Press Releases

Sen. Cantwell Statement on FCC, NTIA Nominations

October 26, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation released the following statement regarding President Biden’s intention to nominate Jessica Rosenworcel to be Commissioner and Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); Gigi Sohn to be Commissioner of the FCC; and Alan Davidson to be Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA): 

 “Today’s announcement by the White House of its slate of nominees for the Federal Communications Commission and National Telecommunications and Information Administration comes at just the right time, with more work to do to improve our broadband deployment, spectrum management, and consumer protections. I am glad to see Jessica Rosenworcel nominated to be the Chair of the FCC, and I look forward to swiftly considering these nominations before the end of the year.”

Cantwell Underscores Urgency to Pass NASA Authorization Bill

October 22, 2021

VIDEO

“We can't do an adequate oversight job if we don't have an authorization bill.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During a hearing in the Commerce Subcommittee on Space and Science yesterday, Sen. Maria Cantwell underscored the urgent need for Congress to pass long-lasting, bipartisan NASA authorization legislation. NASA was last authorized by Congress in 2017. The Senate passed an updated authorization as part of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) in June 2021. 

“We can't do an adequate oversight job if we don't have an authorization bill,” Sen. Cantwell stated. “I believe in NASA's innovation and technology. I want them to apply the same spirit they had in fixing the problems on the Apollo project to fixing and getting this authorization done. We're not going to continue to have this game where you just get appropriations. It is not going to serve the Artemis program or NASA well. [I]t's frustrating to me to see the spirit of NASA turned into you know, the cheering of billionaires or competition with each other. Because I'm pretty sure that that's not what our mission of Artemis is about.”

“Look, we've seen where the same mistake was made by the FAA and deferring too much to aviation manufacturers when it came to the oversight,” she continued. “I want a very strong NASA oversight of these companies. Very strong. I'm not supportive of NASA stepping away and turning it over to the commercial side. …I think it's just imperative that we get an authorization bill…”

The subcommittee heard from former NASA leaders and experts who echoed the senator’s urgency for Congress to speak with one voice and set clear objectives.

“Because without that, it's very difficult to even be able to begin to do oversight, because you [don’t] know what objectives you're trying to meet,” said Dr. Mary Lynne Dittmar, Executive Vice President for Government Affairs at Axiom Space.

Mike Gold, the former NASA Associate Administrator for Space Policy and Partnerships argued that an “authorization bill is vital to send messages to our partners and rival nations for the unity purpose of Congress.”

“But for NASA to have continuity of purpose over time, requires an apolitical bipartisan consensus on how we're moving forward,” added former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “And if we can put that in an authorization bill, it sends a signal to everybody globally that we have resolved to accomplish these objectives.”

Click here for full transcript.

 

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Commerce Committee Approves Biden Transportation Nominations

October 20, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved five Biden Administration nominations and 70 Coast Guard officer promotions during today’s Executive Session.  All are subject to approval by the full Senate.

 

The Committee approved the following nominations:

 

  • Amit Bose to be Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (PN435)
  • Meera Joshi to be Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (PN362)
  • Victoria Wassmer to be Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Transportation (PN264)
  • Mohsin Syed to be Assistant Secretary for Government Affairs at the Department of Transportation (PN263)
  • Rear Admiral Nancy Hann to be Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, and Director of the Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (PN896)

 

The Committee approved the following Coast Guard officer promotions:

 

  • Rear Admiral James Kelly to be Director of the Coast Guard Reserve (PN1073)
  • Coast Guard Officers to earn the rank of Captain (PN1144): 
  1. Aleksak, Jason C.
  2. Aries, Melissa J.
  3. Behera, Jessica B.
  4. Behnke, Andrew J.
  5. Bender, Andrew R.
  6. Berry II, Robert J.
  7. Bertsch IV, Fred S.
  8. Breguet, Brian P.
  9. Brick, Chad R.
  10. Butwid, Jerry D.
  11. Casey, Paul R.
  12. Casper, Eric M.
  13. Chien, Michael P.C.
  14. Chong, Randall T.
  15. Dietrich, Joyce M.
  16. Dooris, Matthew D.
  17. Douglas, Christopher
  18. Ford, Zachary R.
  19. Garrity, Elisa M.
  20. Glass, Zachary N.
  21. Gomez, Robert H.
  22. Hall, Jeremy M.
  23. Helgen, Eric A.
  24. Hernaez, Dorothy J.
  25. Ingram, Jason D.
  26. Johnson, Eric D.
  27. Keene, Christopher M.
  28. Kirksey, Aja L.
  29. Lay, Mark L.
  30. Lewis, Rachel L.
  31. Lugo, Scott E.
  32. Matson, Ryan P.
  33. Matthies, Eric J.
  34. McCarter, Harold L.
  35. McNally, Brad M.
  36. McTamney IV, John M.P.
  37. Moon, Youngmee
  38. Neeland, Mark R.
  39. Noggle, Justin W.
  40. Obrien, Loan T.
  41. Oconnell, Anne E.
  42. O'Mara IV, James M.
  43. Omenhiser Jr., Roger E.
  44. Ortenzio, Aaron J.
  45. Parker, Joseph B.
  46. Payne, Jeffrey L.
  47. Pershing, James H.
  48. Pirone, Robert M.
  49. Pototschnik, Mark B.
  50. Rice, Lisa M.
  51. Rodriguez, Nicole D.
  52. Saunders, Kevin B.
  53. Schallip, Michele L.
  54. Sharp, Michael D.
  55. Smith, Jason S.
  56. Snaith, Joan
  57. Styron, Jessica R.
  58. Suffern, James B.
  59. Terkanian Jr., Donald M.
  60. Tharp, Emily L.
  61. Thorkilson, Kelly A.
  62. Townsend, Devin L.
  63. Trusz, Jared S.
  64. Tucker, Robert C.
  65. Vaughan, Nicolette A.
  66. Walker, William R.
  67. Winburn, William B.
  68. Wirth, Tracy L.
  69. Wright, Christopher L.

