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Senate bill to protect customers' online reviews heads to markup

Senate bill to protect customers' online reviews heads to markup
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The Senate Commerce Committee is moving swiftly to consider two tech-related bills sponsored by Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneOvernight Tech: Uber exec says 'no justification' for covering up hack | Apple considers battery rebates | Regulators talk bitcoin | SpaceX launches world's most powerful rocket Apple tells senator it may give rebates to consumers who bought iPhone batteries Republican agenda clouded by division MORE (R-S.D.).

The panel will mark up the Consumer Review Freedom Act and the MOBILE NOW Act in a session next Wednesday.

The consumer bill would limit companies from putting language in contracts that allows them to threaten customers with legal action if they post unfavorable online reviews.

It is supported by several major players in the online review space, including Yelp and TripAdvisor.

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The mobile broadband bill is designed to coax federal agencies into giving up some of their wireless spectrum, the valuable frequencies that carry signals to and from mobile device. Supporters of the strategy say that the agencies have rights to frequencies that could be better utilized by the private sector as wireless carriers struggle to meet the soaring demand for mobile data consumed by smartphones.

A draft of the bill was circulated last Friday, with a committee spokesperson cautioning that it could change. It was unclear whether Democrats had signed on to the bill — though Thune said that staffers for the committee's ranking Democrat, Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonInterior head to travel to Carolinas to discuss off shore drilling Overnight Finance: Trump touts trade agenda in State of the Union address | Consumer Bureau ruled constitutional | Fed leaves rates unchanged Green group backs Sens. Baldwin, Nelson for reelection MORE (Fla.), had been aware of the bill’s progress.

“We’ve had Sen. Nelson’s staff involved and clued into everything that we were doing all along,” he said.

It remains to be seen how Democrats or Thune’s fellow Republicans will receive the draft bill.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) announced a proposal Tuesday to encourage a strategy for the use of unlicensed spectrum, or frequencies that are not used exclusively by one user.