THE LEDE: Advocates of a Senate plan to shake up the way that people buy broadcast TV channels seem to be holding their fight until next year, after lawmakers shelved the “Local Choice” plan this week.
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In a statement on Wednesday, the head of the American Cable Association (ACA) — which represents smaller cable companies and has been a vocal supporter of the proposal from Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerHumorless politics a sad sign of our times Bottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease MORE (D-W.Va.) and ranking member John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Senate dodges initial December crisis with last-minute deal Congress averts shutdown after vaccine mandate fight MORE (R-S.D.) — called the plan “a concept whose time will come.” The provision would have allowed consumers to pick and choose which broadcast channels they wanted to include on their cable or satellite subscription.
“In the next Congress, ACA stands ready to work with lawmakers on enacting this important reform so necessary to protect consumers from TV station-initiated blackouts on less than a moment’s notice,” Matthew Polka added. “One thing is for sure: ACA will be there every step of the way until real ‘TV freedom’ is the law of the land."
Polka's pointed remark was aimed at the TV Freedom coalition, which is made up of a number of broadcasters and has been a strong critic of the Senate proposal. “In the interest of the millions of low-income households, seniors and underserved populations that rely on paid television services for their local news and programming, severe weather updates and emergency information, we will continue to fight to preserve the lifeline basic service tier provision in any legislation that moves forward this year,” TV Freedom spokesman Robert Kenny said.
Broadcasters will still find reason to oppose the committee’s Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA), which would reauthorize an expiring law that brings broadcast channels like NBC and CBS to about 1 million rural residents who would not otherwise be able to pick them up with an antenna on their roofs. The draft bill also includes a handful of changes to the system for retransmitting broadcast stations through cable and satellite services, such as a ban on joint negotiations for those deals.
National Association of Broadcasters CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement Wednesday morning that the group is still “seriously concerned” with provisions in the bill.
CBS under fire for not airing reformers’ ads: Sens. Deb FischerDebra (Deb) Strobel FischerOvernight Defense & National Security — A new plan to treat Marines 'like human beings' Republicans press Milley over perceived progressive military agenda Senate Republicans raise concerns about TSA cyber directives for rail, aviation MORE (D-Neb.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) want answers from CBS for its refusal to run radio ads in support of the Local Choice plan this summer.
“While we do not contest CBS’s right to exercise appropriate discretion over its advertising practices, important questions need to be answered about blocking commercial advertisements in this specific instance,” the two wrote in a letter to CEO Les Moonves on Wednesday, while demanding an explanation for its refusal to air the ad. “Harmful interference into our nation’s public policy debates can have lasting impacts on our political discourse and the future direction of the country,” they added. “The best way for us to effectively serve our constituents is to promote open dialogue and the honest debate of mainstream ideas.”
Earlier this summer, CBS said that the pro-reform ad from the American Television Alliance — a group that includes major cable and satellite companies as well as public interest organizations — did not meet its standards for broadcast.
Senators sound 'rate floor' alarm: More than a dozen senators told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday to go back to the drawing board with its plan to increase the minimum amount that companies can charge for basic phone service under a government subsidy plan.
The current “rate floor” puts rural phone companies “in an untenable position in which they must choose between raising rates to levels that, in some cases, are more than the rates their urban counterparts charge many of their customers, or receiving reduced universal service support,” the 17 senators wrote, referring to the FCC’s subsidy program. The current policy, they added, “could ultimately harm some rural consumers.”
The letter was led by Arkansas Sens. Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorBottom line Everybody wants Joe Manchin Cotton glides to reelection in Arkansas MORE (D) and John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanPostal Service expansion into banking services misguided Arkansas governor backs Sarah Huckabee Sanders to replace him Arkansas attorney general drops bid for governor, says she will work with Sanders MORE (R), whose previous complaints about the rate floor caused the FCC to delay its proposal earlier this year.
Web tax ban included in funding bill: The stopgap government funding bill introduced by House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) on Tuesday evening included a provision extending the current ban on state and local government taxes on Internet service. Under the continuing resolution, the Internet Tax Freedom Act — which is currently set to expire Nov. 1 — would be extended through Dec. 11.
Lawmakers tell FCC to test Wi-Fi interference: Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioOvernight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine Senate eyes plan B amid defense bill standoff To counter China, the Senate must confirm US ambassadors MORE (R-Fla.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and four House members told the FCC on Wednesday to start testing whether Wi-Fi devices can operate on the same chunks of the spectrum as “smart” transportation systems. In a letter, the lawmakers — who have all backed a bill that would have the FCC free up space for unlicensed airwaves in an area currently pegged for the transportation systems — noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently working on rules for connected cars, and said the FCC “must seize this opportunity to conduct testing and find solutions to interference now.”
The agency should “proceed expeditiously with collaborative testing” to see if the devices that operate on unlicensed chunks of spectrum — such as Wi-Fi devices and garage door openers — can co-habitate with the smart transportation systems, they wrote. “We are confident the FCC can successfully resolve any potential interference issues through thorough analysis and testing, and we hope this process will lead to rules and standards that unleash innovation and expand Wi-Fi while protecting incumbent systems.”
House panel passes antitrust change: The House Judiciary Committee approved a bill from Rep. Blake FarentholdRandolph (Blake) Blake FarentholdThe biggest political upsets of the decade Members spar over sexual harassment training deadline Female Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations MORE (R-Texas) on Wednesday that would require the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission to use the same standards for reviewing merger deals.
California signs ‘Yelp bill': California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) this week signed into law a measure ensuring people’s right to leave negative comments online. The so-called “Yelp bill” bans contracts that prevent people from criticizing businesses on the Internet and should be a model for the nation, according to Yelp government affairs head Laurent Crenshaw.
“These types of laws are good public policy and will help to protect Yelp users and consumers worldwide,” Crenshaw wrote in a blog post.
Songwriters lobby up on copyright: The Songwriters Guild of America is bringing on Brian Fitzgerald to lobby on intellectual property issues and copyright reform, according to a new disclosure form. Fitzgerald recently started his own practice after leaving American Continental Group.
Cox gets D.C. help: Cox also brought on a new lobbyist. The No. 3 cable company is paying Mitch Rose to lobby on “broadcast and cable issues,” it said in a new disclosure.
The Atlantic is hosting an event on technology in education with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and White House advisor John Holdren at 8:30.
The American Enterprise Institute’s event on regulating broadband Internet enters its second day starting at 9 a.m.
At noon, the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference is holding a Capitol Hill lunch discussion on Congress’s attempt to rewrite the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
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