Government Relations Update November 2019
Government Shutdown Avoided for Now
The President signed a short-term funding bill on November 21 after it passed in the Senate on a 74-20 vote. This followed passage of the bill earlier in the week by the House on a 231-192 vote. The bill extends funding through December 20, giving Congress and the White House additional time to come to an agreement on a longer-term funding package. The possibility of another government shutdown just before the holiday season still looms as the likelihood of a longer-term deal remains unclear.
House Committee Passes Telecom Bills
On November 20, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a series of bills addressing broadband mapping, spectrum, and supply chain issues. The mapping bills (H.R. 4229 and H.R. 4227) provide new rules to govern the collection, dissemination, and verification of broadband availability data and make it unlawful to knowingly submit inaccurate service data. The spectrum bill (H.R. 5000) requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to work with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on a shared prototyping and test bed program to explore new ways for federal entities to share spectrum with each other.
The supply chain bills (H.R. 4998, H.R. 4461, H.R. 2881, H.R. 4500, and H. Res. 575) address a wide range of concerns and direct the FCC and NTIA, along with the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense and the intelligence community, to collaborate to develop lists of sensitive equipment and services, share information on known risks, and work with the private sector to establish best practices as the nation moves towards the adoption of 5G networks.
All eight bills passed by voice vote and now will move to the full House for further consideration.
NTIA Introduces Minority Broadband Initiative
NTIA announced a new Minority Broadband Initiative (MBI) on November 15. This project will focus on addressing broadband deployment issues for vulnerable communities, specifically by ensuring that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have adequate access to broadband resources to serve both their students and their surrounding communities.
The MBI has two primary policy objectives: 1) Convening a forum in which stakeholders can explore options for leveraging HBCU broadband infrastructure to connect neighboring communities of vulnerable populations; and 2) Using broadband infrastructure investment as a catalyst for adoption that will result in job growth and economic development and deployment of advanced mobile technologies primarily in the economically distressed communities of the rural South.