Hill, The

Rep Eshoo backs Commerce decision to relinquish Internet management role

Rep Anna Eshoo (D-CA) applauded the recent decision by the Obama Administration to relinquish its oversight role in Internet governance.

"I’ve long held the belief and championed the US support for the successful multistakeholder model for Internet governance," Rep Eshoo -- the leading Democrat on the House Commerce subcommittee on technology -- said.

The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced it would be relinquishing its oversight role of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which runs the technical side of the Internet's domain name system. The Commerce agency said that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers -- which manages the assignment of domain names and operates the technical side of the domain name system under contract with the Commerce Department -- will convene Internet stakeholders to develop proposals for transitioning oversight of IANA from the US government to a global entity.

Rep Eshoo said she welcomes the transition "to a multistakeholder governance community, guided by the principles of an open, secure, stable and resilient Internet.”

FCC’s O’Rielly: Congress should ‘expect abuse’ as it rewrites communications laws

Federal Communications Commissioner Mike O’Rielly warned that Congress should anticipate abuse as it looks to update the law governing the communications industry.

“Expect [that] people are going to misinterpret and abuse your provision and then work backwards,” he said.

Commissioner O’Rielly, the newest of the two Republicans on the FCC, suggested that the members and staff working on the Communications Act rewrite “leave out extraneous provisions.” He noted the political benefits of including “benign” provisions but warned, “those are the ones that often come back to haunt you,” because they are most easily misinterpreted by a “misguided court or activist agency.”

Sen Thune: Internet ‘doesn't need a nanny state’

Sen John Thune (R-SD) commended the Commerce Department's move to relinquish control over the technical system that manages web addresses and said it should remain out of the hands of other governments.

"I trust the innovators and entrepreneurs more than the bureaucrats -- whether they're in DC or Brussels," the Senate Commerce Committee's top Republican said. The Internet "doesn't need a nanny state, or a collection of nanny states, trying to stifle it," Sen Thune said. "It needs -- and deserves -- a strong multi-stakeholder system free from the control of any government or governmental entity."

Apps look to simplify privacy notices

The mobile app industry wants to make privacy policies easier to understand. Mobile security company Lookout launched a tool to help app developers turn lengthy, legal documents into short form privacy policies that users can comprehend.

The privacy toolkit walks developers and their lawyers through a questionnaire to help them shorten and simplify their privacy policies. App users need “a short form privacy policy that is really clear … and understandable,” Lookout’s Associate General Counsel Irene Liu, said. Lookout’s launch follows on the 2013 launch of a government-backed voluntary code of conduct, encouraging app developers to be more transparent about their data practices.

Rep Polis: Update privacy law to save March Madness

Rep Jared Polis (D-CO) is telling his fellow members of Congress that their "March Madness" brackets hang in the balance over a federal e-mail privacy law update.

In the playful letter, Rep Polis warned colleagues that Attorney General Eric Holder may be snooping on their basketball picks. "Ever think Eric Holder’s March Madness bracket looked a lot like yours?" he wrote. "Stop the madness, cosponsor the Email Privacy Act!"

The Email Privacy Act, introduced by Rep Polis along with Reps Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Tom Graves (R-GA) in 2013, would update the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which critics say is out of date for the modern world.

Rep Polis's bill would require police to get a warrant before searching e-mails. "It defies common sense that emails should be less protected than postal mail," Polis wrote. The bill has more than 180 co-sponsors in the House and has been steadily gaining steam over recent months.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has introduced a companion measure in the upper chamber, which has the backing of major tech firms like Google, Facebook and Microsoft.

House panel wants to fix online piracy 'Whac-A-Mole'

Lawmakers are looking for ways to fix the country’s “Whac-A-Mole” copyright system. During a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, members said they want to find a solution for copyright holders who must repeatedly ask Internet companies like Google to take down infringing content online.

“Victims of theft but have to fight tooth and nail to protect their property” from online piracy, Rep Judy Chu (D-CA) said.

