Legislative Activity

Retransmission Consent and Television Blackouts

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) circulated draft legislation entitled the Video CHOICE (Consumers Have Options in Choosing Entertainment) Act, which intends “to eliminate television blackouts caused by retransmission consent disputes,” among other policy goals.

Permanent Extension of Internet Tax Freedom Act Introduced

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Goodlatte (R-VA) introduced H.R. 3086, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, along with a bipartisan group of lawmakers including Rep. Eshoo, the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Ranking Member for Communications and Technology. The legislation would permanently codify the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which was enacted in 1998 to prevent localities from charging access fees to Internet service providers. Companion legislation of the same name (S. 1431) was introduced in the Senate earlier this year by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and John Thune (R-SD) on August 1. The existing moratorium is set to expire on November 1, 2014.

House Satellite Reauthorization Hearing

The House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on Wednesday, September 11 titled “Innovation Versus Regulation in Video Marketplace,” which addressed a number of video policy issues within the framework of the upcoming reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA). Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) announced his intention to circulate a discussion draft of legislation to reauthorize provisions of the legislation under the Committee’s jurisdiction by no later than the end of the first quarter in 2014.

House Satellite Compulsory License Hearing

The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Tuesday, September 10 titled “Satellite Television Laws in Title 17,” which, like the Energy and Commerce Committee’s hearing, addressed the compulsory license provisions of STELA under the committee’s jurisdiction in addition to video policy issues ancillary to the reauthorization of STELA. During the hearing, Chairman Goodlatte announced that the committee will weigh two “core factors” as it considers reauthorization of the compulsory license provisions under STELA: (1) “ensuring that copyright owners maintain the right to distribute their intellectual property as they choose;” and (2) “ensuring competition in the marketplace.”

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday, September 18: The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to consider the nomination of Michael O’Rielly to serve as a commissioner at the Federal Communications Commission and the nomination of Terrell McSweeny to serve as a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Wednesday, September 18: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a classified oversight hearing titled “Oversight of the Administration’s use of FISA Authorities.”

Regulatory Activity

FCC Cybersecurity forum: Safeguarding Children on the Internet

On Tuesday, October 1, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will hold a forum and conduct technology demonstrations with a focus on safeguarding children on the Internet. Presenters will include teenagers, parents, educators and subject matter experts, who will discuss how to identify and minimize risky online behavior. The forum is open to the public and begins at 10:00 a.m.

Net neutrality oral arguments

On Monday, September 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit heard oral arguments in Verizon’s appeal of the net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC in 2011. The FCC faced sharp questioning from the Court regarding the agency’s authority to enforce its net neutrality rules, and at least two of the three judges on the panel hearing the appeal appeared inclined to overturn at least portions of the regulations. In particular, Judges Laurence H. Silberman and David S. Tatel expressed skepticism that the FCC has the legal authority to prohibit Internet service providers from discriminating against websites. A separate provision of the regulations that bars Internet service providers from blocking websites faced less skepticism. Verizon’s argument that the net neutrality rules violate its First Amendment rights gained little traction with the Court.

Upcoming Deadlines and Events:

  • Monday, September 16: Initial comments are due in response to the FCC’s E-rate modernization Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
  • Tuesday, September 17: The Federal Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age will hold a meeting.
  • Wednesday, September 18: Reply comments are due in response to the FCC’s Further NPRM to ensure functional equivalence for all eligible Video Relay Service (VRS) users and proposals to minimize VRS fraud, waste, and abuse.
  • Wednesday, September 18: Comments are due in response to the NTIA’s Notice of Inquiry on a common format for federal entity spectrum transition plans.
  • Friday, September 20: This is the deadline for payment of FY 2013 FCC Regulatory Fees.
  • Monday, September 23: Reply comments are due in response to the FCC’s air-ground mobile broadband NPRM.
  • Thursday, September 26: The FCC will hold an Open Meeting.