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May 20 2008, Alert No. 1,770.
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Secretary Chertoff Addresses Integrated Public Alert and Warning System

5/20. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff gave a speech in Washington DC regarding hurricane preparedness. He discussed the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS).

Michael Chertoff

Chertoff (at left) stated that "This goes beyond the typical radio and TV-based alert system to one that allows Internet-based warning and cell phone-based, text message based, warning with an opt-in feature."

He continued that "We piloted this system last year in the Gulf. It worked very well. It is not terribly expensive. We are going to be encouraging the governors of the states in the hurricane areas to sign up for this system. I think it's only a few million dollars, and there's even some of our grant money. If they want to use some of that, they can do it. But we're providing them with a tool that will enhance their ability to reach out to the members of their community - particularly people who may be hearing-impaired - and give them notice if there's any kind of an event. And they need to step up to the plate and accept this invitation; and we're going to be encouraging them to do that."

He also said in response to a question that the DHS will "build into the plans alternative language capabilities for warning, and we did that with the IPAWS system last year. Warning capability for the hearing-impaired. People can sign up if they want a text message."

"And so we built this system. It's out there", said Chertoff.

Most of the facilities that carry these warnings were built by, and are owned by broadcasters, carriers, and other private sector entities. Much of the rulemaking and enforcement activities have been conducted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Moreover, Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) addresses IPAWS as a future program that is being developed, and should be expanded into more communications technologies. See, related story in this issue titled "Rep. Graves Introduces Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Bill".

Chertoff continued that "It can be contracted for. What we want to do is urge the states. Ultimately we'd like every state to do this."

Finally, Chertoff said that "We're saying we got this. The system works. We've tested it. It's available. I think depending on the nature of the state and exactly how fully configured the system you buy is, it's 2 to $3 million per year. It's not a lot of money. And warning, anybody will tell you is the key. If you get - the more people who are warned and take steps in advance the better off you are in response. I can't see a reason why a governor wouldn't sign up for this to be honest with you."

David PaulisonDavid Paulison, Administrator of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also spoke. He added that "I don't know why a governor would not want to be able to warn everybody in the state if there was something bad happening. Just last week we had a tornado that went through Pitcher, Oklahoma and into Seneca, Missouri."

He added there were people in cars who did not receive warning, but that "if there was a warning system out there that could access your Blackberry, your cell phone, or your car radio, or satellite radio which everybody listens to now. So somebody could have activated that and said there's a tornado; get out of your car."

Rep. Graves Introduces Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Bill

5/13. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) introduced HR 6038 [LOC | WW], the "Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2008".

Rep. Sam GravesRep. Graves (at right) issued a release that states that this bill would "modernize the nation’s public warning and alert system in order to allow officials to more effectively warn those threatened by disasters".

Introduction. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has a web page titled "Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS)". The FEMA states that it conceives that this IPAWS will be the "next generation public communications and warning capability".

HR 6038 is a vaguely worded bill that would provide the FEMA further statutory authority and guidance for expanding and integrating this IPAWS. In particular, it would expand the methods and "technologies" used by the government to send communications to the public regarding hurricanes, tornadoes, disasters, and other unspecified things.

The bill does not list these "technologies".

Most of the entities that would create alerts, warnings, and forecasts, such as the National Weather Service (NWS), are governmental. However, most of the entities that make and operate the equipment, devices, networks, software and technologies that would carry or publish these communications are private sector entities. The bill is vague as to what authority the FEMA, or other government agencies, would have to write regulations and impose mandates upon these private sector entities.

The bill is vague as to whether or not the FEMA would have authority to mandate the design of networks, equipment, consumer devices, software, protocols and procedures to accommodate this IPAWS. It is also vague as to how much authority the FEMA would have to compel service providers to publish or carry these IPAWS communications.

This bill only addresses communications that go from the government to the public. It does not address public to the government communications, such as the existing 911 and E911 systems and regulatory regimes.

