Summary: H.R.1555 — 104th Congress (1995-1996)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

Shown Here:
Passed House amended (08/04/1995)

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Title I: Development of Competitive Telecommunications

Markets

Title II: Cable Communications Competitiveness

Title III: Broadcast Communications Competitiveness

Title IV: Effect on Other Laws

Title V: Definitions

Title VI: Small Business Complaint Procedure

Communications Act of 1995 - Title I: Development of Competitive Telecommunications Markets - Amends the Communications Act of 1934 (the Act) to provide that the duty of a common carrier includes the duty to interconnect with the facilities and equipment of other providers of telecommunications and information services.

Includes within the duty of a local exchange carrier specified duties with respect to providing: (1) interconnection; (2) unbundling of network elements; (3) services, elements, features, and capabilities (services) for resale at economically feasible rates to the reseller (establishes a duty to offer services for resale at wholesale rates and not to prohibit or impose unreasonable or discriminatory conditions or limitations on the resale of such services, on a bundled or unbundled basis, except that a carrier may prohibit a reseller that obtains at wholesale rates a service that is available at retail only to a category of subscribers from offering such service to a different category of subscribers); (4) number portability; (5) dialing parity; (6) access to rights-of-way; (7) network functionality and accessibility; and (8) good faith negotiation of agreements to fulfill such duties.

Requires a local exchange carrier to provide, to any other carrier or person offering (or seeking to offer) a telecommunications or information service: (1) access to and interconnection with the facilities of the carrier's network at any technically feasible and economically reasonable point within the carrier's network on just and reasonable terms and conditions, upon request; and (2) reasonable and nondiscriminatory access on an unbundled basis to databases, signaling systems, poles, ducts, conduits, and rights-of-way owned or controlled by a local carrier that is equal to that afforded by the carrier to itself or to any other person and is available at nondiscriminatory prices and that is sufficient to ensure the full interoperability of the equipment and facilities of the carrier and of the person seeking such access.

Directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish regulations to implement requirements under this title within six months. Prohibits the FCC from precluding the enforcement of any regulation, order, or policy of a State commission that establishes access and interconnection obligations of local exchange carriers, that is consistent with this Act's requirements, and that does not substantially prevent the FCC from fulfilling requirements and purposes of this Act.

Prohibits any service, element, feature, function, or capability that is made available for resale in any State by a Bell operating company (BOC) from being jointly marketed directly or indirectly with any interlata (local access and transport area) or long-distance telephone toll service until such BOC is authorized to provide interlata services in such State, but permits joint marketing of services acquired from a BOC by an unaffiliated provider that, with its affiliates, has in the aggregate less than two percent of the access lines installed nationwide.

Authorizes the FCC to modify or waive requirements of this title for any local exchange carrier (or class or category of such carriers) that has, in the aggregate nationwide, fewer than 500,000 access lines installed, to the extent that it determines that compliance with such requirements would be unduly economically burdensome or technologically infeasible.

Makes such requirements inapplicable to a rural telephone company until such company has received a bona fide request for services described in the foregoing provisions. Requires the State commission, following a bona fide request to the carrier and notice of the request to it, to determine within 120 days whether the request would be unduly economically burdensome, technologically infeasible, and consistent with specified requirements, but makes the exemption provided by this provision inapplicable if such carrier provides video programming services over its telephone exchange facilities in its telephone service area. Directs the State to establish, after making such determination, an implementation schedule for compliance with such approved bona fide request that is consistent in time and manner with FCC rules.

Specifies that nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit the: (1) FCC from enforcing regulations prescribed prior to this Act's enactment in fulfilling requirements regarding equal access and interconnection to the local loop for competing providers, and regarding pricing flexibility and abolition of rate-of-return regulation, to the extent that such regulations are consistent with such requirements; and (2) State commission from enforcing regulations prescribed prior to the enactment date of this Act, or from prescribing regulations after such date in fulfilling such requirements, if such regulations are consistent with these provisions and the enforcement of such regulations has not been precluded under this Act.

Prohibits a State or local legal requirement from prohibiting the ability of any entity to provide interstate or intrastate telecommunications services, with exceptions (and specifies that nothing herein shall affect the ability of a State or local government to impose, on a competitively neutral basis and consistent with universal service provisions, requirements necessary to preserve and advance universal service, protect the public safety and welfare, ensure the continued quality of telecommunications services, and safeguard the rights of consumers, or the authority of a local government to manage the public rights-of-way or to require fair and reasonable compensation from telecommunications providers for use of the rights-of-way on a nondiscriminatory basis if the compensation required is publicly disclosed by such government); or (2) providing such services from exercising specified access and interconnection rights.

