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December 10, 2009, Alert No. 2,023.
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GAO Report Finds That 84% of Wireless Customers Are Satisfied With Service

12/10. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report [71 pages in PDF] titled "Telecommunications: FCC Needs to Improve Oversight of Wireless Phone Service". It finds that 84% of wireless customers are either very satisfied (45%) or somewhat satisfied (39%) with their wireless service.

Nevertheless, Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee (SCC), stated in a release that "The FCC can -- and must -- do more to make sure consumer concerns are resolved by wireless carriers and oversee the wireless industry with a greater focus on consumer protection." He added that "it is time for the agency to take real action to better protect wireless consumers."

Also, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) slammed wireless companies for "exorbitant early termination fees".

(Results of surveys conducted by Fox, CBS, Gallup, and AP in the last five weeks all show that the Congress's approval rating ranges from 26% to 30%. See,

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Commerce Committee (HCC), stated that "competition between wireless carriers is the best way to protect consumers".

The GAO report begins with the observation that "Concerns have arisen in recent years about the quality of wireless phone service, including specific concerns about billing; customer service; and carriers' contract terms, such as the fees carriers charge customers for terminating their service before the end of the contract period (early termination fees)." (Parentheses in original.)

The GAO conducted a survey of a "randomly selected sample of adult wireless phone users 18 years of age or older who had cell phone service in 2008". It then conducted 1,143 interviews from this sample. The GAO also interviewed federal and state government officials, industry representatives, and others. It also reviewed consumer complaints filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from 2004 through 2008.

The report notes that "By the end of 2008, about 82 percent of adults lived in households with wireless phone service, up from 54 percent at the end of 2005. Furthermore, by the end of 2008, about 35 percent of households used wireless phones as their primary or only means of telephone service, of which about 20 percent had only wireless phones and the other 15 percent had landlines but received all or most calls on wireless phones." (Footnote omitted.)

This survey found that 45% of customers are "very satisfied" overall with their service, and 39% are "somewhat satisfied".

3% are "very dissatisfied", and 6% are "somewhat dissatisfied". 6% are "neither" satisfied nor dissatisfied.

The GAO also surveyed customers on their level of satisfaction with various aspects of their service. 85% of customers are satisfied with "call quality", while 72% are satisfied with "terms of service contract or agreement".

The report states that "about 34 percent of wireless phone users responsible for paying for their service received unexpected charges and about 31 percent had difficulty understanding their bill at least some of the time." (Footnote omitted.) Also, "almost one-third of wireless users who contacted customer service about a problem did so because of problems related to billing".

The report also states that "Among wireless users who wanted to switch carriers during this time but did not do so, we estimate that 42 percent did not switch because they did not want to pay an early termination fee."

Rep. Markey requested this report from the GAO when he was Chairman of the HCC's Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet (SCTI). However, he gave up this position to become Chairman of HCC's Subcommittee on Energy and the Environment. Rep. Markey stated in a release that "In the digital age, where technology can change overnight, consumers should not be chained to their wireless provider for years through exorbitant early termination fees."

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), the Chairman of the SCTI, stated in this release that this "report shows that while most Americans are generally satisfied with their wireless service, which speaks well for the carriers, they also do not know where to turn when they have a problem they haven't been able to resolve with their carrier. The FCC should work with state utility commissions to educate consumers about how best to address these issues".

Rep. Henry WaxmanRep. Waxman (at right) stated in this release that the report "shows that a large majority of wireless phone users are satisfied with their wireless service".

He added that "robust competition between wireless carriers is the best way to protect consumers".

Former Rep. Steve Largent (R-OK), a former member of the HCC and its Subcommittee on Telecommunications, is the head of the CTIA, which represents the wireless industry. He stated in a release that "the wireless industry is pleased that 84% of Americans are very or somewhat pleased with their wireless service. In this fiercely competitive industry, our members work very hard for each customer to provide them with the best products and services".

