Broadband access was a hot topic in Congress last week with action in both the House and Senate. A House Subcommittee passed legislation that would exempt small internet service providers (ISPs) from enhanced transparency requirements in the Federal Communications Commission’s new Open Internet or ‘net neutrality’ rules. The Senate introduced a bill aimed at freeing up wireless spectrum currently owned by the Federal Government for private use. Spectrum refers to a range of frequencies used for wireless transmission of data, video and sound. These legislative efforts could significantly benefit multifamily properties and their residents by ensuring greater access to high-speed internet, particularly mobile broadband.
Specifically, the House Subcommittee approved, in a voice vote, the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act. The bill would exempt ISPs with 1,500 or fewer employees, or 500,000 or fewer subscribers, from the requirements mentioned above. Subcommittee leaders also committed to continue bipartisan work to further improve the broadband focused bill to help ensure that truly small ISPs were the beneficiary of the proposed exemption. The legislation now moves to full House Energy and Commerce Committee for consideration.
The Senate’s spectrum focused bill, entitled the MOBILE NOW Act, is expected to be considered by full Senate Commerce Committee in the near future. As we reported, in early December a House Subcommittee reported out a similar bill, the Federal Spectrum Incentive Act. The legislation would push Federal Government agencies to give up some of the much needed wireless spectrum that they control but is not being used. Although these spectrum bills are not identical, there’s clear momentum this year in Congress to see a compromise version enacted into law.
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