Your quick update on important Internet policy issues.
With less than two months until the November 3 Presidential election, Congress is primarily focused on passing bills to avoid a shutdown by continuing to fund the government, and whether and how to provide additional COVID19 economic stimulus relief. Bipartisan negotiations on the COVID19 relief package have stalled due to major disagreements on scope between House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House. The U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has vowed to keep the House in session until an agreement is reached.
Section 230 reform and Big Tech antitrust concerns continue to dominate current tech policy discussions in Congress. Congress is not expected to pass major legislation on these topics this year, although the tech sector is on guard to fight attempts by Senator Lindsey Graham to pass his controversial EARN IT Act in the Senate before the end of the legislative session. Robust debate on Section 230 and the market power of the largest tech platforms will continue post-election in the next Congress.
Section 230/Intermediary Liability. New Section 230 reform bills have been introduced in the Senate in addition to the EARN IT Act and the PACT Act. In the U.S. House, a companion bill to the Senate Judiciary EARN IT Act, as well as a bill similar to the PACT Act being drafted by Rep. Janice Schakowsky, reportedly will be introduced in several weeks. President Trump’s Section 230 Executive Order and the resulting National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Petition for Rulemaking have pushed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) into the fray. In early September the FCC accepted and agency staff are now reviewing thousands of oppositions and comments filed in response to NTIA’s Petition which seeks new regulations to be enforced by the FCC to limit the scope of the 230 liability shield. The i2Coalition filed an opposition to the NTIA Petition with the FCC on September 2.
Copyright. The Senate Judiciary IP Subcommittee has nearly completed its series of DMCA reform hearings. The Subcommittee Chair Senator Tillis intends to circulate a “discussion draft” DMCA reform bill in the coming weeks. The House Judiciary IP Subcommittee staff conducted “listening sessions” on DMCA reform topics in August and is considering next steps. The i2Coalition was invited to and participated in the August 18 session for ISPs in which i2Coalition outlined the continued critical importance to Internet infrastructure companies of retaining and not limiting the Section 512 safe harbor provision for mere conduit providers.
Federal Privacy. Legislative discussions in Washington have ramped up in the wake of the EU Privacy Shield court decision in July. The U.S. Department of Commerce staff is working with its counterparts in the EU to try to stem the crisis that the July EU Court of Justice created so that a new arrangement for transatlantic data flows can be implemented. The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a September 23 hearing on federal privacy at which the issue of the EU Privacy Shield as well as the Congress’ failure to enact comprehensive federal privacy legislation are expected to be raised by lawmakers and witnesses.
Antitrust/Competition. The House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee heard testimony from and questioned the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google on July 29 at a 5½ hour hearing. The purpose of the hearing was to discuss competition and market power as it relates to Big Tech and examine these four companies for possible anticompetitive behavior. The hearing is part of the committee’s ongoing antitrust investigation into Big Tech. Antitrust Subcommittee Chair Cicilline said the next step is for the Subcommittee to publish a report on the findings of its investigation and make recommendations.
Broadband. Efforts continue in Congress to obtain more funding and incentives to close the digital divide and expand and improve access to broadband in rural and low income areas, especially for telehealth, online learning, and remote working.
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