Tech Law Journal Daily E-Mail Alert
September 6, 2002, 9:00 AM ET, Alert No. 503.
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DC Circuit Denies Requests for Rehearing in USTA v. FCC
9/5. The U.S. Court of Appeals (DCCir) denied numerous petitions for rehearing or rehearing en banc in USTA v. FCC, a case pertaining to FCC unbundling and line sharing orders.
On May 24, 2002, a three judge panel of the Court of Appeals issued its opinion in USTA v. FCC, granting petitions for review of an FCC unbundling order and line sharing order. Incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECs) and the U.S. Telecom Association (USTA), a group that represents them, challenged the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) order requiring ILECs to lease a variety of unbundled network elements to competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs). They also challenged an FCC line sharing order that requires ILECs to lease to CLECs only a portion of local copper loops, rather than the whole line, for the purpose of offering DSL service. The Appeals Court granted both petitions. It remanded both rules to the FCC for further proceedings.
Subsequently, the FCC, USA, AT&T, Sprint, Covad, and WorldCom sought rehearing. On September 4, the Court of Appeals, en banc, denied all of those requests in a series of orders.
Herschel Abbott, BellSouth VP for Governmental Affairs, stated in a release that "We are gratified that the Court has held its ground on these crucial matters. Forcing incumbent phone companies to subsidize their competitors makes no sense. The Federal Communications Commission is considering changing its current UNE rules and we are confident that Chairman Powell will meet his self imposed end of the year 2002 deadline for the revision of these rules."
The USTA is pleased too. Walter McCormick, P/CEO of the USTA, also stated in a release that "We ... look forward to expeditious action. Both judicial mandate and a return to economic growth require the Commission to meet the Chairman's own goal of completing action on these important issues by the end of the year."
In contrast, CompTel urged the FCC to file a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court. It argued that the opinion in USTA v. FCC is "fundamentally in tension" with the Supreme Court's TELRIC ruling. See, release.
This is the case known as USTA v. FCC. Of course, there have been many cases named USTA v. FCC. This one is numbered 00-1012 and 00-1015. It is more fully captioned as United States Telecom Association, Petitioner v. Federal Communications Commission and United States of America, Respondents, Bell Atlantic Telephone Companies, et al., Intervenors, No. 00-1012, consolidated with Nos. 01-1075, 01-1102, and 01-1103, and United States Telecom Association, Petitioner v. Federal Communications Commission and United States of America, Respondents, AT&T Corporation, et al., Intervenors, No. 00-1015, consolidated with No. 00-1025.
FCC Creates Federal State Forum on Regulatory Accounting Issues
9/5. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it adopted an Order on August 27 establishing a "Federal State Joint Conference on Accounting Issues". The FCC stated in a release [PDF] that "The Joint Conference will be charged with ensuring that regulatory accounting data and related information filed by telecommunications companies are adequate, truthful, and thorough. Additionally, the Joint Conference will provide a forum for state and federal policymakers to consider, coordinate, and conduct initiatives that will ensure that the collection and exchange of regulatory accounting information is adequate and effective."
The FCC also stated that it "prescribes the accounting rules that govern the manner in which incumbent local exchange carriers (LECs) record and allocate their costs and revenues for regulatory purposes. These rules are known as the Uniform System of Accounts (USOA). The FCC also maintains the Automated Reporting Management Information System (ARMIS), through which certain incumbent LECs are required annually to report regulatory accounting information. The Joint Conference will begin a reexamination of federal and state regulatory accounting and related reporting requirements and make recommendations for improvements." (Parentheses in original.)
The order is numbered FCC 02-240. It was issued in FCC Docket No. WC 02-269. The FCC has yet to publish the order in its web site.
FCC Chairman Michael Powell issued a statement [PDF] in which he wrote that creating this federal state forum "puts in place an effective means for examining the Commission's regulatory accounting and reporting requirements. Its mission is straightforward -- to ensure that our regulatory and accounting reporting requirements are adequate to protect consumers and carry out our regulatory responsibilities under the Communications Act."
