Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 19, 2014

December 18, 2014

Group of 36 Democrats Call for Quick FCC Action on Net Neutrality Rules

A group of 36 House and Senate Democrats wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler Thursday,  saying it’s “time for action” on net neutrality rules, and that those rules should reclassify broadband service as a common carrier with “appropriate forbearance.”

The letter was led by Sen. Edward J. Markey, of Massachusetts, and Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, of California, who have been calling for the FCC to reclassify broadband as a common carrier under Title II of the Communications Act.

It’s been nearly year since an appeals court struck down the bulk of the agency’s 2010 net neutrality rules and since then, millions of companies and constituents have articulated the “need for the Commission to use its authority to prevent broadband providers from engaging in discriminatory practices,” the lawmakers write.

“Many of us have previously written to you and urged the Commission to put the strongest possible rules on the books in order to ensure the health and vitality of the Internet for future generations,” they write, adding that the agency should reclassify broadband with “appropriate forbearance.” President Barack Obama has also urged this approach, they write.

“Everyone has spoken; now is the time for action,” they write.  “We urge you to act without delay to finalize rules that keep the Internet free and open for business.”

Report: No Consensus on Privacy Infrastructure by 2025

There isn’t a consensus on whether in the next decade we’ll have a commonly-accepted “privacy-rights infrastructure” that balances business innovation and individual privacy options, according to a report released Thursday by the Pew Research Center and Elon University.

It’s part of a project where more than 12,000 “experts and members of the interested public” were invited to share their thoughts on the “likely future of the Internet,” according to the report. Roughly 2,500 people responded to the privacy question. Thursday’s report is part of a series Pew and Elon University has been releasing on the future of the Internet and technology.

According to the report, 55 percent of respondents answered no while 45 percent responded yes to this question:

Will policy makers and technology innovators create a secure, popularly accepted, and trusted privacy-rights infrastructure by 2025 that allows for business innovation and monetization while also offering individuals choices for protecting their personal information in easy-to-use formats?

The report also lays out themes in the responses.

Interestingly, the idea that “public life is the new default” was a theme the report pointed out in both the affirmative and negative answers.

For those who didn’t think there would be a commonly-accepted privacy infrastructure in the next decade, the report sums up a common theme in their answers this way:

Living a public life is the new default. It is not possible to live modern life without revealing personal information to governments and corporations. Few individuals will have the energy, interest, or resources to protect themselves from ‘dataveillance’; privacy will become a ‘luxury.”

But the idea of a default public life was also marked out as a theme in the answers from those who did anticipate a privacy agreement by 2025. From the report:

Living a public life is the new default. People will get used to this, adjust their norms, and accept more sharing and collection of data as a part of life—especially Millennials and the young people who follow them. Problems will persist and some will complain but most will not object or muster the energy to push back against this new reality in their lives.

Another interesting theme the report describes among people who didn’t anticipate a privacy infrastructure in the next decade was the idea that different cultures have different views on privacy making it impossible for a consensus on “how to address civil liberties issues on the global Internet.”

December 17, 2014

CFPB Files Mobile ‘Cramming’ Lawsuit Against Sprint

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Sprint on Tuesday, alleging  the company made wireless customers pay for unauthorized third-party charges over a roughly 10-year period.

“Sprint’s flawed billing system allowed unscrupulous merchants to add unauthorized charges to wireless bills, and consumers ended up paying tens of millions of dollars in such charges,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray in prepared remarks.

The company “unfairly charged its customers by creating a billing and payment-processing system that gave third parties virtually unfettered access to its customers’ accounts,” which let third parties “cram” unauthorized charges onto bills, according to the lawsuit. Sprint automatically enrolled customers in the third-party billing system without them knowing and without consent and kept “operating its flawed system despite numerous red flags,” the complaint states.

Full story

Report Looks at Broadband Competition at Different Speeds

ESA Report 445x296 Report Looks at Broadband Competition at Different Speeds

(Source: Commerce Department Economics and Statistics Administration)

While consumers have multiple Internet service providers to choose from at lower broadband speeds, “this number dwindles at higher speeds,” according to a new report by the Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration

The report was based on data from the Census Bureau and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Full story

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 12:49 p.m.

Senate Confirms FCC’s O’Rielly

Before the 113th Congress ended, the Senate on Tuesday night approved a raft of nominees by unanimous consent. Among them was the nomination of the Federal Communications Commission’s Michael O’Rielly for another term on the panel.

