Yesterday the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce adopted a disapproval resolution (H.J. Res. 37) of the FCC’s 2010 Net Neutrality Order by a party-line vote. Today, the Energy and Commerce Committee issued a markup notice for the disapproval resolution of Monday, March 14 at 3:00 p.m. Assuming it is approved that same day (a likely outcome), it could be ready for House floor action fairly quickly (depending on the legislative priorities of the House majority leadership).
In response to a request by House Democratic supporters of the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet (or Net Neutrality) order, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommitee on Communications and Technology has postponed its vote, scheduled for this morning, on the resolution to reverse the FCC order. Although no new date has been announced, we understand that a hearing will likely be scheduled for next week.
Yesterday, Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the ranking member on the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, wrote to Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) urging him to first hold hearings on the proposed resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act in which supporters of the FCC’s order could be heard before having the vote. Note that even if the House approves the resolution of disapproval, it must still pass the Senate and survive a presidential veto to successfully reverse the FCC’s order.
UPDATE: A hearing has been scheduled for March 9, at 10:30 a.m. in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building.
SECOND UPDATE (3/7/11): Representatives Waxman and Eshoo sent a letter on behalf of a group of net neutrality supporters in the House asking Chairman Walden and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, to allow lawmakers to offer amendments to the resolution of disapproval. The Democrats requested the Chairmen bring the disapproval measure as a regular House Resolution instead of under the Congressional Review Act.
On January 18, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission granted its approval to the acquisition by Comcast, the nation’s largest cable service operator and cable modem Internet access provider, of NBC Universal, Inc. (NBCU), the owner of the broadcast television network, several cable networks, Internet websites, and a leading Hollywood studio. The merger should fundamentally affect the businesses of programming, production and distribution across many platforms, including broadcast television, cable, online, and film. With significant control over both content and its distribution, the Comcast/NBCU merger created a potential incentive for the combined firm to raise prices and limit access to its programming to the disadvantage of its broadcast and online rivals. Working in coordination with the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division, the FCC imposed a number of “targeted” conditions aimed at ameliorating the merger’s potential harms and quashing impending antitrust suits from states such as California. The Commission highlighted four key conditions to the government’s approval:
On December 21, 2010, a divided Federal Communications Commission adopted its long-awaited, but highly controversial, Preserving the Open Internet order (“Order”), which requires broadband service providers to treat all web traffic equally and protect open access to the Internet for web consumers and other stakeholders. While Congressional and industry opposition continues to ferment, a closer look at the Order reveals that mobile wireless broadband providers will retain considerable flexibility in how they manage their networks when compared to their fixed provider counterparts.
The Order focused on three primary goals underpinning the Commission’s net neutrality policy: 1) transparency 2) no blocking and 3) no unreasonable discrimination. For “transparency,” both fixed and mobile providers must publicly disclose the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of their broadband services. By contrast, the application of the “no blocking” condition differs depending on the type of provider. Fixed providers are subject to a broad obligation to not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. Mobile wireless providers are subject to a narrower obligation to not block lawful websites and applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services. Most importantly, the Order’s “no unreasonable discrimination” provision applies solely to fixed providers, leaving mobile operators free to favor or disfavor certain types of network traffic. According to the Commission, these new rules for mobile wireless providers will not harm customers because most consumers have more choices for mobile wireless service than for fixed broadband. The Commission also noted favorably the mobile industry’s recent moves towards openness, including the introduction of open operating systems like Android. As a result, when the rules finally go into effect, mobile wireless broadband providers will be exempt from the obligation to manage network traffic in a nondiscriminatory manner.
K&L Gates recently published its Global Government Solutions 2011 Annual Outlook, which contains articles from around the firm on key governmental developments expected in 2011.
The Annual Outlook includes an article addressing developments affecting the Telecom, Media and Technology sector in 2011 by DC partners Marc Martin and Marty Stern, noting that the TMT sector enters 2011 with significant regulatory uncertainty and the FCC facing an uphill battle on many signature regulatory initiatives.
