WASHINGTON, January 24, 2017 – The Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday voted to advance 16 bills, including several with implications for telecommunications policy.
The most significant communications-related measure among the bills clearing the committee was the so-called MOBILE Now Act, sponsored by Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune, R-South Dakota and Ranking Member Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida. An acronym for Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act, the measure is designed to clear nearly 1000 Megahertz of spectrum for both licensed and unlicensed use in the next generation of mobile broadband. It also aims to facilitate broadband infrastructure deployment in rights-of-way.
Another measure, the Developing Innovation and Growing the Internet of Things Act, or DIGIT Act, is sponsored by Sens. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii. A third is the Federal Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act, which is sponsored by Sens. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, and Schatz.
The DIGIT Act would create a federal working group to study the growing Internet of Things and ensure that appropriate federal resources like spectrum are available for the increasing number of internet-enabled home devices, such as refrigerators, thermostats, and smart locks, including voice-recognition devices such as Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home.
The FCC Consolidate Reporting Act would streamline the number of reports the Federal Communications Commission must prepare and deliver to Congress each year by consolidating and eliminating reports deemed obsolete, including some required since the 1960s.
The Committee also advanced the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act, sponsored by Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, Booker, Nelson, and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. It would require studies on how to ensure the public’s access to wireless services, such as the 911 system, during major natural disasters, and would add wireless phone services to the list of services deemed “essential” during federally-declared disasters.