Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
September 18, 2014

September 17, 2014

Wheeler Talks Net Neutrality at House Hearing

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler testified before the House Small Business Committee Wednesday in a pretty toned-down hearing, where he talked about a number of issues, including net neutrality.

“It is clear that there must be an open Internet,” Wheeler said. “That is what’s necessary for small business, that’s what’s necessary for entrepreneurs, that’s what’s necessary for consumers. At the same point in time, communications carriers are investing $60 billion a year in infrastructure. And we have got to have that kind of infrastructure build out. And you don’t want to put in place rules that would disincentivize companies from making that kind of continued investment.”

South Carolina Republican Tom Rice — who said he was concerned about reclassifying broadband as a common carrier — asked if Internet service providers were blocking, prioritizing, requiring paid performance or degrading service.

“The issue is that yes there are indications of these kinds of problems having happened in the market,” Wheeler said, citing instances like Comcast blocking BitTorrent and AT&T’s restrictions on accessing Apple’s Face Time on the iPhone.

Rice contended that there’s been much innovation from the Internet in a “wild, wild West” regulatory environment and that government regulation would “stifle it far more” than anti-competitive efforts which he contended could be dealt with under antitrust law.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 4:49 p.m.
Net Neutrality

Exemption Process for DMCA Anti-Circumvention Rule: Time for a Change?

Should there be some changes to how exemptions are issued to a section of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that bars circumvention of anti-piracy technologies? While there’s deep disagreement over the broader question of whether the anti-circumvention section of the 1998 law is beneficial or problematic,  some witnesses at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on Wednesday seemed to think it’s at least worth looking at changes to how certain exemptions are handled.

“At a bare minimum, we urge Congress to take action to relieve the burden of repeatedly seeking re-approval of uncontroversial exemptions like the one we must re-propose during each review,” Mark Richert, public policy director at the American Foundation for the Blind, wrote in his prepared testimony.

The Library of Congress issues exemptions every three years to that section of the 1998 law, but the process begins anew for each cycle. Certain exemptions in previous years have been granted for accessibility of e-books for the blind.

While Christian Genetski, senior vice president and general counsel for the Entertainment Software Alliance, said there’s been “unrivaled innovation” since enactment of the 1998 law, he seemed open to changes to how certain exemptions are handled.

“I think that we all share the frustration expressed by Mr. Richert in his testimony about the need to return repeatedly and use extensive resources to seek… renewal of an exemption” where there isn’t opposition, Genetski said. “I think there are instances like those where now we have the experience of several iterations of the rulemaking process where we see some patterns emerge.”

He added that there are areas emerging, like ones Richert speaks to, that could “warrant some thought about how we might address situations like that.”

Similarly, Jonathan Zuck, president of ACT – The App Association, said that the law “taken as a whole” has worked, but also said there’s “room for improvement” in the triennial review process “to make that process more fluid and create fewer impediments to legitimate exemptions.”

September 16, 2014

NASA Announces Commercial Crew Contracts for Boeing and SpaceX

iss nasa 445x294 NASA Announces Commercial Crew Contracts for Boeing and SpaceX

The International Space Station, photographed by a crew member on the Space Shuttle Endeavor in a 2001 mission (Source: NASA)

Boeing and SpaceX will be the private companies that shuttle U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station, ending NASA’s reliance on Russia for transport to the research station since the U.S. shuttle program ended in 2011.

From a NASA release announcing the contracts for the two companies totaling $6.8 billion:

These Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts are designed to complete the NASA certification for human space transportation systems capable of carrying people into orbit. Once certification is complete, NASA plans to use these systems to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station and return them safely to Earth.

The companies selected to provide this transportation capability and the maximum potential value of their FAR-based firm fixed-price contracts are:
– The Boeing Company, Houston, $4.2 billion
– Space Exploration Technologies Corp., Hawthorne, California, $2.6 billion

The contracts include at least one crewed flight test per company with at least one NASA astronaut aboard to verify the fully integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch, maneuver in orbit, and dock to the space station, as well as validate all its systems perform as expected. Once each company’s test program has been completed successfully and its system achieves NASA certification, each contractor will conduct at least two, and as many as six, crewed missions to the space station. These spacecraft also will serve as a lifeboat for astronauts aboard the station.

A couple initial responses from the Hill:

House Science, Space and Technology Committee chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas: “I congratulate Boeing and SpaceX on their achievements in the Commercial Crew Program. Both companies and the thousands of people they employ have a crucial task before them as they work to further U.S. space exploration. They also have a responsibility to the U.S. taxpayers who are making considerable contributions to the development of these commercial space capabilities.”

House Science ranking Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas:  ”I am encouraged by today’s announcement as it will allow NASA, Boeing, and SpaceX to complete development, testing and certification of the needed capability.  That capability must be proven safe according to NASA requirements and it must be cost-effective given the significant investment taxpayers are being asked to make.  These partnerships are important and I look forward to monitoring their development because we need safe and reliable crew transport to allow the full and productive utilization of the ISS.”