The article reviews the FCC’s net neutrality order and the challenges it faces in court and on Capitol Hill, discusses the recent FCC and Department of Justice approvals of the Comcast/NBCU transaction, and a number of additional issues getting significant focus in 2011. These include retransmission consent battles between broadcasters and cable/DBS providers and the FCC’s expected rulemaking proceeding on this issue, the Commission’s implementation of new communications accessibility requirements under the new 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, and continued efforts to reform the Universal Service Fund and make it broadband-centric.
Recent leaks to the New York Times, as reported in September and October, indicate that the Obama administration will next year be pushing for sweeping expansions of the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). CALEA facilitates government surveillance by, among other things, requiring companies subject to the law both to design their systems so that the government can easily plug in and intercept communications in real-time and to provide assistance to the government in these efforts.
A task force comprised of representatives from DOJ, Commerce, the FBI, and other agencies, are discussing amendments to the law. These changes would greatly expand the reach of CALEA, would significantly increase the costs of non-compliance for covered companies, and would include other requirements which may fundamentally change business models for companies promising encryption and decentralized communication services.
You can access the free webcast by clicking here (free registration is required).
K&L Gates partner Marty Stern joined co-host Jim Baller, together with guests Cecilia Kang, Communications Industry Journalist, the Washington Post, Gigi Sohn, President, Public Knowledge, Jeffrey Silva, Senior Policy Director, TMT, Medley Global Advisors, and Scott Cleland, President, the Precursor Group, for a lively and provocative review of 2010, particularly of the day-old FCC net neutrality decision, and for some bold predictions for 2011.
The President signed the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 on October 8, 2010 (the “ComVid Accessibility Act” or “Act”). The ComVid Accessibility Act expands various disability access requirements to VoIP phones, browser-enabled smart phones, text messaging, Internet-enabled video devices, on-line video of TV programming, TV navigation devices, and programming guides and menus, among other things.
Karen Peltz Strauss, who has the lead at the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) on implementing the ComVid Accessibility Act, appeared on a recent live program on Internet TV channel Broadband US TV and discussed the FCC’s “enormous mandate” to implement the new Act. Click here for a clip of Ms. Peltz Strauss’ comments on the program. (with permission from TV Worldwide). According to Ms. Peltz Strauss, “Every segment of the industry that has anything to do with broadband, television, including cable, satellite or broadcast, Internet-based television, as well as . . . Internet-based providers, traditionally regulated [telephone] companies, wireless companies” needs to be paying attention to the new Act. “Virtually every segment that has anything to do with communications or video programming is covered.”
On Thursday, December 2nd, K&L Gates hosted a program on net neutrality and the potential regulatory reclassification of broadband Internet access presented by the ABA Antitrust Section’s Communications & Digitial Technology Industries Committee. The program, moderated by Washington, DC partner Marty Stern, included:
- Parul Desai, Policy Counsel, Consumers Union
- Neil Fried, Minority Chief Counsel, U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, Subcommitee on Communications, Technology and the Internet
- Glenn Manishin, Partner, Duane Morris
- Lee Selwyn, President, Economics and Technology, Inc.
Several of the speakers were also authors of articles in the Fall 2010 Broadband Reclassification and Net Neutrality Symposium issue of the Committee’s Icarus newsletter.
A Program of Broadband US TV , TV Mainstream and National League of Cities TV.
K&L Gates co-hosted a special live Hall webcast on Thursday, July 29, that was carried live on Internet TV channels Broadband US TV, TV Mainstream and National League of Cities TV.
To access the recording, please click here (free registration is required in order to access the recording).
The Honorable Rick Boucher, Member of the U.S. House of Representatives for the 9th District of Virginia and Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, joined Broadband US TV to discuss the community broadband issue, including prospects for enactment of the federal Community Broadband Act. The program, hosted by Marty Stern of K&L Gates and Jim Baller, also included a panel of experts who faced off in a lively, spirited debate on the pros and cons of community broadband, examples of successes and failures, and the political, legal, economic, technological, and social issues posed by community broadband.