He added that "As telecommunications regulators, we are charged with a responsibility different than that of securities regulators. Regulatory accounting data and related information filed by telecommunications carriers is used by federal and state telecommunications policymakers to fulfill various responsibilities, such as determining interstate access charges, evaluating federal state jurisdictional separations, setting rates for unbundled network elements and calculating universal service support." (Emphasis in original.)
He concluded that "It is my hope that the Joint Conference will engage in a thorough analysis of individual accounting requirements to ensure that information captured in regulated accounts is both necessary and sufficient for our regulatory purposes."
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps released a statement [PDF] on August 20 advocating the prompt creation of this forum. He stated that "
in light of the accounting depredations we have witnessed in recent months, it is absolutely essential."
Copps asserted that "It may well be that additional, rather than fewer, accounting procedures are required for the discharge of federal and state regulatory responsibilities. The Conference should also reconsider the scope of our rules to gauge whether limiting accounting rules generally to just dominant carriers, as is the case today, is sufficient for protection of the public interest in these changed and challenging times."
DOJ Recommends Approval of Verizon's Virginia Long Distance Application
9/5. The Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued its evaluation recommending that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approve Verizon's Section 271 application to provide in region interLATA service in the state of Virginia.
Assistant Attorney General Charles James stated in a DOJ release that "The available evidence suggests that generally, Verizon has succeeded in opening its local telecommunications markets in Virginia to competition".
Sarah Deutsch, VP and Associate General Counsel of Verizon, stated in a release that "we are confident that the FCC will approve this long distance application". October 30 is the FCC's statutory deadline for issuing its decision to approve or reject the application.
PWC Study Rates USPTO Web Site Best in Government
9/5. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) released a report [44 pages in PDF] titled "The State of Federal Websites: The Pursuit of Excellence". The report picked the top 12 federal agency web sites. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) was ranked first. See also, USPTO release.
The report was released by PWC's Endowment for the Business of Government. It was written by Genie Stowers of San Francisco State University.
The report states that it "rated 148 federal websites along the following dimensions: site services provided online, quality of user help features, quality of services navigation, site legitimacy, and accessibility. Based on her analysis, the following five federal government websites were rated highest: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, Department of the Treasury, and Department of the Navy."
The report also listed the scores and rankings for the seventh through twelfth rated web sites: Agriculture, Mine Safety and Health Administration, Indian Health Service, Veteran's Affairs, Defense, Small Business Administration, Railroad Retirement Board.
In July, IBM and PWC announced that IBM would acquire PWC's business consulting and technology services unit. See, IBM release. IBM has received more patents that any other company for each of the last nine years. The USPTO issued it over 3,000 patents in 2001. See, USPTO report on top patenting entities in 2001.
Sen. Allen Opposes Sen. Biden's Anticounterfeiting Bill
9/5. Sen. George Allen (R-VA) released a statement in which he announced and explained his reasons for withdrawing his support for S 2395, the Anticounterfeiting Amendments of 2002, sponsored by Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE). The original version of the bill applied only to physical features, such as certificates of authenticity included in commercial shrink wrapped software, while the version of the bill approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee dropped the "physical" features limitation, thus expanding the bill to cover digital or cyber authentication marks.
Sen. Biden introduced the bill on April 30, 2002. The bill, as introduced, would amend 18 U.S.C. § 2318, regarding trafficking in counterfeit labels and documentation for software, movies, and records. The original bill would criminalize "illicit authentication features", and create a private right of action for copyright owners.
The original bill defines the term "authentication feature" as "any hologram, watermark, certification, symbol, code, image, sequence of numbers or letters, or other physical feature that either individually or in combination with another feature is used by the respective copyright owner to verify that a phonorecord, a copy of a computer program, a copy of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, or documentation or packaging is not counterfeit or otherwise infringing of any copyright". (Emphasis added.) See, story titled "Biden Bill Would Ban Illicit Authentication Features" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 423, May 2, 2002.
The Senate Judiciary Committee amended and approved the bill on July 18, 2002. However, it removed the reference to "physical" features.