He also referenced early termination fees. He said that "There are many choices available for consumers, including options that do not have any early termination fees such as unsubsidized handsets without a contract and a prepaid plan that has no contract. More than 20 percent of American wireless consumers choose these options. After listening to their customers, carriers who serve more than 94 percent of the postpaid market have adopted pro-rated early termination fee policies."

In contrast, Chris Riley of the Free Press stated in a release that "This report confirms that carriers are using these inflated early termination fees to lock millions into long-term contacts ... The FCC must act and put a stop to this anti-consumer practice that threatens innovation and competition in the mobile marketplace".

IT Groups Complain to PRC About Procurement Protectionism and IPR

12/9. A large collection of technology related trade groups based in the U.S., Japan, Korea, or Europe sent a letter [PDF] to government officials in the People's Republic of China (PRC) complaining about the PRC's latest round of protectionism and seizure of intellectual property rights in government information technology procurement. The proposed program is titled "Indigenous Innovation Product Accreditation Program".

They wrote that implementation of this program would "impose onerous and discriminatory requirements on companies seeking to sell into the Chinese government procurement market, and contravene multiple commitments of China’s leadership to resist trade and investment protectionism and promote open government procurement policies".

They also wrote that the requirements of this program "diverge markedly from global practices and include unique requirements that the product’s intellectual property be developed and owned in China, and that any trademarks be originally registered in China. By contrast, quality, performance and value are given only a minimal role. China and the international community have a common interest in ensuring robust protection of intellectual property rights as we forge a closer economic agenda. China’s new criteria fail to recognize the truly collaborative, cross-border and global nature of R&D that produces innovation and that few if any products are developed in a single national territory. Establishing local intellectual property ownership as a market access condition would run counter to free and open trade and to fostering collaborative innovation."

The letter urges the PRC not to proceed with this program.

The U.S. based groups that joined in the letter include the Business Software Alliance (BSA), Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The letter was sent to Wan Gang (Minister of Science and Technology), Xie Xuren (Minister of Finance), and Zhang Ping (Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission).

The BSA stated in a release that this program "would create a national catalogue of products that would receive preferential treatment for government procurement. The list would initially cover six product categories -- software, computer and application devices, telecommunication products, new energy and equipment, highly energy-efficient products, and modern office equipment -- but is expected to be expanded to a wide array of other products in the future. The criteria for the list make it virtually impossible for the products of non-Chinese companies to qualify. Among the requirements is that the product contain only proprietary Chinese intellectual property. Companies were given a December 10 deadline to apply for their products to be listed in the national catalogue and eligible for preferential treatment."

House Republicans Ask OUSTR to Back Up Trade Rhetoric

12/2. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the ranking Republican on the House Commerce Committee (HCC), and Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the HCC's Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection, sent a letter [3 pages in PDF] to Ron Kirk, head of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR), regarding three trade agreements negotiated years ago, but not approved by the Congress.

They asked, "Does the Administration support, oppose or have no view on each of the pending FTAs with Columbia, Panama, and South Korea?" They also asked, "Will the Administration make any effort to seek Congressional approval for any of the currently pending FTAs by the end of the 111th Congress?" Also, "Is the USTR operating under a written plan to promote a free trade agenda?"

They argued that "The economic benefit to the U.S. from advancing pending and future FTAs is considerable."

The Korea U.S. FTA would have the greatest impact upon information and communications technology companies and consumers. See, sections regarding telecommunications [17 pages in PDF], electronic commerce [4 pages in PDF], and intellectual property rights [35 pages in PDF].

Representatives of the U.S. and Korea signed this FTA on June 30, 2007. Democrats in the Congress have declined to approve it. See, stories titled "US and Korea Announce FTA" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,559, April 2, 2007, "House Democrats Signal End of FTAs" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,606, July 6, 2007, and "US and Korean Presidents Urge Approval of FTA" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 1,807, August 6, 2008.

See also, U.S. Columbia FTA sections regarding telecommunications [15 pages in PDF], electronic commerce [3 pages in PDF], intellectual property rights [33 pages in PDF].

See also, US Panama FTA sections regarding telecommunications [15 pages in PDF], electronic commerce [3 pages in PDF], intellectual property rights [32 pages in PDF].

