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Issue Watch

2010 Issue Watch

The Net Neutrality Coup

The Federal Communications Commission's new "net neutrality" rules, passed on a partisan 3-2 vote yesterday, represent a huge win for a slick lobbying campaign run by liberal activist groups and foundations. The losers are likely to be consumers who will see innovation and investment chilled by regulations that treat the Internet like a public utility.  There's little evidence the public is demanding these rules, which purport to stop the non-problem of phone and cable companies blocking access to websites and interfering with Internet traffic.  Over 300 House and Senate members have signed a letter opposing FCC Internet regulation, and there will undoubtedly be even less support in the next Congress....  » Full Story

FCC Adopts First Open Internet Regulations

The FCC voted along strict party lines Tuesday (Dec. 21) to adopt regulations on Internet access.  The meeting was characterized by cordial delivery of scathing dissents by the Republicans and a less-than enthusiastic concurrence by swing vote Michael Copps, who said he had seriously considered dissenting before concluding it was at least a first step in the right direction.  Republican commissioners said the order would be overturned by the courts, as the FCC's BitTorrent ruling had been.  The rules prevent Internet service providers from discriminating against content and applications, subject to reasonable network management, and will enforce that on a case-by-case basis with what FCC officials have said will be a fast-track complaint process.  Providers must tell consumers how they are managing their networks....  » Full Story

Baker: Net Neutrality Move
Would Be 'Reckless and Inappropriate'

FCC Republicans are solidly against the network neutrality proposal.  Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker said the FCC should not take any action before the new Congress convenes (in January) and even then only after it gets the go-ahead from that Congress.  "This is a mistake," she said in a statement.  "We do not have authority to act.  The new majority of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce has asked the Commission not to circulate this Order, and a clear majority of all Members of Congress has expressed concern with our Internet policies.  Whether the Internet should be regulated is a decision best left to the directly elected representatives of the American people."  Throwing a couple of rhetorical punches at the chairman's proposal, she said it would be "reckless and inappropriate for the Commission to act upon the Chairman's controversial and partisan proposal." » Full Story

FCC Chief Backs Usage-Based Broadband Pricing

WASHINGTON—The top U.S. telecommunications regulator endorsed the use of metered-broadband Internet pricing Wednesday as he formally unveiled proposed rules to prevent Internet providers from interfering with traffic.  Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said the rules would "preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet" by providing more transparency, requiring basic no-discrimination rules for Internet providers.  The rules would bar Internet providers from deliberately tampering with legal Internet traffic and would provide some limited protections for wireless Internet users.  Mr. Genachowski said he was putting the rules up for a Dec. 21 vote.  » Full Story

Upton Memo: 'FCC Regulatory Compass Must Be Broken'

Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) is circulating a memo this week illustrating his conservative credentials with a pledge to forestall the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net-neutrality ambitions.  Upton is a front-runner in the heated battle to chair the Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over telecom policy.  He is running against colleagues who have positioned him as too centrist, including Reps. Joe Barton (R-Texas), John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.).  In a memo obtained by The Hill, Upton pushes back on questions about his conservative credentials.  He lays out an agenda for the powerful committee, strongly emphasizing Republican goals....  » Full Story

Image Rights vs. Free Speech in Video Game Suit

When Sam Keller, a former quarterback at Arizona State, sued the video game publisher Electronic Arts last year, he was seeking compensation for himself and other college athletes whose names were not used but whose images he contended were being illegally used by the company.  But to the media conglomerates, athletes, actors, First Amendment advocates and others who have recently weighed in on the case, Keller's lawsuit is about much more than video games.  The outcome of a recent appeal filed by Electronic Arts, their lawyers say, could rewrite the rules that dictate how much ownership public figures have over their images — and the extent to which outside parties, including media and entertainment companies — can profit from them.... » Full Story

Rep. Boucher Loses, Opens Uncertainty for Tech, Telecom Legislation

For the tech and telecom industries, the loss of Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) to Republican Morgan Griffith in midterm elections Tuesday creates legislative uncertainty.  With nearly three decades in office, Boucher has become a veteran voice on policy issues as chairman of the House Communications, Technology and Internet subcommittee.  In the past year, he introduced Internet privacy legislation that balances business interests in data collection with requirements that companies get voluntary approval from users before collecting the most sensitive information.  He supported net neutrality and co-sponsored a bill to reform a $7 billion rural farm program.  » Full Story

Every Candidate Supporting PCCC's Net-Neutrality Pledge Lost

Every House and Senate candidate who signed a pledge to support net-neutrality rules lost his or her election on Tuesday, according to an analysis by Scott Cleland, a net-neutrality opponent.  Ninety-five Democrats signed the pledge, released last week.  It was organized by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC).  The pledge said signers would support strong net-neutrality rules on wireless and wired broadband networks. » Full Story