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 5:39 p.m.
Space

Should FCC Keep Treating Mobile Broadband Differently in Net Neutrality Rules?

The Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 Open Internet rules didn’t apply to mobile broadband to the same extent as fixed broadband. For instance, the unreasonable discrimination rule didn’t apply to mobile.  The current Open Internet proposal before the FCC “tentatively” thinks it should keep that same approach, but should the FCC revisit its different treatment of mobile broadband given big changes in the mobile market since 2010?

That’s basically one of the questions asked in the current Open Internet notice of proposed rulemaking (the 2010 rules are being rewritten in response to an appeals court decision earlier this year that struck down the bulk of those rules).

Below are a some excerpts of what a few of the reply comments, which were due on Monday, had to say on the matter of mobile broadband and net neutrality rules. They might give you a sense of the debate that could emerge in this afternoon’s FCC Open Internet roundtable on mobile broadband.

Full story

September 15, 2014

Anti- ‘Spoofing’ Bill Introduced in Senate

klobuchar 113 021114 445x321 Anti  Spoofing Bill Introduced in Senate

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., talks on her mobile phone in the Senate Reception Room on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The House passed legislation aimed at stopping fraudulent caller-ID “spoofing” last week and now Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., has introduced the Senate version of legislation that would expand existing anti-”spoofing” law to cover text messages and people calling from outside the country to U.S. recipients.

Under a law enacted a few years ago, it’s already unlawful for an individual to cause a caller ID service to send misleading or inaccurate caller-ID information with the intent to conduct fraud or cause harm. The bill, co-sponsored by Missouri Republican Roy Blunt,  would expand the law.

From a release from Klobuchar’s office:

The Caller ID Scam Prevention Act would broaden that law to combat new tactics used by criminals. This includes prohibiting foreigners from falsifying caller ID numbers when calling U.S. consumers and expanding the law to include text messages. The bill would also cover new internet-based VoIP services that enable callers to make outgoing-only calls from computers and tablets to mobile and landline phones.

The House last week passed a bill by freshman Democrat Grace Meng, D-N.Y., that’s substantively the same as Klobuchar’s bill, despite the different titles.

CQ Roll Call’s Melanie Zanona reported at the time that telephone spoofing was criminalized by a 2010 law, but lawmakers said legal loopholes and new technologies have let fraudsters continue the caller-ID scams. She also reported that the measure has drawn praise from both parties in the House and is likely to see similar Senate support.

As Lawmakers Consider Potential Changes to Music Royalties, A Look at the Debates

As lawmakers are slowing building toward what could end up being a broad overhaul of music royalty structures, stakeholders — musicians, songwriter, publishers, Internet radio companies and terrestrial broadcasters — are all trying to make sure they don’t end up losing out, writes CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta.

In a story (subscription) this morning , Margetta lays out the policy debates surrounding a couple of specific issues, like the question of whether terrestrial  radio stations should pay royalties to artists.

“Probably the most controversial question at stake is whether lawmakers will end the decades-long practice of allowing AM and FM terrestrial radio stations to broadcast music without paying royalties to artists,” Margetta writes.

Artists’ groups and the recording industry argue that terrestrial radio stations are unfairly making money off of work they don’t pay for while the National Association of Broadcasters and others contend that their members can’t afford to pay for content they’ve traditionally used without paying those additional costs, Margetta writes.

Here’s some background: terrestrial radio stations pay royalties for the type of copyright that covers composers, songwriters or publishers, but they’ve long been exempted from paying for the second type of copyright typically attached to recorded songs – sound recording rights covering a specific version of a song by an artist. Margetta writes that before the Internet music revolution, that exemption was thought to be both a standard course of business and justified since songs played over the radio was thought to be advertisement for albums:

“The resulting popularity of radio has significantly contributed to a U.S. recording industry that is the envy of the world, both in terms of size and scope,” said Charles Warfield, joint board chairman for the National Association of Broadcasters, during an appearance before lawmakers this summer.

Now, however, artists and the groups that represent them say that free play for terrestrial radio doesn’t make sense. Foreign countries require terrestrial radio to pay royalties, but American copyright holders usually can’t access them because U.S. stations won’t reciprocate. And newer forms of radio, including cable, satellite and Internet stations, are required to pay royalties to artists. That last point, especially, gives lawmakers pause. Some lawmakers think the current system discourages new business and innovation.

Margetta adds: “Some lawmakers have expressed sympathy toward broadcasters, even as they’ve acknowledged there’s a discrepancy that Congress may address.”

September 12, 2014

Next Week: Net Neutrality, Big Data & Robotics Policy

It’ll be a busy week next week, with Monday being the deadline for filing Open Internet comments with the Federal Communications Commission, as well as a number of events here in Washington, among them the Federal Trade Commission’s big data workshop and the FCC’s Open Internet roundtables.

