THE LEDE: A group of 10 Democratic Senators including Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) wrote to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday opposing any action that would prevent the Federal Communications Commission from getting the funds needed to enforce the net-neutrality rules passed in December. The House recently voted to block any funding that would be used to implement the rules, which most Republicans oppose.
“The final network neutrality rules are built on principles everyone should support – promoting transparency of broadband service operations; preventing blocking of legal content and websites; and prohibiting discrimination of individuals, applications, and other websites,” the senators wrote. “Some members of Congress have decided that they know better what is good for the Internet than the people who use, fund, and work on it. We side with the agency of expertise and supporters of the rule and urge you to reject any proposals that will prevent the FCC from implementing or enforcing its net neutrality rules.”
Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) joined Kerry and Rockefeller in the letter to Chairman Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and ranking member Thad Cochran (R-Miss.)
Lugar to unveil energy play on Facebook: In a first for the upper chamber, Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) will announce his Practical Energy Plan exclusively on Facebook Thursday at 11 a.m. Lugar will discuss his plan to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil with fans who must "Like" his Facebook page to see the webcast. Lugar has a tradition of embracing new tools to communicate with his constituents; he was the first Senator to participate in a C-SPAN call-in TV show in the early 1980s.
On Tap Thursday: The American Consumer Institute will hold a panel discussion on the FCC's recent Wireless Report and the latest news surrounding AT&T's proposed acquisition of T-Mobile USA. The event will take place at noon in Rayburn House Office Building.
Senators agree on data breach, split over privacy bill: Members of the Senate Commerce Committee expressed broad agreement on the need for a national data breach reporting standard but were less unified with regards to the prospect of comprehensive privacy legislation at a hearing on Wednesday. Both Chairman Rockefeller and Sen. Kerry spoke of the need for comprehensive privacy protections, but ranking member Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) was less convinced of the need for comprehensive privacy legislation. Toomey said he wanted a clear picture of the potential harms to consumers that would be addressed by any privacy bill along with the potential cost to industry.
Both witnesses and lawmakers agreed on need for a national data reporting standard to replace the current patchwork of state laws. Rockefeller has offered a data-breach bill with Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) that has drawn industry support; there are also several similar measures being considered in the House. A national data breach reporting standard appears likely to pass this year either as part of comprehensive privacy or security legislation or as a stand-alone measure.
Senates Dems refresh website: Senate Democrats unveiled a revamped website on Wednesday that
includes a database of Senate votes, a blog and more than 500 YouTube
videos. The sites features live updates from the Senate
floor along with daily summaries and vote counts. The
videos explain legislation and highlight key speeches, hearings and
press briefings. The archive of Senate votes stretches back to 1989, and
a blog featuring posts from anonymous staffers will offer views on new
legislation, debates and long-term goals for the caucus. Check out
the new site at democrats.senate.gov.
House E&C Committee to hold series of privacy hearings starting July 14: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold the first in a series of hearings on consumer privacy and data collection on July 14. Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairwoman Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) and Telecom subpanel Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will lead the effort with a joint hearing featuring testimony from federal regulators including the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission.
The hearing will focus on existing privacy laws in hopes of identifying key issues for future legislation. Topics the committee plans to address during future hearings include whether consumers are aware of their data being collected and whether they have any means to control it; aggregation and anonymization of personally identifiable information; and the role of targeted online advertising.
NFL to FCC on retrans: Don't end local game blackouts - The National Football League filed comments with the FCC this week urging the agency not to end blackouts of local sports games. NFL games are often blacked out locally when they fail to sell out 72 hours in advance in order to compel fans to buy tickets. The FCC's sports blackout rules prevent cable or satellite providers from carrying a game locally when the free broadcast has been blacked out under the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961.
Last month the Sports Fan Coalition wrote to the FCC asking the agency to prevent games from being blacked out due to retransmission disputes between broadcasters and pay-TV providers. The NFL argued in response that the sports blackout rule serves the public interest and has been repeatedly approved by Congress. The League contends that waiving the rule during retrans disputes would encourage brinkmanship by pay-TV providers.