Sen. Allen (at right), who had been a cosponsor of the original bill, stated that "Originally, this bill took a scalpel's precision to a very specific and identifiable problem, tampering with or counterfeiting physical authentication features ... But what a difference a word makes. Opening this legislation to the digital realm has caused the virtually unanimous industry support behind it to evaporate, and it has raised a host of troubling liability issues that cause substantial harm to Internet service providers."
Sen. Allen added that "While we all agree that those who knowingly traffic in illegal digital content should be held liable, this bill was not intended to be the vehicle to address that issue ... The intense debate over digital rights management merits more attention than taking a narrowly focused bill that solves one real problem, and changing it in a way that creates a host of new ones."
House Transportation Committee Holds Hearing on Driver's Licenses
9/5. The House Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit held a hearing titled "Driver's License Security Issues."
Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI) stated that "We find ourselves at a crossroads of sorts. We want to improve the security of driver's licenses to avoid not just their use by terrorists, but also by other criminal enterprises and individuals. ... But we don't want to see this occur at the expense of the personal liberty or privacy of law abiding individuals. We also are mindful that many of the issues we are concerned with here today are state, not federal issues."
Several witnesses cautioned about the dangers of creating a national identification system. The Eagle Forum's Lori Waters stated that "The real question is not about a person getting a driver's license fraudulently to drive around town but rather about what else he could do with it -- open a bank account, cash a check, get a library card, board a plane, etc. There is no question that appropriate measures should be implemented to minimize the potential for driver's license fraud, and states can and are meeting this challenge. However, some people are advocating significant federal intervention in this state domain. In the name of security and ``anti terrorism,´´ proposals such as driver's license standardization and linkage of databases to tag and track Americans are on the table for discussion."
Waters concluded that "these were bad ideas before 9/11, and they are still bad ideas today. The answer to our security problems is control of our borders and better intelligence. Federal driver's license standardization is a dangerous path that should not be taken. It is nothing more than a nice sounding label for a national identification system."
The Center for Democracy and Technolgy's (CDT) Ari Schwartz stated that "The state driver's license ... is now used as a primary means of authenticating identity in a wide range of commercial and governmental transactions having nothing to do with operating a motor vehicle. In the wake of the horrific attacks of September 11, some have suggested that we should standardize the design of the state driver's license, add more features to the card and create data systems linked to the card."
He continued that "One year after the September 11 attacks, there is no evidence that flaws in the design and security of drivers' licenses themselves facilitated the hijackers in carrying out their plans. From what we know, most of the hijackers were not using stolen, counterfeit or altered ID cards or ID cards from a foreign country. Rather, they were using legitimate state driver’s licenses or non-driver ID cards obtained from DMV offices. ... These problems are not ones that could be cured by introducing more biometrics in the cards themselves or by creating databases that link together state or commercial databases."
On May 1, Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) introduced HR 4633, the Driver's License Modernization Act of 2002. This bill would establish standards for state programs for the issuance of drivers' licenses and identification cards. It was referred to the House Transportation Committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and the House Science Committee.
Rep. Moran stated in a release that the bill would "Ensure drivers' licenses would be more foolproof by including a biometric feature -- such as a retinal scan or finger print -- on an encrypted smart chip embedded on the drivers' licenses."
He stated also that it would "Require states motor vehicle departments' databases to be linked, thereby allowing one state's motor vehicle department to verify the identity of an individual from another state applying for a driver's license."
See, prepared testimony of witnesses: Roger Cross (Administrator, Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles),
Rep. John Weaver (Kentucky State Representative), Sen. Betty Karnette (California State Senator), Katie Corrigan (ACLU), Lori Waters (Eagle Forum), and Ari Schwartz (CDT). See, also Transportation Committee release.
Senate Judiciary Committee Rejects Justice Owen in Party Line Vote
9/5. The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to be a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on a party line vote of 10-9. All of the Democrats voted against her. President Bush labeled the action "shameful, even by Washington standards". See, Bush statement.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the Committee, stated that she is "a nominee whose record is too extreme even in the context of the very conservative Texas Supreme Court." He cited her anti abortion and pro-business record on the Texas Supreme Court. See, prepared statement.