Nor does the bill address what categories of information should be included in alerts and warnings, what persons or entities would be able to send alerts or warnings, or what entity would serve as a gateway for the origination of alerts.

The bill was referred to the House Transportation Committee (HTC), but not the House Commerce Committee (HCC). Rep. Graves is a member of the HTC, but not the HCC. The bill provides that it does not affect Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or NWS authority. If it did, the HCC would also have jurisdiction.

Bill Summary. The bill recites in its findings that "numerous technologies exist to enable the Federal Government to vastly enhance its public alert and warning system". However, it does not identify any of these "technologies".

The bill also finds that "the Federal Government should modernize its alert and warning system to improve its ability to alert the residents of the United States of all potential hazards under all conditions".

The bill would amend 42 U.S.C. § 5132, which pertains to "Disaster Warnings". This statute currently requires federal agencies to issue warnings.

Moreover, the statute currently provides that "The President is authorized to enter into agreements with the officers or agents of any private or commercial communications systems who volunteer the use of their systems on a reimbursable or nonreimbursable basis for the purpose of providing warning to governmental authorities and the civilian population endangered by disasters."

However, nothing in Section 5132 mandates that any broadcaster, carrier or other entity that might send or publish warnings must participate in any federal program.

The bill would add a new subsection 5132(e) titled "Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization". It would provide that the FEMA "shall ... modernize the integrated public alert and warning system ... to ensure that the President under all conditions can alert and warn governmental authorities and the civilian population in areas endangered by disasters " and "implement the public alert and warning system ".

It would require the FEMA to "establish or adopt, as appropriate, common alerting and warning protocols, standards, terminology, and operating procedures for the public alert and warning system".

It would also require the FEMA to "include in the public alert and warning system the capability to alert and warn individuals with disabilities and individuals with limited English proficiency".

This bill provides that this IPAWS "shall ... incorporate multiple communications technologies" and "be designed to adapt to, and incorporate, future technologies for communicating directly with the public".

The bill does not elaborate on what types communications would be carried or published by the IPAWS, and what entity would make determinations regarding specific communications, or what entity would act as a gateway.

Rep. Graves also stated that his proposal would "enable officials at all levels of government to target their warnings to the right people". Notably, he did not use the phrase "public safety officials".

The bill would authorize appropriations -- "$37,000,000 for fiscal year 2009 and such sums as may be necessary for each fiscal year thereafter". There is nothing in the bill about compensating affected companies or consumers.

The bill adds that "Nothing in this Act (including the amendment made by this Act) shall be construed to affect the authority of the Department of Commerce or the Federal Communications Commission." (Parentheses in original.) Both the NWS, which issues weather alerts, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which has spectrum management authority, are a part of the Department of Commerce.

What Technologies? There is no mention in the bill of terrestrial broadcasters, satellite radio, internet radio, cell phone service, multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), telecommunications services, voice over internet protocol services, internet access services, e-mail services, online social networking services, IP based news products or services, or anything else.

However, Rep. Graves stated in his release that his bill would cover "modern technologies like cell phones, reverse 911, email, text messages, and satellite radio and television". He did not elaborate on the meaning of "reverse 911".

Also, the FEMA states its understanding in its web site. It states that IPAWS alerts and warnings will "flow through multiple devices, such as cell phones, pagers, satellite television/radio, landline phones, desktop computers, personal digital assistants, and road signs. These live or pre-recorded messages may be sent via audio, video or text in multiple languages, including American Sign Language and Braille."

TLJ asked an HTC aide if the bill would cover interactive computer services, or social networking web sites, with e-mail functions. He stated that there is no effort at the FEMA to include it, and "at this point, I would have to say no". However, he added that future inclusion of these technologies in IPAWS is not precluded.

What Authority Would FEMA Have? The bill would require that the FEMA "shall ... modernize" the IPAWS, and this means that it shall "establish or adopt" protocols and procedures, and it "shall ... incorporate multiple communications technologies".