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In This Issue
This issue contains the following items:
 • GAO Report Finds That 84% of Wireless Customers Are Satisfied With Service
 • IT Groups Complain to PRC About Procurement Protectionism and IPR
 • House Republicans Ask OUSTR to Back Up Trade Rhetoric
 • ACTA Transparency Debated
Washington Tech Calendar
New items are highlighted in red.
Friday, December 11

Hanukkah begins at sundown.

The House will meet at 9:00 AM for legislative business. See, Rep. Hoyer's schedule for week of December 7, and schedule for December 11. The sole item on the agenda is a resumption of consideration of HR 4173 [LOC | WW], the "Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009". Section 4901 of this bill would eliminate numerous transparency requirements for certain Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rulemaking proceedings.

The Senate will meet at 10:00 AM for morning business.

12:00 NOON. Deadline to submit initial comments to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR) regarding the operation, effectiveness, and implementation of, and compliance with, the telecommunications provisions of 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, Oman, Peru, and Singapore, and the Dominican Republic -- Central America -- U.S. Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR). See, notice in the Federal Register, November 17, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 220, at Pages 59339-59340.

Deadline to submit written comments to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in connection with its November 18, 2009, event titled "Roundtable on Work Sharing for Patent Applications". See, notice in the Federal Register, October 21, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 202, at Pages 54028-54029.

Saturday, December 12

First Day of Hanukkah.

Monday, December 14

The House will meet the week of December 14-18. See, Rep. Hoyer's release.

10:00 - 11:30 AM. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) will host a panel discussion titled "Comparing UK and U.S. Innovation Policy". The main speaker will be Digby Jones (United Kingdom). The other speakers will be Rob Atkinson (ITIF), Stephen Ezell (ITIF), Pragnesh Shah (Network Solutions), David Jeppsen (NTT DOCOMO USA), and Mark McCarthy. See, notice. Location: ITIF, 1101 K St., NW.

Tuesday, December 15

9:00 AM - 5:00 PM. The Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's (ONCHIT) HIT Policy Committee will meet. See, notice in the Federal Register, November 30, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 228, at Page 62572. Location: Washington Marriott Hotel, 22nd and M Streets, NW.

9:30 AM. The House Ways and Means Committee's (HWMC) Subcommittee on Social Security will hold a hearing titled "Recovery Act Project to Replace the Social Security Administration’s National Computer Center". See, notice. Location: Room 1100, Longworth Building.

10:30 AM - 12:00 NOON. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) will host a panel discussion titled "Strategies for Reducing Digital Piracy". The speakers will be Robert Atkinson (ITIF) and Daniel Castro (ITIF). See, notice. Location: ITIF, Suite 610, 1101 K St., NW.

2:30 PM. The Senate Commerce Committee (SCC) will hold a hearing on numerous pending nominations, including those of Julie Brill and Edith Ramirez to be Commissioners of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). See, notice. Location: Room 253, Russell Building.

Wednesday, December 16

10:00 AM. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will host an event titled "open meeting". The schedule contains only one item, a staff report on the status of the drafting of a document titled "National Broadband Plan". See, FCC release. For more information, contact Jen Howard at 202-418-0506 or jen dot howard at fcc dot gov. Location: FCC, Commission Meeting Room, 445 12th St., SW.

10:00 AM - 5:00 PM. The Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's (ONCHIT) HIT Policy Committee's Nationwide Health Information Network Workgroup will meet. See, notice in the Federal Register, November 30, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 228, at Page 62572. Location: Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert St., NW.

10:00 AM . The House Judiciary Committee (HJC) will hold a hearing titled "Piracy of Live Sports Broadcasting Over the Internet". See, notice. Location: Room 2141, Rayburn Building.

2:00 PM. The House Judiciary Committee's (HJC) Subcommittee on Courts and Competition Policy will hold a hearing on HR 4115 [LOC | WW], the "Open Access to the Courts Act of 2009", a bill to limit Rule 12(b)(6) dismissals. See, HJC notice and story titled "Congressional Democrats Seek to Limit Rule 12(b)(6) Dismissals" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,022, December 9, 2009. Location: Room 2237, Rayburn Building.