The Committee also rejected the nomination of U.S. District Court Judge Pickering to be a Judge on the Fifth Circuit earlier this year.
President Bush stated that "I know Justice Owen well. She is an outstanding judge and a woman of integrity who has received outspoken bipartisan support. Based on her distinguished service with the Texas Supreme Court for seven years, the American Bar Association unanimously rated her, "well qualified," the highest rating the organization can bestow upon a nominee. She is known to be a fair and impartial judge who strives to interpret the law fairly."
"What the Democrat members of the Senate Judiciary Committee have done to Justice Owen is shameful, even by Washington standards. They have distorted her record and misconstrued her opinions. They have determined that a nominee's experience, academic credentials, and character are inconsequential."
"Justice Owen's nomination should be brought to the floor of the Senate for a vote. If the full Senate were to vote on her nomination today, I am confident she would be confirmed. The Democrats on the Judiciary Committee know this, and therefore, voted to prevent it," said Bush.
The vote will prevent Justice Owen from being considered by the full Senate, where she would likely prevail.
Sen. Leahy also stated that he is "greatly concerned about Justice Owen's record of ends oriented decision making as a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court. As one reads case after case, particularly those in which she was the sole dissenter or dissented with the extreme right wing of the Court, her pattern of activism becomes clear.  Her legal views in so many cases involving statutory interpretation simply cannot be reconciled with the plain meaning of the statute, the legislative intent, or the majority’s interpretation, leading to the conclusion that she sets out to justify some pre-conceived idea of what the law ought to mean."
Sen. Leahy also referenced Bush's advisor, Karl Rove. He said that "Plucked from a law firm by political consultant Karl Rove, Justice Owen ran as a conservative, pro-business candidate for the Texas Supreme Court, and she received ample support from the business community. She fulfilled her promise, becoming the most conservative judge on a conservative court, standing out for her ends oriented, extremist decision making. Now, on a bigger stage, the President and Mr. Rove want a repeat performance".
Attorney General John Ashcroft also condemned the vote. He said that "today marks the first time in U.S. history that a judicial nominee who has been unanimously rated 'well-qualified' by the ABA was voted down." He also said that "Senate Democrats have indicated an unfortunate trend toward unfairness against qualified women nominated by this Administration." He cited two other judicial nominees -- Deborah Cook and Carolyn Kuhl -- as examples. See, Ashcroft statement.
FCC Announces Agenda for September 12 Meeting
9/5. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced the agenda for its September 12 open meeting. There are two items. First, the FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) concerning its media ownership rules, pursuant to Section 202(h) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
Second, the FCC will consider a NPRM and Memorandum Opinion and Order concerning possible revisions to the rules on unsolicited advertising over the telephone and facsimile machine and the possible establishment of a national do not call list. This is CC Docket No. 92-90.
The meeting will be held at 9:30 AM in the FCC's Commission Meeting Room (TW-C305).
Friday, September 6
The House and Senate will hold a joint meeting in New York City to commemorate the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
9:30 AM. The U.S. Court of Appeals (DCCir) will hear oral argument in Motion Picture Association of America v. FCC, No. 01-1149. Judges Edwards, Henderson and Rogers will preside. Location: 333 Constitution Ave., NW.
8:30 AM - 4:00 PM. Day two of a two day conference titled "Symposium on the Role of Scientific and Technical Data and Information in the Public Domain" hosted by the National Academy of Sciences. See, agenda. Location: National Academy of Sciences Auditorium, 2100 C Street NW.
Day three of a three day meeting titled "U.S. Ireland Business Summit". See, conference web site. Location: Ronald Reagan Building.
Monday, September 9
9:30 AM. The U.S. Court of Appeals (DCCir) will hear oral argument in WorldCom v. FCC, No. 01-1198. Judges Tatel, Garland and Williams will preside. Location: Courtroom 20, 333 Constitution Ave., NW.
