Legislative Activity

House Passes Cell Phone Unlocking Bill

Last Tuesday, February 25, the House passed the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act (H.R. 1123). The legislation, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is intended to promote consumer choice and wireless competition by permitting consumers to unlock their mobile wireless devices without the approval of their wireless providers. Once a consumer’s phone is unlocked, the device would no longer be exclusive to one service provider, and the consumer would not be required to purchase a new phone when changing carriers. The legislation also would permit third parties to assist consumers in unlocking their cell phones. The legislation now goes to the Senate for consideration. Sen. Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced companion legislation in the Senate on March 11, 2013.

Sen. McCaskill Introduces Patent Troll Legislation

Last Thursday, February 27, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced the Transparency in Assertion of Patents Act. The bill is designed to empower the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against patent assertion entities – or “patent trolls” – that purchase patents and monetize them by demanding licensing fees or settlements, often under threat of litigation, from businesses that use similar technologies. In particular, the bill would require that patent demand letters contain certain basic information, such as a description of the patent at issue, a description of the product or service that allegedly infringes the patent, and the names and contact information for the patent’s owners. The bill also would prohibit certain behaviors such as sending letters threatening litigation without the intent to actually file litigation, or sending letters that lack a reasonable basis in law. The FTC would be authorized to impose monetary penalties in order enforce the proposed rules. The legislation, co-sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), was introduced as the Senate Judiciary Committee continues its work on broader patent reform legislation. The White House also has recently stepped up its calls for legislative action on this issue. The bill is scheduled to be considered at the Senate Commerce Committee’s executive session this Wednesday, March 5.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, March 4: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing titled “Exploring Alternative Solutions on the Internet Sales Tax Issue.”
  • Wednesday, March 5: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act.

Regulatory Activity

FCC concludes Auction of H Block Spectrum

Last Thursday, February 27, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) completed its auction of 176 H Block licenses in the 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz bands. Dish Network was the winning bidder for all of the licenses with total winning bids equaling the auction’s reserve price of $1.564 billion. Proceeds from the auction are expected to help fund the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet), which is responsible for deploying and maintaining a nationwide broadband network for public safety.

FCC Seeks Comment On AT&T’s Technology Transition Experiments

Last Friday, February 28, the FCC released a Public Notice requesting comments on a proposal submitted by AT&T Services, Inc. to conduct service-based experiments involving the transition of two wire centers to all Internet Protocol (IP) services and, in part, to wireless-based service. The proposal was submitted as part of the FCC’s ongoing IP transition proceeding, which is intended to facilitate the telephone industry’s continued transition from legacy transmission platforms and services to fully IP-based services. In its Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, released on January 31, the FCC sought detailed proposals for service-based experiments to help examine the impact of the IP transition on consumers. Comments on AT&T’s proposal are due March 31. Reply comments are due April 10.

Upcoming Events and Deadlines:

  • Wednesday, March 5: Reply comments are due in response to the FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on removing barriers to wireless infrastructure.
  • Wednesday, March 5: Reply comments are due in response to the FCC’s Public Notice seeking updated information on the current state of closed captioning of IP-delivered video clips.
  • Monday, March 10: The FirstNet board will hold meetings of its committees on (1) planning and technology; (2) governance and personnel; (3) finance; and (4) outreach.
  • Tuesday, March 11: The full FirstNet board will convene an open public meeting.