O’Rielly, who’s been a commissioner since November 2013, was confirmed by the Senate last year to serve a partial term – what was left of former commissioner Robert McDowell’s term, which ended June 30 of this year. On Tuesday, the Senate confirmed O’Rielly for the full five-year term that started July 1, 2014.

Before joining the commission, O’Rielly was a long-time GOP Hill aide, including as policy adviser for Sen. John Cornyn’s, R-Texas, Republican whip ‘s office.

December 16, 2014

NHTSA Has New App to Help the Tipsy Find a Ride Home

During the height of the holiday party season, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that they have an app to help people who’ve been drinking call a cab or a friend to get them home.

Called SaferRide, the app is available for Android devices, and NHTSA says in a release that it will help “keep drunk drivers off our roads by allowing users to call a taxi or a friend and by identifying their location so they can be picked up.”

The description for the app on Google Play says users can call taxis from a list of services in the area and also call a “pre-programmed contact.”

And the description includes this: “If you just need to know where you are, you can bring up a map of your current location.” So, apparently, if you’re too drunk to know where you are, this app might help.

On a more serious note, the announcement for the app came as NHTSA started its “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign.

“We’re making progress in the fight against drunk driving by working with law enforcement and our safety partners, and by arming people with useful tools, such as our new SaferRide app,” said NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator David Friedman in a statement.

It looks like NHTSA isn’t alone in the anti-drunk driving app department. The Governors Highway Safety Association pointed to a couple state anti-drunk driving mobile apps on Tuesday, like Maryland’s ENDUI app, which the Associated Press reported was funded by NHTSA. California also has an app targeted at designated drivers.

The Senate’s Still in Town and On Its To-Do List: Tax Extenders

On Monday, the Senate moved closer to sending a $41.6 billion package of tax breaks to the president as “party leaders tried to negotiate a way forward on the measure, which many lawmakers consider must-pass legislation,” reports CQ Roll Call’s Katy O’Donnell.

Within that package: a renewal of the business research and development tax credit for the 2014 tax year.

O’Donnell reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made a formal motion to proceed on the package on Monday.

She writes:

Extenders may be the last item on the agenda before the session ends, setting up the possibility of procedural votes later this week and a vote on final passage if Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., cannot come to an agreement to expedite the process.

December 15, 2014

Changes in Store for Republican Rosters of Senate Commerce and Judiciary Panels

It looks like changes on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will happening on the Republican side of the panel as well next Congress.

On Monday, Senate Republicans announced committee assignments for the next Congress that starts in January, which the Republican Conference and the Senate will need to give formal approval.

The Senate Commerce panel’s Republican roster will add Jerry Moran of Kansas as well as the following new senators: Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Steve Daines of Montana. Dan Coats of Indiana, and Tim Scott of South Carolina, are leaving the panel.

The Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction includes telecom and space issues.

A few changes are set for the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary panel as well, which has jurisdiction over intellectual property and some tech issues. David Vitter, R-La., will be added to the panel as well as new lawmakers David Perdue of Georgia and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. It looks like the Republicans who are currently on the panel will stay on the committee.

The Week Ahead: Digital Privacy Laws, Microsoft’s Data Warrant Case and Intellectual Property Enforcement Abroad

The Senate is still in session after clearing a $1.1 trillion spending package over the weekend and there are a couple events dealing with intellectual property enforcement abroad as well as digital privacy laws and Microsoft’s data warrant case.


At 11 a.m., the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center in D.C. will show a live webcast of a Microsoft event in New York City where the issue of overhauling of digital privacy laws will be discussed. There will also apparently be an announcement related to the company’s legal case dealing with a warrant for data in a data center located in Ireland. You can also watch the event here.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center hosts a roundtable of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s intellectual property attachés to talk enforcement and protection of intellectual property rights abroad.


December 12, 2014

Senate Commerce to See Changes on Democratic Roster

There are going to be some changes on the Democratic side of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee next year.

On Friday, the Senate Democratic Steering Committee announced their members for committees in the next Congress, although the rosters still need to get formal approval by the Democratic caucus and the full Senate when lawmakers return next year.

Chief among the changes is that Bill Nelson, of Florida, will take the top Democratic spot on the panel as ranking member. He replaces Jay Rockefeller, of West Virginia, who is retiring.

Leaving the panel is Barbara Boxer, of California, and John Walsh, of Montana.

Joe Manchin III, of West Virginia, Tom Udall of New Mexico, and Gary Peters of Michigan will join the panel. They’ll be replacing seats left open by Rockefeller, and two lawmakers who lost their Senate seats in the mid-term elections: Mark Pryor, of Arkansas, and Mark Begich, of Alaska.

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