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Kay Bailey Hutchison

Rockefeller, Hutchison Would Expand Lifeline Program to Broadband

in Broadband's Impact/Universal Service by

WASHINGTON, December 11, 2009 – The Broadband Opportunity and Affordability Act, which would direct the Federal Communications Commission to expand the Universal Service Fund’s Lifeline program to support broadband service, as well as explore programs to subsidize computer ownership for low-income Americans, was introduced in the Senate late Friday with bipartisan support from members of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The bill would direct the Federal Communications Commission to implement a two year pilot program under which the Universl Service Fund Life Line program would be expanded to pay for broadband services to low-income Americans. The pilot program would be required to be technology neutral and could also require states to pay matching funds in order to participate.

The bill, which is sponsored by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., and Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, also directs the FCC to study whether the USF-funded Link Up program could reduce the cost of broadband by subsidizing computer ownership.

The Commission would conduct the study through a notice of inqury to determine the types of equipment to be supported by such a program, the amount of funding available, and eligibility requirements.

The FCC’s data on the Life Line pilot and the Link Up study would be due to be reported back to Congress, with the Life Line report study due within 18 months of the pilot’s implementation.

“Today, millions of low-income American families are left at a disadvantage because they cannot afford broadband Internet access or the necessary supporting computer equipment,” said Chairman Rockefeller.

“As more aspects of 21st century life become dependent upon Internet access, it is crucial we help to provide all families with the high-tech resources they need to succeed in the workplace and in school – and for the United States to continue to be a competitive, global economic leader.”

The BOAA, and similar legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Calif., come almost two years since former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin suggested a Life Line pilot, and 10 months since the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners endorsed the resolution at its February, 2009 meeting.

Nevertheless, NARUC President David Coen of Vermont said NARUC supports the Rockefeller-Hutchison bill:

We commend Sen. Rockefeller for introducing this bill and we look forward to working with the Senator, his staff, and other members of his committee on this important issue,” Coen said in a statement. “Expanding the Lifeline programs to include broadband will help ensure that all Americans have access to affordable and reliable advanced telecommunications services. Although we are still reviewing the legislation, it is clearly a step in the right direction.”

Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn Files Latest Anti-Net Neutrality Bill

in Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, October 31, 2009 – This week Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., added to the growing number of network neutrality-related bills when she filed legislation that would ban the Federal Communications Commission from regulating internet access, as proposed last week by Chairman Julius Genachowski.

Blackburn’s measure, H.R. 3924, is intended “to prohibit the FCC from further regulating the Internet.”

In a statement, she said FCC rules “ironically would make the Internet less neutral by allowing the FCC to regulate it in the same way it regulates radio and television broadcasts.”

She said is concerned that potential rules would decrease the Internet’s efficiency, interrupt the flow of free ideas and information, and hurt the ability of industry to protect intellectual property online. The Blackburn bill currently has 19 co-sponsors and has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Also, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., had introduced legislation, S.1836 on October 22 that would prevent further FCC regulation of the Internet. In a statement, he said that the “government takeover of the Internet will stifle innovation, in turn slowing our economic turnaround and further depressing an already anemic job market.” He said the wireless industry exploded over the past 20 years due to limited government regulation – but has been hurt recently by state and federal regulations. McCain’s measure has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

From the opposite perspective, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., remains a vocal supporter of the network neutrality concept. “The Internet enables innovation without permission, and we need to ensure that special interests cannot erect toll booths on the information superhighway that impede the innovation that has helped power our economy and create jobs,” he said this month.

Markey filed pro-Net neutrality legislation, H.R.3458, in July. Markey’s bill has eight cosponsors, including House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Waxman, along with Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman John D. (“Jay”) Rockefeller IV, D-W.Va., sent a letter this month in support of the FCC’s proposed rules.

In September, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., a co-author of Markey’s legislation, voiced support for the FCC’s plan to go ahead with the rules. She noted in a statement that the area she represents, Silicon Valley, “has a long history of support for open networks.” She said she was one of the first House members to introduce net neutrality legislation in the House.

Other lawmakers continue to weigh in on the net neutrality debate without legislation. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, the Ranking Member on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said in a statement on October 23 that she was concerned about how the FCC’s proposed rules could impact the investment incentives and decisions of small rural communications providers.

Legislation Regarding Cell Phone Jamming in Prisons Has Industry Concerned

in Wireless by

By Alex Tcherkassky, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2009 – The legalization of cellular telephone jamming technology in prisons was discussed Wednesday before the Senate Commerce Committee in response to Texas Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s S. 251 introduced earlier this year.

Cell phone jamming technology is currently illegal under the Communications Act. Hutchison, the ranking Republican member on the panel, seeks to change that.

Among the witnesses was Texas State Senator John Whitmire. Whitmire received death threats after a death row inmate’s mother and sister were arrested for smuggling a cell phone to an inmate.

Inspector General John Moriarty of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice also supports S. 251.

Moriarty said that criminals are getting more and more creative when it comes to getting phones to prisoners. Add to that the financial motivators – a sting operation found a prisoner willing to pay $400 for a phone versus only $50 for heroin – and, he said, cell phones will continue to make their way into prisons.

He said jamming was “a very valuable tool that we need to put in our tool kit.”

Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Secretary Gary Maynard agreed, saying that as cell phone technology advances “we need to fight technology with technology.”

The cell phone industry was represented by wireless association CTIA President Steve Largent, and Richard Mirgon from the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials.

Both expressed concern that jamming technology is ineffective and that it cannot effectively stop cell phone transmissions without adversely affecting legitimate use outside of the targeted prison. They were also concerned that jammers could interfere with public safety channels and first responders.

Specifically, Largent said that jammer technology being used at urban and suburban facilities where commercial areas and major transportation routes are directly adjacent to the prison. He supported this claim with aerial photos of a dozen prison facilities. Additionally, he said, jamming technology used in South America and India led to the unintentional interruption of the service of 200,000 customers.

Largent said that cell detection and limited access technology would be more effective solutions and that while CTIA supports the spirit of Bill 251 it cannot support the use of jamming technology. Mirgon said that if jamming technology is legalized, it must be exhaustively tested to ensure that it doesn’t interfere with public safety or wireless 911 services.

While S. 251 does not call for an outright legalization of jamming technology, it allows for prisons to apply for a waiver from the ban and provides for Federal Communications Commission testing and certification of jamming technology.

BroadbandCensus.com Deputy Editor Andrew Feinberg on C-SPAN's 'The Communicators'

in Broadband Calendar by

Feinberg, Joined by Dow Jones’ Fawn Johnson, Addresses Confirmation Hearing of Federal Communications Commission Chairman-Designee Julius Genachowski

Press Release

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2009 – In an interview that aired on C-SPAN’s series “The Communicators,” Andrew Feinberg, Deputy Editor of BroadbandCensus.com, addressed Tuesday’s Senate Confirmation Hearing for Julius Genachowski, selected by President Obama to head the Federal Communications Commission.

In the 30-minute interview, which aired on Saturday, June 20, and will be rebroadcast on Monday, June 22, Feinberg and Fawn Johnson, a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires, dissected Genachowski’s professional background and his statements before the Senate Commerce Committee.

In the appearance, Feinberg and Jones responded to questions from the C-SPAN host, reviewing statements in which Genachowski responded to questions from committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., as well as Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Amy Klobacher, D-Minn.

Among the topics included in the discussion were broadband availability and adoption, the broadband stimulus programs by the Commerce and Agriculture Departments, transparency and reform at the FCC, Net neutrality, media ownership, and public safety communications.

The video interview is available here.

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