Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
March 4, 2015

Posts in "Congressional Affairs"

March 3, 2015

Fun Fact: ‘Supernova Mikulski’

At least a couple stories on Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski’s, D-Md., announcement of her retirement on Monday remind us that a supernova was named in her honor a few years ago.

From Reuters: “In 2012, when NASA researchers in Baltimore discovered the fleeting glimmer of an exploding star, they named it ‘Supernova Mikulski,’ after one of their chief congressional patrons.”

A 2012 story by The Associated Press reported some details about the supernova and more:

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski is known for her outspoken support of space exploration.

On Thursday, she will have a supernova named after her at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

From a 2012 Heard on the Hill post:

The astronomers found Supernova Mikulski using the Hubble Space Telescope. About 7.4 billion light-years from Earth, it is not visible to the naked eye.

Space researchers have an affinity for Mikulski, which should come as no surprise because she’s the Senate appropriator charged with the NASA budget.

The Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore will also be renamed in Mikulski’s honor. Data collected by both the Hubble and Webb telescopes will be held at the institute.

Mikulski is the longest-serving woman in Congress, the first woman to helm the Senate Appropriations Committee and has been the top Democrat on the Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee for years.

March 2, 2015

The Week Ahead: American Cable Association Summit and Budget, Cybersecurity Hearings

The American Cable Association holds its summit and congressional committees hold cybersecurity hearings as well as budget hearings on NASA, the Federal Communications Commission and the Commerce Department this week.

Monday

Greg Walden, R-Ore., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology discusses net neutrality at the American Enterprise Institute.

The Center for Strategic & International Studies hosts a panel event on the Internet of Things and the transportation industry.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States hosts an event titled “Internet Freedom 2.1: Lessons from Asia’s Developing Democracies.”

Tuesday

A House Appropriations subcommittee holds a Commerce Department budget hearing.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee has a cybersecurity hearing.

Wednesday

The American Cable Association holds its summit, which continues on Thursday.

The Association of American Universities, the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Innovation Alliance, the Medical Device Manufacturers Association, and the National Venture Capital Association host a patent event.

A House Appropriations subcommittee holds a NASA budget hearing.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing titled “Reauthorization of the Federal Communications Commission: The FCC’s FY 2016 Budget Request.”

A House Homeland Security subcommittee holds a hearing titled “Industry Perspectives on the President’s Cybersecurity Information Sharing Proposal.”

New America hosts an event on technology and disability.

Thursday

The House Intelligence Committee holds a cybersecurity hearing.

A Senate Appropriations subcommittee holds a hearing on NASA’s fiscal 2016 budget request.

Friday

USTelecom hosts a cybersecurity event.

February 27, 2015

Weekly Wrapup: Net Neutrality and City-Owned Broadband

The Federal Communications Commission took historic action this week to claim broader regulatory authority over broadband service providers, reclassifying broadband service under a 1934 law that governs common carriers. Your Weekly Wrapup includes posts on the FCC’s net neutrality rules, city-owned broadband and a tax bill in Oregon that state lawmakers hope will attract Google Fiber and others.

FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules

Net Neutrality Meeting Highlights

Walden Wants “Better Path” on Net Neutrality

FCC Republicans Call for Delay in Net Neutrality Vote

Twitter Praises Wheeler’s Net Neutrality Proposal

Net Neutrality Wasn’t the Only Item the FCC Voted on Thursday

Oregon Senate Panel Advances Tax Bill that Lawmakers Hope Will Attract Google Fiber and Others

A Look at the FCC’s Rules Seeking to Improve 911 Call Location Accuracy

February 23, 2015

The Week Ahead: FCC Vote on Net Neutrality Rules and More

It’s a big week in Washington with the Federal Communications Commission’s vote on net neutrality rules. A slew of events and congressional hearings are also on tap. Get ready for a busy, busy week, folks.

Monday 

New America hosts a day-long event titled “Cybersecurity for a New America: Big Ideas and New Voices.”

Tuesday

COMPTEL hosts a day-long policy summit.

The Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy hosts an event on rewriting the 1934 Communications Act.