Cantwell Demands Accountability From USMMA, Coast Guard, DOT Leaders Following Sexual Assault Allegations

October 13, 2021

 

Cantwell Demands Accountability From USMMA, Coast Guard, DOT Leaders Following Sexual Assault Allegations

Cantwell: “How many reports of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or related offenses have been reported by or concerning midshipmen of the USMMA in the last 10 years?”

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation which oversees federal maritime agencies sent a letter to Acting Administrator of the Maritime Administration (MARAD) Lucinda Lessley demanding answers regarding allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment made by midshipmen at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA) as well as the response from leaders at MARAD. Senator Cantwell sent a copy of the letter to the Coast Guard, which has primary jurisdiction for investigating these incidents on the high seas.

 

Many of the alleged incidents occurred during the midshipmen’s “Sea Year.” Sea Year is a required part of the USMMA’s undergraduate training, where sophomore and junior midshipmen spend part of their academic year at sea working on primarily private merchant marine vessels learning firsthand the skills of a merchant mariner.

 

“Through the Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy (MLAA), a legal advocacy group formed on behalf of mariners, victims of shipboard sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape have bravely shared their personal stories in blog posts on the group’s website,” Senator Cantwell wrote to Lessley.

 

“The despicable accounts put forth by brave young women and men just starting promising careers in the maritime industry are frightening and unacceptable,” Cantwell continued. “Many of these allegations involve a repeated pattern of crimes and intimidations committed by people in positions of power and responsibility on merchant ships, and include alleged poor oversight or policy failures of USMMA officials and Coast Guard investigators.”

 

In the letter, Senator Cantwell demanded that Acting Administrator Lessley provide a detailed account of the steps taken to investigate and respond to the allegations, and called on the Acting Administrator to provide a full report on the number of reports of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or related offenses have been reported by or concerning midshipmen of the USMMA in the last 10 years.

 

More information about Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy is available HERE.

 

The blog post by Acting Administrator Lessley and DOT Deputy Secretary Trottenburg is available HERE.

 

The full text of Senator Cantwell’s letter is available HERE and below.

 

October 12, 2021

 

Lucinda Lessley

Acting Administrator, Maritime Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Washington, DC 20590

Dear Acting Administrator Lessley:

I write to express my grave concern over the allegations of rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment made by midshipmen at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (“USMMA”) and the response by you and others at the Department of Transportation (“DOT”). Through the Maritime Legal Aid & Advocacy (“MLAA”), a legal advocacy group formed on behalf of mariners, victims of shipboard sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape have bravely shared their personal stories in blog posts on the group’s website. You and Deputy Secretary Trottenberg sent an open letter to the King’s Point community and posted it on the USMMA website on Saturday, October 2, 2021 acknowledging these allegations and expressing your unwavering support for the individual who shared her story on September 27. The despicable accounts put forth by brave young women and men just starting promising careers in the maritime industry are frightening and unacceptable. Many of these allegations involve a repeated pattern of crimes and intimidations committed by people in positions of power and responsibility on merchant ships, and include alleged poor oversight or policy failures of USMMA officials and Coast Guard investigators.

In light of the seriousness of these allegations, I ask that you provide the committee with a description of the steps that have been taken by Maritime Administration (“MARAD”), the DOT, and the USMMA to investigate the allegations made on the MLAA’s website, and actions taken in response to findings in those investigations. Additionally, I request the following information:

1. How many reports of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or related offenses have been reported by or concerning midshipmen of the USMMA in the last 10 years? Please provide a breakdown of these reports that includes whether the incidents occurred on campus, off campus, or at sea during Sea Year, the party that conducted the investigation(s), and the outcome of that investigation.

