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Pallone’s SANDy Act and Viewer Protection Act Pass House (Video)

March 6, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4986, which reauthorizes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the first time in 28 years. The bill includes the SANDy Act and the Viewer Protection Act, pro-consumer bills that Congressman Pallone authored. As the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Pallone led bipartisan, bicameral negotiations that led to the breakthrough of this reauthorization. The legislation will now need to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President.

Pallone authored the SANDy Act, which helps ensure the resiliency of the nation’s communications networks during emergencies. The bill recognizes the critical role that wireline and mobile telephone, internet, radio and television broadcast, cable, and satellite services play during emergencies by providing priority access to otherwise restricted areas during emergencies like other utilities, to help them repair and maintain their communications equipment during disasters.  It would also begin a process to provide 911 services over Wi-Fi hotspots during emergencies. 

“With the passage of the SANDy Act today, we are one step closer to helping first responders, businesses and private citizens communicate during disasters,” said Pallone. “In New Jersey, we learned firsthand during Hurricane Sandy the importance of communications during an emergency. Broadcasters and cable providers give us the critical information we need to stay out of harm’s way.  Making a call for help is difficult when the power is out, and when the cell towers are also down, it can be nearly impossible. We must do everything we can to be better prepared for the next time disaster strikes, and the SANDy Act will ensure that we are prepared.”

The FCC reauthorization bill also includes Pallone’s Viewer Protection Act, which would ensure no viewer loses signal as a result of the FCC’s incentive auction.  The bill would ensure the necessary funds are available so that broadcasters can switch to new frequencies and not be kicked off the air. It sets aside $50 million so that consumers know how to access their local tv stations after the stations switch.

Pallone spoke on the House floor urging passage of the bill today. The text of his remarks can be found below and the video can be found here.

Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in support of H.R. 4986, the RAY BAUM’s Act.

This bill is the product of extensive bipartisan collaboration.  After exhaustive negotiations, we were able to reach a deal that includes bills introduced by Democrats and Republicans in both the House and the Senate.  That does not happen often and I would like to thank my colleagues for working with me so closely.

This bill is a real tribute to its namesake—Ray Baum.  Ray had a passion for telecommunications policy and a special place in his heart for broadcasting.

Ray was also an eternal optimist.  Ray never faltered in his belief that we could find a way to work together to find a solution.  He was right.  We were able to incorporate proposals from members on both sides of the aisle—just the way Ray would have liked it, and we were able to produce this legislation that will reauthorize the FCC for the first time in 28 years.

I would like to briefly mention some aspects of this bill that I am most proud of.  First, we were able to include the SANDy Act, which is named to honor those affected by Superstorm Sandy, a storm that ripped through the northeast—including my district—over five years ago.

During that superstorm we saw firsthand how important communications were for survival.  From television and radio broadcasters to wireless providers and cable networks, each played its own role in making sure people knew how to find help, look for loved ones, and stay out of harm’s way.

I used the lessons we learned from Sandy in writing this legislation.  When this bill is signed into law, our networks will be stronger, more resilient, and more capable to serve in an emergency.

This FCC reauthorization bill also includes the Viewer Protection Act. 

I introduced the Viewer Protection Act to make sure no viewer loses signal as a result of the FCC’s incentive auction.  Access to local information has become even more important as the number of natural disasters has increased over the past few years. 

Not only does this bill help ensure consumer’s broadcast stations don’t go dark, as part of this bipartisan, bicameral deal, we have agreed to provide $50 million in funding to help educate consumers about the transition.  This funding is critical to ensure that people have access to information about how to get their televisions to work.

My colleagues will discuss other important aspects of this deal.  But before they do, I would like to point out two important provisions that we included as part of the reauthorization.

First, we included a provision that makes the FCC’s Inspector General independent of the Commission’s Chairman.  The IG is currently conducting a number of critical investigations, including one into whether the Chairman of the agency has been improperly favoring Sinclair Broadcasting.  But under current law these investigations are being conducted under a cloud—the very Chairman who is under investigation can obstruct the review by firing the Inspector General or his or her staff at any time.

So I thank my colleagues for recognizing the importance of this investigation.  This bill includes a bipartisan agreement to prevent the Chairman from firing the IG. 

By passing this bill, we are ensuring these important investigations can conclude without interference from the Chairman’s Office.

Finally, I do not normally support unnecessarily cutting the budget of our agencies.  But in this case, I would like to thank my colleagues for agreeing to limit this cut to the length of this administration.

The current leadership of the FCC has proven that it cannot be trusted to serve the public interest.  Most notably, the agency has ignored its statutory duty and the call of the American people by destroying our net neutrality protections.  Net neutrality safeguards our American values by empowering small businesses, creating new jobs, and ensuring free speech online.

By limiting the resources that we provide for the next three years, this reauthorization will limit this Commission’s power to do more harm.  We are sending a powerful message to the FCC’s leadership that Congress does not approve of its actions and we will do what we can to reverse its poor decisions.

For those reasons, and many more, I urge my colleagues to support the bipartisan and bicameral agreement embodied by the RAY BAUM Act.

I would also like to thank the Democratic Committee staff -- David Goldman, Jerry Leverich, and Dan Miller – for all of their hard work in getting this bill to the floor today. 

With that, Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.