Capital Thinking: Technology and Communications

Legislative Activity

White Paper Released On Modernizing The Communications Act

Last Wednesday, January 8, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) released the first in a series of planned white papers as part of their effort to review and update the Communications Act. The white paper, titled Modernizing the Communications Act, requests public comment on a number of questions, including whether the current structure of the Communications Act works for the modern communications sector, which provisions should be retained and which should be eliminated, whether the structure and jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should be changed, and whether the distinction between information and telecommunications services continues to serve a purpose. The chairmen described the white paper as the first step in a multi-year, open and transparent effort. Comments may be submitted until January 31.

Sen. Franken Calls For Location Privacy Law

Last Monday, January 6, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) repeated his call for the adoption of new location privacy legislation. Citing a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), he argued that legislation is needed to strengthen privacy protections for consumer data collected by location-based services. In particular, the GAO report found that many automobile manufacturers, device companies, and app developers collect and share consumer data from in-car navigation systems despite having broad or vague data disclosure policies. Sen. Franken previously introduced the Location Privacy Protection Act (S. 1223), which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012 but never received a floor vote in the Senate.

Sen. Leahy Reintroduces Data Privacy Bill

Last Wednesday, January 8, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) reintroduced the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act, aimed at strengthening protections for Americans’ personal information and privacy. The bill, reintroduced in the wake of the recent data breach involving credit card information of Target customers, seeks to establish a national standard for data breach notification and would require businesses to safeguard consumers’ personal information from cyber threats. In particular, the bill would impose criminal penalties for individuals who intentionally conceal a data breach that causes economic damage to consumers, and would require companies to implement internal policies to protect the personal data they collect. Sen. Leahy first introduced the bill in 2005 and has reintroduced the legislation in each of the last four Congresses. The bill’s reintroduction was cosponsored by Sens. Franken, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT). Separately, Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) also called for legislative action on data privacy in light of the Target data breach.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, January 14: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Report of the President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.”
  • Tuesday, January 14: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet will hold a hearing titled “The Scope of Copyright Protection.”
  • Wednesday, January 15: The House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing titled “#CommActUpdate: Perspectives from Former FCC Chairmen.”

Regulatory Activity

FCC Announces Tentative Agenda For January Open Meeting

Last Thursday, January 9, the FCC released the tentative agenda for its January 30 open meeting. The FCC is scheduled to consider the following items:

  1. A Report and Order, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), and Notice of Inquiry inviting experiments to examine how to best accelerate technology transitions to an all-IP network while preserving and enhancing the values consumers expect from communications networks.
  2. A policy statement and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNPRM) that set forth the agency’s policy goals for text-to-911 service and request comment on proposals for the implementation of these goals.
  3. An update on the timeline and project plan for the broadcast television incentive auction.
  4. A presentation from the staff working group on FCC process reform.

Upcoming Meetings And Deadlines:

  • Monday, January 13: Reply comments are due in response to the FCC’s FNPRM proposing additional measures intended to ensure that interstate and intrastate rates for inmate calling services are reasonable and fair.
  • Monday, January 13: Reply comments are due in response to the FCC’s NPRM proposing to eliminate the UHF discount in the FCC’s national television multiple ownership rule.
  • Friday, January 17: Initial comments are due in response to the FCC’s NPRM proposing to improve wireless network reliability during disasters by requiring wireless service providers to submit, on a daily basis during and immediately after disasters, the percentage of operational cell sites for each county within a designated disaster area.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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