But, the bill does not specify whether this means that the FEMA can write regulations. The language in the bill stating that FCC authority is unaffected by this bill suggests that the FCC could not write implementing regulations.

Nor does the bill state whether or not the FEMA can enforce those regulations against any particular company, industry sector, or the developer, or producer or user of any technology.

TLJ asked the HTC aide about new FEMA authority under this bill. He said that "there are systems in place today, and there are legal authorities in place." He elaborated on the EAS, NAWS, and CMAS. See, related story in this issue titled "Summary of Public Alert and Warning Systems".

But, he said that this bill would create no new mandates.

Compensation? There is nothing in the bill about compensating affected companies or consumers for converting to new equipment, or redesigning and rebuilding, to come into compliance with the IPAWS.

TLJ asked the HTC aide if the bill contemplates compensation to private sector entities for the costs of coming into compliance with IPAWS requirements. He said that the authorization for appropriations in the bill is only for the FEMA, and not for private sector compensation.

However, he added that in the past some IPAWS pilot programs have provided public funding for hardening repeater sites.

He concluded that although equipment conversions may be needed, since there are no mandates under this bill, there will not likely be any public funding for private sector conversions.

Congressional Jurisdiction. There are multiple committees in the House and Senate with jurisdiction over legislation and oversight related to alerts and warnings.

For example, in the House, the House Transportation Committee (HTC) has jurisdiction over national disasters. This derives from the historic role of the federal government in rebuilding damaged bridges, roads and other things.

The House Commerce Committee (HCC) has jurisdiction over communications, carriers, commercial spectrum, the FCC, NTIA, and much of the Department of Commerce.

However, the House Science Committee (HSC) has jurisdiction over the NOAA and its NWS.

The House Judiciary Committee (HJC) has jurisdiction over crime issues, including bills that create crime related public alert programs, such as Amber Alerts. This program was created by the "Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act ", or "PROTECT Act" in 2003. See, story titled "House and Senate Pass Conference Report on Child Protection Bill" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 642, April 11, 2003.

The House Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over funding for all of these activities.

Summary of Public Alert and Warning Systems

5/20. This article offers an overview of various federal warning programs and systems, and their acronyms, including the EAS, CMAS, NAWS, and IPAWS.

The US has long had an Emergency Alert System (EAS). It is an old system based upon broadcasting. Until 1994, it was named the Emergency Broadcast System (EBS). The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) is a new system, required by the WARN Act in 2006. It is currently being developed for cell phones and other mobile devices. The National Alert and Warnings System (NAWS) is the term for all alert and warning systems used in an Executive Order in 2006. The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) is a term used to describe all alert and warning systems.

The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) web site states that the Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a "national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers and, direct broadcast satellite (DBS) service providers to provide the communications capability to the President to address the American public during a National emergency. The system also may be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information such as AMBER alerts and weather information targeted to a specific area." See, FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau's web page titled "Emergency Alert System".

The EAS is created by statute, and implemented by the FCC, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and National Weather Service (NWS).

TLJ spoke with a House Transportation Committee (HTC) aide who elaborated that certain broadcasters and others are required to have certain equipment. Moreover, carrying a Presidential message is mandatory. This would include such things as a warning of a nuclear attack. However, he said that this has never been activated.

In contrast, the HTC aide explained, carrying local communications, such as tornado and hurricane warnings, is voluntary.

The FCC promulgates, and enforces, rules implementing the EAS. In 2005, it expanded the EAS from analog television and radio to include participation by digital television broadcasters, digital cable television providers, digital broadcast radio, Digital Audio Radio Service (DARS), and Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) systems.

On May 31, 2007, the FCC adopted a Second Report and Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the existing EAS, and a "next-generation national EAS". It released the text [75 pages in PDF] on July 12, 2007. This item is FCC 07-109 in EB Docket No. 04-296.