2. In the event that a midshipman is removed from a vessel following a sexual assault or harassment report(s), does USMMA remove all midshipmen onboard the vessel for their Sea Year? Please include copies of the USMMA policy, regulation or other guidance on this matter.

3. If a vessel or its parent company is the subject of a sexual assault or sexual harassment complaint, does the USMMA assign midshipmen to those vessels in the future? Please include copies of the USMMA policy, regulation or other guidance on this matter.

4. In the event that a midshipman makes an informal or formal complaint of sexual assault, harassment, or discrimination, may they request to be assigned to a different vessel for the duration of their Sea Year? Please include copies of the USMMA policy, regulation or other guidance on this matter.

5. What actions can be and have been taken by the Coast Guard to withdraw or suspend credentials of mariners with a history of allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Sea Year midshipmen?

The maritime industry and United States Merchant Marine are a vital part of our national security and our nation’s economy. Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other offenses are unacceptable, and the USMMA must immediately take action to stop this behavior and protect the men and women of the USMMA both at the Academy, and at sea. To that end, I request responses to these questions no later than October 26, 2021. For any questions, you may contact majority staff lead on maritime policy, Nicole Teutschel at 202-224-0510 and majority chief investigative counsel, Caitlin Warner at 202-224-0290.

 

Sincerely,

 

MARIA CANTWELL

Chair

 

CC: Admiral Karl L. Schultz, Commandant, United States Coast Guard

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Following Two Weeks of Hearings, Sen. Cantwell Calls on Facebook to Preserve Data, Documents Related to Testimony the Company Misled Public, Put Profits over Safety of Users

October 12, 2021

For Immediate Release    
Tuesday, October 12, 2021


Contact:

Tricia_Enright@commerce.senate.gov

 

Following Two Weeks of Hearings, Sen. Cantwell Calls on Facebook to Preserve Data, Documents Related to Testimony the Company Misled Public, Put Profits over Safety of Users

 

Senator vows to strengthen federal oversight and enforcement to protect consumers from digital harms

 

SEATTLE, WA – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to preserve all documents, data, and electronic information related to testimony that the company misled the public about the harmful impact of its platforms on teenagers and children, and in spreading hate and divisive content.

 

“Mr. Zuckerberg, you have acknowledged before our Committee that Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that people who use your products can do so safely,” Sen. Cantwell wrote in a letter to the CEO. “Given the importance of these issues, I urge Facebook to take these concerns seriously.  This Committee will continue its oversight and work to pursue legislation to protect consumers’ privacy, improve data security, and strengthen federal enforcement to address the digital harms that are the subject of these hearings.”

 

During a hearing before a Commerce subcommittee, Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified that the company’s own research recognizes the role its platforms play in spreading hate and divisive content in the United States and abroad, “eroding individual privacy interests, undermining the mental health of vulnerable teenagers and children, and promoting ethnic violence, among other troubling impacts,” noted Sen. Cantwell. “The testimony… raises significant concerns about whether Facebook has misled the public, Federal regulators, and this Committee.”

 

The Senator underscored the dangerous consequences of unchecked spreading of divisive, violent content on Facebook’s platforms, pointing to its role in fomenting ethnic violence against the Rohingya in 2018.  She described many attempts made by a constituent and her own staff to warn the company to take action.  

 

“She pleaded with your company to shut down the offending accounts,” Sen. Cantwell wrote regarding efforts by the constituent who asked the Senator’s office for help. “[M]y staff contacted Facebook’s government affairs division… and, notwithstanding our persistent efforts, we were similarly frustrated by Facebook’s lack of responsiveness and failure to take effective action. Last month, my Senate staff again reached out to Facebook, yet these posts continue.”

 

She added: “Against that backdrop, Ms. Haugen’s testimony that Facebook’s algorithms incentivize angry and divisive content on its platforms is chilling.” 

 

Sen. Cantwell requested that Facebook Inc. preserve and retain the following documents, data, memoranda, records, and other electronically stored information: (1) the internal Facebook research that is the subject of Ms. Haugen’s testimony, and the documents that reflect Facebook’s evaluation and use of such research; (2) ranking or composition systems, including content recommendation systems; (3) experiments or recommendations to change those ranking or composition systems; (4) the use of, and internal decisions regarding, Facebook platforms in settings where there is ethnic violence, including in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and Facebook’s role or response; (5) the impact of Facebook’s platforms on children and teenagers under the age of 18; and (6) Facebook’s targeted efforts to market its platforms to children, teenagers and parents.

 

A copy of the letter is below and here (link)

October 12, 2021

Mr. Mark Zuckerberg

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Facebook, Inc.

