Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its fiscal year (FY) 2017 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. The bill includes appropriations for the Federal Communications Commission of approximately $341 million, below the President’s requested amount, and also requires the FCC to complete an impact study of its set-top box proposal before voting to increase video device competition for consumers.
As we speak, House and Senate Republicans on the Appropriations Committees are trying to attach a number of inappropriate legislative policy riders added on to important appropriations bills for 2017. One rider in particular takes direct aim at the Federal Communication Commission’s ongoing proceeding to “unlock the box.” That proceeding would unburden consumers of hundreds of dollars in annual rental fees for their cable boxes, open up the market for new choices as to how they access the content of their choosing, and lower barriers to entry for innovative technologists and for diverse and independent content creators.
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee will mark-up H.R. 4768, the “Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016” (“SOPRA”). SOPRA is a product of the Article 1 Project, an effort from conservative members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate to increase the powers of Congress. SOPRA would overturn decades of settled law, undermining cornerstone principles of American administrative law and creating significant uncertainty for federal agencies, regulated industries, and consumers.
Today, Public Knowledge joined more than 49 other public interest groups in a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urging Congress to vote against H.R. 2666, the “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act,” because the bill would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from performing its consumer protection duties. Public Knowledge contends that the legislation would undermine the FCC’s Open Internet Order, basic consumer protection powers, and even agency oversight of broadband provider charges and business practices.
Recently we highlighted the rapid effort to pass H.R. 2666 (the so-called “No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act”) as a poorly crafted effort to prohibit rate regulation. We pointed out a variety of options to mitigate the consequences of the broad sweeping language. Consequences which we allowed were perhaps unintended.