House approves five-year extension of satellite TV bill

The House on Wednesday approved a five-year extension of a satellite TV law that would continue to allow more than 1.5 million people to receive broadcast channels through their satellite providers. 

A reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), which expires at the end of the year, was approved by voice vote with a few changes.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) introduced the bill Tuesday, along with ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the committee's subpanel on communications. 

The House passed a similar bill in July. But the legislation approved Wednesday was part of a bipartisan agreement with leaders on the Senate Commerce Committee. 

The extension must be approved by the Senate and signed by President Obama before Dec. 31, before provisions of the law end. 

Among other things, the legislation allows satellite companies to continue to provide broadcast channels to individuals living in areas with weak local broadcast signals, totaling more than 1.5 million customers. 

The legislation would also end security standards in cable boxes. Companies like TiVo have strongly opposed the provision, which they say would allow cable companies to lock out competition by offering better access to television through their own cable boxes. 

The so-called "set-top box integration ban" would end after a year, according to the legislation, and a working group would be created to find new options.

"This well intentioned rule has not resulted in the kind of competition Congress envisioned," Rep. Gene GreenGene GreenA guide to the committees: House Overnight Healthcare: Trump officials weigh fate of birth control mandate | House, DOJ seek delay in ObamaCare lawsuit Top lawmakers from both parties: 'Vaccines save lives' MORE (D-Texas) said, who had sponsored specific legislation on the issue. 

A pair of Democrats in the Senate — Sens. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyA guide to the committees: Senate GOP sets sights on internet privacy rules Overnight Tech: GOP chairman to propose high-skilled visa overhaul | Zuckerberg's 5,700 word letter | Tech lobbies gear up ahead of internet fight MORE (Mass.) and Richard BlumenthalRichard BlumenthalA guide to the committees: Senate Senate Dems ask DHS inspector general for probe of Trump’s business arrangement If Gorsuch pick leads to 'crisis,' Dems should look in mirror first MORE (Conn.)  — had strongly opposed the change and put a hold on similar legislation that contained the provision. 

A Senate Commerce Committee aide said Chairman Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerObama to preserve torture report in presidential papers Lobbying world Overnight Tech: Senators place holds on FCC commissioner MORE (D-W.Va.) and ranking member John ThuneJohn Thune­ObamaCare fix hinges on Medicaid clash in Senate A guide to the committees: Senate Verizon, Yahoo slash merger deal by 0M over data breaches MORE (R-S.D.) negotiated in good faith on the measure. 

"They hope that their colleagues ultimately can support this consensus measure," the aide said.  

Markey on Wednesday said he still remains "deeply concerned" about the provision but would not block the Senate from passing it. Other than the cable box provision, he supports it. 

"Because the future of innovation and competition in the video set top box marketplace is at stake, I will be asking the FCC to use its authority to ensure that consumers have more choices in set top boxes than merely leasing their boxes from their cable company," he said in a statement after the House vote. 

The update Wednesday would ban broadcasters from teaming up during negotiations to get better deals. Satellite and cable companies must currently obtain consent from broadcasters when carrying their stations. 

The bill also requires the Federal Communications Commission to define what "good faith" negotiations are and would allow broadcasters time to comply with recent FCC media ownership rule changes.

—Updated 4:45 p.m.