Government Relations Update March 2017
President Unveils Budget Blueprint
On March 16, President Trump showcased the overview of his fiscal year 2018 budget proposal. In particular, it proposed a $54 billion increase in defense spending which is to be offset by the cuts to other programs. Among the cuts, the Department of Energy's Office of Science would see a $900 million reduction and the Department of Education would receive an overall budget reduction of $9.2 billion.
While the budget will ultimately be debated and decided by Congress in the coming months, this blueprint gives an indication of the new Administration's priorities going forward. The President is expected to release a full budget with greater detail in mid-May.
Bipartisan Push In Senate for Broadband Study
Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the co-chairs of the Senate Broadband Caucus, introduced legislation to require the Bureau of Economic Analysis to study the economic impact of broadband deployment across the country. The bill calls for a survey of businesses, local governments, and community groups in order to determine the effects of broadband on the economy. The intention is to ensure that good data is available to lawmakers as they begin to consider major infrastructure spending that would likely include funding for broadband build-outs.
Congress Votes to Repeal FCC Privacy Rules
Last week, Congress voted in favor of blocking internet privacy rules passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year.
The rules would have given consumers greater control over what their internet service providers (ISPs) can do with their data. The regulations would have required those companies to get permission from customers before using their information to create targeted advertisements.
The bill was passed utilizing the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows Congress to undo recently passed administrative regulations. A CRA bill also prohibits agencies from passing similar regulations in the future. On April 3, the President signed the bill into law.
FCC To Alter Internet Subsidy Program
On Wednesday, Chairman Ajit Pai announced that the agency would allow states to decide which companies can participate in Lifeline, a program that provides subsidized Internet to low-income households.
In announcing the change, Pai said "[A]s we implement the Lifeline program -- as with any program we administer -- we must follow the law and the law here is clear: Congress gave state governments, not the FCC, the primary responsibility for approving which companies can participate in the Lifeline program under Section 214 of the Communications Act."
Pai also noted that twelve states are already challenging the FCC's role in picking which companies can take part in Lifeline and that he would drop the FCC's defense.
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