Specifies that nothing in this title shall affect: (1) the ability of State officials to impose, on a nondiscriminatory basis, requirements necessary to preserve and advance universal service, to promote public safety and welfare, and to ensure the continued quality of telecommunications services, that a provider's business practices are consistent with consumer protection laws and regulations, and just and reasonable rates, provided that such requirements do not effectively prohibit any carrier or person from providing interstate or intrastate telecommunications or information services; and (2) the authority of a local government to manage the public rights-of-way or to require fair and reasonable compensation from telecommunications providers for use of public rights-of-way on a nondiscriminatory basis, if the compensation required is publicly disclosed by such government.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) preemption of State and local regulation of interstate or intrastate telecommunications services; and (2) statements of terms and conditions for access and interconnection.

Establishes procedures by which a BOC may seek entry to offer interlata services. Authorizes a BOC, at any time after six months after the date of this Act's enactment, to provide to the FCC verification with respect to one or more States that such BOC is in compliance with specified requirements. Requires such verification to contain: (1) a certification by each State commission that such carrier has fully implemented specified conditions with respect to BOC duties; and (2) either an approved agreement specifying the terms and conditions under which the BOC is providing access and interconnection to its network facilities for an unaffiliated competing provider of telephone exchange service (excluding exchange access service) to residential and business subscribers (and such service may be offered by such competing provider either exclusively over its own telephone exchange service facilities or predominantly over its own telephone exchange service facilities in combination with the resale of the services of another carrier), or if no such provider has requested such access and interconnection three months before the BOC makes its submission, a statement of the terms and conditions that the carrier generally offers to provide such access and interconnection that has been approved or permitted to take effect by the State commission. Specifies that a BOC shall be considered not to have received any such request if the State commission certifies that the only providers making the request have failed to bargain in good faith under the supervision of such State commissions or have violated the terms of their agreement by failure to comply, within a reasonable period of time, with the implementation schedule contained in such agreement.

Sets forth requirements regarding: (1) application for interim interlata authority; (2) FCC review; (3) enforcement of conditions; (4) authority to provide interlata services; (5) exceptions for previously authorized activities and for incidental services; (6) interlata toll dialing parity; (7) FCC forbearance from applying specified provisions or regulations; and (8) sunset provisions.

Requires the FCC to: (1) notify the Attorney General promptly of any verification of access and interconnection compliance submitted by a BOC for approval, and to identify any verification that, if approved, would relieve the BOC and its affiliates of a prohibition concerning manufacturing; and (2) consult with the Attorney General before making any determination and to include any written comments submitted by the Attorney General in the record of the FCC's decision.

Directs the Attorney General: (1) to provide to the FCC an evaluation of whether there is a dangerous probability that the BOC or its affiliates would successfully use market power to substantially impede competition; and (2) with respect to a verification that would relieve the BOC and its affiliates of the prohibition concerning manufacturing, to provide to the FCC an evaluation of whether there is a dangerous probability that the BOC or its affiliates would successfully use market power to substantially impede competition in manufacturing.

Permits a BOC or affiliate thereof to provide interlata services for specified purposes, including providing a telecommunications service using the transmission facilities of a cable system that is an affiliate of such BOC and that is located within a State in which such BOC is not a provider of wireline telephone exchange service.

Authorizes a BOC and any affiliate thereof that has obtained FCC approval for each State in which they provide telephone exchange service on the date of this Act's enactment, to provide interlata services for: (1) calls originating in, and billed to a customer in, a State in which neither such BOC nor any affiliate provided telephone exchange service on such enactment date; or (2) calls originating outside the United States.

Requires a BOC or affiliate providing interlata telecommunications or information service to do so through a subsidiary that is separate from the BOC or affiliate that provides telephone exchange service, with exceptions such as for certain incidental services. Sets forth requirements regarding: (1) transactions on an arm's-length basis; (2) separate operation and property; (3) books, records, and accounts; (4) provision of services and information; (5) prevention of cross-subsidies; (6) assets and debt; (7) fulfillment of certain requests; (8) charges for access services; and (9) sunset provisions (makes these provisions inapplicable to any BOC in any State 18 months after the date such BOC is authorized to provide interlata telecommunications services in such State).

Sets forth provisions regarding the convening of a Federal State Joint Board to recommend actions for the preservation of universal service.

Directs the FCC: (1) within 270 days after this Act's enactment, to establish appropriate flexible pricing procedures that afford a regulated telecommunications service provider the opportunity to respond fairly to competition and that are consistent with the protection of subscribers and the public interest; and (2) in establishing criteria and procedures regarding pricing flexibility, to take into account and accommodate the criteria and procedures established for such purposes by State commissions prior to the effective date of the FCC's criteria and procedures. Specifies that such pricing flexibility shall permit regulated telecommunications providers to respond fairly to competition but shall not have the effect of changing prices for noncompetitive services or using noncompetitive services to subsidize competitive services.

Requires the rates charged by providers of interexchange telecommunications service to customers in rural and high cost areas to be maintained at levels no higher than those charged by each such provider to its customers in urban areas.

Directs the FCC to: (1) establish procedures for oversight of coordinated network planning by common carriers and other providers of telecommunications services for the effective and efficient interconnection of public switched networks; (2) prescribe regulations to ensure that, if readily achievable, advances in network services deployed by common carriers and telecommunications and customer premises equipment manufactured for use in conjunction with network services shall be accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities (but provides that such regulations shall require that whenever such requirements are not readily achievable, the local exchange carrier that deploys the network service shall ensure that the service in question is compatible with existing peripheral devices or specialized customer premises equipment commonly used by persons with disabilities to achieve access unless doing so is not readily achievable, and specifies that nothing herein shall be construed to authorize a private right of action); (3) complete a proceeding for the purpose of identifying and eliminating market entry barriers for entrepreneurs and other small businesses in the provision and ownership of telecommunications and information services or in the provision of parts or services to providers of such services; (4) seek to promote the policies and purposes of this Act favoring diversity of media voices, vigorous economic competition, technological advancement and promotion of the public interest; and (5) review and periodically report to the Congress on any regulations to eliminate any such barriers within its jurisdiction that can be prescribed, and the statutory barriers that the FCC recommends be eliminated, consistent with the public interest.

Prohibits a common carrier from submitting or executing a change in a subscriber's selection of a provider of telephone exchange or telephone toll service except in accordance with such verification procedures as the FCC shall prescribe. Makes any common carrier that violates such procedures and that collects charges for service from a subscriber liable to the subscriber's previous carrier for charges paid by such subscriber after such violation in addition to any other remedies available by law.

Requires the FCC to conduct a study within three years regarding universal service, advanced telecommunications services for elementary and secondary school students, and accessibility by individuals with disabilities.

(Sec. 102) Prohibits a BOC, directly or through an affiliate, from manufacturing or providing telecommunications equipment or manufacturing customer premises equipment until the FCC has approved verifications that such BOC and each BOC with which it is affiliated are in compliance with access and interconnection requirements, but permits a BOC: (1) during the first 18 months after the expiration of such limitation, to engage in manufacturing telecommunications or customer premises equipment only through a separate subsidiary in accordance with requirements of this Act; (2) to engage in close collaboration with a manufacturer of customer premises or telecommunications equipment during the design and development of hardware, software, or combinations thereof related to such equipment; and (3) directly or through a subsidiary, to engage in any research activities related to manufacturing and to enter into royalty agreements with manufacturers of telecommunications equipment.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) information on protocols and technical requirements; (2) disclosure of information by BOCs; (3) access by competitors to information; and (4) planning information.

Prohibits Bell Communications Research, Inc., or any successor entity or affiliate from: (1) being considered a BOC or a successor or assign of a BOC at such time as it is no longer an affiliate of any BOC; and (2) engaging in manufacturing telecommunications or customer premises equipment as long as it is an affiliate of more than one otherwise unaffiliated BOC or successor or assign of any such BOC. Sets forth provisions regarding proprietary information and manufacturing safeguards.

Requires any entity which is not an accredited standards development organization and which establishes industry-wide standards for telecommunications or customer premises equipment or industry-wide generic network requirements for such equipment, or which certifies such equipment manufactured by an unaffiliated entity, to: (1) establish and publish any such standard or requirement, or substantial modification of an existing standard or requirement, only in compliance with a specified procedure; (2) engage in product certification for such equipment manufactured by unaffiliated entities only if certain conditions are met; (3) not undertake any actions to monopolize or attempt to monopolize the market for such services; and (4) not preferentially treat its own equipment, or that of its affiliate, over that of any other entity in establishing and publishing such standards or requirements for, and in certification of, such equipment.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) alternate dispute resolution; (2) sunset requirements; (3) administration and enforcement authority; (4) BOC equipment procurement and sales; and (5) an exception for previously authorized activities.

Prohibits a BOC or any affiliate from engaging in the provision of electronic publishing that is disseminated by means of such BOC's or any of its affiliates' basic telephone service, but allows a separated affiliate or electronic publishing joint venture to engage in such activity if it is operated independently from the BOC and it meets specified requirements (e.g., maintains separate books, has no officers, director, or employees in common, does not permit the BOC to perform specified functions on behalf of a separated affiliate, and has performed annually a compliance review).

Requires a BOC under common ownership or control with a separated affiliate or electronic publishing joint venture to provide network access and interconnections for basic telephone service to electronic publishers at just and reasonable rates that are tariffed (as long as rates for such services are subject to regulation) and that are not higher on a per-unit basis than those charged for such services to any other electronic publisher or any separated affiliate engaged in electronic publishing.

Authorizes a person claiming that any act or practice of a BOC, affiliate, or separated affiliate violates this section to file a complaint with the FCC or bring suit for damages, or to apply to the FCC for a cease and desist order.

Requires any separated affiliate to file with the FCC annual reports in a form substantially equivalent to the Form 10-K required by Securities Exchange Commission regulations.

Defines "basic telephone service" to mean any wireline telephone exchange service or e facility provided by a BOC in a telephone exchange area, excluding such a service provided in an area where another entity provides such a service that was provided on January 1, 1984, and a commercial mobile service.

Prohibits any BOC or affiliate from engaging in the provision of alarm monitoring services before six years after the enactment of this Act, except for existing legal activities as of January 1, 1995. Requires a common carrier engaged in the provision of alarm monitoring or telemessaging services to provide nonaffiliated entities, upon reasonable request, with the network services it provides to its own alarm monitoring or telemessaging operations, on nondiscriminatory terms and conditions. Prohibits such a carrier from subsidizing such services either directly or indirectly from telephone exchange service operations. Directs the FCC to establish procedures for the expedited receipt and review of complaints concerning violations that result in material financial harm to a provider of such services.

Directs the FCC to prescribe regulations regarding pay phone service, including establishing a per call compensation plan that ensures that all pay phone services providers are fairly compensated for every completed intrastate and interstate call using their pay phone, with exceptions. Prohibits any BOC that provides such service, after the effective date of the rules prescribed, from: (1) subsidizing its pay phone service directly or indirectly with revenue from its telephone exchange service or exchange access service; and (2) preferring or discriminating in favor of its pay phone service.

(Sec. 103) Directs the FCC to forbear from applying certain provisions or FCC regulations to a common carrier or service, or class of carriers or services, in any or some geographic markets unless the FCC determines that: (1) enforcement of such provision or regulation is necessary to ensure that the charges, practices, classifications, or regulations by, for, or in connection with that carrier or service are just and reasonable and not discriminatory; (2) such enforcement is necessary for the protection of consumers; and (3) forbearance from applying such provision or regulation is inconsistent with the public interest.

Authorizes a BOC or any other company to jointly market and sell commercial mobile services in conjunction with telephone exchange service, exchange access, intralata and interlata telecommunications service, and information services, with exceptions.

(Sec. 104) Amends the Act to set forth U.S. policy regarding the Internet and other interactive computer services.

Prohibits a provider or user of interactive computer services from being: (1) treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by an information content provider; or (2) held liable on account of any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, excessively violent, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected, or on account of any action taken to make available to information content providers or others the technical means to restrict access to such material.

Specifies that nothing in this section shall be construed to grant any jurisdiction or authority to the FCC regarding content or other regulation of the Internet or other interactive computer services or to effect criminal or intellectual property law.

(Sec. 105) Sets forth provisions regarding the privacy of customer proprietary network information. Requires a carrier that provides local exchange service to provide subscriber list information gathered in its capacity as a provider of such service on a timely and unbundled basis, under nondiscriminatory and reasonable rates, terms, and conditions, to any person upon request for the purpose of publishing directories in any format.

(Sec. 106) Directs the FCC to prescribe regulations for ensuring that, when the parties fail to negotiate a mutually agreeable rate, utilities charge just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory rates for pole attachments provided to all providers of telecommunications services, which shall: (1) recognize that the entire pole, duct, conduit, or right-of-way (pole) other than the usable space is of equal benefit to all entities attaching to the pole (and therefore apportion the cost of the space other than the usable space equally among all such attaching entities), that the usable space is of proportional benefit to all entities attaching to the pole (and therefore apportion the cost of the usable space according to the percentage of usable space required for each entity), and that the pole has a value that exceeds costs and that value shall be reflected in any rate; and (2) allow for reasonable terms and conditions relating to health, safety, and the provision of reliable utility service.

Specifies that: (1) the final regulations prescribed by the FCC shall not apply to a cable television (TV) system that solely provides cable service; and (2) whenever the owner of a conduit or right-of-way intends to modify or alter it, the owner shall provide written notification of such action to any entity that has obtained an attachment.

(Sec. 107) Sets forth provisions regarding preemption of franchising authority regulation of telecommunications services. Prohibits a franchising authority from requiring a cable operator to provide any telecommunications service or facilities (other than intragovernmental telecommunications services) as a condition of the initial grant of a franchise or a franchise renewal, with exceptions.

(Sec. 108) Directs the FCC to prescribe and make effective a policy to reconcile State and local regulation of the siting of facilities for the provision of commercial mobile services or unlicensed services with the public interest in fostering competition through the rapid, efficient, and nationwide deployment of commercial mobile or unlicensed services and to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee to negotiate and develop a proposed policy to comply with the requirements of this section. Specifies that such policy shall: (1) take into account certain factors, such as the need to enhance the coverage and quality of commercial mobile and unlicensed services and to foster competition on a timely basis, the legitimate interests of State and local governments in matters of exclusively local concern, the effect of State and local regulation of facilities siting on interstate commerce, the administrative costs to State and local governments of reviewing requests for authorization to locate facilities for the provision of such services, and the need to provide due process in making any decision by a State or local government to grant or deny such a request; and (2) provide that no State or local government may regulate the placement, construction, modification, or operation of such facilities on the basis of the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions, subject to specified limitations.

Directs the FCC to: (1) complete action in ET Docket 93-62 to prescribe and make effective rules regarding the environmental effects of radio frequency emissions; (2) prescribe procedures by which Federal departments and agencies may make available on a fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory basis property, rights-of-way, and easements under their control for the placement of new telecommunications facilities by duly licensed providers of telecommunications services that are dependent upon the utilization of Federal spectrum rights (and permits reasonable fees to be charged to providers of telecommunications services for the use of property, rights-of-way, and easements); and (3) prescribe regulations to afford subscribers of two-way switched voice commercial mobile radio services access to a provider of telephone toll service of the subscriber's choice, except to the extent that the commercial mobile radio service is provided by satellite.

(Sec. 110) Permits a common carrier to charge a calling party for information conveyed during a call if the calling party has a written preauthorized subscription agreement with the information provider that meets specified requirements and the calling party is charged in accordance with such agreement.

(Sec. 111) Directs the Attorney General to submit to specified congressional committees a report on means of restricting access to unwanted material in interactive telecommunications systems.

(Sec. 112) Requires that any deposits the FCC may require for the qualification of a person to bid in a system of competitive bidding be deposited in an interest bearing account at a financial institution designated by the FCC. Specifies that within 45 days following the conclusion of such bidding, the deposits of successful bidders shall be paid to the Treasury and those of unsuccessful bidders shall be returned to such bidders, and the interest accrued to the account shall be transferred to the Telecommunications Development Fund established pursuant to this Act.

Establishes such Fund. Sets forth provisions regarding its board of directors, meetings and functions of the board, accounts and use of the Fund (including making loans, investments, or other extensions of credits to eligible small businesses), lending and credit operations, return of advances, general corporate powers, and accounting, auditing, and reporting requirements.

(Sec. 113) Directs the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information to report annually to specified congressional committees concerning the activities of the Joint Working Group on Telemedicine, together with any findings in the studies and demonstrations on telemedicine funded by the Public Health Service or other Federal agencies. Specifies that such reports shall examine questions related to patient safety, the efficacy and quality of the services provided, and other legal, medical, and economic issues related to the utilization of advanced telecommunications services for medical purposes.

(Sec. 114) Requires such Assistant Secretary, within three months of this Act's enactment, to carry out research to identify successful telecommuting programs in the public and private sectors and provide for the dissemination to the public of information regarding the establishment of successful telecommuting programs and the benefits and costs of telecommuting. Sets forth reporting requirements.

(Sec. 115) Authorizes appropriations to the FCC to carry out this Act.

Title II: Cable Communications Competitiveness - Authorizes a common carrier subject to the Act: (1) either through its own facilities or through an affiliate, to provide video programming directly to subscribers in its telephone service area; and (2) to provide channels of communications or pole, line, or conduit space, or other rental arrangements, to any entity owned, operated, or controlled by, or under common control with, such carrier the provision of video programming directly to subscribers in its telephone service area.

Exempts (with exceptions) from specified requirements under the Act an affiliate that: (1) is owned, operated, or controlled by, or under common control with, a carrier; (2) provides video programming to subscribers in the telephone service area of such carrier, but does not utilize the local exchange facilities or services of any affiliated carrier in distributing such programming; and (3) has not established a video platform in accordance with specified requirements.

Prohibits a carrier from providing video programming directly to subscribers in its telephone service area unless such programming is provided through a video programming affiliate that is separate from such carrier, with exceptions.

Requires a carrier that provides video programming directly to subscribers in its telephone service area solely through an acquired cable system to establish a video platform, with exceptions. Allows a common carrier or its affiliate to negotiate mutually agreeable terms and conditions with over-the-air broadcast stations and other unaffiliated video programming providers to allow consumer access to their signals on any level or screen of any gateway, menu, or other program guide, whether provided by the carrier or its affiliate. Requires the FCC, within six months, to complete all actions necessary to prescribe regulations that, among other things, prohibit a common carrier from discriminating among video programming providers with regard to carriage on its video platform, ensure just, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory rates, terms, and conditions for such carriage, and extend to the distribution of video programming over video platforms the FCC's regulations concerning sports exclusivity network nonduplication.

Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) authority of a State commission to prohibit cross-subsidization; (2) prohibition against buyouts, with exceptions; (3) rural area exemptions; and (4) competition from cable systems, including a limitation on basic tier rate increases, the development of a National Information Infrastructure, FCC review of complaints, a uniform rate structure, relief for small cable operators, cable security systems, cable equipment compatibility, retiering of basic tier services, subscriber notice, and treatment of prior year losses. Grants the FCC authority to review any increase in the rates for cable programming services implemented after this Act's enactment only if, within 90 days after such increase becomes effective, at least ten subscribers or three percent of the subscribers to such services, whichever is greater, file separate, individual complaints against such increase with the FCC.

(Sec. 203) Directs the FCC to adopt regulations to assure competitive availability to telecommunications subscription services consumers of converter boxes, interactive communications devices, and other customer premises equipment from manufacturers, retailers, and other vendors not affiliated with any telecommunications system operator. Specifies that such regulations shall not prohibit any telecommunications system operator from also offering devices and customer premises equipment to consumers, provided that the system operator's charges to consumers for such devices and equipment are separately stated and not subsidized by charges for any telecommunications subscription service, and shall cease to apply to any market for the acquisition of converter boxes, interactive communications devices, or other customer premises equipment when the FCC determines that such market is competitive). Prohibits the FCC from prescribing such regulations which would jeopardize the security of a telecommunications system or impede the legal rights of a provider of such service to prevent theft of service. Requires the FCC to waive such a regulation for a limited time upon an appropriate showing by a telecommunications system operator that such waiver is necessary to assist the development or introduction of a new or improved telecommunications subscription service or technology.

Requires determinations made or regulations prescribed by the FCC regarding market competitiveness of customer premises equipment prior to the date of enactment of this section to fulfill the requirements of this section. Declares that nothing in this section affects the FCC's regulations governing the interconnection and competitive provision of customer premises equipment used in connection with basic telephone service.

(Sec. 204) Directs the FCC to complete an inquiry to ascertain the level at which video programming is closed captioned and to report to the Congress (but specifies that nothing herein shall be construed to authorize any private right of action).

Title III: Broadcast Communications Competitiveness - Requires the FCC, if it determines that it will issue additional licenses for advanced TV services, to: (1) limit the initial eligibility for such licenses to persons who are licensed to operate a TV broadcast station, who hold a permit to construct such a station, or both; and (2) adopt regulations that allow such licensees or permittees to offer such ancillary or supplementary services on designated frequencies as may be consistent with the public interest. Sets forth provisions regarding criteria for FCC determinations concerning license surrender. Specifies that any license so surrendered shall be subject to assignment by use of competitive bidding.

(Sec. 302) Prohibits the FCC, except as otherwise provided in this Act, from prescribing or enforcing any regulation: (1) prohibiting or limiting, either nationally or within any particular area, a person or entity from holding any form of ownership or other interest in two or more broadcasting stations or in a broadcasting station and any other medium of mass communication; or (2) prohibiting a person or entity from owning, operating, or controlling two or more networks of broadcasting stations or from owning, operating, or controlling a network of broadcasting stations and any other medium of mass communications.

