Week ahead: Tech companies fight off FCC language in spending bill

Tech companies are pressing hard to keep controversial language related to the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality regulations out of a year-end spending bill.

Major technology companies and outside advocates have been warning lawmakers not to add the language, which would blunt the effects of the FCC’s rules. 

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While even some Republicans opposed to the rules have downplayed the idea the omnibus would include language undercutting them, leadership has kept a tight lid on what will be in the bill.

And that’s been unnerving for Silicon Valley’s lobbyists. Outside advocates had been swamping Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE’s office with calls about keeping the rider out. The Maryland Democrat, who is the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, says negotiators are trying to whittle down the number of amendments to the bill on policy to 35.

Tech companies expressed worry about one potential rider aimed at limiting the FCC’s ability to regulate the rates that Internet service providers charge customers. Tech companies agree with the spirit of the proposal, and the FCC has already said it has no intention of regulating those rates.

However, net neutrality advocates say the rider is written too broadly and could harm other aspects of the regulations.

Earlier this month, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) raised alarms about another potential rider that would exempt existing contracts from the FCC’s TV ownership rules, which deal with joint sales agreements between broadcast stations. The FCC rules passed last year are meant to prevent a single company from owning more than one major broadcast station in a market. The rider, backed by the industry, would prevent the FCC rules from applying retroactively.

On Thursday, the FCC will take up a year-old petition from US Telecom at its last meeting of the year. The petition asks the commission to avoid applying some legacy regulations that it says will slow the build-out of newer communications technologies. 

The FCC will also take up an order licensing satellite communications and another that deals with next year’s incentive auction and how it can minimize the headache of broadcast stations being displaced.

The second annual Future of Broadband Competition will be held by The Capitol Forum on Thursday. It will include opening remarks by former Federal Trade Commissioner Joshua Wright and a keynote address from FCC general counsel Jon Sallet, who led the commission’s defense of net neutrality rules in court earlier this month.

 

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