Government Relations Update April 2017
Congress Reaches Deal to Fund Government Through September
Congressional leaders have struck a deal to keep the federal government funded through September. The final plan reflects both Democratic and Republican priorities, as Democratic votes will be needed to advance the spending plan through the Senate. The President’s full budget request for FY 2018 will likely be released in mid-May.
The following federal departments and agencies received an increased budget from FY 2016 spending levels:
- Department of Agriculture - $153.4 billion ($12.8 billion increase)
- Department of Energy - $31.2 billion ($1.4 billion increase)
- DOE Office of Science - $5.4 billion ($45 million increase)
- IMLS - $231 million ($1 million increase)
- NIH - $34 billion ($2 billion increase)
- NSF - $7.5 billion ($8.7 million increase)
The following agencies received a budget decrease from FY 2016 spending levels:
- Department of Commerce - $9.2 billion ($9 million decrease)
- NOAA - $5.7 billion ($90 million decrease)
FCC Unveils Plan To Rollback Net Neutrality
Chairman Pai ended April with an announcement of his plans for rolling back the net neutrality provisions instituted by his predecessor, former Chairman Tom Wheeler. On April 27, the FCC issued a draft rulemaking notice that proposes to reverse broadband Title II reclassification under the Communications Act. The FCC also is seeking comment on how to address open Internet rules. Chairman Pai has placed the draft NPRM on the tentative agenda for the commissioners' May 18 meeting. Additionally, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit denied the petition for rehearing, allowing its previous decision upholding the 2015 open Internet rules to stand. It is not clear at this time whether any party will seek certiorari before the Supreme Court.
On March 31, 2017, several higher education and library organizations (including ACE, ALA, EDUCAUSE, and others) sent a letter to the FCC stating that the FCC should adhere to net neutrality principles to protect free speech, and promote educational achievement and economic growth.
As a reminder, the 2015 Open Internet Order did not apply to Internet2 and other R&E networks because they offer "special access services...offered through customized or individually negotiated arrangements" and do not offer "mass-market retail service[s]."
FCC Moves To Deregulate Business Data Services
The FCC recently voted to significantly ease regulatory requirements on the business data services market, considered to be a win for companies such as AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon Communications. The proposal had drawn criticism from small business and consumer advocates, who argued that the deregulation of the market would hurt competition and drive up prices. The forthcoming order on BDS affirms that R&E networks should be treated as private carriers and thus not subject to Title II common carriage regulation.
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