Directs the FCC to prohibit a person or entity from obtaining any license if such license would result in such person or entity directly or indirectly owning, operating, or controlling, or having a cognizable interest in: (1) TV stations which have an aggregate national audience reach exceeding 35 percent (directs the FCC to study the operation of this section and report to the Congress on the development of competition in the TV marketplace and the need for any revisions to or elimination of this provision); or (2) two or more TV stations within the same TV market, with exceptions for multiple UHF stations and UHF-VHF combinations and for VHF-VHF combinations.

Authorizes the FCC, in a proceeding to grant, renew, or authorize the assignment of any station license, to deny the application upon determining that the combination of such station and more than one other non-broadcast media of mass communication would result in an undue concentration of media voices in the respective local market.

Bars the FCC from applying requirements regarding the provision of direct video programming by common carriers in any area in which there are two or more unaffiliated wireline providers of video programming services.

(Sec. 303) Provides that the ban on foreign governments or their representatives holding station licenses shall not apply to licenses to mobile earth stations engaged in occasional or short-term transmissions via satellite of audio or TV program material and auxiliary signals if such transmissions are not intended for direct reception by the general public in the United States.

Makes foreign ownership restrictions inapplicable to any common carrier license granted, held, or for which application is made, after this section's enactment with respect to any alien, corporation, or foreign government if: (1) the President determines that the relevant foreign country is party to an international agreement which requires the United States to provide national or most-favored-nation treatment in the grant of common carrier licenses and that not applying such restrictions would be consistent with national security and effective law enforcement; or (2) the FCC determines that not applying such restrictions would serve the public interest.

Directs the FCC, in making its determination, to abide by any decision of the President regarding whether not applying such restrictions is in the public interest due to national security, law enforcement, foreign policy or trade concerns or due to the interpretation of international agreements (and, in the absence of a decision by the President, the FCC may consider, among other public interest factors, whether effective competitive opportunities are available to U.S. nationals or corporations in the applicant's home market). Sets forth provisions regarding: (1) FCC notice and determinations regarding applications requiring such determination; (2) further FCC review; (3) notification to the Congress; and (4) judicial review.

(Sec. 304) Declares it to be U.S. policy to: (1) encourage broadcast TV, cable, satellite, syndication, or other video programming distributors and relevant related industries to establish a technology fund to encourage TV and electronics equipment manufacturers to facilitate the development of technology which would empower parents to block programming they deem inappropriate for their children, to report to the viewing public on the status of the development of affordable, easy to use blocking technology, and to establish and promote effective mechanisms for ensuring that users have easy and complete access to the information necessary to effectively utilize such technology; and (2) evaluate whether, not later than one year after this Act's enactment, such industry-wide procedures, standards, or other mechanisms are informing viewers regarding their options to utilize blocking technology and encouraging the development of blocking technologies.

Requires the Comptroller General, no later than 18 months after this Act's enactment, to submit to the Congress an evaluation of the proliferation of new and existing blocking technology, the accessibility of information to empower viewing choices, and the consumer satisfaction with information and technological solutions.

(Sec. 304 (sic)) Directs the FCC, if distributors of video programming have not taken appropriate voluntary actions within one year, to prescribe: (1) on the basis of recommendations from an advisory committee, guidelines and recommended procedures for rating video programming that contains sexual, violent, or other indecent material about which parents should be informed before it is displayed to children; and (2) rules requiring distributors of such video programming to transmit such rating to permit parents to block the display of video programming that they have determined is inappropriate for their children.

Directs the FCC to require apparatus designed to receive TV signals that are manufactured, or imported for use, in the United States and that have a picture screen 13 inches or greater (measured diagonally) to be equipped with circuitry designed to enable viewers to block display of all programs with a common rating, with exceptions.

Amends the Act to prohibit the shipment in interstate commerce, manufacture, assembly, or importation into the United States of any such apparatus except in accordance with rules prescribed by the FCC, except with respect to carriers transporting such an apparatus without trading it.

Requires the rules prescribed by the FCC to provide for FCC oversight of the adoption of standards by industry for blocking technology and to require that all such apparatus be able to receive the rating signals which have been transmitted by way of line 21 of the vertical blanking interval and which conform to the signal and blocking specifications established by industry under the supervision of the FCC.

