Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 17, 2014

Posts by Anne L. Kim

338 Posts

December 17, 2014

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

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.

Weekly Wrapup: E-Rate Funding Cap Increase, Internet Tax Moratorium and IP Nominees

Among the happenings this week: the Federal Communications Commission increased the funding cap on the E-Rate program, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on intellectual property nominees, and the spending package to fund the federal government includes provisions such as an extension of the Internet tax moratorium.

  • The House passed a spending package to fund the federal government that includes an extension of the Internet tax moratorium through Oct. 1, 2015. It also includes a provision that would block the National Telecommunications and Information Administration from relinquishing its responsibilities over Internet domain names and other domain functions. The NTIA wants to shift those duties to organizations with a stake in the Internet, but Republicans have opposed the change. The Senate’s now considering the package.
  • The Federal Communications Commission approved a measure that would raise by $1.5 billion the funding cap for the E-Rate program that helps schools and libraries pay for Internet access. And since the program’s supported by Universal Service Fund fees, consumers will see up to $1.90 in additional fees on their phone bills each year.
  • Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, who is expected to be the next chairman of the Judiciary Committee, made clear that the nominations of Michelle K. Lee to be director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and Daniel H. Marti to be the White House’s intellectual property enforcement coordinator, wouldn’t advance in the 113th Congress, since there wasn’t enough time. But he also indicated that the nominations might be acted on early in the next Congress.
  • Technocrat had a Q&A with University of North Carolina law professor William P. Marshall about the Supreme Court case involving violent comments made on Facebook. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
  • The Telecommunications Industry Association organized a letter to FCC commissioners and House and Senate leaders opposing proposals to reclassify broadband as a common carrier as part of the FCC’s rewrite of net neutrality rules. Sixty companies signed on including IBM, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Cisco, and dLink.
  • BSA | The Software Alliance released a survey of roughly 1,500 business owners and decision makers in the U.S. and Europe on data analytics and among its U.S. findings: While 33 percent thought more than 10 percent of their company’s growth will be related to data analytics this year, 58 percent thought the same looking five years from now.

Massie, Surveillance and ‘Backdoors’

massie 056 050714 445x296 Massie, Surveillance and Backdoors

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., leaves the House Republican Conference meeting in the basement of the Capitol on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

A bipartisan group in Congress plans to continue pushing legislation that would ban federal agencies from requiring technology companies to provide “backdoor” access to their products for government surveillance.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., introduced a bill last week to do that, and her co-sponsors include Republicans Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Thomas Massie  of Kentucky.  Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden  introduced a Senate version.

A similar proposal was part of a broader amendment by Massie that the House adopted to a defense spending bill earlier this year. That amendment wasn’t included in the final version of the defense bill that’s part of an omnibus spending package that the House passed Thursday night and the Senate is now considering.

Massie told Technocrat on Friday that the bill’s introduction at the tail end of the Congress was “just putting our marker in the ground to say hey, we’re not gonna let this issue go away, and we’ll have to reintroduce it again, probably in January or fairly soon.”

“And I think it’s like eating an elephant one bite at a time,” Massie said. “It’s a small reform, but it’s something that could possibly pass as a stand-alone. It might not have to be an amendment to an appropriation bill or attached to a Patriot Act reauthorization.”


December 11, 2014

FCC Approves $1.5 Billion E-Rate Funding Cap Increase

The Federal Communications Commission approved a measure Thursday that will raise by $1.5 billion the funding cap for a program, known as E-Rate, that helps schools and libraries pay for Internet access. And since the program’s paid for through Universal  Service Fund fees consumers see on their telephone bills, that will translate to up to $1.90 in additional fees on your phone bill each year.

CQ Roll Call’s Carolyn Phenicie reports that commissioners approved the measure in a party line vote of 3-2.

The measure raises the program’s funding cap from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion.

Phenicie reports (subscription):

The order also makes a few other changes, including allowing schools and libraries to pay large upfront construction costs over multiple years, permitting program applicants to build high-speed broadband facilities themselves when doing so would be cost-effective and matching state support for “last-mile” broadband with up to 10 percent of construction costs.

As background, Phenicie writes that the “proposals come on the heels of changes made this summer to phase-out funding for outdated technology such as pagers and allow more funding to be put toward the physical connections needed to expand wireless connections.”

According to Phenicie, net neutrality protesters interrupted the meeting several times, including by a pair of protesters who ran behind the commissioners holding a banner that said “reclassify now,” referring to calls for the agency to reclassify broadband as a common carrier in rewriting net neutrality rules:

“This is what the presidents wants, this is what the people want. We deserve to have the net kept neutral,” they said. They also apologized for interrupting the meeting. Chairman Tom Wheeler addressed a group of students in the audience, “You’ve just seen the First Amendment at work. This is what this country is all about.”

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