Legislative Activity

Do Not Track Kids Act Of 2013 Introduced

Last Thursday, November 14, the Do Not Track Kids Act of 2013 (S. 1700 and H.R. 3481) was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), and in the House by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL). The legislation would amend the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) by extending and updating provisions relating to the collection, use, and disclosure of children’s personal information online. In particular, the bill would extend certain protections under COPPA from users under the age of 13 to include users under the age of 16.

Chairman Rockefeller Introduces Consumer Choice In Online Video Act

Last Tuesday, November 12, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, introduced the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act. The legislation directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop a new classification for over-the-top service providers such as Netflix, Hulu and Aereo, among others. The bill intends to promote consumer access to online video content by, among other provisions, preventing a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) that offers broadband services from improperly using its own customer premises equipment to discriminate against the services provided by any online video distributor, or improperly influencing the decision of any other entity to sell video programming to any online video distributor. Additionally, the bill specifically calls for transparency in usage-based broadband pricing and seeks to create greater competition for MVPDs by ensuring that technology-neutral standards are adopted and content is available to all platforms at comparable pricing. The legislation was greeted enthusiastically by consumer groups and the Internet community while broadcasters and cable operators voiced concerns about copyright protections and overly restrictive aspects of the legislation.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Sports Blackout Legislation

Last Wednesday, November 13, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) introduced the Furthering Access and Networks for Sports Act of 2013. The legislation would eliminate the FCC’s sports blackout rules and amend the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 by preventing professional sports leagues from imposing blackouts during broadcast negotiations as a condition of receiving the legislation’s antitrust exemptions. Introduction of the legislation followed the release of a notice of proposed rulemaking by the FCC, proposing to end the FCC’s sports blackout rules.

Senate Commerce Committee Approves FTC Nomination

Last Tuesday, November 12, the Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved the nomination of Terrell McSweeny to serve as a commissioner on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The nomination now advances for consideration by the full Senate.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, November 19: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet will hold a hearing on content delivery and business models in the digital age.
  • Tuesday, November 19: The House Commerce Subcommittee on Health will hold a hearing to examine the impact of federal regulation on mobile medical apps and other health software.
  • Thursday, November 21: The House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing titled “Oversight of FirstNet and the Advancement of Public Safety Wireless Communications.”

Regulatory Activity

FCC Open Meeting

At its open meeting last Thursday, November 14, the FCC:

  • Released a declaratory ruling clarifying its policies and procedures for reviewing transactions in the broadcasting industry that would result in foreign ownership stakes exceeding the statutory 25 percent benchmark. Intended to remove obstacles to new capital investment, the ruling clarifies the commission’s intent to review applications proposing such foreign ownership on a case-by-case basis;
  • Received an update from commission staff on universal service reform implementation; and
  • Unveiled its first public version of the FCC Speed Test app, an open source, crowdsourcing program that allows consumers using Android-based smartphones to assess mobile broadband performance.

FCC Chairman Pushes Consumer Rights To Unlock Cell Phones

Last Thursday, November 14, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler sent a letter to the president of CTIA – The Wireless Association, urging the wireless industry to voluntarily adopt a policy under which carriers would allow consumers to unlock their mobile wireless devices once their contracts are fulfilled. Chairman Wheeler noted that the FCC has been working with CTIA on such a policy for eight months and that the only point on which they have not yet reached agreement is whether carriers should be required to affirmatively notify customers when their devices are eligible for unlocking and/or automatically unlock devices when eligible, without an additional fee. The chairman warned that the wireless industry could be subject to regulation on this issue if it does not act voluntarily.

This Week’s Deadlines And Meetings:

  • Monday, November 18: The FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau will host a public workshop to discuss recent developments in the use of wireless technology to contact emergency services.
  • Monday, November 18: Reply comments are due in response to the FCC’s public notice proposing a preliminary catalog of expenses for which broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors could be reimbursed following the broadcast spectrum incentive auction.
  • Monday, November 18: Initial comments are due in response to the FCC’s public notice seeking comment to refresh the record on cramming, the unlawful practice of placing unauthorized charges on consumers’ telephone bills.
  • Tuesday, November 19: The FTC will hold a public workshop to explore consumer privacy and security issues posed by the growing connectivity of devices.