1601 Willow Road

Menlo Park, CA  94025

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,

The United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation heard testimony last week from Ms. Frances Haugen, a former Facebook employee and whistleblower, who testified about concerning practices at Facebook.  Ms. Haugen’s testimony followed Facebook’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis’ testimony at our September 30 hearing regarding the impact of Instagram and Facebook’s other platforms on users’ privacy interests and safety.  Ms. Haugen provided information regarding internal Facebook research, documents, and deliberations, and testified that Facebook’s own research recognizes the role its platforms play in spreading hate and divisive content in the United States and abroad, eroding individual privacy interests, undermining the mental health of vulnerable teenagers and children, and promoting ethnic violence, among other troubling impacts.  Ms. Haugen asserted that Facebook has misled the public about the impact of its platforms, and the degree to which Facebook’s decisions encourage and exploit divisive content to drive higher profits.  The testimony at these two hearings raises significant concerns about whether Facebook has misled the public, Federal regulators, and this Committee.

The potential danger that social media platforms pose for spreading divisive content was demonstrated, with horrifying consequences, by the role the Facebook platform played in fomenting ethnic violence against the Rohingya.  See Reuters, Hatebook:  Inside Facebook’s Myanmar Operation (2018).  Thousands of Burmese refugees currently live in Washington state.  In April 2018, one of my constituents contacted me about her ongoing efforts over several years to alert Facebook to the widespread use of its platform to post hate speech and grisly images that were instigating violence, destabilizing the political environment in Myanmar, and driving ethnic violence on a broad scale.  She pleaded with your company to shut down the offending accounts. Over the course of her efforts, Facebook remained unresponsive to her and failed to take action in response to her communications.

Working with that same constituent, my staff contacted Facebook’s government affairs division on June 11, 2018 and, notwithstanding our persistent efforts, we were similarly frustrated by Facebook’s lack of responsiveness and failure to take effective action.  I raised these concerns when I met with Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, on May 17, 2019, and she assured me that Facebook had subsequently instituted a number of safeguards to limit the proliferation of divisive content on its platforms. 

Despite these assurances, my constituent continues to alert Facebook that individuals who had been posting divisive content during the worst of the violence against the Rohingya, such as a Myanmar military lieutenant, are still posting such content on Facebook.  Last month, my Senate staff again reached out to Facebook, yet these posts continue. 

The role of Facebook’s platform in the Rohingya tragedy illustrates the horrible consequences that failing to effectively limit the spread of divisive content on social media platforms can have in inflicting public harm.  Against that backdrop, Ms. Haugen’s testimony that Facebook’s algorithms incentivize angry and divisive content on its platforms is chilling.  More specifically, Ms. Haugen testified that Facebook made algorithmic changes in 2018 to maximize “meaningful social interactions” on its platforms, and its research showed that those changes actually accelerate and expand the spread of angry and divisive content on its platforms.  Ms. Haugen further testified that, in the face of that research, Facebook declined to make the necessary adjustments, which would have reduced profitability, to fix this problem.  Ms. Haugen’s testimony, if true, raises serious concerns about the motivations that drive Facebook’s decisions, policies and use of its internal research, and their widespread impacts on Facebook users worldwide.

Ms. Haugen also shared information regarding internal Facebook practices, including a practice of silencing employees who ask the “wrong” questions by deleting data and dismissing employees. This is deeply troubling and, if true, raises serious concerns that further erode the public’s trust in Facebook.

Ms. Davis testified that Facebook wants to be more transparent and is considering how it can allow external researchers to have more access to Facebook’s data.  To that end, I request that Facebook, Inc. preserve and retain documents, data, memoranda, records, and other electronically stored information relating to the issues raised at the September 30 and October 5 hearings, including: (1) the internal Facebook research that is the subject of Ms. Haugen’s testimony, and the documents that reflect Facebook’s evaluation and use of such research; (2) ranking or composition systems, including content recommendation systems; (3) experiments or recommendations to change those ranking or composition systems; (4) the use of, and internal decisions regarding, Facebook platforms in settings where there is ethnic violence, including in Myanmar and Ethiopia, and Facebook’s role or response; (5) the impact of Facebook’s platforms on children and teenagers under the age of 18; and (6) Facebook’s targeted efforts to market its platforms to children, teenagers and parents.

Mr. Zuckerberg, you have acknowledged before our Committee that Facebook has a responsibility to ensure that people who use your products can do so safely.  Given the importance of these issues, I urge Facebook to take these concerns seriously. This Committee will continue its oversight and work to pursue legislation to protect consumers’ privacy, improve data security, and strengthen federal enforcement to address the digital harms that are the subject of these hearings.

 

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Cantwell Says Action Needed to Stem Tide of ID Theft, Ransomware, and Security Breaches

October 6, 2021

US on track for record number of data breaches in 2021

 

Cantwell: “We know that a stronger FTC will help, but we need to give the FTC the resources that they need to do their job.”

 

Former FTC leaders, experts in ID theft, cybersecurity say it’s key for the FTC to have first time civil penalty authority

 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  In the second in a series of hearings on the urgent need to protect consumer privacy and data security, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, reiterated her call to create a data security and privacy enforcement bureau at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). She has also called on Congress to ensure it is equipped with the resources, first time civil penalty authority, and clear digital security standards needed to stem the tide of data breaches, identity theft and ransomware assaults that are harming millions of Americans. 

 

“Earlier this year, a hacker took Colonial Pipeline offline, causing fuel shortages across the East Coast,” said Senator Cantwell. “Ransomware attacks on hospitals have put patients’ lives at risk. We heard yesterday about Facebook going offline globally due to faulty configuration. There's word out this morning that Amazon may be facing its own situation today. So part of the problem is that we live in a more connected world. And what we know now is that when there is a data breach that consumers are the ones that pay the heavy price.”

 

Cantwell spoke about the devastating impact of data breaches in Washington state, pointing out that the Washington State Auditor’s Office, which had obtained claim forms in a review of the incident, “had been receiving unemployment fraud claims had its data compromised due to that vulnerability in the legacy system that was provided by a third party. Accellion systems were breached throughout the country, and we still don't know the extent of that breach. But in Washington, the personal information of 1.6 million residents was stolen.”

 

“…We know that the identity theft can have a devastating impact on individuals who can't obtain unemployment benefits because a criminal has already applied for them,” Senator Cantwell said.  “40% of these victims were not able to pay their bills. 14% were evicted for not paying rent, 33% did not have enough money for food and utilities, 13% were not able to get a job. So while most identity theft victims lose less than $500, 21% of these victims report losing more than $20,000.”

 

During questioning of experts, Sen. Cantwell asked each witness if they “support an FTC Privacy and Data Security Bureau.” All four expert witnesses agreed, including James E. Lee, Chief Operating Officer, Identity Theft Resource Center; Jessica Rich, of Counsel at Kelley Drye and Former Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); Edward W. Felten, Robert E. Kahn Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs at Princeton University and Former Chief Technologist at the FTC; and Kate Tummarello, Executive Director of Engine.

 

“Do you support first time penalties?” Cantwell followed.  Again, all four witnesses agreed. 

 

Video of Senator Cantwell’s opening statement can be found HERE, the first round of Q&A with the witnesses is HERE, the second round HERE, and the final round and closing remarks HERE.

 

The full transcript can be found HERE.

 

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TODAY: At Hearing With Facebook Safety Head, Cantwell Says Children Need Stronger Protection from Digital Abuse, Harm

Comments come as Cantwell launches full court press to empower feds to fight digital abuses; hold tech companies accountable

September 30, 2021

 

YESTERDAY: Cantwell Push to Create Stronger, Sharper, Tougher Consumer Protection Watchdog Gets Backing From Former Federal Enforcement Officials

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  U.S. Senator Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today underscored the urgent need to strengthen federal digital protections for children during a subcommittee hearing in response to revelations that Facebook and Instagram were aware of the harmful impact its products have on children and teenagers. Today’s comments follow a hearing Sen. Cantwell chaired yesterday regarding her push to create a privacy and data security enforcement bureau at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and invest significant federal resources to ensure it is equipped with the authorities and resources to fight digital harms and hold bad actors accountable for privacy violations, deception, data breaches, internet scams, ransomware assaults and other data abuses.

 

“Data collection of children… should have more aggressive attention… and we need to update the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act,” Sen. Cantwell said at today’s subcommittee hearing.  “I think it's very important to understand that our committee would like to move forward on stronger privacy legislation.”

 

At Sen. Cantwell’s full committee hearing yesterday, senators heard directly from former FTC officials who recounted how the severe lack of resources, technology and staffing expertise has left the agency unable to keep pace with the growing wave of privacy and data abuses. Sen. Cantwell pushed to for $1 billion in federal funding as part of the Build Back Better bill to create a robust privacy and data security enforcement bureau at the FTC and called for a bureau in her 2019 privacy legislation.

 

“Our precise locations, fitness regimens, computer strokes, and even our friends and family networks have basically been turned into commodities,” Sen. Cantwell said, explaining that while a digital economy has created new services and products, “it also exposed and threatened consumer privacy by unnecessarily collecting, storing, selling, and exposing consumers’ most personal data to theft and harm.”

 

“[F]rom July 2019 through July 2020, more than 650,000 residents of my state, Washington, were victims of data breaches, including the release of their healthcare information, banking records, social security numbers, and credit card information,” Cantwell continued. “The truth is that our economy has changed significantly and the Federal Trade Commission has neither the adequate resources, nor the technological expertise at the FTC to adequately protect consumers from harm.”

 

“Even where the FTC has taken enforcement actions against companies, the companies continue to violate those FTC orders, which is beyond frustrating,” Sen. Cantwell added. “Even though the FTC has been able to use their current authority of unfair and deceptive practices, companies like Facebook or others may gladly pay a $5 billion fine, when actually, they can still make over $70 billion a year from some of these same practices.”

 

 

 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. CANTWELL OPENING REMARKS AND HERE FOR FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Asked by Cantwell if they “support more resources at the FTC, “similar to what we've been talking about as it relates to this reconciliation item on the FTC having more of a privacy enforcement authority,” all four witnesses agreed, including David Vladeck, former Director of the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Consumer Protection and current Faculty Director at the Center on Privacy and Technology, Georgetown Law; Maureen Ohlhausen, former Acting Chair of the Federal Trade Commission and current Partner and Section Chair, Baker Botts; Ashkan Soltani, former Chief Technologist of the Federal Trade Commission and current Independent Researcher and Technologist; and Trade Morgan Reed, President of the App Association.

 

 

CLICK HERE TO WATCH CANTWELL EXCHANGE WITH WITNESSES

 

Vladeck described the impact Cantwell’s proposal to boost resources by $1 billion would have on the FTC’s enforcement capacity:  “One area in which [the FTC needs] resources is being able to hire more technologists and engineers. I don't think the FTC has ever had a cohort as many as 10 technologists on staff.   When it comes to enforcement, oversight of existing consent decrees, there is a division within the Bureau of Consumer Protection that has about 45 staff members, and oversees more than 1,000 ongoing consent orders, or litigated orders imposed by a court. The volume of orders that need to be sorted, reviewed and subject to reporting requirements overwhelms the ability of staff to do the kind of surveillance of a company under orders is required,” he said.

 

“Take a look at Facebook, it was the one of the first real major privacy orders we engaged in. We did not have technologists and staff who could spend time reviewing closely what the company was doing,” Vladeck continued. “And that's an endemic problem. And it's going to be an enduring problem unless Congress devotes more resources to the FTC.”

“[T]he FTC is critically under-resourced to oversee the nation's myriad of privacy and cybersecurity issues,” Soltani testified.  “With a bare bones staff of about 40 attorneys and a handful of technologists, their resources pale in contrast to their counterparts in other countries. The resource problem is exasperated when businesses choose to litigate a case rather than accept a settlement The proposal to create a fund and new bureau at the FTC is a strong step forward at providing the commission with new resources it needs desperately to effectively protect consumers in the digital economy. A new bureau focused on technology and data protection would help the FTC support its mission of placing unfair and deceptive trade practices related to privacy, data security, identity theft, and data abuses.”

Video of the all witness testimonies is available HERE, audio is available HERE.

 

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Committee Approves Biden Nominations for CPSC, DOC

September 23, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved the following three nominations, all of whom are now subject to approval by the full Senate.

  1. Nomination of Alexander Hoehn-Saric, to be a Commissioner and Chair of the Consumer Product Safety Commission

 

  1. Nomination of Grant Harris, to be Assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis, Department of Commerce

 

  1. Nomination of Richard Trumka Jr. to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission 

Cantwell, Durbin Call on DOJ, FAA to Toughen Actions Against Dangerous Airline Passengers

Zero-tolerance policy and FAA fines have not been enough to deter dangerous criminal activity as physical assaults continue

September 21, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Richard Durbin, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee today sent separate letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Steve Dickson regarding increased incidents involving dangerous airline passengers.  The senators called on the agencies to coordinate efforts to ensure that those airline passengers who commit criminal acts are prosecuted. 

 

“Civil penalties alone are failing to deter criminal activity by airline passengers,” Sens. Cantwell and Durbin wrote to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “Robust and public efforts to prosecute those who endanger passengers and crewmembers are necessary to deter interference with safe air travel.  The FAA plays a critical role in investigating and referring criminal incidents to federal law enforcement authorities.”

 

As of September 14, 2021, there have been 4,284 reports of unruly passenger incidents this year—3,123 of which were mask-related.  Additionally, the FAA has initiated 755 investigations into unruly passengers, which is more than double the investigations for 2019 and 2020 combined.  The FAA has initiated enforcement actions in 154 cases, levying more than one million dollars in fines.

 

“As you know, DOJ has ample authority to prosecute those who commit crimes while onboard an aircraft,” the senators wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland. “It is critical that DOJ direct federal law enforcement agents and prosecutors to use these authorities to fully investigate reported incidents on aircraft, and, when supported by the evidence, prosecute those who are criminally responsible.”

 

According to a recent survey of flight attendants, over 85% of respondents had dealt with unruly passengers in the first half of 2021.

 

Cantwell and Durbin also asked for a briefing from DOJ and FAA to inform Congressional oversight of the issue no later than October 11, 2021.

 

A copy of today’s letter to DOJ is available here.

 

A copy of today’s letter to FAA is available here.

