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Issue Watch

2017 Issue Watch

Sen. Hatch Makes Reg-Free & Open Net a Tech Priority

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who chairs the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force, has released what the task force billed as an Innovation Agenda for the new Congress and it backs a free an open internet: Free of burdensome government regs and open for business.

In the section on fostering a "modern and competitive and open internet," the agenda cites promoting private-sector broadband deployment and connectivity, increasing mobile access to licensed and unlicensed spectrum, and freeing the internet by “preserv[ing] the open, competitive nature of the internet against unnecessary government regulation while promoting continued development of innovative online services."

Among many other things, it calls for patent reform, reforming of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to require a warrant for emails, protecting cross-border data flows, allowing high-skilled immigrants into the country, and a healthy helping of regulatory humility, which includes encouraging self-regulation.

The plan drew plenty of praise from the industry.

"We commend Sen. Hatch on his strong, bold and broad proposal to ensure our nation remains the global leader in innovation," said Consumer Technology Association President Gary Shapiro. "We are at a crossroads where we need a national strategy recognizing that innovation drives our economy and global leadership. Chairman Hatch's plan recognizes that innovation depends on nurturing, getting and keeping the best and brightest and a legal and regulatory system encouraging creativity and entrepreneurship.” » Read More

FCC's Pai on Broadcast TV: ‘Keep It Clean’

Ajit Pai gave his first TV interview as chairman of the FCC to Fox Business Network and said he would investigate indecency complaints against CBS, NBC or anyone else if they were presented to him.

Pai appeared Thursday on the 2 p.m. hour of The Intelligence Report with Trish Regan.

Regan cited an F-bomb on Saturday Night Live and Adele's F-bomb on the Grammys and asked if the FCC would be investigating them for "this kind of stuff."

"If we are presented with complaints, we are duty bound to enforce the law," he said, "and the law that is on the books today requires that broadcasters keep it clean so to speak." Pai said he took that FCC obligation seriously.

Actually, broadcasters are only required to do so at times when the FCC has determined that children are most likely to be in the audience, which is 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

But Pai did suggest he would be watching what broadcasters say on air, per FCC indecency rules on the books, adding: "[A]s a parent, I want to make sure that my kids have a wholesome experience when they are watching programs like that."

If the FCC did investigate those, it would likely not take any action given that (1) SNL airs after 10 p.m., when broadcasters can air profanity and nudity without repercussions beyond the input of their viewers, the latter of which is likely the reason broadcasters don't suddenly act like cable nets from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. when indecent content is not actionable, and (2) CBS spokesfolk told B&C that while Adele did indeed swear on the awards show, their tape delay caught it and it did not go over the airwaves. » Read More

Net Neutrality Is FCC's Third Busiest Docket

To establish a baseline for a promised flood of network neutrality comments to the FCC, as of Thursday, the proceeding was listed as the third most active proceeding in terms of comments with 178 comments in the past 30 days. Universal Service Fund comments and Lifeline subsidy compliance forms are the busiest dockets with over a thousand in each.

At a press conference this week, Senate Democrats urged fans of the FCC's Title II-based Open Internet order to flood the FCC with new comments in support given that Republican chairman Ajit Pai is a strong opponent of that reclassification.

The FCC received more than four million comments when the FCC was coming up with the last Open Internet order, a stat Democrats often cite in arguing that the rules have broad support and should not be rolled back. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said this week that given the new threat to the rules by Republicans, the new public outcry would make that look minuscule. » Read More

Pai: Commissioners Will Vote on Consent Decrees

FCC chairman Ajit Pai says the Enforcement Bureau will no longer get to sign off on consent decrees settling proposed forfeitures without the commissioners voting on them.

That was the latest in a series of process reforms the new chairman is implementing in his first few weeks in the center seat.

"I have instructed the Enforcement Bureau that starting today, any consent decree settling a Notice of Apparent Liability or Forfeiture Order issued by the full Commission must now be approved by a vote of the full Commission," said Pai. "This will help promote Commissioners’ involvement in and accountability for important enforcement decisions."

Pai said that over "the past few years" — that would be under a Democratic chair or chairs — rather than the full commission voting, the bureau chief has been signing off on the settlements at the direction of the chairman's office. Most recently that would have been chairman Tom Wheeler and Enforcement Bureau chief Travis LeBlanc.

"That process ends now," he said, by which he meant more than rhetorically. Pai said the reform was in force immediately. In fact, he said the bureau had just Wednesday circulated a consent decree for the commissioners' consideration that would conclude an investigation approved by the full commission. » Read More