House Committee Advances Privacy Bill, LTD Could Lose RDOF in Minnesota, Mozilla Wants Antitrust Bill

The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed six consumer bills, including national privacy legislation.

House Committee Advances Privacy Bill, LTD Could Lose RDOF in Minnesota, Mozilla Wants Antitrust Bill
Photo of John Tuma, PUC Commissioner

July 21, 2022 – The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday passed six consumer protection bills during a markup session, including a long-awaited federal privacy bill.

The bills include Informing Consumers About Smart Devices Act, H.R. 4081, which requires manufacturers to disclose when internet devices are included with a camera or microphone; the RANSOMWARE Act, which requires the Federal Trade Commission to report on cyber-related attacks committed by foreign sources; and the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, which lays out a federal standard for consumer privacy rights.

Members of the committee said in a joint statement that the privacy bill will put limits on Big Tech. “Under out solution, companies will face real consequences if they track our kids’ data or use that information to exploit them for profit.”

LTD could lose RDOF funding in Minnesota

Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission ordered an investigation last week to determine if fixed wireless internet service provider LTD Broadband can deliver on the $311 million it was awarded by the Federal Communications Commission through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund to build broadband in rural areas.

Last month, the company announced that it will no longer use the RDOF grant for telecom builds in rural California following a filing mistake in obtaining states’ building license.

The Minnesota PUC decision is a reversal of the approval granted to LTD last year for buildouts in the state. It follows the decision of several other states, including South Dakota, to reject LTD from using federal money in their state.

“We don’t want to get a situation where they claim they have ability to build out and they get out there and they can’t do it – scrambling for more assets and then all of the sudden it just collapses,” PUC Commissioner John Tuma said in the announcement.

LTD broadband, which was expected to receive the largest amount of RDOF funding at $1.32 billion, was not the first company to default on RDOF funds. At least five companies have asked the FCC to waive penalties for defaulting on coverage areas they promised to connect with their winning bids.

The $9.2 billion RDOF funds were allocated via reverse auction, where awards were given to companies that could promise coverage for areas at the least amount of money. But the FCC has since been reviewing the winning bids and asking providers to forgo on those wins if they now know – due in some cases to better mapping information – if those bids are for areas already adequately covered.

Mozilla urges Congress to pass antitrust bill

Parent company to Firefox web browser, Mozilla, indicated its support of a key antitrust bill that would rein in the power of tech giants in an open letter advertisement to Congress and published by The Washington Post this week.

The letter calls for Congress to “immediately” pass the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, that was introduced in January and would prevent large technology platforms from giving preference to their own products over competitors.

“Our vision for the internet is one that’s private, secure, interoperable, open, accessible, transparent, and balances commercial profit and the public good,” read the letter. “But the anticompetitive practices of the biggest tech companies have made it virtually impossible for the billions of people around the world to adopt better tech alternatives.”

Mozilla argues that competition is crucial to its success and overall innovation. Product preferencing, the letter states, blocks out fair competition.

Observers are still divided about the effect that the AICOA would have on small businesses and the global competitiveness of American companies. The bill is currently on the Senate floor awaiting consideration.

Reporter Riley Haight contributed to this report

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