This Week in Tech: Senate hearing could be debut for new FCC

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Obama nominated Pai and Rosenworcel in 2011, but Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) held up their nominations to force the FCC to turn over documents related to its conditional approval of LightSquared's plan for a nationwide broadband network. Rosenworcel is a familiar face at the committee, as she most recently worked as a communications counsel to Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

Senators could ask the commissioners about a wide range of topics, including broadband access, the FCC's recent rule requiring television stations to post political ad data online, and the agency's recent investigation into Wi-Fi snooping by Google.

A potential hot-button issue is whether the FCC will consider revoking Fox's broadcast licenses because of evidence that its parent company, News Corp., illegally hacked phones in the United Kingdom.

The law requires that the FCC only grant broadcast licenses to people of "good character."

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) might push for his bill that would make it harder for the FCC to adopt new regulations. The House passed companion legislation in March in a mostly party-line vote.

Supporters of the measure argue it would increase transparency and accountability at the FCC, but opponents say it would hinder the agency's ability to protect consumers.

The Democratic spokeswoman said the Senate has no plans to take up Heller's legislation.

In other technology happenings on Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will hold a Thursday morning hearing on the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act, which is sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has introduced the Senate version of the bill.

The measure would require police to have a warrant before obtaining location data from a person's cellphone, laptop or GPS device. The requirement would apply to obtaining past data as well as real-time tracking, but it includes exceptions for emergencies.

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a Wednesday hearing on the status of the Commerce and Agriculture departments' broadband grant and loan programs, which were authorized as part of the stimulus bill.

Appearing before the subcommittee from the Commerce Department will be Larry Strickling, the administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA); and Todd Zinser, the department's Inspector General. The Agriculture Department will be represented by Rural Utilities Service administrator Jonathan Adelstein and deputy Inspector General David Gray.

The stimulus bill originally provided $7.2 billion for broadband programs. Of that money, $4.7 billion went to NTIA to create the Broadband Technology and Opportunity Program (BTOP), while the remaining $2.5 billion was used to give the Rural Utilities Service new capability to provide loans for broadband deployment in rural areas.

The Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee will host the final of three briefings in its 2012 Government Privacy Series on Monday at noon on Capitol Hill. The topic will be "New Internet Privacy Legislation: What the White House, Federal Trade Commission and the European Commission are recommending."

Maneesha Mithal, associate director of the FTC's division of privacy and identify protection, will start off the briefing by describing the FTC's recommendations for privacy legislation.

Mithal will be followed by a panel of private-sector experts who will examine the FTC's proposal, the Obama administration's Privacy Bill of Rights and the proposed European Data Protection Regulation.

The panel will consist of Justin Brookman, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology's project on consumer privacy; Direct Marketing Association Vice President Rachel Thomas; NetChoice Executive Director Steve DelBianco; and Ohio State University law professor Peter Swire.

Hogan Lovells partner Christopher Wolf will moderate the panel.