Friday, October 1, 2021
You’re reading the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s Weekly Digest, a recap of the biggest (or most overlooked) broadband stories of the week. The digest is delivered via e-mail each Friday.
Round-Up for the Week of September 27-October 1, 2021
As you might imagine, we thought there would be exciting news to share today about broadband. Not so much.
As we wait for a vote on the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (could it come today? who knows?), we quickly draw attention to another set of communications bills the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee will discuss next week at a hearing entitled “Strengthening Our Communications Networks to Meet the Needs of Consumers.” We’re not promising passage anytime soon because, hey, who can predict anything in this Congress?
On Wednesday, October 6 the subcommittee will discuss these 12 bills:
- H.R. 1042, the “Protecting Critical Infrastructure Act”: This bill imposes an enhanced general penalty on any person who is sentenced to imprisonment for violating certain communications laws and who willfully or maliciously destroys any communications facility during and in relation to such violation. On Feb 15, 2021, introduced by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-IN-8) and cosponsored by Rep Viginia Foxx (R-NC-5)
- H.R. 1046, the “Federal Broadband Deployment in Unserved Areas Act”: The bill would 1) require the FCC to share all mapping data collected under Title VIII of the Communications Act (as added by the bipartisan Broadband DATA Act) with the Department of Interior to integrate broadband availability data into DOI’s Joint Overview-Established Locations (JOEL) database showing Federal property that can support communications facilities; 2) direct the FCC Chairman and Secretary of Interior to establish a working group within 30 days of enactment to facilitate interoperability of the IT systems used by the FCC and the Department of Interior; and 3) direct the Chairman of the FCC and Secretary of Interior to jointly submit a report to Congress with a preliminary assessment of any potential barriers to interoperability. Introduced by Rep John Curtin (R-UT-3) and cosponsored by Rep Viginia Foxx (R-NC-5).
- H.R. 1049, the “Expediting Federal Broadband Deployment Reviews Act”: Legislation to require the NTIA to establish an interagency strike force to increase prioritization by the Department of the Interior or the Department of Agriculture of reviews for communications use authorizations. Introduced by Rep Jeff Duncan (R-SC-3) on Feb 15, 2021. Cosponsored by Rep John Curtis (R-UT) and Rep Virginia Foxx (R-NC).
- H.R. 1058, the “Wireless Resiliency and Flexible Investment Act”: This bill provides statutory authority for the 60-day time frame for a state or local government that receives a complete eligible facilities request to approve such request. Further, the bill makes other changes related to eligible facilities requests, including expanding the definition of such requests to include any requests for the modification of an existing wireless tower, base station, or eligible support structure that involves the placement, modification, or construction of equipment that improves the resiliency of the wireless tower, base station, or eligible support structure and provides a direct benefit to public safety. Rep Adam Kinzinger (R-IL-16) on Feb 15, 2021. Cosponsored by Rep Virginia Foxx (R-NC).
- H.R. 1218, the “Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act”: This legislation directs the Federal Communications Commission to include data on certain maternal health outcomes in its broadband health mapping tool. This is an online platform that allows users to visualize, overlay, and analyze broadband and health data at national, state, and county levels. The FCC must consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine which maternal health outcomes should be incorporated. The Government Accountability Office must also study the effectiveness of internet connectivity in improving maternal health outcomes and other issues. Introduced by Rep GK Butterfield (D-NC-1) on February 23, 2021. Cosponsored by Reps Gug Bilirakis (R-FL-12), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-At Large), and Gwen Moore (D-WI-4). S.198, a companion bill in the Senate, was introduced by Sen Jacky Rosen (D-NV) on February 3, 2021. That bill has 13 cosponsors.
- H.R. 2489, the “Martha Wright Prison Phone Justice Act”: This bill establishes requirements related to certain charges, practices, classifications, or regulations in connection with confinement facility (i.e., jail or prison) communications services. Specifically, the bill requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish maximum rates and charges that a provider of prison communications services may charge for such services. The bill provides interim rate caps until the FCC establishes such rates and charges. The bill requires a provider of prison communications services to assess all charges for communications on a per-minute basis for the actual duration of the communication, and it prohibits a provider from charging a per-communication or per-connection charge. A provider also may not charge an ancillary service charge except in certain circumstances. Further, the bill prohibits a provider from assessing a site commission, which is a payment or donation made to certain entities that operate or oversee a confinement facility. Rep Bobby Rush (D-IL-1) introduced the legislation on April 13, 2021.
