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.
As Congress contemplates a new package of Covid-19 countermeasures, digital connectivity is shaping up to be a significant negotiating point. Telecom provisions that could be in play: Democrats will push for billions of dollars to close the online Homework Gap and help low-income households with connectivity. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also led her Democratic chairs in a renewed infrastructure push that would wrap in $86 billion for broadband efforts.
April 1 marked the Census Bureau’s biggest push yet to get Americans to participate in the once-in-a-decade count. The outcome will not only determine communities' representation in Congress but will also have far-reaching implications for funding for schools, hospitals, emergency services and other institutions that have been central to the war on Covid-19. And thank God for the internet. Luckily, this is the first time Americans can respond by mail, phone or online — and the agency expects a surge in participation thanks to the latter.
Media industry, take note: As of the past week, a Federal Communications Commission action item is now circulating that could spell some structural changes within the FCC, specifically within its Media Bureau that deals with TV and radio issues. “If adopted, this proposal would consolidate the Media Bureau’s Engineering Division with the Bureau’s Industry Analysis Division,” an FCC spokesperson said. For the coming fiscal year, the FCC requested funding for 131 full-time employees for its Media Bureau, a number that’s been dwindling in recent years amid the changing media landscape.
Book publisher Macmillan rescinded its policy that restricted libraries from buying e-books for the first two months after release. The change will take effect March 20. “There are times in life when differences should be put aside,” Macmillan CEO John Sargent said in a letter to authors and libraries.
President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai spoke to broadcasters to assess how they can help. Vice President Mike Pence said public service announcements will boost Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, while Chairman Pai is urging broadcasters to air public service announcements (PSAs) to promote social distancing. The National Association of Broadcasters announced a PSA campaign last week.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai maintains that the Trump administration hasn’t sought to exert its will over the decision-making of the commission, an independent agency not subject to executive command. “Not the case,” Chairman Pai told the House Appropriators Committee during a hearing. That’s apparently despite President Donald Trump occasionally reaching out to the agency chief, as he did in 2019 on a coming C-band airwaves auction.
Democrats once touted network neutrality as political dynamite, but now hardly any seem to realize their party’s presidential frontrunner has said nothing about it — now a key difference between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) as they vie to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.
A federal appeals court grappled March 5 with whether average consumers know the difference between the ads and the organic search results that appear on Google. Arguing before the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, 1-800 Contacts — which is seeking to reverse a Federal Trade Commission decision that its trademark agreements violated antitrust law — contended that they don’t understand.