Friday, September 9, 2016

FCC Chief on Congressional Hot Seat

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is heading back to Capitol Hill. On Thursday, he and the FCC's four other Commissioners will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee.

It's sure to be an eventful appearance. Watch for pointed questions from Republicans on Wheeler's new proposed rules for the set-top box market. Industry groups, and their allies in Congress, are frustrated that the Commission will have authority over the licenses between device makers and pay-television providers.

"The law is clear and simple," the Panel's Chairman, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), said in a statement this week. "The FCC does not have the authority to impose technology mandates or to police copyright as Chairman Wheeler has proposed."

There are other controversial items on the docket, as well.

The FCC is expected to consider items on broadband privacy and the so-called special access market later this year, and both are the subject of intense lobbying campaigns.

"The best thing that we can do to try and influence and shape some of these issues is to have these open forums where members of Congress can ask questions," Thune said Wednesday, touting his Committee's oversight hearings.

Wheeler may also be in for another set of questions about whether he plans to leave his post alongside President Obama in January. Though the Chairman has said he understands that is the standard, he has refused to commit to a departure date. His stance has been credited as a factor in Republicans' decision to hold up the nomination of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, though Democratic leaders say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to move her nomination in exchange for Democrats confirming Republican Michael O'Rielly.

Expect some star power in the Senate Commerce hearing room before the Commissioners arrive, as well. On Tuesday, the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security will host a hearing on the BOTS Act, which is meant to crack down on software that buys up blocks of tickets for resale at a higher price. Among the scheduled witnesses is Jeffrey Seller, the Producer of the smash Broadway hit "Hamilton".

The Communications and Technology Subcommittee will convene next Monday and Tuesday, for a markup of H.R. 2566, the Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act and H.R. 2669, the Anti-Spoofing Act of 2015. The former aims to fix, "persistent problems many Americans living in rural areas have when it comes to receiving long distance or wireless calls on their landline."

After speaking against the forthcoming ICANN transition of internet domain management away from the U.S. to an International Governing body this week, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) will hold a hearing on "Protecting Internet Freedom" Wednesday at 10 a.m. in the Dirksen Senate Office Building Room 226.

Off Capitol Hill, the Technology Policy Institute hosts an event on Artificial Intelligence (AI) on Monday. The event features speakers from Google and Facebook, and will tackle some of the policy implications of the burgeoning world of AI.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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