Day one of a two day conference on patent interference law, hosted by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO). For more information, call 202 466-2396. Location: Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.
Tuesday, September 10
9:30 AM. The U.S. Court of Appeals (DCCir) will hear oral argument in AT&T v. FCC, No. 01-1188. Judges Ginsburg, Sentelle and Silberman will preside. Location: 333 Constitution Ave., NW.
10:00 AM. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing to examine the implementation of the USA PATRIOT Act, focusing on the expansion of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Location: Room 226, Dirksen Building.
12:00 NOON. The FCBA's Engineering and Technical Practice Committee will host a brown bag lunch titled "Spectrum Management Reform: Preliminary Perspectives". The scheduled speakers are Paul Kolodzy (FCC Senior Spectrum Policy Advisor) and Mike Gallagher (NTIA). RSVP to Lisa Gaisford. Location: FCC, 445 12th St., SW, Courtyard Level, Conference Rooms B418 & B511.
12:00 NOON. Deadline to submit written commits to the Office of the USTR in response to its notice in the Federal Register requesting comments on China's compliance with the commitments it made in connection with its accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Day two of a two day conference on patent interference law, hosted by the Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO). For more information, call 202 466-2396. Location: Ronald Reagan International Trade Center.
The Intellectual Property Owners Association (IPO) Board of Directors will hold a meeting.
Thursday, September 12
8:00 AM - 5:30 PM. Day one of a two day conference hosted by the International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI) titled "Specialized Intellectual Property Courts". See, IIPI release and online registration form. Location: George Washington University Law School, Moot Court Room, 2000 H Street, NW.
9:30 AM. The FCC will hold a meeting. The FCC will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) concerning its media ownership rules, pursuant to Section 202(h) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. It will also consider a NPRM and Memorandum Opinion and Order concerning possible revisions to the rules on unsolicited advertising over the telephone and facsimile machine and the possible establishment of a national do not call list. This is CC Docket No. 92-90. Location: FCC, 445 12th Street, SW, Room TW-C05 (Commission Meeting Room).
2:30 PM. The Senate Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space Subcommittee will hold a hearing to examine S 2537, the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002, and HR 2417, the Dot Kids Domain Name Act of 2001. These bills would facilitate the creation of a new second level Internet domain within the U.S. country code domain that would provide a safe online environment for children. The House has already passed another version -- HR 3833. Location: Room 253, Russell Building.
Deadline to submit comments to the FCC regarding WorldCom's August 8, 2002, petition for declaratory ruling pursuant to 47 C.F.R.§ 1.2, that requesting carriers are entitled to access ILEC Line Information Database data at cost based rates when they use such data to provide interexchange and exchange access service. This is CC Docket No. 01-338. See, FCC notice [PDF].
Friday, September 13
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. Day two of a two day conference hosted by the International Intellectual Property Institute (IIPI) titled "Specialized Intellectual Property Courts". See, IIPI release, online registration form, and agenda at right. Location: Markey National Courts Bldg., 717 Madison Place, NW.
10:45 AM. Press conference associated with the International Intellectual Property Institute's (IIPI) conference titled "Specialized Intellectual Property Courts". Location: Court Room 203, Markey National Courts Bldg., 717 Madison Place, NW.
10:00 AM. The FCC's Network Reliability and Interoperability Council (NRIC) will hold a meeting. Location: FCC, 445 12th Street, SW, Commission Meeting Room.
Deadline to submit comments to the FTC regarding its proposed consent agreement with MSC Software Corporation. See, Agreement Containing Consent Order [22 pages PDF]. See, notice in Federal Register.
People and Appointments
9/5. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination of U.S. District Court Judge Reena Raggi to be a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
More News
9/5. The House Judiciary Committee met to mark up several bills. The last item on the agenda was HR 4561, the Federal Agency Protection of Privacy Act, sponsored by Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA). The bill would require federal agencies to the agency shall prepare and make available for public comment an initial privacy impact analysis when it proposes new regulations. The Committee held over this item. The Committee has not yet scheduled its next mark up meeting.
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