Tag Archives: telecommunications

New Advocacy and Policy Update

The latest ARL Advocacy and Public Policy Update (covering the period from October 1 to December 22) is now available.  Previous Advocacy and Policy Updates can be found here.

From the current update’s summary:

Copyright continues to be an active area with a number of developments since October. The House Judiciary Committee continues to move forward with its copyright review and is close to completing its schedule of meetings between House Judiciary majority and minority staffers and witnesses who testified at hearings during the course of the review. In early 2016, members of the House Judiciary Committee will determine what issues they may want to work on with respect to possible reform. Additionally, Representatives Marino, Chu and Comstock introduced their bill on Copyright Office modernization, which would move the Copyright Office out of the Library of Congress and establish it as an independent agency within the legislative branch. On October 16, 2015, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit released its long awaited opinion in Authors Guild v. Google, strongly affirming fair use. Also in October, the Library of Congress released its final rules for the current cycle of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s (DMCA) Section 1201 rulemaking. Finally, the Library Copyright Alliance (LCA) filed comments responding to the Copyright Office’s Notice of Inquiry regarding a proposed pilot program for mass digitization and extended collective licensing. These comments questioned the wisdom of such a pilot program.

The US Congress passed the omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2016 and avoided a government shutdown. The omnibus exceeded mandatory caps on discretionary funding, resulting in positive results for higher education and libraries.

The Department of Education issued a proposal to amend regulations and require that all Department grantees awarded direct competitive grant funds openly license all copyrightable intellectual property created with these funds. ARL submitted comments supporting the benefits of open licensing and encouraging continued dialog.

ARL joined in comments on the proposed revision to OMB Circular A-130, the Circular that provides the rules of the road for federal information management and information technology.

The DC Circuit heard oral arguments on net neutrality in December. Although threats regarding a rider to undermine the FCC’s ability enforce its net neutrality rules emerged during the omnibus appropriations process, this rider was ultimately not included.

Congress continues to consider reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), and there is widespread support in the House for such reform. The Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 was altered in ways that raise greater privacy concerns than its original version and was passed in the omnibus appropriations bill.

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (Fisher II), a case involving the University of Texas (UT) admissions process, which seeks to improve student body diversity.

Finally on the international front, more countries have ratified the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who are Blind, Visually Impaired or Otherwise Print Disabled, moving the Treaty closer to entry into force. The negotiations of the TransPacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) have now been finalized and the texts are now public, but the agreement must still be signed and passed by each of the negotiating parties.

FCC Proposes New Rules to Protect Net Neutrality

On Wednesday, February 4, 2015, Chairman Wheeler proposed long-anticipated rules governing the open Internet, also known as net neutrality, which is critical for education, research, learning, innovation and free speech.  The rules rely on the FCC’s legal authority under Title II and Section 706, will apply to fixed as well as mobile broadband, and will prohibit conduct such as blocking or paid prioritization.  These rules will be voted on at the FCC’s meeting on February 26.

The proposal reclassifies broadband under Title II of the Communications Act, subjecting broadband service to “common carriage” rules.  As noted in the fact sheet, “both the service to the end user and to the edge provider are classified under Title II.”

The proposal also relies on its authority under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, providing greater legal certainty: “Notably, the Verizon court held that Section 706 is an independent grant of authority to the Commission that supports adoption of Open Internet rules.  Using it here — without the limitations of the common carriage prohibition that flowed from earlier classification decisions — bolsters the Commission’s authority.”

The proposal “recognizing the advances in technology and the growing significance of wireless broadband access in recent years” applies to mobile, as well as fixed, broadband service.

It also issues several bright line rules:

  • No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

  • No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services or non-harmful devices.

  • No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration — in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.

The Chairman’s proposal also discusses forbearance, listing various provisions that will specifically apply as well as those that the FCC will forbear from enforcement.  The proposal states that broadband providers will not be subject to rate regulation, will not require broadband providers to contribute to the Universal Service Fund, and will not impose or authorize new taxes or fees.

By relying on both its Title II and Section 706 authority, Chairman Wheeler’s proposal will provide a strong legal basis to ensure that the open character of the Internet is preserved and that the Internet is not divided into fast lanes and slow lanes based on the ability or willingness to pay for enhanced access.

ICYMI: President Obama Supports Net Neutrality, Urges Title II Reclassification

On November 10, 2014, President Obama issued a strong statement in support of net neutrality. In his statement, Obama recommended bright-line rules in certain areas, including rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization and enhanced rules on transparency. He also recommends that the FCC reclassify consumer broadband services as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. You can watch the video and read the statement here.

President Obama’s support for net neutrality and recommendations on bright-line rules mirror some of the principles advocated for by ARL and other higher education and library organizations in submissions to the FCC.

FCC Chairman Wheeler Issues Net Neutrality Statement, Calls for Public Comment

On February 19, 2014, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement on the FCC’s Open Internet Rules. This statement, a response to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit’s ruling in Verizon v. FCC overturning the agency’s anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules, reaffirmed the FCC’s commitment to preserving a free and open internet. ARL’s statement regarding Verizon v. FCC can be found here.

Chairman Wheeler’ noted that while the D.C. Circuit overturned the anti-discrimination and anti-blocking rules, it affirmed the FCC’s broad authority to regulate under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act. Chairman Wheeler went on to say that the FCC would not appeal the D.C. Circuit’s judgment but would instead work to propose new rules under its Section 706 authority. He stated that the FCC “will carefully consider how, consistent with the court opinion” the agency can ensure that blocking and discrimination do not take place on the Internet.

Although it does not appear that the FCC will take steps to reclassify broadband providers as a telecommunication service from its current classification as information service at this time, it has not ruled out this possibility. Chairman Wheeler’s statement explicitly noted that “as long as Title II—with the ability to reclassify Internet access service as a telecommunications service—remains a part of the Communications Act, the Commission has the ability to utilize it if warranted” and such “authority remains open.”

Furthermore, Chairman Wheeler noted that the FCC would be soliciting public comment and opened a new docket entitled “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet.” While no deadline has been set for comments, the docket states that “comments filed within the next thirty days will be especially helpful.”