CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, May 30, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3310, the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act of 2012, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for approval. The bill was originally introduced on November 2, 2011, by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 3310 would consolidate eight separate reports of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) into a single comprehensive report with a focus on intermodal competition, deploying communications capabilities to unserved communities, and eliminating regulatory barriers. By consolidating these reports, H.R. 3310 would reduce the reporting burdens on the FCC while encouraging the agency to analyze competition in the marketplace as a whole rather than based on archaic regulatory silos.
The bill would also eliminate twelve outdated reports, including reports repealed more than a decade ago and a report on competition between telegraph companies and telephone companies.
According to Committee Report 112-443, the communications and technology sector is rapidly evolving. Analog broadcasting has become digital and high-definition. Phone companies have become broadband and video companies, and cable operators now operate Voice-over-Internet-Protocol networks. Satellite providers now offer television and broadband services, and wireless telephones, once the province of Gordon Gekko, are now used by all Americans for calling, texting, watching video, listening to music, and surfing the web. And emerging on the Internet are online video distributors, point-to-point voice and video conferencing services, personalized radio stations, and other new competitors. The traditional silos that once defined the communications marketplace are no more.
Despite the converging marketplace, federal law still requires the FCC to treat these providers divergently. Nowhere is that more clear than in the reporting requirements imposed on the Commission. Under current law, the FCC must write separate congressional reports each year on video competition, satellite competition, the competitive effects of satellite privatization, broadband deployment, international broadband deployment, cable pricing, and wireless competition. These reports are in addition to a congressionally mandated triennial report on barriers to market entry for small businesses, as well as yearly reports the FCC puts together on its own accord regarding telephone penetration, telephone subscribership, and pricing among telecommunications services. By requiring the FCC to draft separate reports on discrete components within the communications marketplace, the existing statute does the Commission, industry, and the public a disservice by almost forcing the FCC to lose sight of the increasingly competitive forest for sector-specific trees.
The FCC has been unable to keep pace with all of the reporting obligations it currently has. For example, the Communications Act requires the Commission to produce each year a Status of Competition in the Market for the Delivery of Video Programming Report. In 2009, the Commission released a Notice of Inquiry seeking information for calendar year 2007, see Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for Delivery of Video Programming, MB Docket No. 07-269, Notice of Inquiry, 24 FCC Rcd 542 (2009), later that year released a supplement Notice of Inquiry covering 2008 and 2009, see Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for Delivery of Video Programming, MB Docket No. 07-269, Supplemental Notice of Inquiry, 24 FCC Rcd 4402 (2009), and sought yet more information in 2011, see Annual Assessment of the Status of Competition in the Market for Delivery of Video Programming, MB Docket No. 07-269, Further Notice of Inquiry, 26 FCC Rcd 14091 (2011). As of March 2012, the Commission had yet to deliver the reports on video competition covering 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Similarly, the Commission released its second annual Satellite Competition Report in 2008, but did not submit its third report (covering 2008, 2009, and 2010) until December 2011. See Third Report and Analysis of Competitive Market Conditions with Respect to Domestic and International Satellite Communications Services; Report and Analysis of Competitive Market Conditions with Respect to Domestic and International Satellite Communications Services, IB Docket Nos. 09-16, 10-99, Third Report, FCC 11-183 (rel. Dec. 13, 2011). These delays frustrate effective congressional oversight of the work of the Commission and preclude timely analysis of the status of competition and deployment.
To reduce the reporting burdens on the Commission, H.R. 3310 consolidates eight separate reports of the FCC into a single biennial report timed to the Congressional calendar. To reflect the convergence of the communications marketplace, the new report requires the FCC to conduct a holistic review of the communications marketplace. And to streamline the operations of the FCC, the bill eliminates twelve outdated reports from the Communications Act, including reports repealed more than a decade ago and a report on competition between telegraph companies and telephone companies.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), implementing the provisions of H.R. 3310 would not have a significant net effect on the agency's discretionary costs. Any additional expenses the FCC would incur to prepare the new assessment of the communications industry would be offset by a reduction in costs that would otherwise be incurred for reports that would eliminated under the bill.
Under current law, the FCC is authorized to collect fees sufficient to offset the cost of its regulatory activities each year; therefore, CBO estimates that the net cost to implement the provisions of H.R. 3310 would be negligible, assuming annual appropriation actions consistent with the agency's authorities. Enacting H.R. 3310 would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply.