Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Senate'

Wednesday, January 25

SOTU & Tech

By Brad

In last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama highlighted the need to build out high-speed broadband to everyone in America:

Building this new energy future should be just one part of a broader agenda to repair America’s infrastructure. So much of America needs to be rebuilt. We’ve got crumbling roads and bridges. A power grid that wastes too much energy. An incomplete high-speed broadband network that prevents a small business owner in rural America from selling her products all over the world.

The President also called for “comprehensive cybersecurity legislation from Congress. As Gautham Nagesh of The Hill reports, that call received a swift response from key members of the Senate:

Senate Homeland Security chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) echoed President Obama’s call in the State of the Union for Congress to pass comprehensive cybersecurity legislation on Tuesday evening.

“The President’s call for Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation underscores the pressing nature of securing the government’s cyber systems and networks—and a limited number of private sector networks that touch the lives of all Americans,” Lieberman said.

Senate leaders have been working on legislation that would place the Department of Homeland Security in charge of regulating private networks, while in the House a more limited legislation has also been debated.

Thursday, December 08

A Senate Roadblock

By Brad

Speaking of the FCC, the Senate Commerce Committee approved the nominations of Ajit Pai and Jessica Rosenworcel to the Commission. But as John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable reports, the nominees’ smooth sailing is about to hit a roadblock in the form of Sen. Charles Grassley, who has reiterated his commitment to blocking the nominations. Sen. Grassley’s statement:

“More than seven months ago, I started asking the FCC for information that would shed light on the agency’s apparent rush to approve the LightSquared project. The agency has provided none of the information and found excuses not to provide the information.  Even the private companies involved, LightSquared and Harbinger Capital, have promised to be more forthcoming than the FCC as a public agency funded by the taxpayers. LightSquared and Harbinger Capital promised to provide me with requested documents on their dealings with the FCC this week. As a last resort to try to exhort more transparency and accountability from the FCC, I’ll place a hold on consideration of the agency nominees on the Senate floor. This agency controls a big part of the economy.  It conducts the public’s business.  And the public’s business ought to be public.”

As Eggerton points out, a single Senator has the power to stand in the way of the nominations. Stay tuned…

Friday, November 18

Hearing Set

By Brad

Via Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post, Ajit Varadaraj Paj and Jessica Rosenworcel — President Obama’s two nominees for the FCC — will have their day before the Senate for confirmation on November 30.

Earlier this month, Sen. Chuck Grassley stated he would hold up the process over a dispute between the Senate and the FCC over mobile broadband provider LightSquared, but Commerce Committee chair Sen. Jay Rockefeller is still pushing for a quick confirmation.

Friday, November 04

Blocking Nominations

By Brad

Earlier this week, President Obama nominated Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai as commissioners at the FCC. At the time, it was expected both nominees would sail through the confirmation process. But as Cecilia Kang at the Washington Post reports, an unexpected roadblock has appeared:

On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) submitted in a Congressional statement directed to President Obama that he would object to the nominations of Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai as commissioners at the FCC.

The reason for Sen. Grassley’s objection is his ongoing investigation into a special waiver the FCC gave to satellite broadband upstart LightSquared, which has encountered problems with building out a planned nationwide LTE network due to interference concerns. As Kang reports:

...Grassley said he would stand in the way because of the FCC chairman’s denial of requests for documents in his six-month-long investigation of the regulatory process of LightSquared’s satellite venture.

Staff for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski say they have cooperated with Grassley, but that his committee doesn’t have oversight over the agency and can’t make document requests.

Evidently Sen. Grassley doesn’t believe the commission fully cooperated, hence his objection to the two nominees. Stay tuned…

Thursday, August 04

More Support

By Brad

Earlier this week, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith voiced his support for the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. Now, The Hill‘s Gautham Nagesh reports Senators Mike Lee and John Cornyn — two members of the Judiciary Committee’s Antitrust subpanel — have joined him:

“Based on the evidence available to the Subcommittee, there are a number of reasons why a merger between AT&T and T-Moble may prove to be a positive step along the path to world-class wireless broadband throughout the United States,” the pair wrote.

“Some of this evidence suggests that the merger would provide significant and immediate efficiencies enabling enhanced service quality, expanded network capacity, and increased data speeds.”

Wednesday, July 20

Arming the Defenses

By Brad

Via Josh Peterson of Broadband Breakfast, the Department of Defense is focusing heavily on the threat of cyberattacks:

The DoD Strategy for Operating in Cyberspace (DSOC) is the first unified strategy for conducting operations in cyberspace between the Defense Department’s military, intelligence and business operations. The DoD is coordinating its cyber security efforts with the Department of Homeland Security and private companies responsible for maintaining critical infrastructure through threat information sharing and more robust network protection.