Supreme Court Appears Split on California Video Game Violence Law

Washington — The Supreme Court debated sex, violence and free speech Tuesday, as several justices strongly argued for breaking new ground and upholding a California law that would forbid the sale of violent video games to those under age 18.  "Why isn't it common sense," said Justice Stephen G. Breyer, that if the law can forbid selling pictures of a "naked woman" to a young teen, it can also forbid the sale of scenes "of gratuitous torture of children" in a video game?  Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. agreed, citing scenes from the game Postal 2 in which girls are smashed in the face with a shovel and their bodies set on fire.  "We don't have a tradition in this country" of exposing children to that kind of graphic violence, he said.  But in a case that seemed to break the usual liberal-conservative alliances, Justice Antonin Scalia clashed with Roberts and Breyer and argued that the 1st Amendment's protection for freedom of speech has never been applied to restrict violence in the media.  » Full Story

Rep. Waxman Backs FCC Reclassification as Legislative Effort Breaks Down

In a dramatic move, Rep. Henry Waxman on Sept. 29 said the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should use its power to regulate Internet service providers.  Waxman's (D-Calif.) decision, which came after Republicans said they could not support legislation he was drafting, could change the debate over a cornerstone of President Obama's policies on technology and the Internet.  The move by the powerful chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee gives political cover to the FCC to move forward with "reclassification" of Internet services, which could place cable- and telephone-company broadband businesses under certain telephone strictures.  » Full Story

Sources Say OIC Not Supporting Waxman Net-Neutrality Bill

Disagreements in a leading coalition of Internet companies are preventing the organization from supporting net-neutrality legislation that House Energy and Commerce Chairman Henry Waxman (Calif.) may introduce, sources said late Tuesday.  Several people with knowledge of the group said leading voices in the Open Internet Coalition (OIC) hoped to support the bill as it was developed this month, but a lack of consensus was clear as the latest drafts arose.  As of Tuesday night, the coalition had decided that it is not supporting or working against the legislation, they said.  The Open Internet Coalition (OIC) provided input to congressional staff as the legislation developed, along with consumer advocates, phone and cable companies.  OIC includes Internet companies with a variety of interests, including Google, IAC, Amazon, Facebook, Skype and many others.  It also includes consumer groups.  » Full Story

No FCC Rulemaking Authority on Latest Net Neutrality Bill

The latest version of the House net neutrality bill will take away the FCC's rulemaking authority on the issue, a source familiar with the matter told Tech Daily Dose.  Without rulemaking authority on the possible legislation, the commission's ability to enforce compliance is substantially weakened.  The bill would also prohibit the commission from reclassifying broadband under title II of the Communications Act, a more stringent regulatory regime, until the measure sunsets in two years. Other provisions of the proposal include a non-discrimination principle for wired networks and for wireless devices, no blocking of websites and competing voice applications. » Full Story

FCC Launches Analysis of Business Broadband Marketplace

The FCC is issuing a public notice to "improve the FCC's understanding of business broadband needs," calling it the "next step" advancing the FCC's small business broadband agenda.  It is also the agenda of the Obama administration.  Vice President Joe Biden has been something of an evangelist for the power of broadband to turn small businesses into global ones, in the process creating and saving jobs and boosting competitiveness.  FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the notice in a speech Sept. 14 to a meeting with eBay's top online sellers. » Full Story

Former FCC Chairman Criticizes 'Religious' Commitment to Net Neutrality

While the FCC and the White House have both remained relatively mum on Google and Verizon's proposal, former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell discussed net neutrality and the two companies' "open Internet" policy framework on Fox Business yesterday.  Powell, appointed to the FCC by President Clinton and made chairman of the FCC by President George W. Bush, weighed in on the controversial Google and Verizon framework that critics argue could create a tiered Internet and be "the end of the Internet as we know it."  » Full Story

ACA to FCC: Third Way Would Be Big Burden

The American Cable Association says that reclassifying broadband as a Title II service will have immediate and significant economic impact on the small and mid-sized cable/telecom companies it represents.  That came in reply comments filed late Thursday (Aug. 13) at the commission.  ACA argued that while the other side of the Title II debate is frequently characterized as corporate behemoths and big phone companies, the impact would be just as great on its members and arguably more so given their relatively smaller size.  » Full Story

NCTA to FCC: First, Do No Harm

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association says the FCC should adopt a sort of Hippocratic oath for broadband – above all, do no harm – and that applying common carrier regs to Internet access would definitely violate it.  In reply comments filed Aug. 13 with the FCC, NCTA says that if there is one conclusion that should be drawn from initial comments on the FCC's proposed "third way" Title II reclassification of Internet access service, it is that it would be a "very bad idea" to impose the full force of those regs.  » Full Story

GOP Senators Move To Block FCC on Net Neutrality

Seven Republican senators have announced a plan to curb the Obama administration's push to impose controversial Net neutrality regulations on the Internet.  On July 21, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and six other GOP senators introduced legislation that would dramatically limit the Federal Communications Commission's ability to regulate broadband providers.  "The FCC's rush to takeover the Internet is just the latest example of the need for fundamental reform to protect consumers," DeMint said in a statement.  Without this legislation, DeMint said, the FCC will "impose unnecessary, antiquated regulations on the Internet."  » Full Story

