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Congress

Eshoo Introduces 4G Carrier Transparency Bill

WASHINGTON, June 24, 2011 – Wednesday Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced legislation that would require wireless 4G carriers to provide consumers with complete and accurate information about their 4G services.

“Consumers deserve to know exactly what they’re getting for their money when they sign-up for a 4G data plan,” said Rep. Eshoo in a statement released on Wednesday.

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WASHINGTON, June 24, 2011 – Wednesday Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced legislation that would require wireless 4G carriers to provide consumers with complete and accurate information about their 4G services.

“Consumers deserve to know exactly what they’re getting for their money when they sign-up for a 4G data plan,” said Rep. Eshoo in a statement released on Wednesday.

“My legislation is simple – it will establish guidelines for understanding what 4G speed really is, and ensure that consumers have all the information they need to make an informed decision.”

The legislation would also require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to evaluate the speed and price of 4G service provided by the top ten U.S. wireless carriers. The measure would provide consumers with access to a side-by-side comparison in their service area.

Jeffrey Nelson, Executive Director of Corporate Communications at Verizon Wireless, agreed that the congresswoman identifies a very real problem, stating that some wireless companies simply rename their 3G networks “4G” despite there being a clear technological difference between the two types of networks.

“When companies exaggerate their claims, and relegate technology advances into nothing more than marketing games, they shouldn’t be surprised when elected officials insist that consumers receive truthful and accurate information,” said Nelson.

CTIA-The Wireless Association was not convinced that legislation was the answer and viewed solving the looming spectrum crunch as a more relevant in solving carrier speed problems.

“We are concerned that the bill proposes to add a new layer of regulation to a new and exciting set of services, while ignoring the fact that wireless is an inherently complex and dynamic environment in which network speeds can vary depending on a wide variety of factors,” said Jot Carpenter, CTIA-The Wireless Association Vice President of Government Affairs, in a statement on Wednesday.

According to information from Eshoo’s office, she understands that differences in service speeds exist, but feels it is necessary for carriers to be forthcoming with consumers about what they are selling.

Sites like RootMetrics.com, an independently crowd sourced carrier coverage mapping company, are made by consumers, for consumers who want to capture and use data to make informed carrier choices. Such efforts, however, demonstrate the lack of wireless carrier transparency towards consumers. Bill Moore, CEO of Rootmetrics, agreed with Rep. Eshoo about the confusion over what 4G means.

“The major carriers are each touting 4G coverage, but our testing reveals that all 4G technology is not the same,” said Moore in a response to an email query.

“In addition, it is important for consumers to know that 4G today is about data speeds, but does not have anything to do with voice.”

Josh Peterson is a DC-based journalist with a professional writing portfolio that includes work on US foreign policy and international affairs, telecom policy and cyber security, religion, arts, and music. He is currently a journalism intern at The National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C. and a former tech and social media intern at The Allan P. Kirby, Jr. Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship. Peterson received his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and religion with a minor concentration in music from Hillsdale College in 2008. When he is not writing, Peterson lives a double life as a web designer, social media strategist, photographer, musician and mixed martial artist.

Blockchain

Facebook Lobbying Congress on Blockchain Policy

The registration comes after the company rebranded to Meta, taking it beyond its social media origins.

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Photo from PX Fuel used with permission

WASHINGTON, November 18, 2021 – Facebook has registered this month to lobby Congress on blockchain policy, following a rebranding of the company that is intended to take the company beyond its social media roots.

The lobby registration was filed on November 4 and it comes after the infrastructure bill, signed into law this week, established tax reporting requirements for cryptocurrencies, which require the decentralized transaction ledger known as the blockchain to function.

The registration, which does not provide specifics on what the company hopes to discuss, also comes just days after the company rebranded as Meta, which is intended to broaden the company’s scope into new technologies that allow people to be together in the virtual space.

When the rebranding launched in late October, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote a letter that indicated that this new metaverse would require open standards and interoperability, including supporting crypto projects.

Meta also has a number of jobs that require knowledge of crypto and blockchain.

Facebook has set its sights on initiatives involving the blockchain for years. In 2018, head of Facebook Messenger David Marcus announced on Facebook that he would set up a small group to “best leverage Blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch.”

On Thursday, a bipartisan group of House representatives introduced a bill – the Keep Innovation in America Act – that would better define who are crypto brokers for tax reporting purposes.

