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Week ahead: Republicans to pick up fight against net neutrality

House Republicans will resume their nearly yearlong effort to nibble away at the edges of the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Internet rules.

The House Energy and Commerce technology subcommittee on Tuesday is slated to debate two bills regarding net neutrality -- one that would prevent the government from regulating Internet service prices and another that would exempt small Internet providers from some transparency rules.

Republicans tried but were unable to include rate regulation language in the spending bill approved in December.

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FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said numerous times the commission has no intention of regulating the rates that customers are charged for Internet service under net neutrality rules. But net neutrality supporters said the language debated during the appropriations process was vague and could potentially blunt other FCC authority.

The legislation to be debated Tuesday simply says: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Communications Commission may not regulate the rates charged for broadband Internet access service."

The committee will also take up a new bill that would exempt small Internet service providers from new transparency measures included in the net neutrality rules. The FCC has extended the exemption for a year, but many have called to keep in place indefinitely.

The bill would also expand the definition of a small business, allowing more companies to be exempt from the rules. The FCC currently sets the exemption for companies with 100,000 or fewer subscribers. The new GOP definition would be 500,000 or fewer subscribers or fewer than 1,500 employees.

Two other bills under debate would protect the rights of amateur radio operators and would prohibit caller ID spoofing for text messages.

Thursday will bring the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) first PrivacyCon conference. The event, which the FTC billed as the "first of its kind" when it was announced last year, will feature presentations from academics working on privacy issues.

The panel topics range from the economics of security to how usability and privacy intersect. It will also feature a session on big data. The session could touch on the commission's recent report on how businesses can avoid discrimination stemming from the use of big data.

Participants will hear from FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez as well as Commissioner Julie Brill, both fresh off appearances at CES, the annual tech industry trade show.

President Obama also delivers his final State of the Union address on Tuesday. Last year, he gave nods to a range of tech policy topics, including net neutrality, surveillance and cybersecurity.

 

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