FCC National Broadband Plan Gets White House Support

The FCC has been under intense political and industry pressure ever since Congress directed the agency to come up with a National Broadband Plan to guide the modernization and expansion of broadband Internet access in the United States.  The White House is stepping in, though, to support the FCC plan and proceed with freeing up unused frequency spectrum for use in expanding wireless broadband.  » Full Story

FCC Will Tame the Internet – Or Kill It

For almost two decades the U.S. government has kept its meddlesome mudhooks off the Internet, freeing it to spread its kudzu-like tendrils into the global economy.  And it worked.  The FCC took a big step this week to end all of that.  For the first time, the Federal Communications Commission proposes using a set of 75-year-old phone regulations to oversee the Net of the 21st century and have a say in the prices that companies like AT&T and Comcast can charge.  And set rules for what traffic they must carry.  (Comcast is acquiring a 51 percent stake in NBC Universal, CNBC's parent company.  The deal is awaiting regulatory approval.)  » Full Story

FCC Set To Reconsider Broadband Regulations

Federal regulators are reconsidering the rules that govern high-speed Internet connections - wading into a bitter policy dispute that could be tied up in court for years.  The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday (June 17) to begin taking public comments on three different paths for regulating broadband.  That includes a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, to define broadband access as a telecommunications service subject to "common carrier" obligations to treat all traffic equally....  » Full Story

FCC Defends Internet-Access Plan at Congress Meeting

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski defended his plan to regulate Internet service providers as a Republican lawmaker said he would attempt to block the effort.  Genachowski wants the FCC to assert jurisdiction over Web-access providers using rules imposed on telephone companies.  His proposal is a reaction to a U.S. court ruling in April that said the agency lacked authority to regulate companies that provide Web access....  » Full Story

Google, Verizon and AT&T Create Net Advisory Group

Google Inc., AT&T Inc., and Verizon Communications Inc. have begun plans for a group that will provide advice to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and other government agencies on ways to manage the Internet.  The Broadband Internet Technical Advisory Group says its aim is to educate lawmakers about network management and other technical issues that can affect Web performance, the organization said in a statement....  » Full Story

Opinion: Dear FCC – You're Going the Wrong Way

When the route you've picked doesn't take you where you want to go, it's always best to figure out where you took a wrong turn, or reprogram your GPS.  That's advice the Federal Communications Commission would do well to heed.  After having been prodded by misguided "net neutrality" advocates, the FCC continues on a course that will hamper the development of the Internet, potentially harming job growth, innovation, investment and further network build-out, which could ultimately lead to increased costs that hurt the consumers it means to help....  » Full Story

Speaker Pelosi Backs FCC Plan To Assert Broadband Oversight

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an interview with bloggers Tuesday that she supports the Federal Communications Commission's plan to redefine broadband as a telecommunications service, according to the blog Fire Dog Lake, The Seminal.  "Reclassification, net neutrality, universal access for every American, these are priorities for us. And we see it not in isolation but as part of a new prosperity, as a job creator, to make America healthier, smarter and an international leader," Pelosi said, according to left-leaning site.... » Full Story

Groups Want FCC To Police Hate Speech on Talk Radio, Cable News Networks

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is being urged to monitor "hate speech" on talk radio and cable broadcast networks.  A coalition of more than 30 organizations argue in a letter to the FCC that the Internet has made it harder for the public to separate the facts from bigotry masquerading as news.  The groups also charge that syndicated radio and cable television programs "masquerading as news" use hate as a profit model....  » Full Story

FCC's Bold, Risky Move To Regulate the Internet

The Federal Communications Commission moved aggressively last week to open a new round in the debate about the extent of its regulatory sway over the Internet.  Until this month, the Commission had never claimed a sweeping and specific statutory right to regulate the Internet, because Congress has never provided it.  Yet, when a federal court recently rejected FCC arguments that it has limited, "ancillary" authority to govern certain practices of the companies that operate the web - the FCC position under both President Clinton and President Bush – the current Commission doubled down....  » Full Story

Congress Rebukes FCC on Net Neutrality Rules

The Federal Communications Commission's plan to impose Net neutrality regulations just became much more difficult to pull off.  A bipartisan group of politicians on Monday told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in no uncertain terms, to abandon his plans to impose controversial new rules on broadband providers until the U.S. Congress changes the law.  Seventy-four House Democrats sent Genachowski, an Obama appointee and fellow Democrat, a letter saying his ideas will "jeopardize jobs" and "should not be done without additional direction from Congress." » Full Story

White House and Google: Cozy, as Charged

By browsing through several dozen emails now being posted by a consumer group, anyone can read for himself the chummy chatter that has been occurring for the past year between a couple of senior Google officers and White House Deputy Chief Technology Officer Andrew McLaughlin, who headed Google's global public policy unit until assuming his current post in May 2009....  » Full Story

Free Speech Regulation Masquerading as 'Transparency'

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD, have introduced legislation to gut the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision protecting the free speech rights of citizens when organized into groups such as labor unions, corporations and trade associations.  Beyond the reporting of group expenditures, the Schumer and Van Hollen bills, if enacted, would require the speech-chilling disclosure of individual contributors.  » Full Story