Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 2, 2014

October 1, 2014

Why Did India’s Mars Mission Cost So Little?

mars globe valles marineris enhanced br2 335x335 Why Did Indias Mars Mission Cost So Little?

Mosaic of Mars, made up of 102 Viking Orbiter images. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

On Wednesday, India’s space program signed an agreement with NASA for a joint Earth-observing satellite mission as well as a charter to establish a working group for cooperation on Mars exploration. That comes on the heels of India’s Mars orbiter reaching the red planet’s orbit last week. India’s Mars spacecraft’s relatively cheap roughly $74 million cost has drawn attention and in case you missed them, here’s a look at a couple of articles from the past week or so that break down why it cost so little compared to other efforts.

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Mobile Broadband & Net Neutrality Rules: A Look at the Debate

The Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 Open Internet Rules, intended to prevent Internet service providers such as cable and phone companies from blocking or discriminating against content, didn’t cover wireless Internet services, or mobile broadband, to the same extent as fixed broadband.

The prohibition on blocking content was more limited for mobile services, and the ban on unreasonable discrimination against content providers didn’t apply to mobile at all. In rewriting its net neutrality rules after a federal appeals court struck down the bulk of them last January, one of the policy issues before the commission is whether it should re-examine how it treats mobile broadband.

“The basic issue that is raised is whether the old assumptions upon which the 2010 rules were based match the new realities,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said at a CTIA-The Wireless Association industry event in September.

The rest of this Roll Call Policy Focus can be found here with a related timeline here

September 30, 2014

FCC Eliminates Its Sports Blackout Rules

The Federal Communications Commission unanimously voted on Tuesday to eliminate its sports blackout rules and CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta reports that commissioners advised the National Football League not to try to keep their blackout policy going on their own.

“I hope that the NFL will not respond to today’s vote by digging in its heels,” Commissioner Ajit Pai said prior to the vote, Margetta reports (subscription).

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Bureau of Engraving and Printing Should Evaluate Currency Reader Program, GAO Says

GAO Currency Reader1 445x282 Bureau of Engraving and Printing Should Evaluate Currency Reader Program, GAO Says

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has started the process of distributing thousands of currency readers to the blind and visually impaired and a recommendation recently released by the Government Accountability Office pretty much boils down to this: evaluate the program to figure out if it actually works.

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September 29, 2014

FCC’s Wheeler: Focus of Further E-Rate Changes Need to Be ‘Closing the Rural Fiber Gap’

The next changes Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler wants to see to the program that provides subsidies for Internet service in public schools and libraries known as E-Rate: addressing high speed broadband access by schools and libraries in rural areas.

In prepared remarks for an education technology event in Washington on Monday, Wheeler said that “75 percent of rural public schools today are unable to achieve the high-speed connectivity goals we have set.” He pointed to lack of access to fiber networks and the cost of paying for it when it’s available.

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By Anne L. Kim Posted at 4:41 p.m.

Is Silicon Valley Finally Ready to Trust DC?

Over the past decade Silicon Valley has, in fits and starts, been amassing more and more political clout. Recently, there have been several high profile moves including Uber hiring former Obama campaign guru, David Plouffe, and Spotify hiring Jonathan Prince, a former Clinton aide with ties to the Obama White House. These moves mark a shift in the way the industry has conducted business, from merely spending money to really going after some of Washington’s biggest names. Silicon Valley’s growth and shear wealth are starting to make this a necessity.

In the past, tech companies were known for spending money in Washington but not in a particularly savvy way. For instance, a recent report revealed that the tech industry ranks near the bottom when it comes to the transparency of its political contributions. Some believe this reflects a form of political immaturity since revealing that information can be beneficial from a PR standpoint. No doubt, Plouffe and Co. will be looking to reverse the perception (in D.C.) of their clients as rich kids with no practical understanding of the strenuous policymaking process.

But even with their newfound clout, it remains to be seen if tech companies will come close to wielding the same influence as more established players like the telecommunications industry. As the BuzzFeed article mentions, “[a]ny given telco still has more lawyers and lobbyists working on the Federal Communications Commission than all the tech companies combined…”

Still, with the aforementioned hiring spree, it seems as if the industry is overcoming its aversion to politics and if it wants to move its agenda (net neutrality, high-skilled immigration, etc.) it will likely need to continue making significant investments in lobbying, public relations and communications.

The Week Ahead: Sports Blackout Rules, Net Neutrality & Education Technology

In addition to the Federal Communications Commission being scheduled to vote on a proposal to eliminate the sports blackout rule, several net neutrality-related events are happening this week, including the FCC’s economics-focused Open Internet roundtable session.

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September 26, 2014

Weekly Recap: Comcast’s Merger Comments, Google on Data Localization & Jason Chaffetz

The week wraps up with the Federal Trade Commission’s 100-year birthday. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from this week in Washington and a few Technocrat posts from this week, in case you missed them.

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Friday Q&A: Application Developers Alliance’s Tim Sparapani

Tim 335x335 Friday Q&A: Application Developers Alliances Tim Sparapani

(Source: Application Developers Alliance)

The Application Developers Alliance, which *surprise* represents app developers, is just a couple years old and has roughly 40,000 individual and nearly 180 companies as members. The policy issues they focus on are data and patents and Technocrat talked with the group’s vice president for policy, law and government affairs, Tim Sparapani. He was previously Facebook’s public policy director and senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Q: What are your top policy issues that you’re working on right now?

A: Well, it’ll be no surprise that most of them revolve around data.

And, you know, because our members are the experts in how to build new and novel technologies, using both businesses’ and the public’s data, there are a whole host of questions that arise from that.

So, they sort of span the globe of things. But mostly it’s about how we can use data wisely and well to benefit consumers and the public writ large.

Sometimes people sort of truncate this by calling it a privacy debate. Well, it’s a lot more than that. You know, it’s a really a sort of a debate about whether data can be used to solve a series of societal problems, as our members believe it can be. And whether we can provide increasingly customized and personalized services and benefits to individuals, which give them tools and services that before the app industry arose used to cost them a whole lot of money, and now we can hopefully give them to them for free or nearly so. So it’s also about consumer benefit.

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September 25, 2014

Data Localization Requriements Pose Security Issues, Google’s Salgado Says

Google has been a critic of data localization and at a panel discussion Thursday, the company’s director of information security and law enforcement laid out more details of the negatives he sees in such proposals by foreign countries. Among them: inefficiencies, cost and security issues.

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