each open proceeding online on a quarterly basis.
Congress May Increase Funding for TV Repack
The bill contains a substitute amendment that authorizes a fund for the broadcast TV repack to address the shortfall in funding to relocate broadcasters and sets up relocation funds for translators, low-power television and radio stations that will be impacted by the broadcast TV repack.
“We have come up with a solution for the spectrum repack that will help the broadcasters relocate,” Blackburn said.
Additionally, Blackburn gave some background on the flood of bills being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives directly and indirectly supporting rural wireless infrastructure. Blackburn said the 25 pieces of wireless legislation currently wending their way through the House come from a bipartisan desire to remove the roadblocks to broadband deployment.
“The ideas run the gamut. One addressed the poor quality of the FCC broadband coverage maps, making sure they show the unserved areas,” Blackburn said. “We want to streamline the permitting process, so we addressed issues such as tower siting in federal rights of way, reducing the zoning costs of the buildout process.
Blackburn said that any funds for broadband in an infrastructure package should go to unserved areas first and should be technology neutral. “We can’t have a first world economy with a third world internet,” she said.
“Rural broadband is this nation’s number one infrastructure issue. It is a priority of mine and something we have worked tirelessly on,” she said. “Broadband brings with it the promise that there is going to be economic development, advanced educational opportunities, workforce retraining and improved, home-based healthcare.”
Blackburn said creating a state/federal partnership that recognizes the importance of state and local government input would facilitate the zoning process.