This Week in Tech: House to consider future of video

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David Barrett, president of Hearst Television, will represent the broadcasters. Charlie Ergen, chairman of Dish Network, and Michael Powell, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, will testify for the pay-television industry.

Michael O'Leary, the vice president for global policy for the Motion Picture Association of America, will represent the interests of the content producers.

Advocates for online technology will include David Hyman, general counsel for Netflix, and Jim Funk, a vice president for Roku, which makes devices that allow consumers to play Internet videos on their televisions.

Gigi Sohn, president of Public Knowledge, will advocate for consumers and Robert Johnson, CEO of Sky Angel, will discuss the interests of religious programming providers.

Lawmakers and regulators have begun to question whether cable companies are trying to stifle competition from online video. The Justice Department has launched an antitrust investigation of cable companies including Comcast and Time Warner, according to media reports.

Cable companies provide both television and broadband Internet service for many customers. The question is whether the cable companies have illegally used their control over Internet access to discourage people from dumping their television service in favor of online video providers, such as Netflix and Hulu.

Net-neutrality is another hot-button issue that could spark debate at the hearing. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved its net-neutrality regulation last year to bar Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down access to websites. Netflix is a vocal advocate of the rule and warns that without it, Internet providers could cutoff access to video sites that compete with their own offerings.

But Republicans on the committee, led by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), say the FCC's rule amounts to regulation of the Internet and stifles job creation.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held its own hearing on the future of video in April.

At that hearing, Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) complained that consumers are charged too much for television service.

"Year-in, year-out consumers face rate increases for pay TV that are rising faster than inflation," he said. "We are paying for so many channels, though we only watch a few."

In other technology news, Rockefeller will hold a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Thursday to examine whether industry self-regulation will be enough to protect consumers' privacy.

The hearing will be a follow-up to the committee's May 9 hearing on the administration's online privacy plan.

"In this follow-up hearing, I intend to closely examine how industry intends to fulfill its recent pledge to not collect consumers’ personal information when they utilize the self-regulatory ad icon or make 'do-not-track' requests in their Web browsers,” Rockefeller said in a statement.

The witnesses will be Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers; Peter Swire, law professor at the Ohio State University; Berin Szoka, president of think tank TechFreedom; and Alex Fowler, global privacy and policy leader for Mozilla.

The White House announced its "Privacy Bill of Rights" in February. The administration urged Congress to enact the guidelines into law, but there has been no movement on Capitol Hill on the proposal.

Instead, the Commerce Department is leading discussions with Web companies, advertisers and consumer groups to develop voluntary codes of conduct to protect privacy. If a company agrees to abide by privacy guidelines but then violates them, the Federal Trade Commission would have the authority to sue the company.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary's subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet will hold a hearing on international intellectual property enforcement. The committee will look at issues surrounding the protection of patents, trade secrets and market access.

China in particular has raised the ire of American software companies and other intellectual property holders. The companies accuse the Chinese of stealing business secrets and not respecting intellectual property rights.