As the Senate returns, Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) says he’s ready to dive in on broadband discussions, an especially prime topic as Congress mulls its next phase of coronavirus relief. Chairman Wicker specifically invoked interest in reviewing Federal Communications Commission plans to dole out billions of Rural Digital Opportunity Fund dollars this fall. Chairman Wicker said that the auction would bring broadband to rural America. “We’re going to try to speed that up. It’s scheduled for October of this year.
As the pandemic batters America for its second month, small broadband providers are having a harder time finding protective gear needed to allow workers to go into the field. “I got about four emails today from people being like, ‘Help me get PPE, we can't get equipment,’” said Shirley Bloomfield, head of rural telecom trade group NTCA. Rural ISPs are turning to local distilleries for hand sanitizer and lumber yards for gloves, according to Bloomfield. USTelecom has expressed similar anxiety among its larger ISP members and ongoing dialogue with the Department of Homeland Security.
Federal Communications Commission General Counsel Tom Johnson joined The Federalist to discuss why the commission quickly shot down a recent emergency petition from advocacy group Free Press asking the agency to investigate what it calls bogus coronavirus information from talk radio and White House task force briefings.
April 20 was originally the deadline by which ICANN, which oversees the internet's address system, would issue its decision on whether to stop or allow the transfer of the dot-org (.org) domain registry to a private equity firm. The proposed deal — which would turn over a part of the internet typically used by nonprofits to a for-profit enterprise, Ethos Capital — has for months raised alarm among charities worried they might see the cost of their sites skyrocket.
Sen Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) is urging the Federal Communications Commission to "immediately call on telecommunications providers serving law enforcement facilities across the nation to provide free phone calls & video visitations to better enable families to communicate with incarcerated loved ones during the #COVID19 pandemic.” Although the Federal Bureau of Prisons has made these calls and video visits free during the outbreak, state and local facilities may still charge exorbitant amounts for such communications services.
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who has previously waded into debates on net neutrality, slammed the Federal Communications Commission and broadband companies for not doing enough to address the digital divide. In a video with Rep.
The Senate Commerce Committee will hold one of the first known congressional “paper hearings” to discuss the use of personal data during the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced Capitol Hill to move much of its business online. The session, as the name indicates, will be carried out entirely through written statements, questions and responses set to be posted online, with witnesses having four days to respond to queries from lawmakers after the end of business April 9.
House lawmakers will now have to email-in bills, amendments and other floor materials — a push to protect members of Congress and their staffers and adhere to public health guidelines during the pandemic. “Staff must electronically submit all Floor documents — including bills, resolutions, co-sponsors and extensions of remarks — to a dedicated and secure email system, rather than deliver these materials by hand to staff in the Speaker’s Lobby or Cloakrooms,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) said the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the importance of expanding broadband connectivity and bolstering the security of digital networks. “Things have changed. I'm not sure they ever go back to exactly the way they were before,” he said. The timeline to bring some businesses and school districts online has sped up, for instance, as they offer new remote learning and work-from-home options. Those coronavirus-era changes could become the norm.