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House Passed Three Telecom Bills, With the Kelsey Smith Act Falling Short

May 27, 2016

The process of passing a bill in the U.S. Congress is a long and arduous one, taking many years and contentious political wrangling. For the four telecom bills that were slated to breeze through the House this past Monday, it didn't go as expected.

As reported by Amir Nasr on Monday, "The four measures are among a host of noncontroversial bills to be voted on under the suspension of House rules, generally noting smooth passage," but that wasn't the case.

The first bill was H.R. 4889, The Kelsey Smith Act. Introduced by Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas), it was named after the heinous kidnapping, rape and murder of Kelsey Smith. When Kelsey went missing, her family had a very difficult time trying to get her cell phone provider to reveal the location of her phone. After an eternal four days, the company agreed and her body was found within an hour.

The goal of the Act is to allow law enforcement agencies to request the location of a 911 call from a service provider if they believe the person is in grave danger. Although there are more than 20 states that have currently passed the law, H.R. 4889 would have made it valid nationally.

The Kelsey Smith Act Failed Under Suspension on May 23, 2016. It received 229 votes in the House of Representatives, which was short of a mandated 2/3rd majority needed to pass.

The second bill was H.R. 4167, Kari’s Law. The inception of this law was also based on a tragedy. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) wrote this bill so anyone calling a 911 number from a multi-line phone system to connect directly. Kari Dunn, was murdered by her husband in a hotel room, while her nine year old daughter was trying to call 911. This bill addresses large organizations that require codes to dial out, which can sometimes be busy or not work at all.

According to Nasr, the bill had support from FCC (News - Alert) Commissioner Ajit Pai, and the Senate Commerce Committee had already passed a companion measure as a provision of the FCC Reauthorization Act.

This bill passed in the House on May 23, 2016 and next goes to the Senate for consideration.

The third bill is H.R. 3998, the Securing Access to Networks in Disasters Act. This bill highlights the importance of having open communications after a natural disaster. After Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast in 2012, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) introduced the bill to require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to provide including 911, wireline or mobile telephone service, Internet access service, radio or television broadcasting, cable service, or direct broadcast satellite service.

This bill passed in the House on May 23, 2016 and next goes to the Senate for consideration.

The fourth bill is H.R. 2589. This bill is designed to inform the public of any changes made by the FCC. It was introduced by Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) as part of an overall initiative to improve the way the FCC operates. The bill requires the FCC to publish changes to any of its rules on the agency's website within 24 hours.

This bill passed in the House on May 23, 2016 and next goes to the Senate for consideration. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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