The FCC also hosted a meeting on April 10, 2008, regarding the current and future EAS. See, FCC notice.

The Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) was created by the WARN Act in 2006, and is still being implemented by the FCC. This expands government alerts to cell phones and other mobile devices. The FCC is setting technical requirements. It is a voluntary program in which carriers can choose whether or not to participate.

The Congress enacted the "Warning, Alert, and Response Network Act", or "WARN Act", as part of HR 4954 (109th Congress), the port security bill, which is now Public Law No. 109-347. The WARN Act begins at Section 601 of the bill.

The WARN Act requires the FCC to promulgate Commercial Mobile Service Alert (CMSA) regulations. The FCC adopted and released its Report and Order [62 pages in PDF] on April 9, 2008, that announces, recites, and explains its Commercial Mobile Alert Service (CMAS) regulations.

Michael CoppsFCC Commissioner Michael Copps (at left) wrote in a statement [PDF] associated with this R&O that there remains an unresolved problem. There is no agency in place to originate the alerts. He wrote that "there is one final issue that remains unresolved by today’s Order -- an issue that, if left uncorrected, threatens to vitiate it entirely. So far, no federal agency has stepped up to fulfill the unified aggregator/gateway role that virtually all stakeholders agree is necessary for our mobile alert system to work properly."

The National Alert and Warnings System (NAWS) is a term used in Executive Order No. 13407, issued by President Bush on June 26, 2006. This order was published in the Federal Register, June 28, 2006, Vol. 71, No. 124, at Pages 36975-36977.

This executive order states that "It is the policy of the United States to have an effective, reliable, integrated, flexible, and comprehensive system to alert and warn the American people in situations of war, terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other hazards to public safety and well-being (public alert and warning system), taking appropriate account of the functions, capabilities, and needs of the private sector and of all levels of government in our Federal system, and to ensure that under all conditions the President can communicate with the American people." (Parentheses in original.)

This order, among other things, directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to "establish or adopt, as appropriate, common alerting and warning protocols, standards, terminology, and operating procedures for the public alert and warning system to enable interoperability and the secure delivery of coordinated messages to the American people through as many communication pathways as practicable, taking account of Federal Communications Commission rules as provided by law".

The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) is a term used by the DHS, FEMA, and others to refer to the collection and integration of current and future alert and warning systems.

The HTC aide with whom TLJ spoke explained that the EAS, NAWS, and CMAS are all part of the IPAWS.

Also, it should be noted that information that might be included in alerts and warning could come from a variety of agencies other than the FEMA and other components of the DHS. The Department of Commerce's (DOC) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service (NWS) provides, among other things, weather forecasts and warnings. The Department of Defense (DOD) provides defense information. AMBER Alert information comes from a variety of sources.

Washington Tech Calendar
New items are highlighted in red.
Tuesday, May 20

The House will meet at 9:00 AM for morning hour debate, and at 10:00 AM for legislative business. See, Rep. Hoyer's schedule for the week of May 19.

10:00 AM. The Senate Judiciary Committee's (SJC) Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law will hold a hearing titled "Global Internet Freedom: Corporate Responsibility and the Rule of Law". The witnesses will Nicole Wong (Deputy General Counsel of Google), Michael Samway (Deputy General Counsel of Yahoo), Mark Chandler (General Counsel of Cisco Systems), Arvind Ganesan (Human Rights Watch), and Shiyu Zhou (Global Internet Freedom Consortium). Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) will preside. See, notice. Location: Room 226, Dirksen Building.

10:00 AM - 4:15 PM. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission will hold a hearing titled "China's Proliferation Practices and the Development of its Cyber and Space Warfare Capabilities". See, notice in the Federal Register, April 28, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 82, at Pages 23005-23006. Location: Room 562, Dirksen Building, Capitol Hill.

