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March 24, 2009, Alert No. 1,917.
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Sen. Specter Announces Opposition to Union Organizing Bill

3/24. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) announced in the Senate that he will vote against a cloture motion to limit debate on S 560 [LOC | WW] the "Employee Free Choice Act of 2009". See, transcript.

There are now 59 Democrats in the Senate. 60 votes are required to end a filibuster. Unions so far have failed to win over a single Republican to reach 60 votes.

Sen. Arlen SpecterSen. Specter (at right) stated that "In June 2007, the vote on the Employee Free Choice Act was virtually monolithic: 50 Senators, Democrats, voted for cloture and 48 Republicans against. I was the only Republican to vote for cloture. The prospects for the next cloture vote are virtually the same. No Democratic Senator has spoken out against cloture. Republican Senators are outspoken in favor of a filibuster."

He added that "With the prospects of a Democratic win in Minnesota, yet uncertain, it appears that 59 Democrats will vote to proceed with 40 Republicans in opposition. If so, the decisive vote would be mine."

Gary Shapiro, head of the CEA, stated in a release on March 24, 2009, that "This proposal would hurt the average worker, make us less competitive as a nation and drive jobs overseas. Considering the intense union pressure on Senator Specter we are thrilled he responded to the calls of thousands of Pennsylvanians, including scores of CEA members, and vocally opposed Senate consideration of this bill at this time."

Shapiro added that "On behalf of the high-tech industry, I strongly urge all members of Congress to follow Senator Specter's example and reject this innovation-stifling, job-killing legislation."

CEA Criticizes Union Organizing Bills

3/23. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and others introduced HR 1409 [LOC | WW], the "Employee Free Choice Act of 2009" on March 10, 2009. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and others introduced S 560 [LOC | WW], the companion bill in the Senate on March 10.

These bills would eliminate the requirement of secret ballots in union organizing efforts, thus facilitating coercive union tactics.

Kathy Gornick, President of Thiel Audio Products Company, testified before the Senate Republican Conference and the Republican Policy Committee regarding these bills. She stated that "This bill strips workers of core protections, eliminating their right to a private ballot, and allowing organizers to coerce employees into supporting a union ".

Gornick continued that "A tech firm must be innovative and nimble or it will not survive. Our work environment is fluid and flexible, with firms constantly adjusting product lines and job duties in response to new threats and opportunities. We constantly invent new ways to incentivize, compensate and motivate employees."

Thiel Audio Products is a member of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). See, CEA release.

  Photo of Gary Shapiro, copyright CEA.
  Gary Shapiro
Copyright CEA

Gary Shapiro, head of the CEA, gave a speech on February 17, 2009, in which criticized proposals to eliminate secret ballots. He said then that "Recent proposals by unions to allow sudden unionization without a private ballot and then have government arbitrators set work conditions threaten the ability of any business to innovate. More, such unwise proposals could perversely provide an incentive for companies to move jobs overseas".

He added that "risk takers create jobs and innovation flourishes if risk takers can ramp up and ramp down quickly."

See, story titled "CEA Chief Criticizes Spending Bill, Protectionism, Unionization Mandates, and Anti-Immigration Policy" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,901, February 17, 2009.

Public Knowledge Complains about Connected Nation

3/23. Four groups (Public Knowledge, Common Cause, The Media and Democracy Coalition, and Reclaim the Media) released a paper that complains about the involvement of a fifth group (Connected Nation) in broadband mapping.

HR 1 [LOC | WW], the huge spending bill enacted in February, includes $7.2 Billion in funding for a broadband grants and loans program. It states "That of the funds provided under this heading, up to $350,000,000 may be expended pursuant to Public Law 110-385 (47 U.S.C. 1301 note) and for the purposes of developing and maintaining a broadband inventory map". See, story titled "Summary of Broadband Grants Provisions in Spending Bill" TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,899, February 13, 2009.

Public Law No. 110-385 was S 1492 [LOC | WW], the "Broadband Data Improvement Act", in the 110th Congress.

The Public Knowledge (PK) and its allied groups released a paper [49 pages in PDF] titled "Privatizing the Public Trust: A Critical Look At Connected Nation". The body of the report is brief. It attaches extensive exhibits. It does not identify its author.

It states that Connected Nation (CN) "accepts public funds in the millions of dollars to conduct a public function -- mapping of broadband", but that it is also "sponsored by the telephone and cable companies".

The report complains that "CN relies on very strict non-disclosure agreements to limit what can be done with the data it collects."

The PK paper also states that the CN board of directors includes, among others, James Cicconi (AT&T), Steve Largent (CTIA), Joseph Waz (Comcast), Larry Cohen (Communications Workers of America), Thomas Tauke (Verizon), Walter McCormick (USTA), Kyle McSlarrow (NCTA), and Grant Seiffert (TIA).

Gigi Sohn, head of the PK, stated in a release that the National Telecommunications and Information Adminsitration (NTIA) "should make certain that the mapping is done in the public interest, and not in the private interest. The telecommunications industry must not be able to dictate the information on which broadband policy will be based."

The PK's board includes Reed Hundt (Charles Ross Partners; McKinsey and Company; The Blackstone Group; and Intel). The PK does not disclose its financial backers.

The Media and Democracy Coalition's voting board members includes Michael Calabrese of the New America Foundation (NAF). The chairman of the NAF board is Eric Schmidt, who is also chairman of Google. The NAF's board also includes Lenny Mendonca (McKinsey) and Bernard Schwartz (former chairman of Loral Space and Communications Ltd.).

Groups involved in the federal policy making process, whether they describe themselves as public interest groups, research groups, or thinks tanks, usually assert that they represent the public interest. They sometimes also assert that groups that advance differing policy objectives do not serve the public interest. Groups rarely disclose their funding sources, and almost never funding amounts. Many groups do not even disclose their organizers, boards or leaders.

In the present fracas, publicly disclosed information shows that both sides have ties to commercial entities with financial interests in the outcome of technology and communications related public policy debates.

Obama Picks Adelstein for RUS

3/20. President Obama announced his intent to nominate Jonathan Adelstein to be Administrator of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the Department of Agriculture. See, White House press office release.

The RUS and the Department of Commerce's (DOC) National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) have received a total of $7.2 Billion in funding under HR 1 [LOC | WW], the huge spending bill enacted in February, for a broadband grants and loans program.

rightAdelstein (at right) is currently a Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

FCC Chairman Michael Copps congratulated Adelstein in a release. He wrote that "bring a depth of knowledge, experience and commitment to the job that will enable him to make a huge contribution to advancing the well-being of rural America. He knows the issues and challenges inside-out and will be able to hit the ground running, which is exactly what's needed since RUS has been given such extraordinary responsibilities by the recently enacted American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

The other remaining FCC Commissioner, Robert McDowell, also congratulated Adelstein in a release. He wrote that the "RUS will benefit greatly from his leadership and decades of experience in public service. Although I will miss having Jonathan as a colleague on the Commission, I wish him the best as he transitions into this new opportunity. I am confident that rural America will be well served by his commitment to service."

More People and Appointments

3/23. Michael Copps, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), hired Jennifer Schneider as a Legal Advisor. She previously worked for Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), the Chairman of the House Commerce Committee's (HCC) Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. Before that, she worked for the FCC. And before that she worked for the law firm of Swidler Berlin (now Bingham McCutchen). The FCC issued a release that states that she "will primarily be working on broadband, universal service and wireline competition issues with Acting Senior Legal Advisor Scott Deutchman. Rick Chessen remains the Acting Chief of Staff and Media Advisor and Paul Murray remains the Interim Legal Advisor for wireless and international issues."

3/20. President Obama announced his intent to nominate Steven Koonin to be Under Secretary for Science at the Department of Energy (DOE). The DOE includes the Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). It conducts research on computer science and high performance computing, among other things. Koonin works for BP, plc. See, White House press office release.

3/19. John Donahoe, P/CEO of eBay, and Frank Yeary, Vice Chancellor of UC Berkeley, were elected to the Board of Dirctors of Intel. See, Intel release.

More News

3/23. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC), announced that the HFAC will hold a field hearing titled "Sinking the Copyright Pirates: Global Protection of Intellectual Property" in Van Nuys, California, on April 6, 2009. It will be held at the Van Nuys Civic Center, 14410 Sylvan Street, Van Nuys, California. For more information, contact Lynne Weil (HFAC) at 202-225-5021.

3/23. The Copyright Office published a notice in the Federal Register that announces that there will be no royalty rate adjustments for satellite carriers based upon changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the 2009 licensing period, because the CPI remains almost unchanged. See, Federal Register, March 23, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 54, at Pages 12092-12093.

In This Issue

This issue contains the following items:
  Sen. Specter Announces Opposition to Union Organizing Bill
  CEA Criticizes Union Organizing Bills
  Public Knowledge Complains about Connected Nation
  Obama Picks Adelstein for RUS

Washington Tech Calendar
New items are highlighted in red.
Tuesday, March 24

The House will meet at 10:30 AM for morning hour, and at 12:00 NOON for legislative business. The House may consider HR 1617 [LOC | WW], the "Department of Homeland Security Component Privacy Officer Act of 2009", and HConRes 55, which recognizes the 30th anniversary of the Taiwan Relations Act. See, Rep. Hoyer's schedule for week of March 23.

The Senate will meet at 10:00 AM. It will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to HR 1388 [LOC | WW], the "Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education Act".

9:30 AM. The U.S. Court of Appeals (DCCir) will hear oral argument in Morris Communications, Inc v. FCC, App. Ct. No. 08-1080. Judges Ginsburg, Henderson and Kavanaugh will preside. See, FCC's brief [158 pages in PDF] states that the issue is whether the FCC "reasonably denied Morris's request to waive the agency's installment payment rules and reinstate Morris's radio licenses after those licenses canceled automatically upon Morris's failure to make full and timely installment payments ..." Location: 333 Constitution Ave., NW.

9:30 - 11:00 AM. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) will host a panel discussion titled "Trade Versus Security". The speakers will be Christine McDaniel (USITC), Stewart Baker (Center for Strategic and International Studies), David Hummels (Purdue University), and Philip Levy (AEI). See, notice. Location: AEI, 1150 17th St., NW.

10:00 AM. The House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittees on Joint Military Personnel and Terrorism, and Unconventional Threats and Capabilities will hold a hearing titled "Department of Defense Health Information Technology". Location: Room 2118, Rayburn Building.

10:00 AM. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) will hold the fourth in a series of four meetings regarding the broadband grant programs created by HR 1 [LOC | WW], the huge spending bill enacted in February, which programs are also known as the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). See, notice in the Federal Register, March 12, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 47, at Pages 10716-10721. Location: Department of Commerce, 1401 Constitution Ave., NW.

2:00 PM. The House Ways and Means Committee's (HWMC) Subcommittee on Trade will hold a hearing titled "Hearing on Trade Aspects of Climate Change Legislation". See, notice. Location: Room 1100, Longworth Building.

8:15 AM -5:00 PM. The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission will hold a meeting titled "China's Industrial Policy and its Impact on U.S. Companies, Workers and the American Economy". At 2:00 - 3:30 PM there will be a panel titled "China's Telecommunications and Information Technology (IT) Industries". At 3:45 - 5:15 PM there will be a panel titled "China's Nanotechnology and Optoelectronics Industries". See, agenda. Location: Room 236, Russell Building, Capitol Hill.

Deadline to submit reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Media Bureau in response to the petitions for declaratory rulings of the Alliance for Community Media (ACM) and others regarding carriage of public, educational and governmental (PEG) channels. See, order [PDF] setting deadlines.

Wednesday, March 25

The House will meet at 10:00 AM for legislative business. See, Rep. Hoyer's schedule for week of March 23.

