Thune Announces FCC Reauthorization Act Introduction

“Restarting the process of regular authorizations for the FCC will make the agency more accountable to the American people and ensure that the agency has the best tools to do its job”

March 7, 2016

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D) today announced the introduction of the FCC Reauthorization Act of 2016. Congress approved the last reauthorization of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1990.

“The technology and communications landscape has changed dramatically since Congress last passed an update for our nation’s telecommunications regulator more than 25 years ago,” said Thune. “Restarting the process of regular authorizations for the FCC will make the agency more accountable to the American people and ensure that the agency has the right tools to do its job.”

Click here for legislative text of the FCC Reauthorization Act of 2016.

Summary of the bill:

Authorizes the FCC for the First Time in Over Two Decades
A two-year, inflation-adjusted reauthorization of the FCC for fiscal years (FY) 2017 and 2018. The bill also authorizes funding for the FCC Spectrum Auctions Program.
Provides Clarity for Commissioners’ Terms of Offices for Vacancies
Fixes a legal ambiguity in current statute by clarifying, via technical correction, that all commissioners, whether appointed to a full five-year term or to fill a vacancy that occurs during a term, may remain at the FCC beyond a term’s expiration. This is the “holdover” period in which Commissioner Rosenworcel is currently serving.    
Conforms FCC Transparency to Independent Agency Best Practices
Independent agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Surface Transportation Board, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, provide Congress with key documents they share with the Administration (e.g., budget submissions). The bill would require the same of the FCC, bringing its transparency level in line with other agencies.  
Examines Regulatory Fee Fairness
In light of the dramatically changed communications landscape, the current FCC regulatory fee structure, in place since 1994, fails to reflect today’s landscape accurately or proportionally. The bill takes a step toward modernizing the FCC’s regulatory fee structure by requiring a Government Accountability Office report that must include an analysis of whether the current fee structure correlates to the actual workload of the FCC.
Avoids Disrupting E-rate Funding
Effectively prevents Universal Service Fund (USF) funding commitments from being suspended due to the Antideficiency Act (ADA), ensuring that broadband services (E-rate in particular) across the nation will continue unimpeded. An ADA exemption has been temporarily extended on appropriations measures for a decade. The bill extends the exemption through FY2018, ensuring that the Congressional authorizing committees will appropriately review the need for extending the exemption as part of the agency’s next reauthorization.
Streamlines FCC Spectrum Deposits
Requires that any deposits the FCC may require for the qualification of any person to bid in a spectrum auction shall be deposited in the Treasury. This provision was previously favorably reported by the Senate Commerce Committee as S. 2319, in December 2015.
Prevents Disruption of Rural Communications
A 2004 USF Joint Board recommendation included limiting USF funds to only a single line per household. This could threaten USF support for wireline providers to serve households that subscribe to a USF-supported wireless provider, and a temporary prohibition blocking the FCC from implementing this recommendation has been included in appropriations measures for a decade. The bill would make this prohibition permanent.