For the past two Congresses, Congressman Dingell has introduced legislation to reform the Federal Communications Commission’s forbearance authority.
The National Broadband Plan
Congressman Dingell commends the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its efforts in drafting a comprehensive National Broadband Plan. He shares the Plan’s goals of promoting nationwide broadband build-out and adoption, as well as establishing a support mechanism for expanding broadband into high-cost areas of the country.
While the Congressman supports these goals, he is wary of the Plan’s call for so-called “voluntary incentive auctions” of broadcaster spectrum so that such spectrum may be re-purposed for use by mobile broadband devices. Congressman Dingell believes that such auctions should not be contemplated before a comprehensive inventory of spectrum availability and current usage is completed. He cautions that a further loss of spectrum for over-the-air television broadcasters will limit consumer choice and may harm media diversity.
Universal Service Reform
The Congressman supports calls for reform of the Universal Service Fund, which is comprised of contributions by telecommunications companies to subsidize communications services in high-cost areas of the country. In particular, Congressman Dingell supports legislation written by his colleagues, Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE), which would modify universal service to support broadband Internet access. The past decade has seen an exponential growth in Internet use by consumers, and as such, the Congressman believes, as do Congressmen Boucher and Terry, that all telecommunications providers should contribute equally to support universal service, which in turn must be used to subsidize high-speed Internet access.
Reclassification of Broadband Access Services
On May 6, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission announced its intention to re-classify broadband access services as a “telecommunications service.” This reverses over a decade of established policy wherein such services were classified as an “information service.” This traditional classification has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The Congressman believes the FCC’s proposed action lacks a clear congressional mandate and is not sufficiently grounded in existing law. Consequently, Congressman Dingell has called on the FCC to work with Congress to enact a statute that will ensure it has legally solid authority with which to regulate the Internet. By enacting such a statute, the Congress will ensure the FCC’s efforts to protect consumers will not be subject to excessive litigation, which, he believes, will surely be the case with the agency’s current proposed course of action.
Process Reform at the Federal Communications Commission
For the past two Congresses, Congressman Dingell has introduced legislation to reform the Federal Communications Commission’s forbearance authority. Currently, the FCC may grant, upon request, a telecommunications provider an exemption from certain statutory and regulatory requirements. While the FCC may decide not to grant such a request, if the agency does not render a decision within a certain amount of time, such request is deemed granted. Congressman Dingell’s bill repeals the ability for a petitioner to have a forbearance request deemed granted by virtue of inaction by the FCC. The Congressman believes this is necessary in order to improve the transparency and accountability of the forbearance process.