The Hudson Institute hosts an event titled “American Broadband Under Title II.”

A subcommittee of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds a space exploration hearing.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation hosts an event on cross-border data flows.

Wednesday

A House Appropriations subcommittee holds an oversight hearing on the Justice and Commerce Departments and NASA.

A subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a hearing on the net neutrality proposal before the Federal Communications Commission.

The House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing on the President’s cybersecurity information-sharing proposal.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing titled “FCC Process: Examining the Relationship Between the FCC and the White House.”

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation hosts a panel discussion on net neutrality and network management.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee holds a hearing titled “Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance.”

Thursday

BakerHostetler hosts a day-long symposium on Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

The Federal Communications Commission votes on net neutrality rules and an order addressing two municipal broadband petitions.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee holds a hearing on patent demand letters, which allege someone is infringing on a patent.

The House Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the U.S. Copyright Office.

The heads of the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology testify beforeHouse Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on their fiscal 2016 budget requests.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker testifies beforeSenate Appropriations subcommittee on the department’s fiscal 2016 budget request.

Friday

A House Science, Space and Technology subcommittee holds a hearing on NASA’s commercial crew program.

February 13, 2015

Cruz Lampoons Obama with Net Neutrality Video

Sen. Ted Cruz office lampoons President Barack Obama in a doctored online video that accuses the government of trying to take control of the Internet.

The video, posted from Cruz’ YouTube account on Friday, his staff verified, is entitled “An Announcement from President Obama.” It begins with a blue screen, the presidential seal and the words “Your Weekly Address” and shows a pixilated image of the president with someone else’s voice saying:

Today I am happy to announce that the FCC has taken over the Internet and made it a public utility. Now that the government controls web pricing, terms of service and products and services, your Internet will be faster than ever. This is the same government that brought you the online success of Healthcare.gov and we know that we can continue to do great things for you online.

The end of the statement slows down and the video then cuts to a black screen with the text: “An error occurred, please try again later,” followed by a “Learn More” link.

The Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote later this month on chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal to preserve an open Internet under the FCC’s authority to regulate telecommunications utilities.

Cruz drew attention last fall when he tweeted that net neutrality is “Obamacare for the Internet.”

February 12, 2015

Student Privacy, an Update in Law and Takeaways for Lawmakers

At the end of a House Education and the Workforce subcommittee hearing Thursday on the effect of new technology on student privacy, Chairman Todd Rokita, R-Ind., asked witnesses to sum up what he and his colleagues should keep in mind if they overhaul a 1974 law protecting the privacy of student records. President Barack Obama wants Congress to update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, which of course was enacted before students had computers or cell phones, and Republicans appear to agree with him.

Here’s some of what the witnesses replied:

Shannon Sevier, vice president for advocacy at the National Parent Teacher Association:

“The take away for today is to consider parents as partners in education and not bystanders, to always support outreach and information, to consider not just who has the data and how it’s being stored, but how it’s being used in schools.”

“And whether or not parents have a right to review that information, because I can give consent, but if it’s a one-time thing, I’m still a bystander.”

Allyson Knox, director of education policy and programs at Microsoft:

“It’s very possible to strike a great balance between harnessing the power of personalized learning while also safeguarding our students’ data. Ask more from companies. There’s no question that they need to be transparent, articulate clear contracts, that they need to make sure that they have comprehensive data security systems and that they commit to not using that data for non-educational advertising practices.”

Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer at Calcasieu Parish Public Schools in Louisiana:

“Please be careful in your consideration of what changes in this law and how they will filter down and affect the business of school districts educating students. While we’re painfully aware of the issues around student privacy and PII [personally identifiable information] I’m also painfully aware that it is a very difficult and complicated process to manage student learning and to be wise [stewards] of all this information. And so in terms of burden, we often talk about that. Seek out professionals in the field, practitioners that will have to implement what you decide to do around this.”

Joel R. Reidenberg, professor at Fordham University School of Law:

“Without modernizing FERPA, innovation is going to be opposed and will stall.”