But while preparing for battle against cyber attackers is definitely smart, The Hill‘s John T. Bennett reports that questions linger about the difference between an attack and an all-out act of war:

[The DoD’s document] does not define what the Obama administration considers an act of cyberwar, nor does it detail how the military would respond to a major electronic attack. It also features no description of the kinds of actions the military is conducting in the electronic domain.

Those omissions brought fresh questions Tuesday during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about whether the Defense Department, White House, federal agencies and industry are truly prepared for a major attack on the U.S. through the Internet.

Monday, June 27

Exploring Privacy Issues

By Brad

This Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee, led by Chairman John D. Rockefeller, will be looking at privacy issues in the digital age. From the hearing announcement:

The hearing will examine how entities collect, maintain, secure, and use personal information in today’s economy and whether consumers are adequately protected under current law. The Commerce Committee will hear from representatives from relevant government agencies as well as business and consumer advocate stakeholders.

Wednesday, May 11

Before the Senate

By Brad

At the Washington Post, Cecilia Kang has a re-cap of yesterday’s Senate testimony from Apple and Google executives on privacy and smartphones:

Subcommittee members asked the companies about other data collection and app curation issues. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) confronted Davidson over “Spy-Fi”issue, when German authorities found that Google’s Street View cameras were collecting information from wireless networks. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) revisited his concerns about Apple’s and Google’s reluctance to remove an app that identifies drunk-driving checkpoints.

In the end, few committee members seemed satisfied with the answers given in the hearing, particularly on whether companies were doing enough to protect consumer rights.

“I still have serious doubts that those rights are being respected in law or in practice,” Franken said in closing. “We need to think seriously about how to address this problem and we need to address this problem now.”

Monday, April 11

House Makes it Official

By Brad

Last Friday, with a 240-179 vote mainly down party lines, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives repealed the FCC’s net neutrality regulations. Opponents of the FCC’s rules shouldn’t crack open the champagne, however, as the bill is expected to die in the Senate, and even if it somehow makes it to President Obama’s desk will surely face a veto.

Wednesday, March 30

Better Connecting Tribal Lands

By Brad

Via Multichannel News’ John Eggerton, the Senate is set to address closing the digital divide on Native American lands:

The hearing is entitled “Closing the Digital Divide: Connecting Native Nations and Communities to the 21st Century.” The Federal Communications Commission last month took several steps to do just that, including more and better radio service, greater broadband deployment, and resulting improvements in public safety communications and services like remote health and education.

No official information yet on the date of the hearing or the witnesses to appear.

Wednesday, March 16

Antitrust Laws and Net Neutrality

By Brad

At The Hill, Sara Jerome reports that Senator Al Franken — one of the staunchest net neutrality supporters on Capitol Hill — is going to introduce a bill making net neutrality violations outright unlawful:

Franken said in a speech at the South by Southwest conference on Monday that he is planning legislation that would amend antitrust laws to “call violations of net neutrality out for what they are: anti-competitive actions by powerful media conglomerates that represent violations of our anti-trust laws.”

Monday, January 24

The Return of the “Kill Switch” Bill

By Brad

A bill put together by Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Susan Collins last summer that would grant the president power over Internet networks during a national crisis (also known as the “Internet kill switch” bill) will likely make a return, according Declan McCullagh of CNet:

Portions of the Lieberman-Collins bill, which was not uniformly well-received when it became public in June 2010, became even more restrictive when a Senate committee approved a modified version on December 15. The full Senate did not act on the measure.

The revised version includes new language saying that the federal government’s designation of vital Internet or other computer systems “shall not be subject to judicial review.” Another addition expanded the definition of critical infrastructure to include “provider of information technology,” and a third authorized the submission of “classified” reports on security vulnerabilities.

Tuesday, January 18

Into the Sunset

By David

Sen. Kay Hutchinson, who has been one of the loudest voices protesting the FCC’s net neutrality rules, is not seeking re-election.

Thursday, December 16

As the Net Neutrality Vote Nears

By Brad

With the FCC set to vote on net neutrality next week, The Hill’s Sara Jerome reports that twenty-nine Republican senators have signed their names to a letter sent to Chairman Genachowski opposing his proposed rules.

Meanwhile, via Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post, investment analyst Rebecca Arbogast (who was one of the panelists at our recent broadband symposium) believes, despite opposition from both sides of the net neutrality debate, that the FCC will pass the new rules:

“We believe it’s in the majority’s interests to coalesce around a decision,” Arbogast wrote. “So while we expect some tough bargaining that goes down to the wire next Tuesday, our sense is an order likely will be approved, with some modifications, but not radical changes, to the draft, given the tightrope the FCC leadership appears to be walking.”

