The White House has called for eliminating two regulations for every new one imposed, and though the policy doesn't apply to independent agencies like the Federal Communications Commission, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is sticking with the spirit of it. He told reporters that during his short tenure so far, the FCC has repealed, revised or tweaked what he described as outdated regulations. "I think the prism within which the FCC views any regulations that are on the books is: Do they continue to be necessary in the public interest and to promote competition in 2017," Chairman Pai said. "And if they don't, then we obviously want to modernize them to make sure that we're not standing in the way of investment or innovation or otherwise imposing more costs."
The relationship between new Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and President Donald Trump is likely to continue to be a focal point for technology and telecommunications watchers. The pair met at the White House a week ago, one day before President Trump re-nominated Chairman Pai for another term. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is trying to pull back the curtain on that meeting, filing a Freedom of Information Act request seeking “memos, briefing papers, emails and talking points” pertaining to their conversation.
Paid prioritization appears to be a flashpoint as Republican leaders consider next steps on network neutrality.
On one side, some GOP lawmakers, like House Communications Subcommittee Chairman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) are OK with letting internet service providers cut deals with websites for faster access to consumers, a concept known as ‘paid prioritization.’ But other powerful Republicans, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) consider the practice harmful to consumers and want to make it illegal. Chairman Blackburn acknowledged she differs from Chairman Thune and House Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) on the issue, but expressed confidence they can ‘talk it through.’
House Commerce Committee Chair Greg Walden (R-OR) was spotted dining with telecommunications lobbyists, among others, at the Trump International Hotel ahead of the President's address to Congress. The companies/organizations represented included AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, CTIA, and USTelecom.
The Senate Commerce Committee is adding Crystal Tully and Cort Bush to its staff ranks, a personnel influx that follows the departure of two of the panel's tech aides in the last couple of months. Tully, formerly an aide to Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), will join the committee as a counsel, while Bush, who comes from Sen. Jerry Moran's (R-KS) office, will serve as a professional staff member.
Paul de Sa, Ruth Milkman and Jon Wilkins, who left the Federal Communications Commission at the end of Chairman Tom Wheeler’s era, are launching Quadra Partners, an advisory firm aimed at executives and investors in the wireless and broadband sectors. De Sa most recently led the FCC’s Office of Strategic Planning, Milkman was Wheeler’s chief of staff and Wilkins headed up the agency’s wireless bureau. They plan to focus on strategy development, new business creation, mergers and acquisition, and public/private investment.
Republicans in Congress are poised to tackle a host of tech and telecom issues in the new year, empowered by GOP control of the House, Senate and White House. Here's a rundown of the possibilities.
Spectrum targets: Two bills championed by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-SD) were caught up in the drama surrounding Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel’s Senate confirmation fight, and Chairman Thune plans on making them a priority at the start of the 115th Congress. One is the MOBILE NOW Act, which would free up government and non-government spectrum for wireless providers and spur work on 5G networks. There's also the FCC Reauthorization Act, which would tweak the agency's responsibilities.
Communications Act rewrite: Both Chairman Thune and incoming House Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) have expressed interest in rewriting the Communications Act of 1934 to better reflect the telecom landscape in the digital age.
Surveillance reform: Lawmakers are headed toward another major surveillance debate this year: Whether and how to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Patent trolls: Sen Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said he also hopes to return to the problem of “patent trolls,” which critics say exist solely to extract payments from companies by threatening them with litigation over patent infringement.