12:15 - 1:30 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) Wireline and International Practice Committees will host a brown bag lunch titled "Functional Separation proposals under the European Commission review of the European Union’s Framework Directive". The speakers may include Sheba Chacko (BT), Wolfgang Jakubek (Deutsche Telecom), Scott Harris (Harris Wiltshire & Grannis), and Don Stockdale (FCC). For more information, contact Nick Alexander at Nicholas dot Alexander at fcc dot gov. Location: Akin Gump, 1333 New Hampshire Ave, NW.

Wednesday, May 21

The House will meet at 10:00 AM for legislative business. See, Rep. Hoyer's schedule for the week of May 19.

10:00 AM. The House Education and Labor Committee will hold a hearing titled "The National Mathematics Advisory Panel Report: Foundations for Success". Location: Room 2175, Rayburn Building.

10:00 AM. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) will meet. The agenda states that the SEC "will consider whether to propose amendments to provide for mutual fund risk/return summary information to be filed with the Commission in interactive data format". Location: SEC, Room L-002, 100 F St., NE.

11:00 AM. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a business meeting to consider the nomination of Paul Schneider to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). See, notice. Location: Room S-216, Capitol Building.

12:30 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) Young Lawyers Committee will hold a brown bag lunch to elect officers and plan. E-mail nominations to Chris Fedeli at chrisfedeli at dwt dot com and Tarah Grant at tsgrant at hhlaw dot com by Friday, May 9, 2008. See, notice online registration page. Location: Hogan & Hartson, 1st floor litigation center, 555 13th St., NW.

1:30 PM. The House Judiciary Committee's (HJC) Subcommittee on Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security will hold a hearing titled "The FBI Whistleblowers: Exposing Corruption and Retaliation Inside the Bureau - FBI Counterterrorism Agent". This hearing will be webcast by the HJC. See, notice. Location: Room 2141, Rayburn Building.

? 3:00 PM. The House Judiciary Committee (HJC) may hold a closed meeting regarding HR 5889 [LOC | WW], the "Orphan Works Act of 2008". Location: Room 2226, Rayburn Building.

Day one of a two day closed meeting of the Department of Defense's (DOD) Defense Science Board regarding undisclosed topics. See, notice in the Federal Register, April 23, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 79, at Pages 21919-21920. Location: Pentagon, Arlington, VA.

Thursday, May 22

The House will meet at 10:00 AM for legislative business. See, Rep. Hoyer's schedule for the week of May 19.

9:00 - 10:30 AM. The New America Foundation (NAF) will host an event titled "Google Unwired: Expanding Broadband Access and Allocating Spectrum More Efficiently". The speakers will be Larry Page (Google) and Michael Calabrese (NAF). See, notice and registration page. Breakfast will be provided. Location: Ronald Reagan Building, Atrium Ballroom, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.

10:00 AM. The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) may hold an executive business meeting. The agenda includes consideration of the nomination of Elisebeth Cook (to be Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Policy), William Lawrence (U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana), and Murray Snow (U.S.D.C., District of Arizona). See, notice. The SJC rarely follows its published agendas. Location: Room 226, Dirksen Building.

10:00 AM - 12:00 PM. The House Science Committee's (HSC) Subcommittee on Investigation and Oversight will hold a hearing titled "American Decline or Renewal? -- Globalizing Jobs and Technology". The witnesses will be Ralph Gomory (NYU Stern School of Business), Margaret Blair (Vanderbilt University Law School), Bruce Scott (Harvard Business School), James Copland (Copland Fabrics), Joseph Fehsenfeld (Midwest Printed Circuit Service), and Wes Jurey (Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Arlington, Texas). Location: Room 2318, Rayburn Building.

10:00 AM. The Senate Finance Committee (SFC) will hold a hearing on S 1919 [LOC | WW], the "Trade Enforcement Act of 2007", a bill to amend the Trade Act of 1974. It would require the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative to report to the Congress on trade enforcement priorities and actions. It would also create a "WTO Dispute Settlement Review Commission". It also contains provisions specific to the People's Republic of China. See, notice. Location: Room 215, Dirksen Building.

