Tech Law Journal Daily E-Mail Alert
July 2, 2001, 8:00 AM ET, Alert No. 220.
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Brownback Introduces ILEC Relief Bills
6/27.  Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced S 1126 [PDF] and S 1127 [PDF] in the Senate. S 1126 is titled the "Broadband Deployment and Competition Enhancement Act of 2001". S 1127 is titled the "Rural Broadband Deployment Act of 2001". Both are intended to incent the local phone companies to deploy of DSL services. Both follow the regulatory relief approach of the Tauzin Dingell bill, HR 1542. S 1126 would remove certain requirements imposed on incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) by Section 251 of the Telecom Act of 1996 when providing broadband services. S 1127 would provide further regulatory relief to ILECs, but applies only to rural areas.
"My singular objective, in both bills, is high-speed Internet access for everybody in America by 2007," said Sen. Brownback in a statement [PDF] in the Senate. "New approaches will be needed to achieve universal broadband availability. Some of my colleagues have introduced legislation consisting of tax incentives or loan subsidies. Programs such as these can help to deliver on the commitment to make broadband universally available, but these proposals alone will not achieve that goal. Deregulation has a key role to play in this effort." He continued that "The broadband market, distinct from the local telephone market, is new. Yet, federal and State regulators are placing local telephone competition regulations on broadband-specific facilities deployed by incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) the only regulated broadband service providers as if they were part and parcel of their local telephone service. This is simply not the case. The local telephone market is not synonymous with the broadband market. The disparate regulatory treatment of phone companies deploying broadband and all other broadband service providers is serving to deny broadband to many rural communities."
DC Circuit Denies Petition for Review in E-911 Case
6/29. The U.S. Court of Appeals (DDC) issued its opinion in U.S. Cellular v. FCC, a petition for review of an FCC order pertaining to deployment of new emergency 911 technologies. Wireless carriers argued that the order contravenes the cost causation principle contained in CompTel v. FCC, is arbitrary and capricious, violates the Regulatory Flexibility Act, and amounts to an unconstitutional taking. The Appeals Court denied the petition.
Financial Privacy
6/29. The FTC sent a letter to the State of North Dakota stating that North Dakota's financial privacy statute is not preempted by the Gramm Leach Bliley Act. The FTC opined that the two statutes are not inconsistent. See, FTC release. See also, North Dakota Disclosure of Customer Information law, N.D. Cent. Code, ch. 6-08.1-01 to 6-08.1-08 (amended 2001), and Subtitle A of Title V of the Gramm Leach Bliley Act, 15 U.S.C. 6801-6809.
New Documents
Stearns: HR 2421, the Jurisdictional Certainty Over Digital Commerce Act, 6/28 (HTML, TLJ).
Brownback: S 1126, the Broadband Deployment and Competition Enhancement Act of 2001, 6/28 (HTML, Brownback).
Brownback: S 1127, the Rural Broadband Deployment Act of 2001, 6/28 (HTML, Brownback).
HJC: Report 107-120 re HR 1866, a bill re patent reexamination, 6/29 (HTML, LibCong).
HJC: Report 107-121 re HR 1886, a bill re patent reexamination, 6/29 (HTML, LibCong).
Bush: speech re energy vampires, 6/28 (HTML, WH).
FTC: letter to North Dakota re financial privacy provisions of GLB Act and preemption, 6/29 (HTML, FTC).
USCA: opinion in U.S. Cellular v. FCC re E-911, 6/29 (HTML, USCA).
Stearns Introduces Bill to Limit State Jurisdiction over Digital Transactions
6/28. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and others introduced HR 2421, the "Jurisdictional Certainty Over Digital Commerce Act". The bill would bar states from regulating the sale of digital goods and services over the Internet. It would provide a single legal standard in the U.S. covering the sale of downloaded software, e-books, games, and other products, as well as services.
The bill states that "Responsibility and authority to regulate digital commercial transactions is reserved solely to the Federal Government" and that "No State or political subdivision thereof may enact or enforce any law, rule, regulation, standard, or other provision having the force or effect of law that regulates, or has the effect of regulating, digital commercial transactions." The bills also defines "digital commercial transaction" as "a commercial transaction for a digital good or digital service that is carried out in its entirety by means of the Internet." The bill contains several exceptions, including state regulation pertaining to health, safety, fraud, and crimes. It also exempts telecommunications services.
