Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

March 27, 2015

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March 26, 2015

What Issue Could be Drawing Republican Praise of the FCC?

It’s not something you hear often. CQ Roll Call’s Shawn Zeller reports that House Republicans on Thursday took a break from blasting the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules to offer the agency “rare praise” as lawmakers look to additional auctions of spectrum.

From Zeller’s story (subscription), which mentions comments by the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology subcommittee at a Thursday hearing:

Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, who recently threatened to try to freeze the agency’s budget, applauded agency staff for its management of a recent auction of government-held spectrum to wireless providers that netted more than $40 billion. The spectrum is used to deliver voice and data services.

March 25, 2015

Oregon Lawmakers Send Tax Break Package to Governor

The Oregonian reports that the Oregon state Senate on Tuesday approved a“package of property tax breaks aimed at Comcast, Google Fiber and Oregon data centers,” sending it to the governor.

The report mentions, though, that it won’t be the end of the story:

But that won’t be the final word on the matter – the Legislature will need to do additional work to satisfy Google Fiber.

It notes:

But language in the bill, intended to provide an exemption to gigabit service providers, appears to actually make them ineligible for the tax breaks. Lawmakers say they will fix the goof in a separate bill.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 11:11 a.m.

March 24, 2015

GAO Concerned About Unforeseen NASA Space Telescope Cost Overruns

CQ Roll Call’s Shawn Zeller has a story on NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, reporting that agency officials said Tuesday that the long-delayed and over-budget project is now on track to meet its latest budget estimate and will be ready in 2018, but that the Government Accountability Office remains concerned that unforeseen cost overruns could emerge.

From Zeller’s story (subscription):

John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, told a House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on Tuesday that the telescope will have “truly transformational exploration capabilities” and that it remains “within budget and on track to meet the October 2018 launch date.”

However, the GAO says that the project faces challenges ahead. Cristina Chaplain, director of acquisition and sourcing management at the watchdog agency, said that Northrop Grumman, NASA’s telescope contractor, is now completing the manufacturing phase of the project and will soon begin integrating the components of the telescope and testing them.

That phase is typically fraught with unexpected problems that drive up costs, she said.

March 23, 2015

The Week Ahead: Internet of Things, Net Neutrality and More

Members of the Federal Communications Commission are back on the Hill this week, with Chairman Tom Wheeler and commissioner Ajit Pai testifying in budget and net neutrality hearings. Hearings and events on the Internet of Things are also on tap in the week ahead.


Georgetown University holds a panel discussion on discrimination and big data.


The Brookings Institution hosts a discussion with Craig Silliman, Verizon’s general counsel and executive vice president for public policy, on updating communications law and regulations.

An Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on the Internet of Things.

A House Appropriations subcommittee holds an FCC budget hearing.

A House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee holds a hearing on the James Webb Space Telescope.

A Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation subcommittee holds a hearing on drones.


A House Judiciary subcommittee holds a hearing on abusive patent litigation.

The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the FCC’s net neutrality rules.


The FCC holds an open meeting.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on spectrum policy.

Microsoft holds a panel discussion on the Internet of Things.

New America holds an event on mobile health data.

The Telecommunications Industry Association hosts an event on the Internet of Things.

March 20, 2015

What Are the Technical Hurdles Facing Drone Delivery?

The Wall Street Journal in a story Friday reports on technical challenges that drone delivery faces, like the battery life of drones, that are “at least as vexing as proposed U.S. regulatory limits.”

From the story:

Retail and shipping companies including Inc.,Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., and Deutsche Post DHL AG have been among the most enthusiastic supporters, seeing drones as potentially transforming their businesses.

But hurdles including short battery life and unreliable location data suggest it could be years before armies of drones replace FedEx and UPS vans. Companies also face obstacles such as bad weather, aggressive birds and gun-toting drone opponents.

By Roll Call Staff Posted at 1:37 p.m.

March 19, 2015

Likely Stalemate over Online Sales Tax Legislation

CQ Roll Call’s Alan K. Ota gives the state of play about online sales tax legislation in a story Wednesday, writing that a “push to allow states to enforce sales taxes on remote online vendors faces likely stalemate, with a quiet retreat by Senate supporters and a splintering of House Republicans.”

“That’s a big disappointment to backers of an overhaul of the tax structure for Internet sales; they had hoped the momentum from Senate passage of a bill in the last Congress would carry over into 2015,” he writes.

Read the rest of the story here.

March 18, 2015

California State Lawmaker Plans to Introduce Online Home-Sharing Bill

A California state lawmaker is planning to introduce legislation that would require online home-sharing companies to report homeowner rental information to local governments, which would make collection of certain taxes from the homeowners easier for cities, The Sacramento Bee reports.

From The Sacramento Bee story:

Setting up what could become another big fight over how much to regulate the emerging “sharing economy,” a California senator plans to introduce a bill that would make it easier for cities to collect taxes from homeowners who rent out rooms on Web-based house-sharing services such as Airbnb.

Under Senate Bill 593 by Sen. Mike McGuire, online home-sharing companies would have to make regular reports to cities and counties about which homes in their area are renting rooms, for how many nights and how much money the homeowners are collecting for the short-term rentals. That would make it easier for local governments to collect transient occupancy taxes from the homeowner.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 3:17 p.m.

March 17, 2015

The Lobbying Battle Over Patent Legislation

CQ Roll Call’s Shawn Zeller writes in the latest Roll Call Policy Focus that went online Monday:

As lobbying coalitions go, United for Patent Reform looks fierce as it wades into what’s expected to be one of 2015’s highest-profile lobbying duels in Congress.

Formed earlier this year to advocate for legislation that would make it tougher, and riskier to sue companies for infringing on a patent, United for Patent Reform includes a diverse array of firms and trade groups. Some are technology firms that own a lot of patents, such as Google, Facebook and Cisco.

Others are companies that mostly use technology to promote or run their businesses, such as Macy’s, the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the Newspaper Association of America.

He also writes:

But the reason Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte’s bill to rein in the suits stalled in the last Congress and will be difficult to pass again this year is that the opposition to his legislation is also full of high-powered advocates. They range from pharmaceutical and biotech companies, to venture capitalists and tech startups that say patents are the key to American innovation and deserve every possible protection.

Read the rest of the story here as well as a sidebar on the “high-wattage” lobbying firms that different firms and trade groups have hired and their ties to Republicans and Democrats here.

March 16, 2015

The Week Ahead: Hearings on FCC Oversight, Cybersecurity

Members of the Federal Communications Commission testify on the Hill this week. Cybersecurity and data security and breach notification are among the topics of other congressional hearings this week.


A House Appropriations subcommittee holds a budget hearing on the National Science Foundation.

A House Armed Services subcommittee holds a hearing titled “Assuring Assured Access to Space.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing titled “FCC: Process and Transparency” on the commission’s process for developing its recently adopted net neutrality rules, where FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is scheduled to testify.


A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on a data security and breach notification discussion draft bill.

A House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee holds a cybersecurity hearing.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds an FCC oversight hearing where the FCC’s five commissioners are scheduled to testify.


The Free State Foundation holds its telecom policy conference titled “The Future of the Internet: Free Market Innovation or Government Control?”

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds an FCC oversight hearing, where the panel will hear from all five FCC commissioners.

The House Intelligence Committee holds a cybersecurity hearing.

A Senate Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on cybersecurity risk insurance.

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