9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. The National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Office of Law Enforcement Standards' (OLES) will hold a meeting to bring Project 25 Compliance Assessment Program stakeholders together to discuss what the process will be to assess software based test tools for the Project 25 Compliance Assessment Program. See, notice in the Federal Register, February 17, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 30, at Pages 7397-7398. This meeting will occur via teleconference and at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) in Boulder, Colorado.

9:30 AM. The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) will hold a hearing titled "Oversight of the Federal Bureau of Investigation". The witness will be FBI Director Robert Mueller. See, notice. The SJC will webcast this event. Location: Room 216, Hart Building.

10:00 AM. The House Science Committee (HSC) will meet to mark up two bills, including HR 1850 [LOC | WW], the "Electronic Waste Research and Development Act". Location: Room 2318, Rayburn Building.

10:00 AM. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (SHSGAC) will hold a hearing on the nomination of Jane Lute to be Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). See, notice. Location: Room 342, Dirksen Building.

Deadline to submit comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the development of a rural broadband strategy, as required by the 2008 farm bill. This proceeding is GN Docket No. 09-29. See, FCC public notice, DA 09-561.

Thursday, March 26

The House will meet at 10:00 AM for legislative business. See, Rep. Hoyer's schedule for week of March 23.

10:00 AM. The House Education and Labor Committee (HELC) will hold a hearing titled "The Economic and Employment Impact of the Arts and Music Industry". Location: Room 2175, Rayburn Building.

6:00 - 8:15 PM. The Federal Communications Bar Association's (FCBA) Wireline Practice Committee will host an event titled "CLE Seminar on Dial N for Numbering: Understanding the Role of Numbers and Numbering Policy in Modern Communications". See, notice and agenda. Location: Sidley Austin, 1501 K St., NW.

Friday, March 27

Rep. Hoyer's schedule for the week of March 23 states that no votes are expected in the House.

Deadline to submit reply comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to assist it in preparing a report to the Congress on the status of competition in markets for the delivery of video programming. The FCC engaged in the legal fiction of adopting a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on November 27, 2007. It did not release the text [41 pages in PDF] of a NOI until January 16, 2009. It is FCC 07-207 in MB Docket 07-269. This NOI requests comments regarding "changes in the marketplace between 2006 and 2007". See, notice in the Federal Register, February 11, 2009, Volume 74, No. 27, at Pages 6875-6882.

Deadline to submit comments to the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Computer Security Division regarding its draft [209 pages in PDF] of Special Publication 800-53, Revision 3, titled "Recommended Security Controls for Federal Information Systems and Organizations".

Tuesday, March 31

11:00 AM - 12:00 NOON. The Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Advisory Committee for the 2011 World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-11 Advisory Committee) will meet. See, FCC notice [PDF] and notice in the Federal Register, February 12, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 28, at Pages 7046-7047. Location: FCC, Commission Meeting Room (TW-C305), 445 12th St., SW.

POSTPONED. 2:00 - 3:30 PM. The Department of Justice's (DOJ) Antitrust Division will host a seminar conducted by Sergei Koulayev (Columbia University) on his paper [PDF] titled "Vertical integration in sequential negotiations". This is a game theoretical paper that also addresses video programming and the News Corp. Directv merger. Location: Bicentennial Building, 600 E St., NW.

Deadline for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR) to submit to the President and Congress its annual National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE). This report is required by 19 U.S.C. 2241.

Deadline for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR) to conclude its review of the operation, effectiveness, and implementation of and compliance with trade agreements regarding telecommunications products and services, including the World Trade Organization (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), free trade agreements (FTAs) with Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Morocco, and Singapore, the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States FTAs. See, notice in the Federal Register, November 25, 2008, Vol. 73, No. 228, at Page 71707-71708.

Deadline to submit comments to the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) regarding its various mandates for information collections, notifications, reports, and exchanges. The BIS estimates that these mandates affect 1,427,450 persons or entities. The BIS also asserts that regulated persons and entities can comply with various mandates in a little as "5 seconds". See, notice in the Federal Register, January 30, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 19, at Pages 5637-5638

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