Today's Regulatory Mix: US Congress Bill to Advance Broadband Services, FCC’s Pai Asks Congress Help Consumers Stay Connected After The Keep Americans Connected Pledge Ends, US Congress Moving Forward Act
US Congress Bill to Advance Broadband Services
U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) announced the introduction of the Rural Connectivity Advancement Program (RCAP) Act of 2020 (S.4015), which would capture a portion of the proceeds from spectrum auctions conducted by the FCC through September 30, 2022, for the build out of broadband networks. The FCC would be able to utilize the funds to support broadband deployment in rural America. Specifically, RCAP would:
- Set-aside 10 percent of the net proceeds from spectrum auctions for the buildout of broadband networks;
- Require the FCC to utilize the funds provided by RCAP to address gaps that remain in broadband internet access service coverage in high-cost rural areas;
- Allow the FCC to use the funds provided by RCAP in a technology-neutral manner to address shortfalls in sufficient funding of existing USF High-Cost Programs for the buildout of broadband services;
- Require the FCC to consider the broadband internet access service needs of residents of tribal lands; and
- Require the FCC to produce an annual report on the distribution of funds established under this act.
FCC’s Pai Asks Congress Help Consumers Stay Connected After The Keep Americans Connected Pledge Ends
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai sent a letter to Congress seeking legislation to help consumers and small businesses stay connected over the coming months after the end of the Keep Americans Connected Pledge. While the Pledge expires on June 30, Pai informed Congress that he has asked companies not to disconnect consumers and small businesses who are behind on their bills due to the coronavirus pandemic in July, but instead offer the option of extended payment plans and deferred payment arrangements. He has also asked service providers in the coming months to maintain and expand their plans for low-income families and veterans as well as their remote learning plans for students. He acknowledged that many companies have already committed to taking various significant steps to keep Americans connected in coming months.
Pai issued a statement saying: “The Pledge has been an extraordinary success, and I commend the 785 service providers that have stepped up to the plate over the past three-and-a-half months to do the right thing during this national emergency. This public-private partnership has been critical to American consumers. But broadband and telephone companies, especially small ones, cannot continue to provide service without being paid for an indefinite period of time; no business in any sector of our economy could. So I believe now is the time for legislation to ensure that doctors and patients, students and teachers, low-income families and veterans, those who have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to the pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns, those in our cities and those in the countryside—in short, all Americans—remain connected until this emergency ends. The Broadband Connectivity and Digital Equity Framework proposed by Chairman Roger Wicker of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation of the U.S. Senate and Ranking Member Greg Walden of the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representatives is a forward-thinking proposal to do just that.” See the Regulatory Mix dated 6/19/20
US Congress Moving Forward Act
Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR), Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Richard E. Neal (D-MA), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), and Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) announced the release of the text of H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act. Among other things, the bill would:
- Invest $100 billion to promote competition for broadband internet infrastructure in unserved and underserved communities;
- Ensure that broadband-related support is being administered in an efficient, technology- neutral, and financially sustainable manner;
- Get kids connected to remote learning with digital equipment and affordable broadband options; connect school buses to Wi-Fi and help schools and libraries close the “homework gap” outside school;
- Close other gaps in broadband adoption and digital skills;
- Enhance payment support for low-income households and the recently unemployed; and
- Authorizes the Next Generation 9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office to provide $12 billion in grants over five years for the implementation of Next Generation 9-1-1 services.
The Regulatory Mix, Inteserra’s blog of telecom related regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of an Inteserra Briefing.