Over the course of the last year both the House and Senate have started to debate and review our communications laws and to update them for the current regulatory and technological environment. Ten years have passed since Congress passed the 1996 Telecommunications Act and Congress is evaluating the effectiveness of the law. Universal Service issues have been a large part of those discussions. The Congress has adjourned until after the November elections and it is unclear whether there will be any political will to move a comprehensive communications bill through Congress at that time.
- The House passed their version of the Communications bill which does not focus on Universal Service issues.
- The Senate Commerce Committee voted their "telecom rewrite" bill out of Committee, but it has yet to be voted on in the full Senate. The Senate Commerce Committee bill included language exempting Universal Service from the Anti-Deficiency Act. The bill also would establish appropriate enforcement actions for rule violations and actions taken by program stakeholders as well as establishing performance measures to measure applicant progress toward connectively goals.
While it would be ideal for Congress to pass a permanent exemption to the Anti-deficiency Act, at a minimum, they need to pass another one year exemption. The most likely place for that to occur is for Congress to attach an amendment to the appropriations bill that funds the Federal Communications Commission. Funds For Learning will continue to work with education and industry groups to work toward these goals and will update you further as the legislative process continues.