Your brief update on important Internet policy issues
Congress and the Biden Administration have continued intense negotiations since July seeking a deal to pass and sign into law the two key pillars of the President’s “Build Back Better” economic agenda—the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure framework (BIF), to fund areas including broadband, roads, highways and other “traditional” infrastructure (passed August 10 by the Senate, 69-30 vote) and the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill funding a wide range of social programs including initiatives to help families and children, improve access to education, and address climate change. These high-stakes negotiations are occurring in a challenging political environment rattled by surges in COVID-19 cases and deaths, the rocky U.S. pullout from Afghanistan in August, and the aftermath of devastating hurricanes and fires hitting parts of the country.
Following lengthy meetings by President Biden with the key House and Senate negotiators, Senate Majority Leader Schumer and House Speaker Pelosi, flanked by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, announced on September 23 that discussions are “proceeding” and that the House and Senate had reached an agreement with the White House on a framework for paying for the Democrats’ reconciliation package. The final days of September are pivotal to determining whether differences among centrists and progressives will be resolved so that the votes on both the BIF and the Democrats’ reconciliation package can proceed successfully.
TECH POLICY PRIORITIES
Neither the House nor Senate have moved any of the numerous introduced Section 230 bills, but the issue continues to be vigorously debated by Democrats and Republicans, albeit for different reasons. Combating online misinformation and disinformation remains a key Democrat focus. Preventing alleged political bias and censorship in platforms’ content moderation continues to be a Republican priority.
The Senate Commerce Committee will hold hearings on consumer data privacy in late September. The first hearing set for September 29 will focus on consumer data privacy in general, and likely include a discussion of the status of U.S.-EU negotiations on transatlantic data flows. A second hearing currently planned for September 30 at the subcommittee level will address children’s online privacy protection. Congress is also considering how to strengthen the FTC’s role in privacy regulation, including a $1 billion proposal in the House Democrats’ reconciliation bill to fund a new bureau within the FTC dedicated to unfair and deceptive practices related to privacy, data security, identity theft, and data abuses.
Democrat chairs of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees have not announced any near-term plans to address DMCA reform. Senate Judiciary IP Subcommittee Ranking Member Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) is continuing to pursue the issue through his draft DMCA reform legislation.
Democrat lawmakers in the House and Senate continue to seek antitrust law reforms, and federal agencies are developing their implementation of the 72 initiatives called for in the July Executive Order seeking to encourage more competition in major sectors of the economy. The Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee held a September hearing on the antitrust and privacy implications for consumers of “big data” concentrated among just a few large platforms.
The House is working toward its vote on the BIF, already passed by the Senate, which includes $65 billion in additional broadband funding. This funding will be directed substantially to advance additional deployment in unserved and underserved areas of the U.S.
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