Tech Law Journal Daily E-Mail Alert
December 18, 2009, Alert No. 2,025.
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House Passes PHONE Act

12/16. The House passed HR 1110 [LOC | WW], the "Preventing Harassment through Outbound Number Enforcement Act of 2009", or "PHONE Act", by a vote of 418-1. See, Roll Call No. 986.

This is a bill to create a criminal prohibition of certain caller ID spoofing. That is, this bill addresses caller ID spoofing, and the associated fraud and identity theft, by amending criminal law. This is within the jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee (HJC) and Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC). Enforcement authority under this bills lies with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

There are also related bills that address caller ID spoofing by amending communications law. This is within the jurisdiction of the House Commerce Committee (HCC) and Senate Commerce Committee (SCC). Enforcement authority under this approach lies with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-NC) introduced HR 1110 on February 23, 2009. It was referred to the House Judiciary Committee (HJC), which amended and approved it on October 7, 2009. See, House Report No. 111-321.

There is a related bill, HR 1258 [LOC | WW], the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009", introduced by Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) on March 3, 2009, that would amend the Communications Act to prohibit transmitting certain misleading or inaccurate caller ID information in voice communications, and require the FCC to write implementing regulations within six months.

The HCC's Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet (SCTI) marked up HR 1258 on October 8, 2009. See, story titled "House Communications Subcommittee Approves Truth in Caller ID Act" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,000, October 9, 2009. However, the full HCC has not marked up that bill.

The companion bill to HR 1258 in the Senate is S 30 [LOC | WW], also titled the "Truth in Caller ID Act of 2009". Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced it on January 7, 2009. The SCC amended and approved it on November 2, 2009.

The full Senate has yet to pass any bill related to caller ID spoofing.

HR 1110, the bill just passed by the House, would add a new Section 1041 to Title 18 (the criminal code) that would provide that "Whoever, in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, knowingly uses or provides to another (1) false caller ID information with intent wrongfully to obtain anything of value; or (2) caller ID information pertaining to an actual person or other entity without that person's or entity's consent and with intent to deceive any person or other entity about the identity of the caller ... shall be punished ..."

It would define "caller ID information" as "any identifying information regarding the origination of a telephone call, including the name or the telephone number of the caller, that is transmitted with the telephone call".

Like most statutes that ban certain conduct in communications or on the internet, this bill would carve out exceptions for law enforcement and intelligence activities.

It would provide that it does not prohibit any "lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity of a law enforcement agency of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State, or of an intelligence agency of the United States, or any activity authorized" under Chapter 224, regarding relocation and protection of witnesses.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the Chairman of the HJC, stated in the House that "the technology needed to spoof has become readily available through the purchase of Internet telephone equipment, or through Web sites specifically set up for that purpose." See, Congressional Record, December 15, 2009, at Pages H14896-7.

Rep. Lamar SmithRep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) (at right), the ranking Republican on the HJC, stated in the House that "Spoofing is a ploy for obtaining a victim's personal and financial information to commit identity theft and other similar fraud. It involves masking caller ID information to make a fraudulent telephone call to a recipient. Those who engage in spoofing use incorrect, fake or fraudulent caller identification to hide their identity and then obtain personal information from the victim. Call recipients unwittingly divulge their names, addresses or Social Security numbers under the mistaken belief that the caller represents a bank, a credit card company or even a court of law. All too often, a person does not know that their identity has been stolen until it's too late and the damage has been done."

House Passes Low Power FM Radio Bill

12/16. The House passed HR 1147 [LOC | WW], the "Local Community Radio Act of 2009", by voice vote. The related bill in the Senate was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee (SCC) last month.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), the Chairman of the House Commerce Committee's (HCC) Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet (SCTI), stated in the House that HR 1147 "will provide additional opportunities to create new low-power FM radio stations by allowing their operation on third adjacent channels to the full-power radio stations." See, Congressional Record, December 15, 2009, at Pages H14903-7.

Rep. Rick BoucherRep Boucher (at right) continued that "Low-power stations, which are community-based nonprofits which operate at 100 watts or less of power and which have a broadcast reach, typically, of only a few miles, play a unique role in our media. They are far more likely than their full-power counterparts to be owned by women or minorities, and they are an important forum for local clergy, for educational institutions, and for a wide array of community leaders to have a say on important local issues."

He also explained that it directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow the operation of low power FM (LPFM) stations "on third channel adjacencies to the full-power FM stations and FM translator and booster stations. It retains the FCC's existing minimum distance separation requirements for FM stations that provide radio reading services for the visually impaired. At the same time, the bill provides for remediation of interference complaints between low-power FM stations and full-power stations as well as FM translator and booster stations. The measure directs the FCC to conduct an economic study of the effect of low-power FM stations on full service commercial stations and to submit those findings to the Congress within 1 year."

Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), the lead cosponsor of the bill, stated in the House that "this bill has the potential to revolutionize what Americans hear on their radios and that it will provide an exciting new platform for citizens to communicate with one another within their own local communities and neighborhoods".

Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), the sponsor of the bill, stated that "Where they are allowed to exist under current law, LPFM stations have proved to be a vital source of information during local or national emergencies. These stations promote the arts and education from religious organizations, community groups, organizations promoting literacy, and from many other civically oriented organizations."

He added that "all five FCC commissioners agreed that Congress should lift the restrictions on LPFM stations and should allow the FCC to license new stations in more communities." And, he said that this bill "does just that".

Rep. Doyle introduced this bill on February 24, 2009. The HCC/SCTI held a hearing on June 11, 2009, and marked up this bill on October 8, 2009. See, story titled "House Communications Subcommittee Approves LPFM Bill" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,000, October 9, 2009. The full HCC marked up the bill on October 15, 2009. See, House Report No. 111-375, and story titled "House Commerce Committee Approves LPFM Bill" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,004, October 16, 2009.

The Senate has not yet passed this bill. There is also a related bill in the Senate, S 592 [LOC | WW], also titled the "Local Community Radio Act of 2009". Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced it on March 12, 2009. The Senate Commerce Committee (SCC) amended and approved it on November 19, 2009.

The FCC's LPFM rulemaking proceeding is MM Docket No. 99-25. See also, the FCC's LPFM web site.

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In This Issue
This issue contains the following items:
  House Passes PHONE Act
  House Passes Low Power FM Radio Bill
  House Passes CALM Act
Washington Tech Calendar
New items are highlighted in red.
Saturday, December 19

The Senate will meet at 6:45 AM. It will resume consideration of of HR 3326 [LOC | WW], the defense appropriations bill.

Monday, December 21

The House will not meet the week of December 21-25. See, Rep. Hoyer's release and release. See also, Section 11 of HRes 976 and HConRes 223.

Deadline to submit comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in response to its Public Notice (PN) [5 pages in PDF] that requests public comments regarding the possibility of reallocating television spectrum for wireless broadband. See, story titled "FCC Seeks Comments on Reallocation of Spectrum from TV to Wireless Broadband" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,019, December 2, 2009. This PN is DA 09-2518 in GN Docket Nos. 09-47, 09-51, and 09-137.

Deadline to submit comments to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System regarding its changes to its rules and staff commentary regarding limitations on issuers' ability to impose dormancy, inactivity, or service fees for certain prepaid products, such as store gift cards and pre-paid cards. (These rules continue to exempt wireless phone cards, pre-paid VOIP cards, and related telecommunications products.) See, notice in the Federal Register, November 20, 2009, Vol. 74, No. 223, at Pages 60985-61012.

Tuesday, December 22

No events listed.

Wednesday, December 23

No events listed.

Thursday, December 24

10:00 AM. The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) may hold an executive business meeting. The agenda includes consideration of the nomination of Rogeriee Thompson to be a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals (1stCir). See, notice. Location: Room 226, Dirksen Building.

