Digital Asset Regulation, Texas Social Media Law Upheld, WISPA Endorses California Tech Neutral Bill

The White House released a “comprehensive framework” for the regulation of digital assets.

Digital Asset Regulation, Texas Social Media Law Upheld, WISPA Endorses California Tech Neutral Bill
Photo of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, via Flickr

September 19, 2022 – President Joe Biden’s White House announced Friday a “comprehensive framework” for the regulation of digital assets, including cryptocurrencies.

The new framework, according to a White House fact sheet, calls for heightened federal scrutiny of “unlawful practices in the digital assets space,” encouraging the Federal Trade Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and other agencies to “aggressively pursue investigations and enforcement actions” against offenders. The framework pledges the Biden administration to investing in cryptography and cybersecurity research and development and monitoring the environmental impacts of digital assets.

Digital assets are increasingly popular, but have tended toward instability. According to the White House’s, “the current global market capitalization of cryptocurrencies is approximately one-third of its November 2021 peak.” Going forward, the Biden administration said it seeks to implement “a clear framework for responsible digital asset development and pave the way for further action at home and abroad,” the fact sheet said.

In addition, a digital U.S. currency may soon be in the making. The U.S. Treasury will head a working group that will assess the benefits “potential implications” of such a project.

“Innovation is one of the hallmarks of a vibrant financial system and economy,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a press briefing released Friday. “But as we’ve painfully learned from history, innovation without adequate regulation can result in significant disruptions and harm to the financial systems and individuals.”

Earlier this month, the corporate finance division of the Securities and Exchange Commission announced the addition of offices focused on crypto assets.

Appeal court rules in favor of Texas social media bill

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a controversial Texas law that limits social media platform’s ability to moderate certain content.

The Texas law, H.B. 20, would prevent large social media companies from censoring user content based on viewpoint.

In its 2–1 decision, the 5th Circuit rejected the plaintiffs’ “rather odd inversion of the First Amendment.

“That Amendment, of course, protects every person’s right to ‘the freedom of speech.’ But the platforms argue that buried somewhere in the person’s enumerated right to free speech lies a corporation’s unenumerated right to muzzle speech.”

Plaintiffs NetChoice and Computer and Communications Industry Association brought the initial action against the state. “We strongly disagree with the court’s decision,” CCIA President Matt Schruers said in a press release. “Forcing private companies to give equal treatment to all viewpoints on their platforms places foreign propaganda and extremism on equal footing with decent Internet users, and places Americans at risk. ‘God Bless America’ and ‘Death to America’ are both viewpoints, and it is unwise and unconstitutional for the State of Texas to compel a private business to treat those the same.”

Last May, the Supreme Court delayed H.B. 20 from taking effect until the 5th Circuit issued a ruling.

H.B. 20 – like a similar social media law from Florida that was largely overturned by the 11th Circuit – was drafted to combat social media platforms’ alleged censorship of right-wing content. Critics say these laws are unconstitutional and dangerous to the institution of free speech.

WISPA endorses California tech neutrality bill

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association on Thursday endorsed California’s A.B. 2749, a bill that would make WISPs eligible for state funding.

“WISPA’s members provide a wide range of broadband solutions which connect rural, under-resourced, and Tribal areas. To reach these communities in California, WISPA members use fiber and fixed wireless solutions – an all-of-the-above approach that can be finely tailored to the unique characteristics of each individual community,” the advocacy group’s statement said.

Both houses of the California legislature passed A.B. 2749 last month without a single “no” vote. WISPA’s statement called on Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign the bill into law.

The question of technology neutrality is hotly debated in the broadband policy world. While neutrality-friendly voices like WISPA argue that communities should have access to a wide range of technological options, pro-fiber advocates argue that their preferred technology is superior and longer lasting.

A recent report from the Fiber Broadband Association argued that fiber to the home is higher performing, more environmentally friendly, cheaper in the long-term, and more popular with customers than its competitor technologies.

Last month, FBA CEO and President Gary Bolton lauded the Federal Communications Commission’s controversial decision to revoke Starlink’s $885-million award from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. “The Fiber Broadband Association continues to provide research and results that demonstrate that fiber-based broadband is the only infrastructure that will provide the reliable, high-speed broadband services that will bring digital equity to every corner of North America,” his statement said.

Officials from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration have previously said they have a preference for fiber for future infrastructure builds.

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