Requires the FCC: (1) as new video technology is developed, to ensure that blocking service continues to be available to consumers; and (2) if it determines that an alternative blocking technology that enables parents to block programming based on identifying programs without ratings is available to consumers at a cost comparable to that of technology that allows parents to block programming based on common ratings, to amend its rules to require that such apparatus be equipped with either blocking technology.

(Sec. 305) Revises provisions regarding license terms and renewal for the operation of a TV broadcast station. Increases to seven years (currently, five) the period for each license granted. Directs the FCC to continue a license in effect pending any hearing and final decision on an application and the disposition of a petition for rehearing.

(Sec. 306) Requires the FCC to grant an application for a broadcast station license renewal if it finds that, during the preceding term of the station's license: (1) the station has served the public interest; (2) there have been no serious violations by the licensee of this Act or FCC rules and regulations; and (3) there have been no other violations by the licensee of this Act or FCC rules and regulations which, taken together, would constitute a pattern of abuse.

Makes such provision applicable to any application for renewal pending or filed on or after this Act's enactment date.

(Sec. 307) Grants the FCC exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of the direct broadcast satellite service.

(Sec. 308) Specifies that a ship documented under U.S. law operating in accordance with the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System provisions of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention shall not be required to be equipped with a radio telegraphy station operated by one or more radio officers or operators. Makes this section effective for each vessel upon a determination by the U.S. Coast Guard that such vessel has the equipment required to implement such System installed and operating in good working condition.

(Sec. 309) Directs the FCC to promulgate regulations to prohibit restrictions that inhibit a viewer's ability to receive video programming services through signal receiving devices designed for off-the-air reception of TV broadcast signals.

(Sec. 310) Includes programming of a licensee in the direct broadcast satellite service within the scope of provisions penalizing the manufacture, import, sale, or distribution of equipment that is primarily of assistance in the unauthorized decryption of satellite cable programming.

(Sec. 311) Authorizes the FCC to: (1) authorize the use of private organizations for testing and certifying the compliance of devices or home electronic equipment and systems; (2) accept as prima facie evidence of such compliance the certification by any such organization; and (3) establish such qualifications and standards as it deems appropriate for such private organizations, testing, and certification.

Title IV: Effect on Other Laws - States that this Act shall supersede specified sections of the Modification of Final Judgment (i.e., the order entered August 24, 1982, in the antitrust action styled United States v. Western Electric, including any judgment or order with respect to such action entered on or after that date).

Specifies that: (1) nothing in this Act shall be construed to modify, impair, or supersede or to authorize the modification, impairment, or supersession of any State or local law pertaining to taxation, with exceptions; (2) this Act shall supersede the final judgment entered December 21, 1984, and as restated January 11, 1985, in United States v. GTE Corporation, and any judgment or order with respect to such action entered on or after December 21, 1984, and such judgment shall not be enforced with respect to conduct occurring after the date of this Act's enactment; and (3) no person shall be considered to be an affiliate, successor, or assign of a BOC by reason of having acquired wireless exchange assets or operations previously owned by a BOC or an affiliate of a BOC.

(Sec. 402) Exempts a provider of direct-to-home satellite service from the collection or remittance, or both, of any tax or fee imposed by any local taxing jurisdiction regarding the provision of direct-to-home satellite service.

Defines: (1) "provider of direct-to-home satellite service" to mean a person who transmits, broadcasts, sells, or distributes direct-to-home satellite service; and (2) "local taxing jurisdiction" to mean any local jurisdiction in the territorial jurisdiction of the United States with the authority to impose a tax or fee, excluding a State.

Specifies that this section shall not be construed to prevent taxation of a provider of direct-to-home satellite service by a State or to prevent a local taxing jurisdiction from receiving revenue derived from a tax or fee imposed and collected by a State.

(Sec. 403) Prohibits and sets penalties for intentionally communicating by computer, in interstate or foreign commerce, any material that depicts or describes sexual or excretory activities or organs in terms patently offensive, as measured by contemporary community standards, to any person the communicator believes has not attained age 18.

Amends the Federal criminal code to prohibit specified activities regarding the communication of obscene materials through the use of computers.

Title V: Definitions - Defines various terms used in this Act. Excludes from the definition of "information service" the provision of video programming directly to subscribers.

Title VI: Small Business Complaint Procedure - Directs the FCC to establish procedures for the receipt and review of complaints concerning violations of the Communications Act of 1934 resulting in material financial harm to a provider of telemessaging service or other small business engaged in providing an information service or other telecommunications service.