12:15 - 1:30 PM. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will hold an event titled "FCC Wireless Legal Advisors Discuss Recent and Upcoming Matters". The speakers may include Aaron Goldberger (FCC Chairman Kevin Martin assistant), Bruce Gottlieb (FCC Commissioner Michael Copps assistant), Renée Crittendon (FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein assistant), Wayne Leighton (FCC Commissioner Deborah Tate assistant), and Angela Giancarlo (FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell assistant). Lunch will be served. The price to attend is $15. See, notice and registration page. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) web site states that this is an event of the FCBA's Wireless Practice Committee. Location: Sidley Austin, 6th floor, 1501 K St., NW.

Day two of a two day closed meeting of the Department of Defense's (DOD) Defense Science Board regarding undisclosed topics. See, notice in the Federal Register, April 23, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 79, at Pages 21919-21920. Location: Pentagon, Arlington, VA.

Deadline to submit initial comments to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau in response to its Public Notice regarding the request for clarification filed by Hawk Relay that internet protocol speech to speech (IPSTS) is a form of Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS). This item is DA 08-292 in CG Docket No. 08-15. See, notice in the Federal Register, April 7, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 67, at Page 18796.

Deadline to submit initial comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to the Media Bureau's public notice (DA 08-752) regarding changes to its annual reporting forms that request certain employee data from multichannel video programming distributors (FCC Form 395-A) and broadcasters (FCC Form 395-B). See, notice in the Federal Register, April 21, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 77, at Pages 21346-21347.

Extended deadline for voting equipment manufacturers to submit requests and executed letters of understanding to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). See, notice in the Federal Register, April 22, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 78, at Pages 21590-21591.

Friday, May 23

Rep. Hoyer's schedule for the week of May 19 states that "no votes are expected in the House".

Deadline to submit reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau (CGAB) regarding the National Exchange Carriers Association's (NECA) proposed compensation rates for interstate traditional TRS, interstate speech-to-speech (STS), interstate captioned telephone service (CTS) and interstate and intrastate internet protocol captioned telephone service (IP CTS), interstate and intrastate IP relay; and interstate and intrastate video relay service (VRS). See, notice in the Federal Register, May 12, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 92, at Page 26992-26993. This proceeding is CG Docket No. 03-123.

Saturday, May 24

Deadline to submit comments to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) regarding proposed changes [PDF] to the December 8, 2006, .ORG Registry Agreement. See, ICANN notice.

Monday, May 26

Memorial Day. See, Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) list of 2008 federal holidays.

Day one of the House Memorial Day recess. See, Rep. Hoyer's 2008 calendar [4.25 MB PDF].

The Senate will begin its Memorial Day recess. See, Senate 2008 calendar.

Tuesday, May 27

The House will not meet.

The Senate will not meet.

12:15 - 1:45 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) FCC Enforcement Practice Committee will host a brown bag lunch titled "FCC Indecency Enforcement: Reviewing the Current Landscape". See, notice and registration page. Location: Wilmer Hale, 1875 Pennsylvania Ave., NW.

2:00 - 4:00 PM. The Department of State's (DOS) Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy (ACIEP) will meet. See, notice in the Federal Register, May 9, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 91, at Pages 26463-26464. Location: Room 1107, DOS, 2201 C St., NW.

6:00 - 8:15 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) Cable Practice and Intellectual Property Committees will host an event titled "Legal and Regulatory Issues Related to Internet Video Services". Prices vary. This event qualifies for continuing legal education (CLE) credits. See, notice and registration page. Location: Dow Lohnes, 1200 New Hampshire Ave., NW.

Rep. Lofgren Introduces Bill to Allow Aliens with Advanced STEM Degrees to Work in US

5/13. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and others introduce HR 6039 [LOC | WW], an untitled bill to amend the immigration statute to provide that any alien who obtains a masters or Ph.D. degree from a U.S. university in a STEM field, and has a job offer related to that degree, shall be admitted for permanent residence.