“Congress needs to protect all student information, not just things that were considered educational records in 1974. And lastly, the privacy protections have to apply to all of the participates in the educational environment, which means the schools, the vendors, the parents, the entire educational community set of actors have to be covered by these protections.”

Washington Post Editorial Criticizes Wheeler’s Net Neutrality Proposal

An editorial in The Washington Post criticizes the net neutrality proposal before the Federal Communications Commission and states that it would be better if lawmakers act on the matter.

The editorial, which went online Wednesday evening, argues that the goal of net neutrality is clear, but:

… government efforts to create a policy environment in which that aim is achieved have been erratic and, lately, the subject of intense controversy. That has led the Federal Communications Commission toward approving a net-neutrality plan that carries some serious collateral risks. It would be better if Congress finally did its job and agreed on a legislated plan that avoids more bureaucratic wrangling.

The piece criticizes the proposal that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled last week that would reclassify broadband service as a telecommunications service under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act, pointing to potential impact on broadband service providers and the Federal Trade Commission.

“Under the plan, the agency would choose not to enforce many of the most onerous Title II regulations, such as forcing cable companies to let any would-be Internet service provider use the wires they installed to sell its own Internet-access service,” the editorial states. “But the industry worries that future FCC commissioners would expand their regulatory scope, given the opportunity.”

The piece also states that if broadband service is reclassified, it’s “very likely” that the Federal Trade Commission would be “unable to conduct investigations and enforce actions in the broadband business.”

The piece argues that the best approach would be for Congress to write a new law, but notes that a current legislative proposal would take away some regulatory authorities it describes as useful:

For years, the FCC has attempted to use old law to regulate broadband. The best way out of this mess is to create new law. That would settle the jurisdictional question between the FCC and the FTC, and it would make net-neutrality rules legally unassailable. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) have proposed a net-neutrality bill, but it has little chance of becoming law because it strips the FCC of some useful regulatory authorities. That shouldn’t be the end of the legislative discussion.

The New York Times‘ editorial board had a very different take on Wheeler’s net neutrality rules. In an editorial last week, they wrote: “The truth is the F.C.C. is taking a measured approach, justified by the growing importance of Internet access, which has become the most important communications service for most individuals and businesses.”

February 11, 2015

Markey Plans Legislation on Vehicle Security and Privacy Standards

Earlier this week, Sen. Edward J. Markey released a report that called for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to issue new privacy and security standards for vehicles to protect “drivers in the modern age of increasingly connected vehicles.” On Thursday, Markey said he plans to introduce legislation.

“We need the electronic equivalent of seat belts and air bags to keep drivers and their information safe,” the Massachusetts Democrat said at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing Wednesday.

The security and privacy standards he outlined are largely what the report calls for.

Among the requirements he said should be included in security standards: protecting a vehicle’s wireless access points against hacking, ensuring information collected is secured and encrypted, and the ability for manufacturers to detect and respond to “real-time hacking events.”

Among the requirements he said should be included in privacy standards: drivers being informed about data collection and use and requiring drivers to give consent in order for personal driving information to be used for advertising or marketing.

He also wants a rating system for “how the vehicle protects drivers beyond those minimum standards,” to be displayed in new cars.

February 10, 2015

Republicans Scrutinize NSF Funding Recipient Use of Management Fees

Republicans are scrutinizing how recipients of National Science Foundation funds use management fees and CQ Roll Call’s Shawn Zeller reports on the issue and debate.

Zeller writes (subscription):

Republicans outraged that a National Science Foundation grantee used government funds to pay lobbyists, hold a Christmas party and buy employees coffee are pressuring the agency to rewrite its rules governing how grantees can use money they receive.

Last year, Senate Republicans Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Rand Paul of Kentucky “received a draft audit report raising questions about how the National Ecological Observatory Network, a Colorado nonprofit, had used government funds, including about $150,000 in management fees,” Zeller writes.

The audit agency “later rejected its auditors finding on the management fees, but the GOP has continued to press the issue,” Zeller writes. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee’s oversight panel held a hearing last week where GOP lawmakers “prodded NSF and network representatives to explain the spending,” he writes.

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