OVERNIGHT TECH: House panel to vote on satellite TV bill, Internet governance

THE LEDE: The House Energy and Commerce Committee will continue with its markup Thursday of two telecom bills: one to reauthorize the law that governs the satellite television marketplace and one to keep the Obama administration from going forward with its plans to relinquish its Internet management role.

The bill to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) is expected to go through committee Thursday with little debate after committee leadership announced a bipartisan compromise on the bill late Tuesday.

Initially, Democrats worried that the Republican bill did not go far enough to reform the video marketplace and tied the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) hands as it tried to crack down on collusion between broadcasters.

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The bipartisan agreement bill announced Tuesday calls for government studies into some of the areas of concern to committee Democrats and gives broadcasters more time to disentangle from business arrangements effectively banned by the FCC earlier this year.

In his opening statement, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) — chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, which considered the bill earlier this year — credited the committee’s bipartisan leadership for finding compromise on something that “is widely viewed as the only 'must pass' communications bill of this Congress.”

“This bipartisan agreement benefits the American people and represents the good work this committee can do when both sides commit to achieving an outcome,” he said.

In a written opening statement, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) — ranking member of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications — noted the “very important changes” in the compromise bill before the committee on Thursday. “We hit many bumps along the road, but I’m pleased that we’ve reached a compromise which will make meaningful reforms to the video marketplace, while ensuring that 1.5 million satellite TV subscribers can continue to receive broadcast programming,” she said.

Internet governance also on deck: The committee is also set to consider the Republican Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act. That bill — authored by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) — would prevent the Commerce Department from going through with its recently announced plans to step back from its oversight role of the technical side of the Internet’s Web address system until the Government Accountability Office conducts a study.

While some hailed the Commerce Department’s decision to transfer its oversight role to global stakeholders as a step toward a more open Internet, critics — including Republicans in Congress — worry it could open the door for oppressive governments to seek control over the Internet and have called for the oversight transition to be delayed.

“We also have no intention of letting the Obama administration cede oversight of the fundamental foundation of the Internet – address and naming authority – without the due diligence to ensure that these functions could not be co-opted by foreign entities that do not share our values,” Walden said in his opening statement.

In her written statement, Eshoo said she opposes the bill “because it effectively unravels the important work this Subcommittee and Congress have done to advance the multistakeholder model of Internet governance.”

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) also pushed back on the bill. “GAO reports for the sake of GAO reports are counterintuitive,” he said. Instead of calling for reports, Congress should stand united behind the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, especially “with the world watching,” he continued.

House Judiciary to talk STELA next: A House Judiciary subcommittee will take a look at the law later in the afternoon, in a hearing that will feature cable and satellite executives along with an official from the U.S. Copyright Office. In a statement, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said lawmakers “must ensure that Americans continue to have access” to the cable and satellite services that provide “a wide variety of video content, ranging from nighttime entertainment for their families; educational shows for their children; local and national news with information that informs them; and public access channels that empower Americans to see their local, state, and federal representatives in action.”

Intel Dems optimistic about NSA reform compromise: House Intelligence Committee ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said he is optimistic that his committee can find a middle group with the House Judiciary Committee on reforming government surveillance activities. Though the two committees scheduled competing markups — Judiciary’s took place on Wednesday afternoon, with Intelligence scheduled for Thursday — Ruppersberger said he anticipates the two committees coming “as close as we can to one bill,” with the hopes of moving it forward before the House recesses for Memorial Day later this month.

“If we can come together, hopefully it will be one bill,” he said, acknowledging that the committees “have a couple of things to work out,” such as certain definitions in the bill that came out of Judiciary. He attributed the burgeoning compromise to both committees moving towards the middle on some of the more contentious issues. “Judiciary's come a long way” because “we’ve been working with them,” he said.

Rep. Adam Schiff — a member of the Intelligence Committee — also expressed optimism that the two committees can find a surveillance reform package that also meets reform requirements set out by the Obama administration. “I think the committees are coming together” and “coalescing around a model where there would be prior court review, which was one of the big stumbling blocks between the two committees,” he said. Schiff added that he would like to see “greater ability for the tech companies to be more transparent about the requests they get” and “a stronger adversarial process” at the court that oversees government surveillance.

Schiff said he hoped to address some of those issues during Thursday’s markup, taking into consideration the bill that came out of Wednesday’s House Judiciary markup. Ultimately, “the rules committee will referee and decide what goes to the floor, and it may be pieces of both,” he said.

Boucher warns spectrum auction limits could hit rural areas: Former Rep. Rick Boucher (R-Va.) is warning the Federal Communications Commission that limiting Verizon and AT&T from buying up some spectrum at the commission’s auction next year could unfairly harm rural residents.

“Modern broadband networks require significant capital investment to build out these new services to difficult-to-reach populations,” wrote Boucher, now the head of Sidley Austin’s government strategic group and honorary chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, in a blog post. “The companies that are most likely to make that capital investment are the ones who currently serve rural America and have announced their intention to expand rural access with newly acquired spectrum.”

ITI makes promotions: The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) — which represents 57 communications and computing companies, including Apple, Intel and Panasonic — is promoting Andy Halataei and Vince Jesaitis to senior vice president and vice president for government affairs, respectively.

 

ON TAP

The House Intelligence Committee will markup its surveillance reform bill in a closed meeting beginning at 10 a.m.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will continue with its markup of an Internet governance bill and a satellite television bill at 10 a.m.

The Technology Policy Institute will hold an event at 8:30 on online piracy.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

A House panel on Wednesday moved forward with legislation to rein in the National Security Agency’s spying, nearly a year after leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden sparked outrage around the globe.

The net neutrality overhaul proposed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was thrown in doubt on Wednesday as the agency's two Democratic members expressed serious concerns with the proposal.

Broadcast industry giant Sinclair Broadcasting Group is forming a PAC, according to paperwork recently filed with the Federal Election Commission.

More than 100 Internet companies, including industry giants Google, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter, are asking the Obama administration to do more to protect net neutrality.

 

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