During a hearing on the Federal Communications Commission's budget, Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-LA) called on the Senate to forge a new bill to enshrine net neutrality protections but appeared to back away from his earlier advocacy of the Obama-era open internet rules. Sen Kennedy once voted in favor of restoring those regulations, but he now sees “flaws” in that model. “I think we have more in common than we don’t,” he said. “We need to stop passing the buck and we need to pass a net neutrality bill.” But bipartisan consensus may prove elusive.
House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) confirmed that anxiety over Chinese telecom giants’ wireless advances could creep into House lawmakers’ must-pass defense policy legislation. “There might be a couple things on 5G that we include,” said Chairman Smith.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), the progressive firebrand whose rebukes of the tech sector drew headlines on the 2018 campaign trail, supports the outlines of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) sweeping proposal to break up tech firms like Amazon and Facebook. “The idea itself is something that I am supportive of because taking an antitrust approach I believe is absolutely relevant and it’s appropriate to take,” said Rep Ocasio-Cortez. Amazon’s role as “both the marketplace, producer, seller … creates an antitrust issue,” she said. Rep.
As the House Commerce Commerce settles in after the latest recess, Telecommunication Subcommittee Chairman Mike Doyle (D-PA) has been talking up Democrats’ near-term tech and telecom policy plans. He and Consumer Protection Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) both reaffirmed their plans to soon bring in Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission commissioners before their respective subpanels for separate hearings (the telecom panel was eyeing May 15 for an FCC oversight hearing).
Amid public sparring in Trumpworld about how best to advance next-generation wireless technology, the issue has been a field day for federal lobbyists. Some 50 tech and telecom firms lobbied on 5G issues in the first stretch of 2019, more than double the number over the same period in 2018. The Chamber of Commerce and Qualcomm were the top-spending 5G advocates during the first quarter.
DirecTV owner AT&T and DISH Network both dodged giving specific breakdowns to House Judiciary Committee leaders about how many subscribers rely on a satellite law involving the importation of broadcast signals, which expires Dec. 31, 2019. The key justification in private responses: “competitively sensitive.” Lawmakers want this data as they debate whether to reauthorize the expiring satellite law, known as STELAR. “The total number of DISH and DirecTV subscribers that currently receive one or more stations through a distant signal license … are approximately 870,000,” DISH wrote.
The White House is losing a champion of the free-market approach to 5G to the new Fox Corporation’s Washington office. Gail Slater, a special assistant to the president on tech, telecom, and cybersecurity, will leave her role in the administration and join Fox as a senior vice president of policy and strategy. Slater was on the front lines in a fight between administration officials and Trump allies over the future of 5G networks.
Former Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE) will be vying for the White House in a very different tech climate than what he experienced in the Obama era. In the short time since Biden was in office, tech phobia has replaced tech euphoria, and the networks once viewed as connectors of the world are now among its most divisive forces. When Biden became vice president in 2009, the companies that now represent “big tech” were only a few years removed from being scrappy startups, and several of them quickly became chummy with the Obama White House.
Rep Seth Moulton (D-MA), who became the 19th person (and third politician from Massachusetts) to enter the Democratic presidential primary race, has said he sees national security as a major presidential election issue — and he’s stressed that global conflict and subterfuge are increasingly taking the form of cyber attacks, a tech issue he could use to set himself apart from the already-packed primary roster. “Russia is trying to hack our elections. And Robert Mueller was clear about that.