Legislative Activity

GOP Lawmakers Unveil Net Neutrality Bill Restricting FCC Power

On January 16, Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate unveiled draft net neutrality bills that would require broadband providers to follow some net neutrality principles while imposing important new restrictions on the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The legislation proposes to ban Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and wireless carriers from entering into paid prioritization arrangements and from throttling (i.e., slowing or degrading) Internet traffic. The draft bills would prevent the FCC from reclassifying broadband as a utility, a likely sticking point for Democratic lawmakers. The bills also would limit the power of the FCC to write new regulations for ISPs and declare that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, the statutory authority previously relied upon by the FCC in crafting its last round of net neutrality rules, may not be used as “a grant of authority.”

Discussion of the draft bills took place at hearings on January 21 in the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation titled “Protecting the Internet and Consumers through Congressional Action.”

White House Announces Renewed Cybersecurity Legislative Proposals

On January 13, the White House released a set of renewed proposals on cybersecurity that refine similar proposals it made in 2011. The legislative proposals cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics including information sharing, cybercrime, and personal data protection. Specifically, the proposed legislation would allow for improved cybercrime prosecution, including the criminalization of overseas sales of stolen U.S. financial information such as credit card and bank account numbers. The proposal encourages the private sector to share cyber threat information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a means of enabling robust information sharing. The White House also updated its proposal on security breach recording by attempting to harmonize the existing 46 state laws that contain data breach reporting requirements into one comprehensive federal statute requiring companies to notify their employees and customers about security breaches on a timely basis.

Global Internet Freedom Act Introduced

On January 14, Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) introduced the “Global Internet Freedom Act of 2015.” The bill seeks to prohibit the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) from relinquishing its responsibilities for managing certain internet functions under the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). The IANA is responsible for coordinating the assignment of technical Internet protocol parameters, performing various administrative functions associated with Internet domain name system root zone management, and allocating Internet numbering resources. The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

This Week’s Hearings:

Tuesday, January 27: The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Committee will hold a hearing titled “What are the Elements of Sound Data Breach Legislation?”

Regulatory Activity

President Obama Voices Support for Robust Municipal Broadband

On January 14, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, President Obama announced a new broadband policy initiative to encourage high-speed infrastructure investment across the country to bring broadband service to unserved and underserved markets. In particular, President Obama called for an end to state laws that restrict the rights of cities and towns to build their own broadband networks. Currently, 19 states have such laws. The President encouraged the FCC to use its purported statutory authority to preempt those kinds of laws. In addition, President Obama established a new Broadband Opportunity Council, which includes numerous government agencies, to speed up broadband deployment and noted that the Department of Commerce launched BroadbandUSA, an initiative that will offer online and in-person assistance to communities to support local broadband projects.

FCC Announces Agenda for January Open Meeting

The FCC has released its agenda for the January open meeting.  The items to be discussed at the meeting are as follows:

  • Wireless E911 Location Accuracy Requirements:  The FCC will consider a Report and Order to ensure that accurate caller location information is automatically provided to public safety officials for all wireless calls to 911, including for indoor calls, to meet consumer and public safety needs and expectations, and to take advantage of new technological developments.
  • Broadband Deployment:  The FCC will consider a 2015 Broadband Progress Report examining whether advanced telecommunications capability is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. It will consider a Notice of Inquiry asking what immediate action the FCC should take to accelerate the deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market. The FCC will also consider an Order announcing the conclusion of the Ninth Broadband Progress Notice of Inquiry in GN Docket Nos. 12-228 and 14-126.
  • Consumer Help Center:  The FCC will hear a presentation on the new Consumer Help Center that provides an easier-to-use, more consumer-friendly portal for filing and monitoring informal consumer complaints, as well as accessing educational materials.
  • Enforcement Action:  The FCC will consider whether to take an enforcement action.

The meeting will be held on January 29 beginning at 10:30 a.m. in Room TW-C305 at the FCC.

Comment Deadlines Set in MVPD Redefinition Proceeding

On December 19, 2014, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comments on its proposal to revise its interpretation of the term “multichannel video programming distributor” (MVPD) to include within its scope services that make available for purchase multiple linear streams of video programming, regardless of the technology used to distribute the programming. The FCC’s proposal is intended to ensure that incumbent providers remain subject to regulations that apply to MVPDs as those providers transition to Internet protocol delivery and that nascent, web-based video programming services have access to programming sufficient to compete with established providers. Comments are due February 17, and reply comments are due March 2, as reported in the Federal Register.

FCC Affirms Fines for Misuse of Emergency Alert Tones

On January 20, the FCC issued a Forfeiture Order (Order) affirming a proposed $1.4 million fine against Viacom and ESPN for improperly transmitting or causing to be transmitted tones reserved by law for the Emergency Alert System (EAS). The tones were used in trailers for the film “Olympus Has Fallen.”  In the Order, the FCC emphasized the need to preserve the unique purpose of the EAS tones and that misuse of the tones can create a “cry wolf” scenario and desensitize the public to the significance of the tones in a real emergency. In affirming the fines, the FCC rejected Viacom’s argument that it should not be held liable as an “intermediary” for content produced by a third party, finding instead that when the companies delivered their network programming containing the tones to distributors, they transmitted or caused to be transmitted the tones in violation of the statute.

Comment Deadlines Set in 911 Governance and Accountability Proceeding

On November 21, 2014, the FCC released a Policy Statement and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in the 911 Governance and Accountability and Improving 911 Reliability proceedings. The FCC proposes to adopt new rules to prevent and mitigate large-scale 911 outages such as the April 2014 outage detailed in a report by the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. In the Policy Statement, the FCC affirmed its obligation to – in partnership with state regulators and local agencies – ensure accessible, reliable, and resilient 911 communications service, and to take a lead role where multi-state aspects of the 911 architecture or where transitions in technology may cause confusion to stakeholders or the public. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeks comments on proposals to require greater coordination between 911 service providers and additional certification requirements for new 911 capabilities and services. Comments are due March 9, and reply comments are due April 7, as reported in the Federal Register.

FCC Seeks Comments on Petition for Reconsideration of 700 MHz Narrowbanding R&O

On January 14, the FCC released a Public Notice seeking comments on the Telecommunications Industry Association’s (TIA) Petition for Reconsideration (Petition) of part of the FCC’s October 24, 2014 700 MHz Public Safety Narrowbanding Report and Order (Narrowbanding R&O). In the Narrowbanding R&O, the FCC adopted rules to encourage 700 MHz equipment manufacturers to voluntarily obtain Project 25 Compliance Assessment Program (P25 CAP) certification. P25 CAP certification establishes that a device is compliant with the P25 standards used by emergency services and the federal government to ensure the interoperability of digital two-way wireless communications devices made by different manufacturers. Interoperability is required by federal regulations. TIA’s Petition acknowledges the critical need for the P25 standards but requests that the Narrowbanding R&O be amended to reflect that it may not be feasible to have completed all the requirements for P25 CAP certification by the time the manufacturer submits a device for type approval, and, accordingly, that the FCC not condition submission for type approval on P25 CAP certification.