In a separate lobby registration, Facebook also specified that it would like to discuss specific funding for computer science education in legislation.

The company has previously registered to lobby Congress on Section 230, the law that shields tech platforms from legal repercussions for what their users post.

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House of Representatives

Telecom, Online Marketplace Consumer Protection Bills Pass House Committee

Among the bills sent to the House, the committee passed two on telecom and one on consumer safety.

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Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois

WASHINGTON, November 17, 2021 – The House Committee on Energy and Commerce passed several bills Wednesday, including two on telecom policy and one meant to address consumer safety when using online retailers.

H.R. 1218, the “Data Mapping to Save Moms’ Lives Act,” H.R. 2501, the “Spectrum Coordination Act,” and H.R. 5502, the “Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act” were all passed unopposed and without amendments.

H.R. 1218 is a bill intended to target broadband resources to areas where “telehealth may be useful in the monitoring and care of pregnant women,” bill co-sponsor Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-North Carolina, said during the hearing, adding “it is a moral imperative to address the maternal mortality crisis in the United States.” The bill’s other sponsors are Reps. Lisa Rochester, D-Delaware, and Gus Bilirakis, R-Florida.

“To effectively deploy 21st Century resources to address the shocking rates of maternal mortality, the nation must first identify which communities lack adequate Internet access and have high maternal mortality rates. That is exactly what this bill seeks to do,” said Rochester.

H.R. 2501, which is sponsored by Bilirakis, requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration – an agency of the Commerce Department – and the Federal Communications Commission to update the memorandum of understanding on spectrum coordination, to ensure that spectrum is shared efficiently, and that a process is created to better resolve frequency allocation disputes.

H.R. 5502, co-sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D- Illinois, takes aim at online retailers that do not take responsibility for the products that third-party groups sell on their marketplace. Legislators supporting this legislation asserted that this has allowed bad actors to sell unsafe, counterfeit, or otherwise fraudulent goods on common marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy.

“What we’re saying now is very simply that online marketplaces will have to verify that the identity of their higher volume sellers, so they have to take some responsibility,” said Schakowsky. “It’s not just about counterfeiters, it’s not just about defrauding – we are talking about danger every year around this time.”

“This legislation is really going to help the consumers and legitimate businesses that are selling products and becoming victims themselves.”

Amazon has been on the wrong end of state court rulings recently that have made it liable for defective products. Experts on a Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event in May remarked that this could open the floodgates for these types of lawsuits, a contrast to when Section 230 liability protections for platforms have historically been used as strong defenses for these platforms.

Now that these bills have passed their committee, they will be sent to the House to be considered. Should they successfully be passed in the House, they will be sent to the Senate and undergo a similar procedure; if the bills are successfully passed in both the House and Senate, they will then be sent to President Joe Biden’s desk, where he can decide whether to sign them into law.

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FCC

Eighty Civil Society Groups Ask for Swift Confirmation of FCC, NTIA Nominees

The groups sent a letter emphasizing the need for internet access expansion ahead of Wednesday confirmation hearings.

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Photo of Alan Davidson from New America

WASHINGTON, November 16, 2021 – Eighty civil-society groups have penned a letter to Senate leadership requesting a swift confirmation process for President Joe Biden’s nominees to the Federal Communications Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Groups representing interests spanning civil rights, media justice, community media, workers’ rights and consumer advocacy highlighted to Senate leadership the need for the agencies to shepherd internet access expansion on the heels of newly signed bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

Biden last month nominated Jessica Rosenworcel as chairwoman and Gigi Sohn as a commissioner of the FCC, as well as Alan Davidson for director of the NTIA. Rosenworcel and Sohn’s confirmations would make a full slate of commissioners at the FCC, ending the potential for 2-2 deadlocks.

Key Senate Republicans have since expressed concern over the nomination of Sohn, citing her liberal views on communications policy.

Signees of the letter emphasized that an ongoing global pandemic and “worsening climate crisis” raise the stakes for FCC and NTIA action, and that connectivity access issues are even further exacerbated among poor families and people of color.

Organizations on the letter included the American Library Association, Color of Change, the Communications Workers of America, Greenpeace USA and the Mozilla Foundation, among others.

The Senate Commerce Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for Rosenworcel on Wednesday.

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