- H.R. 2501, the “Spectrum Coordination Act”: This bill requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Federal Communications Commission to update the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Spectrum Coordination to (1) improve the process for resolving frequency allocation disputes in shared or adjacent spectrum bands, and (2) ensure the efficient use or sharing of spectrum. The MOU formalizes the cooperative relationship between the two parties to ensure that spectrum policy decisions promote efficient use of spectrum consistent with both the economic interests and national security of the nation. Introduced by Gug Bilirakis (R-FL-12) on April 14, 2021.
- H.R. 4208, the “Section 331 Obligation Clarification Act”: The bill would require Section 331 licensee holders, like WWOR-TV in New Jersey, to broadcast local news programming, consult with local leaders, and make it easier for the public to participate in the license renewal process. Rep Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-9) introduced the bill on June 28, 2021. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate the same month.
- H.R. 5028, the “ISACC Alerting Act”: The directs the Technological Advisory Council of the Federal Communications Commission to prepare a report on a 9–1–1 disability alerting system. House Commerce Committee Minority Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5) introduced the bill August 13, 2021. The bill has five bipartisan cosponsors.
- H.R. 5058, the “Broadband Incentives for Communities Act”: Directs the NTIA to establish a competitive grant program to assist local governments in providing efficient review and approval of zoning and permitting applications that facilitate the deployment of broadband infrastructure. Introduced by Rep Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX-7) on August 20, 2021.
- H.R. 5378, the “Spectrum Innovation Act”: The Spectrum Innovation Act would free-up new airwaves for wireless broadband use for the public. Introduced by Reps Doris Matsui (D-CA-6) and Mike Doyle (D-PA-18) on September 27, 2021.
- H.R. 5400, the “Preventing Disruptions to Universal Service Funds Act”: Introduced by Rep Jahana Hayes (D-CT-5) on September 28, 2021; co-sponsored by Rep Marc Veasey (D-TX-33). In 2004 the Universal Service Administration Company realized that the commitment letters sent to E-rate beneficiaries (notifying them whether their funding is approved and in what amount) might be viewed as “obligations” of appropriated funds. Since, the Antideficiency Act does not allow an agency or program to make obligations in excess of available budgetary resources, USAC would need to dramatically increase the program’s cash-on-hand and lessen the program’s investments to provide budgetary authority sufficient to satisfy the Antideficiency Act. The changes meant the loss of millions of dollars annually for the program. So Congress passed a bill granting the Universal Service Fund a one-year exemption from the Antideficiency Act and it renews the exemption periodically. HR 5400 extends the exemption to December 31, 2024.
And when we know the fate of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, we’ll be sure to let you know.
Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)
ICYMI from Benton
Treasury Ready to Send Billions to States for Broadband Projects (Kevin Taglang)
Oct 4-8—Digital Inclusion Week 2021: Pathways to Digital Empowerment (National Digital Inclusion Alliance)
Oct 5—Digital Equity and Security on the Internet (Marconi Society)
Oct 6—Hearing: Strengthening Our Communications Networks to Meet the Needs of Consumers (House Commerce Committee)
Oct 6—Digital Inclusion: A National Perspective (Technology Learning Collaborative Philadelphia)
Oct 7—How Can We Use the Security Lessons of the Past to Bring the Next Billion Online Safely? (Marconi Society)
Oct 7—Strategies for achieving digital equity and inclusion in K12 schools (National Digital Inclusion Alliance)
Oct 8—Navigating New Funding for a More Inclusive Digital World (Schools Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition)
Oct 12—Building on Broadband: Inspiring Progress (Blandin Foundation)
Oct 18—Advancing Digital Inclusion Services in Native Communities (Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums)
Oct 19—39th Annual Parker Lecture & Awards Ceremony (United Church of Christ)
Oct 20—Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program Webinar (NTIA)
Oct 21—Connecting Minority Communities Pilot Program Webinar (NTIA)
Oct 22—The Decade of Digital Inclusion (Marconi Society)
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy – rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity – has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.
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