Home > 106th Congressional Bills > H.R. 3615 (rh) To amend the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to ensure improved access to the signals of local television stations by multichannel video providers to all households which desire such service in unserved and underserved rural areas by Dece...

H.R. 3615 (rh) To amend the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to ensure improved access to the signals of local television stations by multichannel video providers to all households which desire such service in unserved and underserved rural areas by Dece...


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                                                       Calendar No. 525
106th CONGRESS
  2d Session
                                H. R. 3615


_______________________________________________________________________


                   IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

                              May 2, 2000

            Received; read twice and placed on the calendar

_______________________________________________________________________

                                 AN ACT


 
   To amend the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 to ensure improved 
  access to the signals of local television stations by multichannel 
video providers to all households which desire such service in unserved 
           and underserved rural areas by December 31, 2006.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the 
United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE; TABLE OF CONTENTS.

    (a) Short Title.--This Act may be cited as the ``Rural Local 
Broadcast Signal Act''.
    (b) Table of Contents.--The table of contents of this Act is as 
follows:

Sec.  1. Short title; table of contents.
Sec.  2. Purpose.
Sec.  3. Rural Television Loan Guarantee Board.
Sec.  4. Approval of loan guarantees.
Sec.  5. Administration of loan guarantees.
Sec.  6. Prohibition on use of funds for spectrum auctions.
Sec.  7. Prohibition on use of funds by incumbent cable operators.
Sec.  8. Annual audit.
Sec.  9. Exemption from must carry requirements.
Sec. 10. Additional availability of broadcast signals in rural areas.
Sec. 11. Improved cellular service in rural areas.
Sec. 12. Technical amendment.
Sec. 13. Definitions.
Sec. 14. Authorizations of appropriations.
Sec. 15. Sunset.

SEC. 2. PURPOSE.

    The purpose of this Act is to facilitate access, on a 
technologically neutral basis and by December 31, 2006, to signals of 
local television stations for households located in unserved areas and 
underserved areas.

SEC. 3. RURAL TELEVISION LOAN GUARANTEE BOARD.

    (a) Establishment.--There is established the Rural Television Loan 
Guarantee Board (in this Act referred to as the ``Board'').
    (b) Members.--
            (1) In general.--Subject to paragraph (2), the Board shall 
        consist of the following members:
                    (A) The Secretary of the Treasury, or the designee 
                of the Secretary.
                    (B) The Secretary of Agriculture, or the designee 
                of the Secretary.
                    (C) The Secretary of Commerce, or the designee of 
                the Secretary.
            (2) Requirement as to designees.--An individual may not be 
        designated a member of the Board under paragraph (1) unless the 
        individual is an officer of the United States pursuant to an 
        appointment by the President, by and with the advice and 
        consent of the Senate.
    (c) Functions of the Board.--
            (1) In general.--The Board shall determine whether or not 
        to approve loan guarantees under this Act. The Board shall make 
        such determinations consistent with the purpose of this Act and 
        in accordance with this subsection and section 4 of this Act.
            (2) Consultation authorized.--
                    (A) In general.--In carrying out its functions 
                under this Act, the Board shall consult with such 
                departments and agencies of the Federal Government as 
                the Board considers appropriate, including the 
                Department of Commerce, the Department of Agriculture, 
                the Department of the Treasury, the Department of 
                Justice, the Department of the Interior, the Board of 
                Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal 
                Communications Commission, the Federal Trade 
                Commission, and the National Aeronautics and Space 
                Administration.
                    (B) Response.--A department or agency consulted by 
                the Board under subparagraph (A) shall provide the 
                Board such expertise and assistance as the Board 
                requires to carry out its functions under this Act.
            (3) Approval by majority vote.--The determination of the 
        Board to approve a loan guarantee under this Act shall be by a 
        vote of a majority of the Board.

SEC. 4. APPROVAL OF LOAN GUARANTEES.