3:00 PM. The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) will hold a hearing on the nominations of Albert Diaz and James Wynn to be Judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals (4thCir). See, notice. Location: Room 226, Dirksen Building.

Deadline to submit applications to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR) to be members of panels convened to review final determinations in antidumping or countervailing duty (AD/CVD) proceedings and amendments to AD/CVD statutes of a NAFTA party. See, notice in the Federal Register, December 1, 2009, Vol. 229, No. 74, at Pages 62878-62880.

Thursday, December 17

9:00 AM. The Department of Commerce's (DOC) Bureau of Industry and Security's (BIS) Materials Processing Equipment Technical Advisory Committee (MPETAC) will meet. See, notice in the Federal Register, November 30, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 228, at Page 62563. Location: Room 3884, DOC, Hoover Building, 14th Street between Pennsylvania and Constitution Avenues, NW.

10:00 AM. The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) will hold an executive business meeting. The agenda includes no technology related bills, and no judicial nominees. See, notice. Location: Room 226, Dirksen Building.

2:30 PM. The Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) Bureau of Economics (BOE) will host a presentation by Melissa Kearney (University of Maryland). Location: FTC, Room 4100, 601 New Jersey Ave., NW.

Friday, December 18

9:00 AM - 2:00 PM. The Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology's (ONCHIT) HIT Standards Committee will meet by teleconference. See, notice in the Federal Register, November 30, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 228, at Page 62572.

ACTA Transparency Debated

12/8. Ed Black, head of the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA), commented on December 8, 2009, on the Anticounterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which is currently being negotiated in secret by trade representatives of the U.S. and other governments.

He stated that "Our most serious concerns are about the substance of ACTA. However, the accelerated process combined with the lack of transparency has contributed to the sense that ``big content´´ has hijacked this draft agreement, and is trying to ram it through before the flaws are fully understood. This is an example of the type of government decision-making dominated by big players in the backrooms that a true openness policy is intended to prevent." See, CCIA release.

He added that "The substance of the agreement, just like the policy surrounding the secrecy, has not had a total new look by this administration. If ACTA provisions are really fair and valuable, they can withstand the scrutiny and debate that transparency and openness brings."

Ben Golant, Assistant General Counsel at the Copyright Office, organized and presided at an event in Washington DC on copyright law and policy on November 30, 2009. He asked if there are any studies underlying the ACTA.

Matt Schruers of the CCIA responded that "it would be great to know what research motivates the policy process, but, the text isn't even transparent ... the public doesn't even know what is says".

Gigi Sohn of the Public Knowledge said that the "internet chapter" of the ACTA is "the whole ball of wax", and that the text of the ACTA, or at least the internet chapter, will be "made public pretty soon".

Tom Sydnor of the Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF) defended the process. He previously worked at the Office of International Relations at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). He was involved in the negotiation of the U.S. Korea free trade agreement, which Congressional Democrats have blocked.

Sydnor stated that trade agreements are always negotiated in secret. He said that "all of those drafts are controlled, because the governments have no idea what they can agree on, if they can agree on anything. They do that in private. ... If they think they can agree on something, then the public process begins. ... If what they have done is not broadly acceptable, it is going nowhere. I am perfectly content to sit back, wait, and see what, if anything, emerges, and then go forward from there."

On April 6, 2009, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (OUSTR) released a document [6 pages in PDF] titled "The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement -- Summary of Key Elements Under Discussion".

That vaguely worded document states that "The ACTA initiative aims to establish international standards for enforcing intellectual property rights in order to fight more efficiently the growing problem of counterfeiting and piracy. In particular, the ACTA is intended to establish, among the signatories, agreed standards for the enforcement of intellectual property rights that address today’s challenges by increasing international cooperation, strengthening the framework of practices that contribute to effective enforcement of intellectual property rights, and strengthening relevant enforcement measures. The intended focus is on counterfeiting and piracy activities that significantly affect commercial interests, rather than on the activities of ordinary citizens."

For more TLJ coverage of the ACTA, see: