September 11, 2020 — The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday advanced three communications and technology bills to the full house following a markup of 38 bills.
The “Preserving Home and Office Numbers in Emergencies (PHONE) Act of 2019” H.R. 1289, ensures that phone providers don’t give away residents’ phone numbers when their houses are destroyed in the wake of a natural disaster, like a wildfire or a hurricane.
Introduced by Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., the measure also prohibits providers of voice service from assessing early termination fees to cancel service, or connection fees to re-subscribe at a new address, for subscribers whose residence is rendered inaccessible or uninhabitable due to a major disaster.
The committee considered two bills addressing diversity in the broadcast industry. The members first considered a bill introduced by Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., that would create tax benefits for broadcast stations to sell their stations to women or minority owners.
The “Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act of 2019” would reinstate the tax certificate program at the Federal Communications Commission, a program that incentivizes broadcast station sales to stations owned and controlled by socially disadvantaged individuals.
The committee considered an additional bill that would require broadcasters and cable companies to file equal employment opportunity data with the FCC, the “Enhancing Broadcaster DIVERSITY Data Act,” H.R. 5564.
The last measure was introduced by Rep. Yvette D. Clarke, D-N.Y. It would require the FCC to complete its rulemaking reviewing the agency’sbroadcast and cable equal employment opportunity rules, to ultimately begin collecting EEO data.
The bill also requires the FCC to create a public, searchable database of all broadcast ownership data collected by the agency.
“The three communications bills passed out of the Energy and Commerce Committee today will enhance diversity within the broadcast industry and improve telecommunications stability for those affected by natural disasters,” said Frank Pallone, Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
He said that the measures would improve diversity and safety within the critical communications industries.
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