House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R., Ore.) said today that he still hopes to be able to include in a House FCC bill (HR 4986) approved by the committee yesterday (TR Daily, Feb. 14) provisions from the MOBILE NOW Act (S 19), which passed the Senate last August (TR Daily, Aug. 3, 2017).
There was no specific mention during yesterday’s markup of the failure to include provisions in HR 4986 from the MOBILE NOW Act, as the committee had indicated earlier this week that it planned to do (TR Daily, Feb. 12).
“We’re still working on it,” Mr. Walden told TR Daily this morning after speaking at a 911 technology showcase event organized by the NG911 Institute. “There were some issues involving the Department of Defense that had not been fully resolved to their satisfaction in time for us to move forward on the bill. But we’re very open … working with Sen. [John] Thune [R., S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee] and his team [to see] if we can get those resolved.”
Asked if MOBILE NOW Act language could be added before the House floor vote, Mr. Walden said that it could if the outstanding issues are resolved.
A source said there was disagreement between Chairmen Walden and Thune about retaining unlicensed and some other spectrum provisions from the MOBILE NOW Act.
A Republican spokesman for the Senate Commerce Committee told TR Daily today, “We continue to have conversations with Chairman Walden’s staff about how best to pursue the spectrum management and broadband deployment policies contained in MOBILE NOW approved unanimously by the Senate.”
Mr. Walden also said hopes that HR 4986, the Repack Airwaves Yielding Better Access for Users of Modern Services Act of 2018, or the RAY BAUM’S Act of 2018, can get through the full House under suspension of the rules, which is reserved for noncontroversial rules.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today welcomed approval of HR 4986.
“I commend the House Energy and Commerce Committee for passing H.R. 4986, RAY BAUM’S Act. This legislation, appropriately renamed to honor the late Committee Staff Director Ray Baum, includes two particularly critical provisions. The first allows certain funds of bidders in FCC spectrum auctions to be deposited in the U.S. Treasury — fixing a problem in current law that prevents the FCC from holding a major spectrum auction. The second authorizes additional funding for the repacking of broadcasters required to relocate following the FCC’s broadcast incentive auction,” Mr. Pai said. “I look forward to seeing this legislation pass the House, and I look forward to our continued work with the Senate Commerce Committee on these critical provisions so that our nation can continue to lead the world in mobile services.”
The Competitive Carriers Association today also praised the legislation.
“In addition to reauthorizing the FCC, this bill contains important provisions for CCA members,” said CCA President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Berry. “It is absolutely critical for competitive carriers to have access to the spectrum purchased in the recent incentive auction to expand their networks and help close the digital divide, and we appreciate any efforts to make sure this happens as soon as possible. Additionally, reliable mobile coverage data has been a priority for the Committee, and we thank the Committee for including the Rural Wireless Access Act, championed by Representatives [Dave] Loebsack [D., Iowa] and [Ryan] Costello [R., Pa.] , in the bill. Reliable data is sorely needed to effectively distribute support to preserve and expand mobile broadband.”
In his remarks to the NG-911 event this morning, Mr. Walden noted that HR 4986 included language from a bill introduced by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D., Calif.) (HR 5236) mandating that the FCC conclude a proceeding within 18 months requiring call location information to be conveyed with 911 calls, including from multi-line telephone systems (MLTS).
He also noted that Congress recently passed the Kari’s Law Act of 2017 (HR 582) (TR Daily, Feb. 9), which is designed to make it easier for people to dial 911 without first dialing a prefix such as “9.”
Citing the 50th anniversary of the first 911 call, Mr. Walden said that his committee is looking at “the next 50 years.”
He noted the planned awarding of $115 million in 911 grants and said he wants “to make sure that we improve interoperability and resiliency” of 911 systems in the move to NG-911.
Mr. Walden also criticized states that divert 911 fees and surcharges for other purposes, saying, “I’ve always believed that if you ask somebody for their money for a purpose, it should go for that purpose.”
Mr. Walden also stressed the importance of ensuring that the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) system being built by AT&T, Inc., has sufficient rural coverage, noting that a sheriff in his district asked him about such coverage. “If we don’t have coverage out there, then the whole thing doesn’t work,” Mr. Walden said. —Paul Kirby, [email protected]
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