On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission holds a day-long workshop on big data and its impact on consumers, including the poor and under-served.

Also on Monday, The Brookings Institution hosts a panel discussion on robotics and the legal and regulatory policy surrounding it.

On Tuesday, the FCC hosts two roundtables on net neutrality, one in the morning on policy approaches  and another in the afternoon focusing on mobile broadband.

The Atlantic Council holds an event titled “The Final Frontier: Renewing America’s Space Program” on Tuesday.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies before the House Small Business Committee in a hearing on Wednesday.

On Wednesday, the Software & Information Industry Association holds an event releasing a report on the economic impact of the software industry.

The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a net neutrality hearing on Wednesday.

The House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee holds a hearing on Wednesday on the FCC’s budget and management, followed by another hearing by a Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade Subcommittee hearing on cross border data flows.

The House Judiciary Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee holds a copyright hearing on Wednesday, followed by a hearing Thursday on U.S. Copyright Office oversight.

On Thursday, National Journal and The Atlantic hold an event on Hispanic millennials and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

On Friday, the New America Foundation and the Global Public Policy Institute host an event on “technology sovereignty” proposals.

The Progressive Policy Institute holds an event titled “Growing the Transatlantic Digital Economy” on Friday.

 

Looking for Job Security? Get a Doctorate in Science, Engineering & Health

nsf report 353x335 Looking for Job Security? Get a Doctorate in Science, Engineering & Health

(Source: National Science Foundation, National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics)

The unemployment rate for people with doctoral degrees in science, engineering and health isn’t too shabby, according to a report by the National Science Foundation.

The report says that the unemployment rate for these individuals decreased to 2.1 percent in February 2013, compared to 2.4 percent in October 2010. That’s in the context of a roughly four percent increase in the number of individuals who had these advanced degrees and were in the labor force — that includes people who had jobs and those who were looking for work — during this time period.

The 2013 unemployment rate of individuals who had these doctorates and were in the labor force was only a fraction (one-third) of the unemployment rate of the general population 25 years old or older, which was 6.3 percent, according to the report.

As the above chart from the report shows, the science, engineering and health doctorate fields include: life sciences (biological, agricultural and environmental), computer and information science, math and statistics, physical sciences, psychology, social sciences, engineering and health.  It also shows the trends in the labor force numbers and unemployment numbers of people with science, engineering and health doctorates broken down by their doctorate field since 2001.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 2:17 p.m.
Education

September 11, 2014

Companies Involved in Digital Trade had $935B in 2012 Online Sales, Report Says

usitc graphic 445x197 Companies Involved in Digital Trade had $935B in 2012 Online Sales, Report Says

(Source: United States International Trade Commission)

The International Trade Commission released a digital trade report on Thursday that the Senate Finance Committee had requested and one takeaway highlights something we all know – the Internet is important to the economy. Here are a few of the findings:

  • Digital trade’s impact on increased productivity and lower international trade costs on industries particularly involved in digital trade increased the U.S. gross domestic product by 3.4 to 4.8 percent (translated to $517.1 billion to $710.7 billion) in 2011 (that’s looking at things from what they would have been without it).
  • Companies particularly involved in digital trade had $935.2 billion in online sales in 2012. That number is based on a survey the ITC conducted of nearly 10,000 U.S. companies. Online purchases by these companies totaled $471.4 billion in 2012.
  • Companies surveyed also most often identified Nigeria, Algeria and China as places where they faced barriers to digital trade. Places where firms least frequently felt imposed barriers: Australia, the United Kingdom and Italy.

Note: The report defines digital trade as domestic commerce and international trade where the Internet has a “particularly significant role in ordering, producing, or delivering products and services.”

There’s a lot to dig through in this more than 300 page report, so check back with Technocrat later for more insight and analysis.

Eshoo Wants an Updated Innovation Agenda Next Congress

armenian presser002 040814 445x292 Eshoo Wants an Updated Innovation Agenda Next Congress

Eshoo attends a news conference at the House Triangle on April 8. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

If California House Democrat Anna G. Eshoo, who’s been vying to become the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee next Congress, gets that spot, one area she might pursue is updating an innovation agenda.

Eshoo spoke at an education and technology event hosted by The Atlantic on Thursday, and while she didn’t mention her bid for the senior Democratic spot on the panel, she did say she wants to see an updated innovation agenda next Congress. She wrote an innovation agenda for Democrats several years ago and next Congress she said she wants to “update the innovation agenda, to go back and review not only what we accomplished, but where we need to build.”

“I think that we really have to put the pedal to the medal in producing future teachers that are skilled… in these key areas of science, technology, engineering and math,” she continued. “And we need to bring that and integrate it into the educational experience of younger and younger students and we need to attract more girls and young women into the field.”

Eshoo, currently the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee, also called for a reauthorization  of a science authorization law known as America COMPETES. The most recent reauthorization expired in 2013.

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