Legislative Activity

House Communications Subcommittee Approves STELA Reuthorization Bill

Last Tuesday, March 25, the House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology approved a bipartisan version of legislation to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA). The updated version leaves open the question of blocking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from adopting new rules to attribute ownership of television broadcast stations based on joint sales agreements (JSAs). The FCC plans to consider such rules at its open meeting on Monday, March 31. The previous Republican draft of the bill would have prevented the FCC from taking any action on making JSAs attributable unless such rules were adopted as part of an overall resolution of the overdue 2010 Quadrennial Review of ownership rules. This provision remains in the bipartisan version of the bill but was placed in brackets for further consideration by the full House Commerce Committee. The draft bill’s provision eliminating the FCC’s set-top integration ban also was amended to allow the FCC to reinstate the ban on any successor to the CableCARD regime.

Sen. Franken Reintroduces Bill To Ban “Stalking Apps”

Last Thursday, March 27, Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, reintroduced the Location Privacy Protection Act of 2014. The bill would ban so-called “stalking apps,” which can be placed on users’ smartphones to secretly track their location. The legislation includes provisions that would require that companies obtain users’ permission before collecting location data off of their smartphones, tablets, or in-car navigation devices, and before sharing that information with others. Any company that collects the location data of 1,000 or more devices would be required to publicly disclose the data they collect, what they do with it, who they share it with, and how consumers can stop that collection or sharing. The bill also would ban the development, operation, and sale of GPS stalking apps. A prior version of the bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012 but was not passed by the full Senate.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, April 1: The Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet will hold a hearing on STELA reauthorization.
  • Wednesday, April 2: The House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing titled “Ensuring the Security, Stability, Resilience, and Freedom of the Global Internet.”
  • Thursday, April 3: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet will hold a hearing titled “Should the Department of Commerce Relinquish Direct Oversight Over ICANN?”.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Open Meeting

The FCC’s agenda for its open meeting on Monday, March 31 includes the following items:

  • The FCC will consider an order implementing rule revisions and clarifications intended to facilitate fair and effective completion of retransmission consent negotiations. Such revisions are expected to include a restriction on television broadcast stations’ ability to engage in joint retransmission consent negotiations. The FCC also will consider a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNRPM) proposing to eliminate the network non-duplication and syndicated exclusivity rules.
  • The FCC will consider (1) an FNPRM that initiates the 2014 Quadrennial Review of broadcast ownership rules, addresses issues referred to the FCC by the Third Circuit’s remand of the 2008 Diversity Order; (2) a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to define and require the disclosure of certain sharing agreements between broadcast television stations; and (3) a Report and Order is expected to determine that certain television joint sales agreements result in attributable station ownership interests for purposes of complying with the FCC’s broadcast ownership limits.
  • The FCC will consider a First Report and Order that would revise rules to make 100 MHz of the 5 GHz UNII-1 band unlicensed spectrum more useful for consumers and businesses, and reduce the potential for harmful interference to incumbent users.
  • The FCC will consider a Report and Order that would adopt allocation, licensing, service, and technical rules to make available for auction 65 MHz of AWS-3 spectrum for flexible use services, including mobile broadband.

FCC Commissioner Urges FCC To Provide TCPA Clarity

Last Tuesday, March 25, FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly posted a blog entry titled “TCPA: It is Time to Provide Clarity” on the FCC’s blog. In the post, he explained his view that while the FCC’s efforts related to the TCPA have been generally successful, the statute requires regulators to understand and appreciate the balance between “protecting consumers form unwanted communications and enabling legitimate businesses to reach out to consumers that wish to be contacted.” Citing TCPA rules that have become “complex and unclear,” Commissioner O’Rielly urged the FCC to act as quickly as possible to address the backlog of petitions asking the FCC to clarify whether a particular service or method of communicating would comply with the TCPA. Asserting that some of the FCC’s prior interpretations of the TCPA may have contributed to the rules’ complexity by enlarging the scope of potential violations, Commissioner O’Rielly also urged the FCC to “take a hard look at its own precedent.” The blog post came only days before the FCC released two new orders clarifying certain provisions of the TCPA.