The House Energy & Commerce Committee's first order of business in the first markup of the new Congress was to approve, by voice vote and without amendment or opposition, a bipartisan bill to consolidate eight separate Federal Communications Commission reports to Congress, including the FCC's Sec. 706 report, into a single report on the state of the communications marketplace.
In his opening remarks on the FCC Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015, ranking member Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said there was a bipartisan interest in consolidating the FCC's reporting requirements, "allowing the agency to use its resources more efficiently."
The bill passed with equal dispatch out of the Communications Subcommittee Feb. 4.
The bill reinforces that Sec. 706 is an explicit grant of broadband authority as signaled by a D.C. federal appeals court in the Verizon case, but Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who co-authored a manager's amendment to that effect, said that was not because he agreed with that decision, but because he wanted to separate the bill from the net neutrality-related debate over that authority.
House and Senate Republicans have a separate network-neutrality bill that "clarifies" that Sec. 706 is not a broad, affirmative grant of authority, which will be the venue for that debate.
The FCC Consolidated Reporting Act of 2015 is essentially identical to one that passed twice out of the subcommittee and full committee last Congress and passed the house 415 to 0, but failed to pass in the Senate.