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FCC releases tentative agenda for Jan. 30 open meeting as shutdown continues

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission suspended most operations Jan. 3, which included pausing the shot clock on the proposed merger between T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp., and comment periods on proposed rules.

However, the agency was able to release a tentative agenda for its monthly open meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 30.

It will be the first commission meeting with newly confirmed Democratic Commissioner Geoffrey Starks, who was confirmed on Jan. 2 along with Republican Commissioner Brendan Carr. Both were confirmed for five-year terms. This will be the first commission meeting with five members voting since the departure of former Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in the spring of 2018. Despite the addition of Starks, the Republicans maintain a 3-2 majority on the commission.

Among the items on the agenda, the commission will consider an order that would restructure the allocation of some funds to carriers in the commission’s Connect America Fund program, which is designed to help bring voice and broadband services to unserved, high-cost areas. If adopted, the order would taper down legacy support to voice services in an effort to free up funding for voice and broadband services.

The commission will also consider an order that would eliminate a requirement under the Communications Act of 1934 that requires certain broadcast television and radio stations to submit a "midterm review" form of equal employment opportunity practices roughly halfway through broadcasters’ eight-year licenses. An agency fact sheet says the commission is proposing the elimination of this requirement since most of the information about broadcasters' compliance with the agency’s rules is available in an online public inspection file.

Additionally, the FCC will consider a notice of proposed rulemaking that proposes changes to how competing applications for new noncommercial radio and television stations and low-power broadcasting stations are resolved. The agency believes some rules and procedures are confusing and hopes to clarify and simplify its selection process through a new rule.

According to a Jan. 3 agency news release, the FCC may add additional items to its agenda for the meeting, if the government shutdown ends by Jan. 9.