Under current copyright law, Internet platforms are not held liable for copyright infringement committed by users as long as they have policies that prohibit infringement and take actions to remove infringing content when notified. Members on both sides of the aisle drilled down on how the current system affects small and independent creators.

House Judiciary Committee ranking member John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) said he wants to focus on independent creators. “Those are the ones I’m mostly concerned with because the big corporations are going to usually take care of themselves,” he said. Members of the subcommittee urged the tech companies and content creators to work together to avoid government intervention in the online space.

Does the NSA spy on members of Congress?

One of Congress' most vocal critics of US government surveillance is demanding information about whether intelligence agencies spy on members of Congress.

Rep James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author of the original Patriot Act, told the Justice Department in a letter he wants a response by March 28 to questions about whether and how intelligence agencies spy on lawmakers.

"It has been over a month and my colleagues and I have not received a response," he wrote to US Deputy Attorney Gen James Cole. Rep Sensenbrenner's letter also addresses recent information provided by Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

GOP senators press FCC on rural broadband

Sens Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) are urging Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler to press ahead with plans to bring broadband Internet to remote parts of the country.

Sens Ayotte and Blunt (R-MO) told Chairman Wheeler to “move forward promptly.” “The most rural and mountainous areas of New Hampshire and Missouri are in great need of broadband communications,” the two wrote. The FCC’s effort, they added, “could help ensure that American consumers who live and work in sparsely populated, unserved areas have access to affordable broadband services.”

Under the umbrella of FCC’s Universal Service Fund, which attempts to bring broadband to all corners of the country, $100 million has been set aside for the Remote Areas Fund (RAF), which specifically targets rural residents. The full program was originally scheduled to be implemented by the end of 2012, but the money has not yet been fully allocated. The delay, the lawmakers wrote, is making it harder for people to get access to highest-speed connectivity.

Court reverses, will allow NSA to keep data longer

A federal court reversed an earlier decision and will allow the National Security Agency (NSA) to hold phone records relating to pending lawsuits.

Judge Reggie Walton, siding with plaintiffs who were suing over the legality of the NSA's surveillance programs and wanted the government to retain the data for the lawsuits, issued a restraining order to keep the government from destroying the data. The Department of Justice filed with the surveillance court, asking for clarification on the two conflicting rulings.

"These conflicting directives from federal courts put the government in an untenable position and are likely to lead to uncertainty and confusion," Judge Walton wrote, allowing the government to keep the data. Judge Walton set out limits for how the NSA can use the data it must now retain. Agency personnel can access the data "only for the purpose of ensuring continued compliance with the government's preservation obligations," he wrote.

Pay TV’s mission is to kill free broadcast TV

[Commentary] During the last Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) reauthorization, the process was derailed by debates about other cable industry (Pay TV) issues.

Pay TV is pushing Congress to transform STELA into a debate about “retransmission consent” -- the right of TV stations (Free TV) to control redistribution of their programming. Pay TV claims they are raising consumer prices because Free TV is charging too much for retransmission rights. Spinning it as a consumer issue has prompted Congress to ask whether it should adopt reforms to retransmission consent in the STELA process.

The answer is “No.” Changes sought by Pay TV could have significant consequences for video consumers and market participants that cannot be adequately explored in the truncated STELA process. The absence of credible evidence that retransmission prices are too high begs the question Congress should be asking: Why has Pay TV made this their highest legislative priority?

In short, Pay TV’s fixation on retransmission rights isn’t about programming prices -- it’s about eliminating the Free TV model and increasing advertising revenues for Pay TV distributors. This explains the cognitive dissonance of some free market advocates who, while clamoring for repeal of retransmission consent and other provisions that are essential to the Free TV model, are not advocating for repeal of provisions mandating that TV stations broadcast their signals for free. It’s a nifty way of killing Free TV without expressly acknowledging it.

[Campbell is executive director of the Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology and former chief of the FCC's wireless bureau]

[March 11]