Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 31, 2014

Posts in "Uncategorized"

October 30, 2014

Fastest Broadband For Your Buck? Try Seoul, Hong Kong, Tokyo or Paris

If you’re looking to pay less than $40 a month for home broadband, you’ll likely need to go to Asia or Europe to get the fastest speeds, according to a new report from the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, which contends that U.S. consumers tend to pay more for comparable broadband service than their Asian or European counterparts.

The report looked at 24 cities and focuses on home broadband, and does not cover data service offered as part of cell phone plans. Findings from the report, which collected data between July and September 2014, were similar to what they found in the previous two years, according to the report.

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Orbital Sciences Roundup: Possible Impact on Military Rocket Engine Development and More

458031618 445x296 Orbital Sciences Roundup: Possible Impact on Military Rocket Engine Development and More

Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft on-board, suffers a catastrophic anomaly moments after launching from NASA Wallops Flight Facility on Oct. 28, 2014. (Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA via Getty Images)

The Orbital Sciences rocket that exploded just after lift-off earlier this week was on its way to carry cargo to the International Space Station for NASA, but it could have an impact on efforts at the Pentagon to build a new liquid rocket engine, according to a report (subscription required) by CQ Roll Call’s Megan Scully.

Scully wrote Wednesday that the crash will “almost certainly fuel congressional efforts to expedite the military’s nascent plans to develop a new U.S.-built liquid rocket engine.”

We still don’t know exactly what caused the explosion, but Aviation Week reported Wednesday that the company “could accelerate a plan to re-engine the Antares main stage if the cause of an Oct. 28 launch failure is attributed to the rocket’s twin AJ-26 engines.” The story also has background on the engines.

The Associated Press has an overview of Orbital Sciences.

October 29, 2014

Orbital Sciences Investigating Rocket Explosion

After an unmanned Orbital Sciences rocket exploded Tuesday evening, shortly after lift-off on its way to the International Space Station to transport cargo, the company is investigating what happened, with NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration involved. A company executive said Tuesday night they didn’t have early indications of what exactly caused the accident.

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October 23, 2014

Online Sales Tax Supporters Eye Action in Lame Duck

As supporters of a bill to boost online sales tax collection gear up to pass the measure in the lame duck, opponents say leaders will likely avoid a tax debate in the waning months of this session.

“There’s a lot to pressure to minimize contentious issues at that point in time,” said Daniel J. Mitchell, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

State and local government associations have been salivating at the chance to collect taxes from out-of-state online vendors, who they say rob them of billions in revenue each year.

The Senate passed a bill, the so-called Marketplace Fairness Act, last year that would allow states to collect sales taxes on items delivered to customers in their state. After the bill languished in the House for nearly a year, sponsor Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., combined it with a popular House-passed measure extending a moratorium on taxing Internet access.

Congress extended the Internet access tax moratorium under the government’s stopgap funding bill through Dec. 11, at which time the Senate could take up Enzi’s new proposal (S 2609).

“We know the House is interested in passing a continuation of the moratorium,” said Dan Crippen, executive director of the National Governors Association. “And so, what the Senate is essentially saying is that this is a more complete e-commerce bill and addresses both issues at once.”

It may not be as simple as that, Mitchell said. With several other pressing matters on the agenda for the lame duck, any procedural roadblocks on the tax issue could force leaders to delay action until next year.

Some senators also indicated they may support the measure if they had more time to debate the issue, including Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

“I think the bill is well-intentioned and I’m not fundamentally opposed to it,” Hatch said on the floor, before the Senate passed the Marketplace Fairness bill last year. “But, make no mistake, there are problems with this legislation as it is currently drafted; problems that likely could have been avoided if the Finance Committee had been given an opportunity to fully consider the bill.”

If Republicans take control of the Senate in November, Hatch could have more sway in getting the bill to the floor. For now, Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., is among those from states without sales taxes who are expected to try and keep the issue separate from the access tax moratorium.

“Sen. Wyden is going to do whatever it takes to preserve the Internet Tax Freedom Act, including making sure people understand that [the Marketplace Fairness Act] violates the animating principle of ITFA,” Wyden spokesman Keith Chu said in an email.

By Sarah Chacko Posted at 1:30 p.m.

International Space Station, A State Department Twitter Account in Coburn’s ‘Wastebook’

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Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on the second floor of the Capitol. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Niels Lesniewski at #WGDB has the rundown on Sen. Tom Coburn’s annual “Wastebook” of federal projects that the Oklahoma Republican deems “silly, unnecessary and low priority” — basically (as the name would suggest) wasteful.

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October 21, 2014

Q&A: Law Professor Ryan Calo, Part Two

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A man practices surgery using a robot during the opening of the robotics surgery training center ‘Onze-Lieve-Vrouwziekenhuis Vattikuti Robotic Surgery Institute.’ (NICOLAS MAETERLINCK/AFP/Getty Images)

Ryan Calo is an assistant professor at the University of Washington School of Law and has suggested a Federal Robotics Commission as a “thought experiment.” Technocrat talked with him about the idea, how he defines robotics, and more. Below is some of the discussion. You can read more on Technocrat’s chat with Calo here on legal issues he foresees arising in the coming years.

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October 20, 2014

Leahy Wants Comcast Pledge of No Paid Prioritization

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Sen. Patrick Leahy speaks with reporters before the Senate luncheons in the Capitol in March 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

As federal regulators continue to review Comcast’s proposal to acquire Time Warner Cable and as the Federal Communications Commission seeks to draft net neutrality rules, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is calling on Comcast to promise that it won’t engage in paid prioritization.

In a letter to Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen on Monday, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., wrote:

In a May blog post, you wrote that Comcast does not intend to enter into paid prioritization agreements. I welcome that assertion, but I remain gravely concerned that if such agreements are permitted [under the FCC's net neutrality rules], market incentive may drive Comcast and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to change that position in the future.

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October 17, 2014

Obama Issues New Requirements for Government Payment Cards

Government officials have been saying for years that they want to see more payment cards ditching the magnetic strips and signatures and switching over to the embedded microchips and PIN numbers favored by European nations and Canada, but they can’t agree on a way to get the industry to take action. The White House said President Obama is taking a shot at leading by example, signing an executive order Friday for government credit cards to make the change.

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By Rob Margetta Posted at 2:23 p.m.

Friday Q&A: Law Professor Ryan Calo, Part One

CaloRyan1 Friday Q&A: Law Professor Ryan Calo, Part One

Calo (Photo Credit: UW School of Law)

Ryan Calo is an assistant law professor at the University of Washington School of Law whose academic work looks at the legal and policy aspects of robotics. Technocrat talked to him about what he anticipates the future of robotics will look like, legal issues he thinks will arise in the coming years, and more.

Q: I know you say you’re a legal professor and not an engineer, but what are your assumptions of how you see robotics impacting our daily lives in the future, if at all, in the coming years?

A: Well, I think that robotics will rapidly be entering the mainstream. I think you’ll see ‘em in hospitals, I think you’ll see ‘em in stores. I think people will have them in their homes more so even than they do today. I just think that robots will touch every part of our lives. Transportation, medicine, you name it.

You’ll see them flying around and so forth. So, I think that robots will be almost ubiquitous the way that, you know, computers are.

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October 16, 2014

Internet Use Via Phones Depends on Education, Income Level, NTIA Report Shows

Among the findings of a report released Thursday by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration: whether you go online and check your email using your phone depends on your education and income level, and whether you live in a rural or urban area.

The report on Internet usage is based on a 2012 Census Bureau survey of more than 53,000 households.

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