Rep. Zoe LofgrenRep. Lofgren (at right) stated in a release that "More than 50% of the graduates from U.S. universities in masters and Ph.D. programs in science and engineering are foreign born ... If we want our economy to continue competing in the global market, we have to retain these foreign students so they compete with us instead of against us in other countries."

She continued that "These men and women are the innovators of tomorrow, and we aren’t the only ones looking to retain their talents. Increasingly, employers from Europe, Australia, Canada, and even China and India, are beating U.S. employers for valuable talent. In 2000, for example, 75% of the world’s engineers were hired by U.S. employers -- just six years later in 2006, that percentage dropped to 63%."

She concluded that her bill "will give U.S. employers another tool to recruit the world’s best and brightest."

The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee (HJC). She is a member.

The original cosponsors of the bill are Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT), Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), Rep. Chris Carter (R-TX), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Wayne Gilchrist (R-MD), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), Rep. David Reichert (R-WA), Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), and Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA).

Most of these cosponsors represent districts that are home to technology companies, including those located in the Silicon Valley, Seattle, southern California, and northern Virginia and Maryland areas.

The bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

It would add to 8 U.S.C. 1151(b)(1), which enumerates categories of aliens no subject to numerical limitations, the following: "Aliens who have earned a master's or higher degree from a United States institution of higher education (as defined in section 101(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 1001(a))) in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics and who have an offer of employment from a United States employer in a field related to such degree."

The INA does provide for visas for highly skilled workers, known as H1B visas. These enable tech companies to employ in the US many aliens who would also be affected by HR 6039. However, there are annual caps on the number of H1B visas, which the Congress has varied in recent years. Currently, tech companies report that they cannot employ all the alien graduates of US universities that they want, because of the annual limitation.

People and Appointments

5/20. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) was diagnosed to have a malignant brain tumor. He is a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC). See, statement of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman of the SJC, statement of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), the ranking Republican on the SJC, and statement of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), a senior Republican on the SJC.

5/20. Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY) announced that he will not run for re-election. He is a member of the House Commerce Committee (HCC) and its Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

5/19. Jim Lyons was hired as Republican tax counsel for the Senate Finance Committee. His areas of responsibility will include research and development. The R&D tax credit expired on December 31, 2007. There is legislation pending in both the House and Senate to extend and modify the R&D tax credit. Lyons previously worked in the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Tax Division. Before that, he worked for the House Ways and Means Committee.

5/15. The Senate Commerce Committee approved the nomination of Lily Claffee to be General Counsel of the Department of Commerce (DOC).

5/16. Allison Bringardner joined the Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF) as Director of Development and Marketing, and Amy Smorodin was promoted to VP of Communications and External Affairs.

More News

5/20. The U.S. District Court (DC) issued an order [PDF] in Covad v. Revonet, denying Revonet's motion for judgment on the pleadings. This is a breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets action involving customer lead information. This case is Covad Communications Company v. Revonet, Inc., U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, D.C. No. 06-1892 (CKK).

5/19. The Supreme Court issue an Orders List [8 pages in PDF].

5/15. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) published a notice in the Federal Register that announces, describes, and sets the effective date (July 14, 2008) of, its Report and Order (R&O) regarding regulating of the terms of contracts between telecommunications carriers and residential multiunit premises owners. The FCC adopted this R&O on March 19, 2008, and released the text [30 pages in PDF] on March 21, 2008. This R&O is FCC 08-87 in WT Docket No. 99-217. See, Federal Register, May 15, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 95, at Pages 28049-28057.

5/13. Rep. Adolphus Towns (D-NY) and Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-KY) introduced HR 6044 [LOC | WW], an untitled bill to amend the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA) to authorize the appropriation of $10 Million per year for fiscal years 2009 through 2015 for "international technical assistance with respect to foreign consumer protection and competition regimes".

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