Legislative Activity

Bill on Unwanted Robocalls and Texts Introduced in Senate

On March 8, Sens. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone Calls (HANGUP) Act of 2017. The legislation, a version of which was introduced in 2016, would eliminate a provision of the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act that exempts debt collectors calling or texting on behalf of the federal government, such as those targeting student loans or mortgage debt, from penalties for potential violations under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The legislation also rescinds the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) 2016 declaratory ruling that exempted government contractors from the TCPA. According to a press release on Sen. Markey’s website, the bill “will ensure that government contractors are subject to meaningful rules protecting consumers from abusive robocalls and robotexts.” The bill has not yet been referred to an appropriate committee of jurisdiction in the Senate.

Measures Designed to Increase Transparency in Political Advertising Introduced in House

On March 8, Rep. Ben Lujan (D-NM) introduced two bills that would “increase transparency and openness in the political system by making it easier to determine exactly who is pay for political ads,” according to a press release. The first bill, H.R.1440, the FCC Transparency Act, would require the FCC to make available information concerning purchase of political advertisements in a format that is searchable, sortable, and downloadable. The second bill, H.R.1439, the Keeping Our Campaigns Honest (KOCH) Act, would require the FCC to revise its sponsorship identification rules to require the disclosure by broadcasters of the names of significant donors to persons paying for or furnishing broadcast matter that is political in nature or involving the discussion of a controversial issue of public importance. Both bills have been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee (House Commerce Committee).

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Thursday, March 16: The Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection of the House Commerce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Disrupter Series: Smart Communities.” Witnesses will be announced.

Regulatory Activity

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Nominated for Second Term on Federal Communications Commission

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai announced on March 7 that he had been nominated by President Donald Trump to serve a second term at the Federal Communications Commission. Chairman Pai previously served as a Commissioner of the FCC—he was nominated for his first term at the FCC in 2012 by then-President Barack Obama, and was designated Chairman by President Trump in January of this year. In a statement, Chairman Pai said that he was “deeply honored” to have been nominated for a second term, and that if confirmed by the Senate, he would “continue to work with my colleagues to connect all Americans with digital opportunity, foster innovation, protect consumers, promote public safety, and make the FCC more open and transparent to the American people.” The FCC currently comprises three members, two short of the five spots allocated by statute. Some say that former FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel—a democrat whose term was allowed to expire at the end of last year—might still be in the running for re-nomination to the FCC.

Comments Due May 9 On FCC’s Proposal to Authorize Permissive Use of “Next-Gen” Broadcast TV Standard

On February 24, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to “authorize television broadcasters to use the ‘Next Generation’ broadcast television . . . transmission standard” – ATSC 3.0 – “on a voluntary, market-driven basis, while they continue to deliver current-generation digital television.” Comment deadlines in this proceeding have now been set – comments are due May 9, and reply comments are due June 8, according to a notice in the Federal Register. More information about ATSC 3.0 and the FCC’s NPRM is available in our post here.

FCC To Investigate 911 Service Outage

FCC Chairman Pai has announced that the agency has “launched an investigation into the 911 outage that impacted AT&T wireless subscribers across the United States” on the evening of March 8. Chairman Pai issued a statement that: “Every call to 911 must go through. So when I first learned of [the] outage, I immediately directed FCC staff to contact AT&T about it and the company’s efforts to restore access to emergency services to the American public.” Lisa Fowlkes, Acting Chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, said of the investigation into the outage: “The FCC’s public safety professionals are on the case. . . . We will fully investigate this outage and determine the root cause and its impact.”

FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council to Meet March 15

The FCC’s Communications Security, Reliability, and Interoperability Council (CSRIC) will hold its eighth meeting on March 15, at 1 p.m., according to a Public Notice. The CSRIC is a “federal advisory committee that provides recommendations to the [FCC] regarding best practices and actions the [FCC] can take to help ensure the reliability of communications systems and infrastructure,” according to the Public Notice. The meeting is open to the public and will be held in the Commission Meeting Room at FCC Headquarters, located at 445 12th Street SW, Room TW-C305, Washington, DC 20554, and will be streamed live at fcc.gov/live.