 

 

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Committee Approves Six Bills and Three Nominations

August 4, 2021

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation today approved six bills and three nominations, which are now all subject to approval by the full Senate.

The Minority Business Development Act of 2021, which Chair Cantwell recently touted at an event in Washington state, was one of the bills that advanced out of committee today.

“First, I want to discuss the Minority Business Development Act of 2021,” Chair Cantwell said. “That was introduced by Senators Cardin, Scott, Wicker, Baldwin, and Cornyn. This bill would make the Minority Business Development Agency permanent in statute and would create a presidential-appointed, Senate-confirmed Undersecretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development. This bill would authorize the Minority Business Development Agency's current Business Center Program, create new rural Minority Business Centers… and most importantly, it would authorize $110 million per year for five years to the Minority Business Development Agency organization to carry out this mission. I want to thank Senator Wicker for his work on this.”

Below is the full list of the legislation and nominees advanced out of committee today:

  1. S. 451, Composites Standards Act of 2021

 

  1. S. 2299, CADETS Act;

 

  1. S. 1790, Secure Equipment Act of 2021
    1. Markey substitute

 

  1. S. 1880, Protecting Indian Tribes from Scams Act
    1. Lujan substitute

 

  1. S. 2068, Minority Business Development Act of 2021
    1. Wicker substitute
    2. Lujan_1 (modified)
    3. Scott_2 (modified)
    4. Scott_3 (modified)
    5. Lee_5 (modified)
    6. Lee_8 (modified)

 

  1. S.2424, Restoring Brand USA Act
    1. Scott_1 (modified)
    2. Scott_2
    3. Lee_1
    4. Lee_2 (modified)

 

  1. Nomination of Hon. Jennifer L. Homendy, of Virginia, to be Chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (PN573)

 

  1. Nomination of Ms. Karen J. Hedlund, of Colorado, to be a Member of the Surface Transportation Board (PN535)

 

  1. Nomination of Ms. Carol A. Petsonk, of the District of Columbia, to be Assistant Secretary of Transportation (PN438)

 

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Speeches

Inouye Applauds Senate Passage of Historic Fuel Economy Legislation

December 13, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Commerce Committee Chairman Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii) delivered the following statement today on the floor of the U.S. Senate just before passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.
 
“Mr. President, I rise today in support of the Renewable Consumer and Energy Efficiency Act of 2007. After months of constructive negotiations, we have successfully crafted thoughtful and rich bipartisan agreement, particularly in Title I, otherwise known as the ‘Ten-in-Ten’ Fuel Economy Act. Title I would mandate an increase in automobile fuel economy to a nation-wide fleet average of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. In addition, the Department of Transportation would adopt fuel economy standards for medium and heavy duty commercial vehicles for the first time.
 
“Today’s agreement marks historic progress: This is the first statutory increase in fuel economy standards for cars since 1975. Reducing our dependence on foreign oil is of vital importance to our national security, economic stability, and consumer welfare; the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act is a major step forward in achieving these goals. 
 
“Title I of the bill will save approximately 1.1 million barrels of oil per day in 2020, equal to one half of what we currently import daily from the Persian Gulf. By the year 2020, the legislation will save consumers approximately $22 billion at the pump and prevent approximately 200 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from polluting our environment each year. By dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, Title I would demonstrate to the world that America is a leader in fighting global warming.
 
“Legislation of this magnitude could have only been achieved through the hard work of a coalition of Members. In this case, without Senators Feinstein, Stevens, Snowe, Kerry, Dorgan, Lott, Carper, Boxer, Durbin, Alexander, Corker, and Cantwell, the agreement would not have been reached.
 
“In particular, I wish to congratulate Senator Feinstein on her efforts in developing this bill. Her dedication over the years has led to a public policy that very few thought possible.  I would also like to praise the efforts of my good friend Senator Stevens, who was instrumental in forging the compromise before us. I also would like to thank Chairman Dingell and Senators Levin and Stabenow for their hard work and willingness to achieve an agreement that aggressively improves fuel economy while protecting domestic automobile manufacturing and U.S. workers. The American automaker and autoworker have no better champions.
 
“In addition, the tireless efforts of groups dedicated to conservation and improving national security were vital to enacting this legislation. Of special note is the support of a non-partisan group of business executives and retired senior military leaders concerned about global energy security, known as Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE). I am grateful for the support and hard work of its leaders Frederick W. Smith and General P.X. Kelley, as well as Robbie Diamond, who served as their liaison. The Union of Concerned Scientists, David Friedman in particular, provided significant technical support and advocacy for the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act.   
 
“Finally, Mr. President, I would like to express my appreciation to all the hard working members of the staff who worked to make this historical legislation a reality. In particular, I would like to commend David Strickland, Alex Hoehn-Saric, Mia Petrini, and Jared Bomberg of my Commerce Committee staff for a job well done.
 