Friday, August 06

Sen. Nelson Sends a Letter

By Bruce Mehlman

The Hill reports that Senator Bob Nelson (D-Neb.) has added his name to the growing list opposing the FCC’s efforts to reclassify broadband under TItle II:

Nelson said Genachowski should not change the regulatory status of broadband services from that of a lightly-regulated information service to the more heavily-regulated telecommunications service, as Genachowski proposed in May.

I am concerned by any unilateral actions which may be taken by the FCC when it comes to how broadband networks are regulated,” he said in the letter.

Thursday, July 22

Working on a Bill Part 2

By Bruce Mehlman

As reported yesterday, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) and six other Republican senators are sponsoring a bill to curb the FCC’s ability to regulate the Internet under Title II. Reports CNet:

“The FCC’s rush to takeover the Internet is just the latest example of the need for fundamental reform to protect consumers,” DeMint said in a statement. Without this legislation, DeMint said, the FCC will “impose unnecessary, antiquated regulations on the Internet.”

The new bill—called the Freedom for Consumer Choice Act, or FCC Act—doesn’t eliminate the FCC’s power over broadband providers. But that power would be narrowed in scope, and come to resemble the antitrust enforcement power of the Department of Justice.

One section, for instance, lets the FCC define “unfair methods of competition” and levy “requirements” on the industry, but only if marketplace competition is inadequate.

Wednesday, July 21

Working on a Bill

By Brad

Via Broadcasting & Cable, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) is putting together a bill in reaction to the FCC’s attempt to regulate Internet providers under Title II:

The Freedom for Consumer Choice [FCC] Act, according one version being floated Tuesday, would prevent the FCC from issuing any rules on unfair methods of competition or unfair or deceptive acts or practices unless it had determined first, via a rulemaking, that the marketplace was not sufficient to protect consumers, that the act or practice causes or is likely to cause substantial injury, that consumers can’t avoid that consequence themselves, and that the injury is not outweighed by “countervailing benefits to consumers or competition.

Already on board with DeMint’s efforts, Broadcasting & Cable goes on to report, is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Friday, June 04

State of Emergency

By Brad

Cybersecurity is getting a lot of attention these days, with a number of bills making the rounds on Capitol Hill to ensure America’s digital infrastructure remains operative during an emergency. Wired takes a look at the most recent one, sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins:

Lieberman and Collins’ solution is one of the more far-reaching proposals. In the Senators’ draft bill, “the President may issue a declaration of an imminent cyber threat to covered critical infrastructure.” Once such a declaration is made, the director of a DHS National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications is supposed to “develop and coordinate emergency measures or actions necessary to preserve the reliable operation, and mitigate or remediate the consequences of the potential disruption, of covered critical infrastructure.”

The owner or operator of covered critical infrastructure shall comply with any emergency measure or action developed by the Director,” the bill adds.

As Wired points out, the President will only be able issue a declaration if the threat will “do massive harm,” meaning breaches January’s hacking of Google and Adobe wouldn’t qualify.

Thursday, May 20

Clearing up “Conflicting Reports”

By Bruce Mehlman

Before the FCC moves forward with its proposed Title II classification of the Internet, Senator Kay Hutchison wants some answers, reports Broadcasting & Cable:

In a letter Thursday (May 20) to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, Hutchison said she was extremely disappointed that he had decided to reclassify broadband service under Title II common carrier regs.

She said the move would lead to “lengthy appeals” and regulatory uncertainty that could hurt broadband investment. She urged him to reconsider the move, but in the meantime wanted him to clear up “conflicting reports” about the impact of the BitTorrent decision. She cited a comment by FCC General Counsel Austin Schlick that the decision has “no effect at all on most of the plan,” then a Genachowski statement that reclassification was necessary “so that the commission can implement important, common sense broadband policies.”

The FCC is expected to vote on a NPRM on June 17.

Equal Access to the Web

By David

The Hill reports that Sen. John Kerry is holding a hearing next week for legislation that would improve accessibility for the hearing and sight impaired people with disabilities.* The Equal Access to 21st Century Communications Act is sponsored by Sen. Kerry and Senator Mark Pryor:

The bill — pitched as a technological addendum to the Americans With Disabilities Act — is the two Democrats’ attempt to address accessibility problems that have long made it difficult for disabled persons to use new-media and technology tools.

The first draft of the legislation, which Pryor introduced earlier this year, would mandate that all smartphones — including the iPhone and BlackBerry — are compatible with most hearing aids.

The bill would also require DVRs and mp3 players to support closed captioning, as most TVs already do, and would authorize new money for a fund to expand broadband service to low-income, disabled persons.

Last month, the FCC released a report (PDF) that found only 42% of people with disabilities have high-speed Internet at home.

(* Thanks to Jim in the comments for the correction.)

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