Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation marked up multiple telecommunications and technology bills targeting consumer protections.
The MOBILE NOW Act (S. 19), sponsored by Chairman John Thune (R-SD) and Ranking Member Bill Nelson (D-FL), would direct the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to free up substantial spectrum for commercial and unlicensed public use, as well as improve broadband infrastructure deployment.
Three other bills expand consumer protections and improve reliability of communications networks. These three bills saw companion bills passed in the House of Representatives last night:
- The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act (S. 96), sponsored by Senator Klobuchar (D-MN), Chairman Thune (R-SD), and Senator Tester (D-MT), would improve the reliability of rural communications by setting up service standards or intermediate providers that interconnect rural communications traffic. The companion bill (H.R. 460) was passed in the House Monday evening, led by Rep. Young (R-IA).
- The Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act (S. 102), sponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Bill Nelson (D-FL), requires an FCC study on the resiliency of networks in disaster situations. A similar bill was passed in the House Monday evening, led by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
- The Spoofing Prevention Act (S. 134), sponsored by Senator Nelson (D-FL), would expand the prohibition on misleading information on the source of communications, also known as the act of “spoofing,” to text messaging and improve consumer education about this deception. A companion bill (H.R. 423) was passed in the House Monday evening led by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY).
The following can be attributed to Phillip Berenbroick, Senior Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:
“The MOBILE NOW Act promotes the efficient use of Federal spectrum, while freeing up significant bandwidth for both commercial licensed and unlicensed use. The bill’s unanimous advancement further demonstrates the overwhelming consensus that unlicensed spectrum and democratized access to the public airwaves are key drivers to economic growth and innovation.
“Further, the MOBILE NOW Act facilitates additional broadband infrastructure deployment on federal lands and ensures that federally-funded transportation projects accommodate broadband infrastructure. As a result, the MOBILE NOW Act will pave the way for the development and deployment of next-generation 5G wireless networks and help narrow the digital divide.
“Additionally, we are pleased the bill takes important steps toward improving broadband infrastructure deployment in federal highway projects and on federal, state, and local government property.”
The following can be attributed to Chris Lewis, Vice President at Public Knowledge:
“Public Knowledge thanks House and Senate members for quickly reintroducing and passing these three bills. They demonstrate that in heavily partisan times, these core values know no ideology; they must be protected as communications technology develops. Each of these three bills addresses such a concern.
“The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act is the latest step forward in ensuring that rural community phone calls are completed and prove as reliable as in urban communities. Ensuring reliability in communications is one of the fundamental values of communications networks and Americans rely on the FCC to keep watch over the reliability of their networks. Many small towns and rural communities have been waiting for policymakers to act on the issue of rural call completion, and this bill empowers the FCC to continue as the cop on the beat.
“The Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act directs the FCC to begin studying the reliability of networks during emergencies, an issue that Americans may have taken for granted as networks have changed during the Technology Transition to all Internet Protocol-based networks. But we learned in Superstorm Sandy, and other disasters, that new network infrastructure must be resilient in the face of power outages and be replaced with comparable infrastructure if destroyed. This study could build nicely on the basic protections established in the FCC’s Technology Transition proceedings.
“The Spoofing Prevention Act updates spoofing protections for the 21st century to include text messaging. Consumers expect this fundamental value of truth and accountability from the FCC. The FCC must always be empowered to investigate and ensure that consumers have call and text IDs they can count on despite advances in communications technology and delivery.”
You may view the full list of bills here.
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