    (a) Authority To Approve Loan Guarantees.--Subject to the 
provisions of this section and consistent with the purpose of this Act, 
the Board may approve loan guarantees under this Act.
    (b) Regulations.--
            (1) Requirements.--The Administrator (as defined in section 
        5 of this Act), under the direction of and for approval by the 
        Board, shall prescribe regulations to implement the provisions 
        of this Act and shall do so not later than 120 days after funds 
        authorized to be appropriated under section 15 of this Act have 
        been appropriated in a bill signed into law.
            (2) Elements.--The regulations prescribed under paragraph 
        (1) shall--
                    (A) set forth the form of any application to be 
                submitted to the Board under this Act;
                    (B) set forth time periods for the review and 
                consideration by the Board of applications to be 
                submitted to the Board under this Act, and for any 
                other action to be taken by the Board with respect to 
                such applications;
                    (C) provide appropriate safeguards against the 
                evasion of the provisions of this Act;
                    (D) set forth the circumstances in which an 
                applicant, together with any affiliate of an applicant, 
                shall be treated as an applicant for a loan guarantee 
                under this Act;
                    (E) include requirements that appropriate parties 
                submit to the Board any documents and assurances that 
                are required for the administration of the provisions 
                of this Act; and
                    (F) include such other provisions consistent with 
                the purpose of this Act as the Board considers 
                appropriate.
            (3) Construction.--(A) Nothing in this Act shall be 
        construed to prohibit the Board from requiring, to the extent 
        and under circumstances considered appropriate by the Board, 
        that affiliates of an applicant be subject to certain 
        obligations of the applicant as a condition to the approval or 
        maintenance of a loan guarantee under this Act.
            (B) If any provision of this Act or the application of such 
        provision to any person or entity or circumstance is held to be 
        invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, the remainder of 
        this Act, or the application of such provision to such person 
        or entity or circumstance other than those as to which it is 
        held invalid, shall not be affected thereby.
    (c) Authority Limited by Appropriations Acts.--The Board may 
approve loan guarantees under this Act only to the extent provided for 
in advance in appropriations Acts.
    (d) Requirements and Criteria Applicable to Approval.--
            (1) In general.--The Board shall utilize the underwriting 
        criteria developed under subsection (g), and any relevant 
        information provided by the departments and agencies with which 
        the Board consults under section 3, to determine which loans 
        may be eligible for a loan guarantee under this Act.
            (2) Prerequisites.--In addition to meeting the underwriting 
        criteria under paragraph (1), a loan may not be guaranteed 
        under this Act unless--
                    (A) the loan is made to finance the acquisition, 
                improvement, enhancement, construction, deployment, 
                launch, or rehabilitation of the means by which local 
                television broadcast signals will be delivered 
                principally to an unserved area or an underserved area 
                (or both);
                    (B) the proceeds of the loan will not be used for 
                operating, advertising, or promotion expenses;
                    (C) the proposed project, as determined by the 
                National Telecommunications and Information 
                Administration, is not likely to have a substantial 
                adverse impact on competition that outweighs the 
                benefits of improving access to the signals of a local 
                television station in an unserved area or an 
                underserved area (or both), and is commercially viable;
                    (D)(i) the loan (including Other Debt, as defined 
                in subsection (f)(2)(B))--
                            (I) is provided by any entity engaged in 
                        the business of commercial lending--
                                    (aa) if the loan is made in 
                                accordance with loan-to-one-borrower 
                                and affiliate transaction restrictions 
                                to which the entity is subject under 
                                applicable law; or
                                    (bb) if item (aa) does not apply, 
                                the loan is made only to a borrower 
                                that is not an affiliate of the entity 
                                and only if the amount of the loan and 
                                all outstanding loans by that entity to 
                                that borrower and any of its affiliates 
                                does not exceed 10 percent of the net 
                                equity of the entity; or
                            (II) is provided by a nonprofit 
                        corporation, including the National Rural 
                        Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation, 
                        engaged primarily in commercial lending, if the 
                        Board determines that such nonprofit 
                        corporation has one or more issues of 
                        outstanding long-term debt that is rated within 
                        the highest 3 rating categories of a nationally 
                        recognized statistical rating organization, 
                        and, if the Board determines that the making of 