The bill also contains the findings that "digital commercial transactions in digital goods and digital services are inherently interstate in nature" and that "State regulation of such digital commercial transactions creates significant and harmful burdens on interstate commerce". Rep. Stearns said in a release that "It is important to inject jurisdictional certainty with respect to commercial transaction in digital goods and services. Having 50-plus separate, and at times incongruent, regulations governing interstate commercial transactions poses a substantial burden to interstate commerce in general, and to e-commerce specifically."
Rep. Stearns is the Chairman of the House Commerce Committee's Commerce, Trade & Consumer Protection Subcommittee. The other original cosponsors are Reps. Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Charles Bass (R-NH), Nathan Deal (R-GA), and Greg Walden (R-OR).
Supreme Court Denies Cert in Metro PCS Case
6/29. The Supreme Court of the U.S. denied certiorari in U.S. v. General Wireless Inc. PCS. See, Order List at pages 17-18. General Wireless, which is now named Metro PCS, intends to provide cellular service in several cities using code division multiple access (CDMA) technology. The Supreme Court, without opinion, declined to review a decision of the bankruptcy court allowing Metro PCS to keep 14 personal communications service (PCS) spectrum licenses that it had obtained at an FCC auction, after paying only a part of its auction bids. As in the NextWave case, the FCC had sought to cancel the spectrum licenses, and re-auction the spectrum. (See, Docket No. 00-1621.)
More Supreme Court News
6/29. The Supreme Court of the U.S. denied certiorari in Tuvell v. Microsoft. See, Order List at page 11. See also, "unpublished" opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals (1stCir). (Docket No. 00-1784.)
6/29. The Supreme Court of the U.S. issued a recess order. It stated that "The Court will take a recess from today until Monday, October 1, 2001." See, Order List at page 20.
Bush Calls PCs Energy Vampires
6/28. President Bush gave a speech at the Department of Energy in Washington DC in which he described certain electronic equipment, such as PCs, as energy "vampires". He stated that "I want to talk about what's called vampires, and announce to the nation the new vampire slayer, and that's the Secretary of Energy, Spence Abraham. Because of our desire for instant convenience, many of the appliances in our homes carry unnecessarily high energy costs. Because we're used to a computer coming on instantly or a TV snapping on as a result of a remote switch, common day appliances eat enormous amounts of energy.
The Consumer Electronics Association was not amused. It issued a release in which it stated that "to refer to our products as energy monsters is misleading and inaccurate." It continued that "In many cases, our products are part of the solution to the energy debate. Many home networking products help save energy by providing increased control over home heating, cooling and lighting systems. Information technology and telecommunications products allow teleworking and remote access to information and entertainment content, both of which save fuel and reduce smokestack emissions. Consumers who stay home and enjoy a movie on their home theater also help save fuel and reduce air pollution." It concluded that "encouraging the adoption of unnecessary and more restrictive energy consumption criteria threatens a manufacturers ability to provide competitively priced products with compelling features that meet consumer demand for performance. In short, asking the public to pay more for less disregards consumers' interests. Consumers who seek energy efficient products can find them in the marketplace today."
The Tech Law Journal Daily E-Mail Alert will not be published on July 4, 5 or 6.
More News
6/28. The House Judiciary Committee issued its reports on HR 1866 (Report 107-120) and HR 1886 (Report 107-121), both of which pertain to patent reexaminations. Both bills were approved by the Committee on June 20 by unanimous voice votes.
6/29. The Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) praised FCC Chairman Michael Powell for writing a letter [PDF] on June 27 to Commerce Secretary Don Evans regarding third generation wireless services. Powell wrote that "additional time is necessary to allow the Commission and the Executive Branch to complete a careful and complete evaluation of the various possible options for making additional spectrum available for advanced wireless services." See, ITAA release.
6/29. Peter Doyle was named Chief of the FCC's Mass Media Bureau's Audio Services Division.
6/29. Jim Harper was named an Adjunct Fellow of the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF), a Washington DC based non profit organization that studies technology policy. Harper focuses on privacy and e-commerce issues. He is also the principal of the PolicyCounsel.Com consulting firm, and the Editor of
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