THE LEDE: Tech companies found two reasons to smile about Congress on Thursday, despite the gridlock that has eliminated all but the most essential legislation from getting passed.
The House easily passed two bipartisan bills on electronic devices that companies said would grant them flexibility from regulations.
The E-Label Act — from Reps. Bob Latta (R-Ohio) and Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooTime for Congress to make a down payment to prevent future pandemic tragedies Hillicon Valley: US has made progress on cyber but more needed, report says | Democrat urges changes for 'problematic' crypto language in infrastructure bill | Facebook may be forced to unwind Giphy acquisition Eshoo urges Pelosi to amend infrastructure bill's 'problematic' crypto regulation language MORE (D-Calif.) — passed unanimously, and brings companies one step closer to being able to post required labels digitally in devices, instead of on their physical surface. If a companion bill passes the Senate and is signed into law, manufacturers would have more freedom to use better and more innovative designs, said the head of the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA).
“By granting device manufacturers the ability to use e-labels, the legislation eases the technical and logistical burdens on manufacturers and improves consumer access to important device information,” Grant Seiffert said in a statement. “American consumers will be able to access easily readable and prominently displayed information about the devices they use every day.”
The chamber also easily passed a bill to let companies produce external power supplies (EPS) for older computers, phones and other devices that are out of production, called the EPS Service Parts Act. The Consumer Electronics Association applauded the bill’s passage and hoped that it would pave the way for broader energy efficiency bill from Congress.
Both bills are now stuck in the Senate, but Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) government affairs vice president Vince Jesaitis said the trade group would keep the pressure up through the autumn. “While time is short before the end of the year for the Senate to follow suit, ITI will continue to urge that lawmakers pass and send the bills to the president's desk for his signature,” he said in a blog post.
Anti-‘spoofing’ bill passes: The House on Thursday also passed a bill from Reps. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Joe Barton (R-Texas) and Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) to ban caller ID scams known as “spoofing.” “Fraudsters adapt to new technology which means the law needs to as well,” Lance said in a statement after the bill passed. “By outlawing caller ID spoof texting we are giving consumers another layer of protection from scammers, spammers and unscrupulous telemarketers.”
Liberty Reserve official pleads guilty: The former chief technology officer at Liberty Reserve — a now-defunct digital currency service charged last year with running a $6 billion money laundering operation — pleaded guilty on Thursday. Mark Marmilev, 35, pleaded guilty to conspiring to operate an illegal service that he knew relied on money from criminal activity. Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 12.
“With his guilty plea today, we are one step closer to holding to account everyone integrally involved in this sprawling Internet enterprise that served as a central financial institution for cyber criminals and illegal transactions of numerous kinds,” U.S. attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.
Eshoo urges FCC to reclassify broadband but keep “light touch”: To enforce net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) can reclassify broadband Internet service to be a “telecommunications service” — instead of an “information service,” as it is currently classified — without imposing tough, utility-style regulations, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said. Speaking on C-SPAN’s “The Communicators,” the ranking member of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications said that the commission could take a “light touch” while still using Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act — a legal provision some critics of the agency’s current proposal have said it should use to impose tough new rules.
“Title II has 47 statutes in it,” she said. “You don’t have to take 47 statutes and throw it at this to cure it.”
“You don’t need all of Title II,” Eshoo added. “You need very little of it in order to address blocking, which is the most upsetting block of the proposal that the chairman made.”
“Internet Slowdown” led to 280,000 calls, 2 million emails: Wednesday’s “Internet Slowdown” protest in favor of tough net neutrality rules generated more than 280,000 calls to Congress and 2.1 million emails, organizers said on Thursday. At peak hours in the middle of the day, that amounted to about 1,000 calls to Congress per minute, groups said. During the protest, people filed more than 722,000 comments to the Federal Communications Commission, which helped to break the commission’s previous record of 1.4 million comments for a single issue set by Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.”
The executive director of Demand Progress — one of the organizations behind the protest — called it “the biggest day of online activism” since the 2012 “blackout” in opposition to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), which were widely seen as a massive show of force for the Internet. “As the FCC decision on net neutrality approaches, Internet users will continue to speak out in numbers and with a message that will be impossible to ignore,” David Segal added.
HP to pay $108 million for bribes: Hewlett-Packard’s Russian subsidiary pleaded guilty to charges that it bribed Russian officials in order to win a major government contract. The Justice Department claimed that executives at HP Russia created a “secret slush fund” that was used to bribe government officials in order to secure a contract worth more than $45 million, among other purposes. Along with related charges over violations of the law by HP subsidiaries in Poland and Mexico, the company and its subsidiaries will pay a total of $108 million in fines.
Retailers grab Commerce official to lead cyber push: The Retail Industry Leaders Association hired former Commerce Department official Nicholas Ahrens as vice president of privacy and cybersecurity. He brings “valuable insight into the critical privacy and data security challenges retailers face today,” trade group President Sandy Kennedy said in a statement announcing the hire.
Comcast makes personnel moves: Rudy Brioché has been promoted to vice president of global public policy and policy counsel at Comcast, the company announced on Thursday. The move comes as part of a handful of changes to the cable giant that also saw Lindsey Dickinson and Sam Lancaster promoted to vice presidents of legislative affairs. David Don also got the bump to vice president of regulatory policy and Jordan Goldstein was promoted to vice president of regulatory affairs.
The American Enterprise Institute’s event on regulating broadband enters its third and final day starting at 9 a.m.
The legal authority for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records is scheduled to expire on Friday.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Federal officials threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 per day if it did not hand over information about its users to the government, according to unclassified court documents released on Thursday.
A pair of Senate Democrats say that major hacks at Home Depot and Apple show the need for a new data privacy bill.
The House passed legislation to promote electronic labeling on devices.
The head of the Senate Intelligence Committee is confident that her panel’s declassified review of the CIA’s so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” will be out by the end of the month.
In an effort to make the issue more accessible, a House Democrat is pushing a new way to brand the notion that Internet service companies like Comcast and Time Warner Cable should be barred from blocking or slowing access to websites.
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