House spending bill takes swipes at FCC rules

Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee are pushing a spending bill that would temporarily block a slate of controversial regulations at the Federal Communications Commission. 

The panel’s Financial Service and General Government spending bill would block the agency from enforcing its net neutrality rules until a court challenge is over, and it would block the commission from using those rules to regulate broadband prices. 

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In addition, the spending bill would force the FCC to complete a study before it finishes writing its regulations to open up the TV set-top box market. It would also force the commission to post the text of new rules on its website for 21 days before any vote. 

A House Appropriations subcommittee advanced the bill Wednesday, which will later get taken up by the full committee. 

The bill is largely a GOP wish list. Similar provisions to blunt the agency’s internet service regulations were included in last year’s spending bill. But they were stripped out of a final deal that make it to President Obama’s desk. 

Republicans are almost universally against the FCC’s net neutrality rules approved last year, which reclassify internet service providers under strict common carrier regulations. The new authority gives the agency power to ban internet service providers from blocking, throttling, create fast lanes or unreasonably discriminating against certain kinds of internet traffic. 

Internet service providers sued to block the rules last year, and a decision is expected any day. But no matter the decision, court observers expect the that the case could eventually make it to the Supreme Court. 

Appropriators included a new rider in this year’s bill that would delay the FCC’s work on its set-top box proposal. 

The rules would require cable and satellite providers to hand over some of their programming information to third parties who want to create their own devices to help people navigate TV channels. 

That proposal has received pushback from a broader group of lawmakers. Hundreds of members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns about the proposal — from question of copyright, privacy and content diversity. 

Under the bill, the FCC would not be able to complete its rules until six months after a study is complete, likely pushing it past President Obama’s term.