I. Legislative Branch Activity

A. Surveillance Bill Stalls in Senate.

There was little activity in Congress this month as most members were out on the campaign trail. The Senate did not address the surveillance bill (HR-5825) passed by the House in September, 232-191. The bill, in effect, would authorize an existing National Security Agency surveillance program by setting rules for warrantless surveillance in certain circumstances.


Continue Reading Washington Update – October 2006

I. Legislative Branch Activity

A. Port Security Bill Clears Conference.

In probably its last major action before the mid-term election recess, Congress approved the Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act of 2006 by a vote of 409-2. The relevant FCC provisions are in Title VI. Section 602 directs the FCC to adopt a protocol to enable Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) providers to provide emergency alerts to subscribers. CMRS licensees may voluntarily elect to transmit emergency alerts to subscribers. If CMRS licensees elect not to transmit emergency alerts, they must provide clear and conspicuous notice at the point of sale of any devices with which its service is included that it does not do so. In addition, CMRS licensees that elect not to transmit emergency alerts also must notify existing subscribers of such election. Section 603 directs the FCC to establish a Commercial Mobile Service Alert Advisory Committee to make recommendations on CMRS emergency alert protocols.


Continue Reading Washington Update – September 2006

I.  Legislative Branch Activity

A. Senate Fails to Pass Telecom Bill Before August Recess.

The Senate shut down for August recess without passing the telecom bill (HR-5252), despite Commerce Committee Chairman Stevens’ (R-AK) week-long drive to round up the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. Sen. Sununu (R-NH) was helping Stevens to round up votes. According to Sen. Sununu, technology is moving so quickly that the bill will be obsolete by next Congress.


Continue Reading Washington Update – August 2006

I. Legislative Branch Activity

A. House Passes Interoperability Bill.

On July 25, the House passed 414-2 a bill (HR-5852) that would coordinate national, state, and local emergency communications efforts through a new Department of Homeland Security. The head of the new DHS emergency communications office would oversee all such communications nationwide. States would have to write plans and coordinate regionally among federal, state, and local officials. The bill would tie award of DHS grants to development of “effective statement interoperable communications plans.”


Continue Reading Washington Update – July 2006

I. Legislative Branch Activity

The legislative news of the month surrounded the three-day markup and subsequent passage on June 28 of the Senate telecom bill (S.2686) by the Commerce Committee. The bill passed by a vote of 15-7. Perhaps more importantly, there was an 11-11 tie on the primary network neutrality amendment offered, which Chairman Stevens then broke to defeat the measure. One Republican, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), a co-sponsor of the bill, crossed over to vote with the Democrats. If the network neutrality amendment had passed, the overall bill likely would not have made it through the full Senate and any subsequent conference with the House, because the issue is so divisive.


Continue Reading Washington Update – June 2006

I. Legislative Branch Activity

To no one’s surprise, this month Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-AK) introduced comprehensive telecommunications legislation. Meanwhile, in the House, a jurisdictional battle intensified between the Commerce and Judiciary Committees over "net neutrality" provisions in the House bill. Time is growing short, however, for Congress to pass any communications legislation. Below we discuss the Senate bill and the jurisdictional tug of war in the House.


Continue Reading Washington Update – May 2006

On February 8, 2006, President Bush signed into law the Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 (the “DTV Act”).  The DTV Act contains provisions relating to the nation’s transition from analog to digital television broadcasting.  Most significantly, the DTV Act establishes February 18, 2009 as the “hard” deadline by which full-power television stations must cease broadcasting analog signals and commence broadcasting exclusively in digital format.  Congress previously had set a target date of December 31, 2006 for the end of the transition from analog to digital broadcasting.  That date, however, was flexible in that television stations could seek an extension of the deadline, and continue broadcasting in analog format, if less than 85 percent of the households in their respective market had access to the digital broadcast signals (e.g., owned a digital television set or a converter box that would make digital signals viewable on older analog television sets).  The DTV Act eliminates the 85 percent extension criteria and establishes February 18, 2009 as the “hard” deadline for turning off analog television signals.
Continue Reading “Hard” Deadline For Digital Television Established