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Tom Wheeler gets the nod from Senate sub-committee

Here’s what the Senator John Rockefeller, chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, had to say about today’s committee vote approving Thomas E. Wheeler as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission:

“I congratulate Tom Wheeler on the strong bipartisan support he received in the Commerce Committee today. Now that the Committee completed its work on the nomination, the full Senate needs to move forward and confirm him. With all the important issues before the FCC, it’s critical that the agency has a confirmed chair and strong leader in place. I am confident, given Tom Wheeler’s extensive experience and capabilities in the communications industry, he is the right person for this job.”

Analysis from The Hill.com indicates that it may be awhile before Mr. Wheeler’s nomination is voted on by the full Senate. President Obama has yet to select a Republican to fill the seat vacated by Robert McDowell earlier this year and getting Mr. Wheeler’s vote through the full Senate may be easier if the Republican nominee’s name is also on the voting slate.

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Facebook Investors Take Heed

Posted June 26th, 2012 in Federal Trade Commission, Internet, privacy and tagged , , by Alton Drew

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has scheduled a hearing on how well the online industry is self-regulating consumer privacy concerns. The committee’s chairman, Senator John Rockefeller, said the following:

“In our prior hearing on consumer privacy, both the Obama Administration and the FTC commended recent industry efforts to provide consumers with more privacy protections,” said Chairman Rockefeller. “However, their reports also stated that industry can do more and that federal legislation is necessary. In this follow-up hearing, I intend to closely examine how industry intends to fulfill its recent pledge to not collect consumers’ personal information when they utilize the self-regulatory ad icon or make “do-not-track” requests in their web browsers.”

The hearing is scheduled for 28 June 2012.

Genachowski’s less than artful weaving of net neutrality and consumer privacy

On 27 July 2010, Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski gave testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation regarding consumer privacy over the nation’s communications networks. Some of the chairman’s verbiage caught my attention.

I found it disturbing that Mr. Genachowski consistently made reference to “Internet communications” throughout his opening testimony. Simply put, there is no such thing as Internet communications. Internet services pursuant to the Communications Act as amended by the Telecommunications Act of 1996 are defined as information services not telecommunications services.

One could argue that voice-over-the-Internet could be labeled as such, but Mr. Genachowski also made reference to VoIP so that led me to conclude that he could and did distinguish VoIP from Internet communications.

What Mr. Genachowski is doing, which is not surprising, is trying to backdoor the Senate into treating broadband Internet access as a Title II service. He refers to the telecommunications subscriber privacy language in section 222 of the Communications Act as an example of protections that should be extended to subscribers of broadband access service.

As the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said in April, the language in the statutes have to expressly extend Title II requirements to broadband access providers. Right now privacy protections are extended only to cable and telecommunications services subscribers and even these protections are limited and differ for telecommunications subscribers and cable service subscribers

If Mr. Genachowski can’t get the Congress to rewrite the Communications Act to get what he wants walking through the front of the bus, he shouldn‘t be allowed to get it sneaking on the back.

Congress needs to listen to our communities’ civic, social leaders on net neutrality

In a letter dated 18 July 2010, a number of civil rights and civic organizations, including 100 Black Men of America, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and the Japanese American Citizens League, wrote the chairmen and ranking members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce and Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.  In the letter, they raised concerns about the Federal Communications Commission’s attempts to establish rules for regulating the network management practices of broadband providers.

The last paragraph of the letter summed up an important argument in the debate over the open network. Net neutrality is anti job growth and anti infrastructure growth. Any economist worth his or her salt will tell you that at the heart of simulative policy for economic growth is a plan to build infrastructure. Broadband providers such as AT&T and Verizon have been intensely deploying broadband facilities for the last five years.

These efforts have not only brought the Internet into homes and schools across the country, they have pumped tens of billions of dollars annually into our national economy. Along with the deployment and spending have come thousands of technical, administrative, and managerial jobs, jobs our country desperately needs.

Should a net neutrality regime be forced on these companies, the new regulatory costs will add expenses and costs that can change business models such that employment may be curtailed. The question is, does the FCC really think it can afford to look like an agency that, on the one hand, touts robust economic development, while on the other hand, it destroys the jobs that exits as a result of broadband providers?

The FCC needs to get its head out of the anti business sands that have been blowing from Capitol Hill and the White House. Broadband providers are in a position to meet an important information services need while hiring labor to do it.

These congressional committees are dubbed “commerce” committees. If they really care about economic growth, they will write legislation once and for all that sends a clear message of hands off of any and all Internet access services.