                        the loan by such nonprofit corporation will 
                        cause a decline in the debt rating mentioned 
                        above, the Board at its discretion may 
                        disapprove the loan guarantee on this basis;
                    (ii)(I) no loan (including Other Debt as defined in 
                subsection (f)(2)(B)) may be made for purposes of this 
                Act by a governmental entity or affiliate thereof, or 
                by the Federal Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, or 
                any institution supervised by the Office of Federal 
                Housing Enterprise Oversight, the Federal Housing 
                Finance Board, or any affiliate of such entities;
                    (II) any loan (including Other Debt as defined in 
                subsection (f)(2)(B)) must have terms, in the judgment 
                of the Board, that are consistent in material respects 
                with the terms of similar obligations in the private 
                capital market;
                    (III) for purposes of clause (i)(I)(bb), the term 
                ``net equity'' means the value of the total assets of 
                the entity, less the total liabilities of the entity, 
                as recorded under generally accepted accounting 
                principles for the fiscal quarter ended immediately 
                prior to the date on which the subject loan is 
                approved; and
                    (E) repayment of the loan is required to be made 
                within a term of the lesser of--
                            (i) 25 years from the date of the execution 
                        of the loan; or
                            (ii) the economically useful life, as 
                        determined by the Board or in consultation with 
                        persons or entities deemed appropriate by the 
                        Board, of the primary assets to be used in the 
                        delivery of the signals concerned; and
                    (F) the loan meets any additional criteria 
                developed under subsection (g).
            (3) Protection of united states financial interests.--The 
        Board may not approve the guarantee of a loan under this Act 
        unless--
                    (A) the Board has been given documentation, 
                assurances, and access to information, persons, and 
                entities necessary, as determined by the Board, to 
                address issues relevant to the review of the loan by 
                the Board for purposes of this Act; and
                    (B) the Board makes a determination in writing 
                that--
                            (i) to the best of its knowledge upon due 
                        inquiry, the assets, facilities, or equipment 
                        covered by the loan will be utilized 
                        economically and efficiently;
                            (ii) the terms, conditions, security, and 
                        schedule and amount of repayments of principal 
                        and the payment of interest with respect to the 
                        loan protect the financial interests of the 
                        United States and are reasonable;
                            (iii) to the extent possible, the value of 
                        collateral provided by an applicant is at least 
                        equal to the unpaid balance of the loan amount 
                        covered by the loan guarantee (the ``Amount'' 
                        for purposes of this clause); and if the value 
                        of collateral provided by an applicant is less 
                        than the Amount, the additional required 
                        collateral is provided by any affiliate of the 
                        applicant; and if the combined value of 
                        collateral provided by an applicant and any 
                        affiliate is not at least equal to the Amount, 
                        the collateral from such affiliate represents 
                        all of such affiliate's assets;
                            (iv) all necessary and required regulatory 
                        and other approvals, spectrum rights, and 
                        delivery permissions have been received for the 
                        loan, the project under the loan, and the Other 
                        Debt, if any, under subsection (f)(2)(B);
                            (v) the loan would not be available on 
                        reasonable terms and conditions without a loan 
                        guarantee under this Act; and
                            (vi) repayment of the loan can reasonably 
                        be expected.
    (e) Considerations.--
            (1) Type of market.--
                    (A) Priority considerations.--To the maximum extent 
                practicable, the Board shall give priority in the 
                approval of loan guarantees under this Act in the 
                following order: First, to projects that will serve the 
                greatest number of households in unserved areas and the 
                number of States (including noncontiguous States); and 
                second, to projects that will serve the greatest number 
                of households in underserved areas. In each instance, 
                the Board shall consider the project's estimated cost 
                per household to be served.
                    (B) Prohibition.--The Board may not approve a loan 
                guarantee under this Act for a project that is designed 
                primarily to serve one or more of the 40 most populated 
                designated market areas (as that term is defined in 
                section 122(j) of title 17, United States Code).
            (2) Other considerations.--The Board shall consider other 
        factors, which shall include projects that would--
                    (A) offer a separate tier of local broadcast 
                signals;

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