Senate Bill Tweaks FCC


The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee completed work on a
bill to reauthorize the Federal Communications Commission for the next five
years, including a provision that would ban companies from covering the travel
costs of agency officials.

Under the new rule, groups like the National Cable & Telecommunications
Association would be banned from funding the travel expenses of FCC
commissioners or staff to conferences, conventions or meetings.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee chairman, said the bill's higher
level of funding authorization should cover all of the commission's necessary
travel expenses.

While final funding for the FCC will be set by appropriations committees, the
panel's bill would set the maximum budget for the commission at $281 million for
the next fiscal year, gradually increasing it to more than $334 million for
fiscal-year 2007.

McCain said he was stirred to action by a recent report from the Center for
Public Integrity, which showed that organizations with business before the
agency had paid $2.8 million to fund more than 2,500 trips by commissioners and
FCC staff since May 1995.

By 13-8, the panel adopted an amendment by Sens. John Sununu (R-N.H.) and
Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) to reserve the band of spectrum from 12.2 gigahertz to
12.7 GHz for fixed-terrestrial communications services.

Sponsors said the idea is for rural areas to get high-speed Internet services
and broadcast signals.

McCain voted against the amendment, and the White House opposes the

The committee also briefly addressed the FCC's recent loosening of
restrictions on media ownership. Under an amendment offered by Sununu and
adopted by the panel, the commission would be required to review those
regulations every four years.

The legislation also included a provision that would allow the FCC to
regulate descriptions on video programming to ensure the accessibility of such
programming to visually impaired individuals.

And the panel adopted a McCain amendment requiring the FCC to provide
guidance regarding political-advertising regulations, as well as to adopt a
procedure to resolve complaints regarding political ads.

McCain was one of the public faces of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance
bill, which passed last year.

States News Service