Deadline to submit comments to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding its consent agreement with Panasonic Corporation and Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd. regarding Panasonic's acquisition of Sanyo, subject to Sanyo's divestment of its assets relating to the manufacture and sale of portable NiMH batteries to FDK Corporation. See, notice in the Federal Register, December 1, 2009, Vol. 229, No. 74, at Pages 62778-62780.

Friday, December 25

Christmas Day. This is a federal holiday. See, Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) web page titled "2009 Federal Holidays".

Monday, December 28

The House will not meet the week of December 28 through January 1. See, Rep. Hoyer's release and release. See also, Section 11 of HRes 976 and HConRes 223.

Deadline to submit applications to Google for "Google Policy Fellowships" for the summer of 2010 at various public policy groups. See, Google notice, and story titled "Google to Fund Summer Internships at Tech Policy Groups" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,014, November 12, 2009.

House Passes CALM Act

12/15. The House passed HR 1084 [LOC | WW], the "Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act", or CALM Act, by voice vote.

This bill requires the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to set standards on the permissible volume levels for commercials on broadcast, satellite and cable television. It requires the FCC to incorporate by reference the standards developed by an industry group.

This bill provides that within one year of enactment the FCC "shall prescribe ... a regulation that is limited to incorporating by reference and making mandatory (subject to any waivers the Commission may grant pursuant to subsection (b)(2)) the ``Recommended Practice: Techniques for Establishing and Maintaining Audio Loudness for Digital Television'' (A/85), and any successor thereto, approved by the Advanced Television Systems Committee, only insofar as such recommended practice concerns the transmission of commercial advertisements by a television broadcast station, cable operator, or other multichannel video programming distributor."

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) is an industry group. The bill as introduced had directed the FCC to come up with standards.

The bill also contains a limited time financial hardship provision. It provides that "For any television broadcast station, cable operator, or other multichannel video programming distributor that demonstrates that obtaining the equipment to comply with the regulation adopted pursuant to subsection (a) would result in financial hardship, the Federal Communications Commission may grant a waiver of the effective date set forth in paragraph (1) for 1 year and may renew such waiver for 1 additional year."

Rep. Anna EshooRep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) (at left), the bill's sponsor, stated in the House that this bill "is designed to eliminate the earsplitting levels of television advertisements and return control of television sound modulation to the American consumer". See, Congressional Record, December 15, 2009, at Pages H14907-10.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), the Chairman of the House Commerce Committee's (HCC) Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet (SCTI), stated in the House that "We can take this step in a way that the industry finds acceptable. The television industry-based Advanced TV Systems Committee has developed the technical standards that are appropriate to control variations in commercial loudness. The industry has approved that standard and the bill before us directs the Federal Communications Commission to incorporate that standard in a rulemaking."

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) stated in the House "this issue is a little bit more complex than it appears. Many different entities are responsible for producing and distributing the content that consumers hear and see in their living rooms. Each element may be recorded and provided at a different respective volume level. Moreover, shows and movies have a dynamic sound range to cover everything from a quiet scene to a huge explosion. Commercials, meanwhile, tend to have a narrow sound range. Volume levels are typically set for the programming, which can simply throw off the volume levels for the commercial. But as I pointed out earlier, now we have a solution in place because the transition to digital has made that possible."

He continued that the ATSC and its Subgroup on Digital Television Loudness, a group of "technical experts" from the "private sector", have "crafted a hard-fought consensus on a recommended practice that should be employed across the TV industry".

Rep. Eshoo introduced this bill on February 13, 2009. The HCC/SCTI held a hearing on June 11, 2009, and marked up this bill on October 8, 2009. See story titled "House Communications Subcommittee Approves Bill to Limit Loud Ads" in TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 2,000, October 9, 2009. The full HCC approved the bill on November 19, 2009. See, House Report No. 111-374.

The Senate has not passed HR 1084. However, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced the companion bill in the Senate, S 2847 [LOC | WW], on December 8, 2009. That bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce Committee (SCC).