Emerging Technologies Washington Update

November 14, 2019

Pardon Our Dust

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This Week: House Antitrust Subcommittee holds fourth hearing in series on online platforms and market power, FCC releases mapping tool for the 2.5 GHz band tribal priority window, Senate Commerce pulls satellite television reauthorization as expiration approaches.

Week in Review

The House and Senate returned to Washington on Tuesday after the Veterans’ Day holiday. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who chair the Appropriations Committees, met on Tuesday to discuss a deal to avert a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on November 21. Congress is expect to pass, and the President is expected to sign, a new CR extending funding a current levels through December 20, though negotiations are ongoing.

The Senate confirmed Chad Wolf this week to serve as Undersecretary of Homeland Security. Once confirmed, he was sworn in and named Acting Secretary and announced that USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli would become Acting Deputy Secretary. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee also held a confirmation hearing today for Dan Brouillette, the President’s nominee to succeed Rick Perry as Secretary of Energy, while the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a confirmation hearing for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator nominee Peter Gaynor.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee advanced a number of bills during an executive session yesterday, including one to reauthorize NASA. A bill to reauthorize a satellite television law set to expire at the end of the year was pulled at the last minute, however. See below for more details.

During a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing yesterday, Chairman Mark Takano (D-CA) suggested that reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act may be necessary if social media platforms do not do more to combat scammers who impersonate military personnel and veterans. Elsewhere, Rep. Peter King (R-NY), former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, announced this week that he will not seek reelection in 2020.

President Trump issued a proclamation declaring this week National Apprenticeship Week. He hosted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the White House yesterday before welcoming NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg today for a discussion that is to include protecting 5G networks and cybersecurity.

Looking Ahead

The House will vote next week on a continuing resolution to extend government funding likely through mid-December, with the Senate expected to follow suit as the current CR is set to expire on November 21.

The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing next Wednesday on autonomous vehicles. Dr. Stephen Hahn will testify next Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on his nomination to be Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner.

The President will host Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov at the White House on November 25.

House Antitrust Subcommittee Holds Fourth Hearing in Series on Online Platforms and Market Power

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust held a hearing on “Online Platforms and Market Power, Part 4: Perspectives of the Antitrust Agencies.” Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joseph Simons and Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust Division, testified. In his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D-RI) said that left unchecked, large corporations have consolidated across the economy, leaving a few companies to dominate critical markets, particularly the in digital economy. He observed that a small number of digital platforms have become critical intermediaries for the flow of commerce and information and alleged that there is growing evidence that platforms are using market power to set the terms of the market to make it impossible for others to compete. Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) cautioned Congress and antitrust enforcement agencies against overreaching to extend or apply antitrust laws in ways that could punish success and suppress innovation, which could ultimately inhibit consumer welfare.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) argued that despite mounting evidence of illegal monopolization activity by some dominant platforms and numerous cases brought by international enforcement entities, U.S. authorities appear to be “paralyzed.” He noted that it has been decades since the DOJ or FTC has brought a significant monopolization case in the tech sector. Nadler said Congress must ensure that antitrust enforcement agencies have sufficient funding, and noted that appropriations for these agencies has declined in recent years. Though the hearing was sparsely attended, the Subcommittee members present were largely collegial and expressed a willingness to work across the aisle to address antitrust concerns.

FCC Releases Mapping Tool for the 2.5 GHz Band Tribal Priority Window

Earlier this month, the FCC released a mapping tool for eligible Tribal entities to use in determining whether and to what extent there is unassigned 2.5 GHz spectrum available over their eligible Tribal lands. In July 2019, the Commission established a Rural Tribal Priority Window to afford federally recognized Tribal entities an opportunity to obtain a license to unassigned spectrum in the 2.5 GHz band.  The mapping tool is the next step in the process of opening that Tribal Priority Window.  The FCC still needs to establish procedures and a filing date.  Once those are in place eligible Tribal applicants will have a better understanding of what is needed to apply for this opportunity.

Senate Commerce Pulls Satellite Television Reauthorization as Expiration Approaches

On November 13th, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-MS) pulled from a committee markup the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act (S-2789) (STAR), a bill that he sponsors.  The STAR Act would have extended the current law, which expires on Dec. 31, 2019, to 2024.  A number of members on the Senate Commerce Committee have publicly commented on their desire to have a more thorough review of the existing law, suggesting that changes in the video marketplace require a more fulsome review.  Chairman Wicker voiced his expectation that while he was allowing more time for negotiations, his expectation was that the bill would be taken up in early December.