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Post Election Query: Can Republicans Deliver Action on Tech and Telecom Policy?




WASHINGTON, November 7, 2014 — In the wake of the Republican victory in the Senate on Tuesday, some see tech policy as one area for the party to deliver on the rallying cry of post-partisan compromise, commented TechFreedom President Berin Szoka. Tech policy issues like net neutrality has been the biggest tech issue of the year, yet, as the Washington Post points out, no one campaigned on it.

Szoka, whose group is a determined opponent of net neutrality regulations, urges Republicans to rally conservative faithful against public utility regulation of telecommunications companies under Title II of the Communications Act. “The New Democrats of the 1990s opposed Title II and so did 74 House Democrats when the FCC floated the idea in 2010.”

How can opponents of Title II regulation get their way?

There are two paths they could take.

One would urge the Federal Communications Commission to use of Section 706 to implement the protections for which net neutrality advocates have asked. Even Verizon Communications, which in January succeeded in getting the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out the FCC’s Open Internet Order of 2010, announced their support for Section 706 in an open letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the National Journal reported.

The other route would be wholesale revisions of the nation’s communications laws.

“If we rewrote the whole [Telecommunications Act], we could get rid of a lot of outdated regulations that don’t fit, but we could build in some consumer protections,” said Phil Kerpen, president of the free-market advocacy group American Commitment.

Republicans and conservative activist groups see telecom laws as outdated. On Capitol Hill, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., who bested his Democratic challenger, and Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., have led the push to update the Telecom Act with their #CommActUpdate campaign. The pair have been trying to rally bipartisan support through a series of meetings and idea labs in October.  The likelihood of an updated Communications Act seems appears to be greater with Republican control of both houses.


Another tech policy issue with bipartisan support is an update to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986. As the law currently stands, emails older than 180 days have more lenient legal standards for obtaining the content of those emails. In the last session of Congress, the ECPA Act of 2013 was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont., and in the House by Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Arizona.



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