By Julian Hattem and Kate Tummarello - 06/17/14 06:32 PM EDT
THE LEDE: Consumer interest and free speech groups are getting behind Democratic legislation to require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) block agreements to speed up some users’ Internet speeds.
The Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) “sends a clear signal” to the FCC, according to Public Knowledge vice president Chris Lewis.
The bill would require the FCC to prohibit “paid prioritization” deals, which Internet providers like Verizon could otherwise make with companies like Netflix to speed up service under a proposal from commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. Critics have said that the current proposal could allow for “fast lanes” for users of big websites that could afford to pay the tolls and slower service for newer upstarts with less money.
The head of the American Library Association, which has previously supported the net neutrality concept of equal treatment for all online traffic, said the Democrats’ bill was "vitally important" to preserving free speech and education online. "It is critical for all to have equitable access to the Internet to support our nation’s social, cultural, educational and economic well-being," Barbara Stripling said.
Internet service companies, for their part, have denied that they have any intentions of turning the Internet into a two-lane highway with different qualities of service.
“Cable companies do not engage in paid prioritization and have every incentive to ensure that all consumers enjoy fast and robust Internet services,” said the National Cable and Telecommunications Association in a statement after Leahy and Matsui introduced their bill. Over the weekend, the trade group’s head said special high-speed Internet lanes would not make sense from a business point of view.
The bill is likely to meet opposition from Republicans who have opposed the FCC's attempts to write new net neutrality rules.
House email privacy bill hits magic number: As of late Tuesday, the Email Privacy Act from Reps. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has 218 cosponsors, meaning a majority of House members support the bill to update the 1986 law that lets law enforcement officials access stored emails without a warrant.
In an interview with The Hill, Yoder said he is optimistic that House leadership will bring the bill to the floor for a vote, calling the 218 cosponsors “a critical component” of making the case to leadership. Yoder noted “some interest in attaching additional components” such as a provision addressing geolocation information and said he is “willing to be flexible in the way it gets brought forward” as long as the bill doesn’t get bogged down by irrelevant provisions.
For more on Yoder’s plans for next steps in the House and Senate and thoughts on opposition from federal agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission — check out The Hill’s full story tomorrow.
No STELA bill anytime soon, Thune says: Senate Commerce Committee ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) is not expecting to unveil a bill to reauthorize the law governing satellite television in the immediate future. Parts of that law, the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), are set to expire at the end of the year, and lawmakers are divided on whether to use the reauthorization process to make bigger tweaks to the video marketplace or pass a “clean” reauthorization bill.
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) has made his goals for broader reform clear. “A clean bill doesn’t interest me,” Rockefeller said off the Senate floor on Tuesday. “Thune and I have been working for some time to reach a way of doing this without having it be ‘clean,’” he said, declining to comment on the possible timing of his bill.
But Thune said his talks with Rockefeller are “still kind of fluid” right now. “We’re just kind of batting things back and forth right now,” he told The Hill Tuesday. Thune guessed that his committee would turn its attention to STELA in earnest after this year’s elections. “Scheduling in advance of [the fall] is unlikely," he said.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee already has an “unclean” STELA reauthorization bill. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a clean bill last week.
House Intel praises Senate cyber bill: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersburger (D-Md.) applauded a new bill from their Senate counterparts aimed at getting companies to share information about cyber threats with each other and the federal government. The bill is set to be considered by the Senate Intelligence Committee next week.
“This legislation will allow the private sector to protect itself from this severe onslaught of attacks, ultimately protecting the American economy as a whole,” the pair said in a joint statement. “We are confident that a final bill that enhances our security while protecting privacy and civil liberties can be worked out quickly in conference,” they said, encouraging the committee and full Senate “to move quickly to pass this vital bill.”
FCC would face $17 million cut under House approps bill: The FCC would face a budget cut of $17 million under the House Appropriations Committee’s Financial Services bill released Tuesday. That bill would give the FCC $323 million for next year, $17 billion less than the agency received in 2014 and roughly $52 million below what the agency requested earlier this year.
In laying out its budgetary request to Congress in March, the FCC repeatedly said that it needs more funding to update its technology. Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this year, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency’s aging tech system is “intolerable,” leading to inefficiencies and “a situation that no American business would allow to exist.”
Amazon gets more drone, online sales tax help: Amazon has hired Akin Gump to lobby on drone issues, according to a new lobbying registration form. The company’s Prime Air project brought on the K Street firm for assistance with “federal advocacy with regard to testing and operation of [unmanned aerial vehicles] in the U.S.,” it said in the form. Amazon is working on a plan to use drones to ship packages and has been one of the most recognizable companies bringing the issue to Washington’s attention in recent months.
Amazon also registered lawyers at Akin Gump to lobby on a bill that would allow states to collect sales tax from out-of-state online retailers, according to registration forms.
Visa joins ITI: Visa jointed the Information Technology Industry Council on Tuesday, and a top company executive said that cybersecurity was at the head of its list of issues to focus on with the trade group.
“Visa is committed to promoting policies that encourage innovation to bring secure payment technology to consumers and businesses around the world,” said Bobby Thompson, Visa’s head of U.S. government affairs. “As a highly respected advocacy group, ITI will be a valuable partner as we continue to work with policymakers to develop solutions to promote cybersecurity and other issues.”
New Phoenix Center paper pushes back on Title II: A new paper from the Phoenix Center pushes back on the calls for the FCC to reclassify Internet providers as “Title II” services, which would let the agency treat the companies like the more heavily-regulated traditional phone companies.
The paper, being released Wednesday morning, examines recent court cases over the FCC’s authority of broadband service and finds that “the FCC retains ample jurisdiction over Broadband Service Providers under current law and, as such, reclassification of broadband Internet access as a Title II common carrier telecommunications service is unwarranted.”
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services will markup a $21.3 billion appropriations bill that addresses funding for the FCC and Federal Trade Commission starting at 9:15 a.m.
Starting at 10 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee will mark up a bill to permanently extend the Internet Tax Freedom Act.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee takes a look at the state of intelligence community contractors at 10 a.m.
Later in the morning, President Obama is hosting a Maker Faire at the White House to highlight innovation and entrepreneurship.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Congressional Democrats want to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from allowing Internet companies to speed up service for users who pay more.
Private companies would have an easier time sharing information about cyber threats under a new bill from Senate Intelligence Committee leaders that is set to move forward next week.
The NFL is pushing back against advocates who want the Federal Communications Commission to abandon the blackout rules for sporting events.
Three senators are doubling down on their call for a sweeping end to the National Security Agency’s “dragnet surveillance.”
In a new twist to the surveillance debate, conservative groups are asking the National Security Agency for help obtaining phone and email records about the Obama administration.