Your quick public update on important Internet policy issues.
Since mid-March, Washington has undergone intense legislative efforts including the enactment of three major COVID-19 economic relief packages. The House passed a fourth relief measure on May 15, but Senate Republicans are opposed to taking up another economic stimulus package too soon before assessing the impact of prior relief bills before committing to spend more.
Congress’ agenda is slowly diversifying beyond bills related exclusively to COVID-19. Sustained national progress in the fight against COVID-19 could open the door in the coming weeks to further consideration by Congress of pending tech sector bills before legislative business slows later this summer and the 2020 Presidential and Congressional election cycle accelerates.
Absent setbacks in the COVID-19 crisis, Congress expects to engage in tech policy debates on several fronts:
Section 230/Intermediary Liability: The Senate Judiciary Committee may schedule the EARN IT Act for a markup. Chairman Lindsey Graham sees this bill as a priority. The lead Democrat co-sponsor of the bill, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), has engaged in some discussions with the tech industry to address concerns regarding the bill’s potential to limit uses of strong encryption.
Copyright: The Senate Judiciary IP Subcommittee released a new schedule for resuming DMCA modernization hearings.
Federal Privacy: The COVID-19 crisis and the use of contact tracing apps re-energized privacy debates in Washington. Republican and Democrat privacy protection bills related to the pandemic have been introduced in Congress.
Antitrust/Competition: Given the sudden, severe economic distress inflicted on many businesses as a result of the pandemic, several members of the House and Senate have called for a moratorium on mergers and acquisitions by large companies and financial institutions.
Broadband: Massive shifts to remote working from home and increased online business, distance education, and telehealth, among other things, have fueled the introduction of multiple bills in Congress seeking to advance more broadband deployment to address the digital divide in rural and poor urban areas.
European Internet Policy: Among other issues, European politicians and tech companies are dealing with privacy concerns relating to contract tracing technologies. For European Internet Policy Updates, please see the latest “View from Brussels” update.
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