Government Relations Update March 2018
Spending Bill Becomes Law
On March 23, Congress passed a comprehensive $1.3 trillion spending bill funding the government for the remainder of FY2018. Shortly after passage, the president signed the bill into law, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown. As a result of spending caps being lifted by the bipartisan budget deal agreed to in February, this omnibus bill increased federal spending across the board, with some programs receiving substantial increases in funding. The legislation includes $6.26 billion for the Office of Science at the Department of Energy, $37.31 billion for the National Institutes of Health, and $1.34 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
Also included within the omnibus was language from five broadband bills that were under consideration by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, including the Communications Facilities Deployment on Federal Property Act (H.R. 4795), the Inventory of Assets for Communications Facilities Act (H.R. 4798), the Broadband Conduit Deployment Act (H.R. 4800), the MAPPING NOW Act (H.R. 4810), and the Broadband Deployment Streamlining Act (H.R. 4847). These bills dealt with issues including the inventory and management of federal assets for future broadband projects, mapping access to broadband nationally, and streamlining regulations for broadband deployment.
White House Releases Infrastructure Report
The White House Council of Economic Advisers has released a report on the potential economic impact of federal infrastructure investment. The report is based on estimates of a 10-year, $1.5 trillion program laid out in the White House infrastructure plan released last month. It concludes that a significant investment program would raise economic welfare, increase GDP, and improve labor opportunities and outcomes, particularly for less educated workers. While the report acknowledges that telecommunications networks are an important part of the nation’s infrastructure, it did not make any specific recommendations regarding broadband.
Net Neutrality Case Changes Venue
The consolidated net neutrality case previously set to be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has changed venue. A three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit ordered that the case be transferred to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in response to an unopposed motion filed by state attorneys general and a collection of public interest groups. The petitioners’ motion argued that given that the D.C. Circuit decided the last three challenges to the FCC’s open internet policies, it is the most logical place for the current case to be heard.