The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing on the Federal Communication Commission’s plans to reform the Universal Service Fund, an $8 billion program originally designed to subsidize landline phone access in rural areas. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined his plan last Thursday to transition the fund to focus on expanding high-speed Internet access. He called the current system “outdated,” “wasteful” and “unfair.” Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) praised Genachowski’s plan, and said his hearing will be about the “need to move forward on these important proposals.”
The House Science Committee’s Space subpanel will hold a hearing at the same time to discuss the failure last week of an unmanned Russian supply rocket headed for the International Space Station.
The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing after lunch on the impact of LightSquared’s proposed nationwide wireless broadband network on small businesses that use the Global Positioning System (GPS). The FCC has said it won’t approve LightSquared’s proposal until the firm proves it doesn’t interfere with GPS devices that use the next band of spectrum. Witnesses will primarily represent aviation-based industries.
THURSDAY: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an afternoon arbitration hearing featuring Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson and several other legal experts, with Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) presiding. Franken and fellow committee member Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced a bill on Tuesday that would ban the mandatory arbitration clauses that have become common in wireless contracts. The senators argue the clauses prevent consumers from filing lawsuits against firms that engage in practices like hidden fees, forcing them to use “an often unfair and biased arbitration system.”
The House Homeland Security Committee’s Transportation Security subcommittee will continue a hearing on how TSA can reform its information technology procurement process to stimulate job growth. Part one of the hearing took place on Sept. 22.