This week in Capitol Hill hearings focuses solely on meetings happening at the U.S. Senate. The one hearing scheduled at the U.S. House of Representatives, which was to explore whether the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was addressing small business concerns regarding 21st century telecom systems, has been postponed to a later date.
In the Senate, the Commerce Committee will hold hearings on automated system for rail vehicles and challenges in the creation of rural infrastructure for broadband Internet. The Indian Affairs Committee is also exploring broadband challenges and the Superfund Subcommittee will discuss the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) implementation of science transparency rules.
Wednesday, October 3rd
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation – Implementation of Positive Train Control
At 10:00 AM on Wednesday in 253 Russell Senate Office Building. Positive train control (PTC) technologies are designed to monitor and control the movement of trains to reduce the risk of human error through automation. This hearing follows a few weeks after the House Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials held its own hearing on September 13th to discuss the rate at which PTC technologies had been implemented into the United States’ railroad system. This hearing will also discuss the current status of PTC implementation along with anticipated compliance with statutes mandating PTC infrastructure goals and the challenges facing efforts to install and operationalize PTC systems. The hearing’s witness panel will consist of Ronald Batory, Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration; Susan Fleming, Director of Physical Infrastructure Issues, Government Accountability Office; Kevin Corbett, Executive Director, NJ Transit; and Scot Naparstek, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Amtrak.
Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management, and Regulatory Oversight – Oversight of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Implementation of Sound and Transparent Science in Regulation
At 2:15 PM on Wednesday in 406 Dirksen Senate Office Building. This April, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt signed a proposed rule designed to increase public transparency of the regulatory science underlying actions taken by the EPA to enable independent validation of that scientific information. The new rule was enacted by the agency in response to a pair of executive orders signed by President Donald Trump in March 2017, one to identify regulations based on data or methods that are insufficiently transparent to meet the standard of reproducibility, the second to ensure that environmental regulations are developed through transparent processes employing the best available peer-reviewed science and economics. The witness panel for this hearing has not yet been announced.
Senate Committee on Indian Affairs – Oversight Hearing on “GAO Reports Relating to Broadband Internet Availability on Tribal Lands”
At 2:30 PM on Wednesday in 628 Dirksen Senate Office Building. On September 28th, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on Internet broadband access on Indian tribal lands, finding that 35 percent of Americans living on tribal lands lacked access to broadband service. Partnerships between tribes and private broadband providers or regional consortiums are rare and tribes often have problems meeting federal funding requirements such as completing feasibility studies or obtaining matching funds for projects. The GAO’s report recommended that the Rural Utilities Service help tribes to identify barriers to funding access and then overcome those barriers. The witness panel for this hearing has not yet been announced.
Thursday, October 4th
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, & Transportation – Broadband: Opportunities and Challenges in Rural America
At 10:00 AM on Thursday in 253 Russell Senate Office Building. News reports published near the end of August indicated that the reverse broadband auction coordinated by the FCC resulted in 103 auction winners who promised to build out broadband infrastructure across rural areas of the United States that will reach speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps). Federal subsidies of $1.5 billion have been offered through that auction and its expected that more than 700,000 rural homes and small businesses, representing a population of about 1.7 million Americans, will receive broadband Internet services as a result. Still, data released recently by the Pew Research Center indicate that 24 percent of American adults living in rural areas find that high-speed Internet access is a challenge in their community. The hearing’s witness panel includes Godfrey Enjady, General Manager, Mescalero Apache Telecom, Inc.; Denny Law, General Manager and CEO, Golden West Telecommunications; Mona Thompson, General Manager, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Telephone Authority; and Grant Spellmeyer, Vice President, Federal Affairs and Public Policy, U.S. Cellular Corp.