NTIA Reauthorization Legislation Morphs Into Broadband Bill (updated)

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The House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), held a hearing to consider draft legislation to reauthorize the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). But the bill was billed as a rural broadband solution, including coordinating funding efforts and getting mroe accurate and granular maps of broadband coverage. The NTIA was last authorized 25 years ago in 1992. Agencies get funded under separate appropriation bills and continue operating under existing authorizations, but renewing them provides Congress a chance to tweak an agency's mission, give it some new direction--or directions--and perhaps some more tools. Chairman Blackburn said that there is bipartisan consensus for the bill, as well as for NTIA to come up with a comprehensive and accurate broadband availability map. But the Ranking Member of the full House Commerce Committee was not impressed. Rep Frank Pallone (D-NJ) said the bill was limited on substance and fell short of giving NTIA the resources it needed.

Update from Politico:

Chairman Blackburn saw among her colleagues “a lot of agreement that we need to make certain NTIA is in shape to handle broadband and to push forward with this rural broadband expansion,” she told reporters following the hearing. The measure includes provisions aimed at empowering the Commerce Department agency to do more to boost broadband in rural areas. Blackburn’s interested in marking up the legislation ASAP: “I would like to get it wrapped up very soon.” Expect further conversation on a possible new provision to elevate the NTIA chief role to a sub-Cabinet position, “something that we’ve heard from many people that they think that we should do,” Chairman Blackburn added.

House Democrats largely accepted the draft without objections, although some said they wished the legislation would do more, such as include the AIRWAVES spectrum bill, H.R. 4953, which would open up federal spectrum for commercial use. Some also wanted testimony from NTIA chief David Redl. Chairman Blackburn expects a positive reception from NTIA, she told reporters: “I think they’re going to like what we have to offer.” The draft would create a new NTIA internet connectivity office, urge NTIA to continue broadband mapping work and call for a GAO 911 study.

NTIA Reauthorization Legislation Morphs Into Broadband Bill (updated) #SubCommTech Examines Draft NTIA Reauthorization Bill (Press release) Statement (Ranking Member Pallone)