“The importance of this legislation cannot be underestimated. During the Arab oil embargo in 1973, Americans suffered the first devastating effects of our addiction to oil. Born out of this embargo, Congress put in place a fuel economy program that nearly doubled the gas mileage of cars from 1975 to 1985.  Passage of this bill will ensure that our nation’s energy priorities start moving in the right direction again. 
 
“Higher fuel economy standards will wean the country of its oil addiction, put billions of dollars of savings back into our domestic economy, and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
 
“A diverse group of constituencies support the Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act, from environmentalists to automotive workers and automakers. While it sets forth aggressive standards, the Act also recognizes the challenges faced by the auto industry and ensures that those concerns will be addressed.  Providing flexibility to the automotive industry, the sponsors of these fuel economy provisions have worked together in a bipartisan manner to ensure that automakers have the tools they need to meet the requirements enumerated in the Act.  The Ten-in-Ten Fuel Economy Act directs the Secretary of Transportation to create two fuel economy curves, one for passenger cars and one for light trucks. 
This change from the Senate–passed bill provides the certainty that American automakers, auto workers, and car dealers requested, but the Act still requires that the combined car and light truck fleet meet a fuel economy standard of at least 35 miles per gallon by 2020.    
 
“Our actions today will improve national security, create jobs, help consumers, and protect the environment. At times it is the government’s responsibility to balance conflicting interests. Today, I believe we found that balance.”
 
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Sen. Stevens Speaks on Aviation and Surface Transportation Security Legislation

March 1, 2007

 

 

Senator Stevens:  I thank my colleagues, Senators Lieberman and Collins for working with the Commerce Committee to include important security measures in this bill.  And, I’m very grateful to my great friend, Senator Inouye, for his willingness to work in our committee on a bipartisan basis to develop and report these measures.   

In the five and a half years since the horrific events of September 11th, we have made many improvements in the security of our nation’s transportation infrastructure and ensured communications interoperability.

Our job is far from over, whether it’s more improvements to be made or gaps to close.  In matters of security, we must not become complacent – as our enemies adapt, so must we. 

The Commerce Committee’s aviation and surface transportation security legislation, which have been included in S. 4 – will significantly enhance the ability of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), to fulfill their missions.  These provisions were developed by the Commerce Committee while mindful of the delicate balance between implementing tough security measures and the effect such regulations may have on the nation’s economy and the movement of goods.

The aviation provisions incorporated into S. 4 were reported by the Commerce Committee on February 13th as S. 509, the Aviation Security Improvement Act of 2007.  The provisions incorporate aviation-related 9/11 commission recommendations, and provide TSA with additional tools to carry out its layered approach to security. 

To do this, the aviation security provisions dedicate continued funding for the installation of in-line explosive detection systems utilized for the enhanced screening of checked baggage at our nation’s airports. 

We all recognize the importance of screening 100 percent of cargo transported to and within the .  Last year, in the SAFE Port Act, Congress acted to ensure that all cargo arriving in the by sea is screened.  In S. 4, we ensure that 100 percent of air cargo also is screened.  The air cargo supply chain handles over 50,000 tons of cargo each day, of which 26 percent is designated for domestic passenger carriers. 

Screening is particularly important in Alaska .  Anchorage, my home, is the number one airport in the for landed weight of cargo, and it is number three in the world for cargo throughput.  Our provision would require TSA to develop and implement a system to provide for the screening of all cargo being carried by passenger aircraft.

To address on-going concerns about passenger pre-screening procedures, the legislation requires DHS to create an “Office of Appeals and Redress” to establish a timely and fair process for airline passengers who believe they have been misidentified against the “No-Fly” or “Selectee” watch lists. 

TSA’s “layered approach to security” relies not only upon equipment and technological advances, but also upon improved security screening techniques employed by the TSA screeners as well as the very effective use of canines.  This legislation calls for TSA’s National Explosives Detection Canine Team to deploy more of these valuable resources across the nation’s transportation network.

The bill we are considering also contains the provisions of S. 184, the Surface Transportation and Rail Security Act of 2007, which was also developed and reported on a bipartisan basis by the Commerce Committee.

While the aviation industry has received most of the attention and funding for security, the rail and transit attacks in , , and all point to a common strategy utilized by terrorists.  The openness of our surface transportation network presents unique security challenges.  The vastness of these systems requires targeted allocation of our resources based on risk. 

Most of the surface transportation security provisions in the bill before the Senate today have been included previously as part of other transportation security bills introduced by Senator Inouye, Senator McCain, and myself.  Many of the provisions in the substitute amendment passed the Senate unanimously last year, as well as in the 108th Congress.  Each time, however, the House of Representatives did not agree to the need to address rail, pipeline, motor carrier, hazardous materials and other over-the-road security.  The time has come to send these provisions to the President’s desk.  We’re hopeful the House will agree this time.

The substitute also contains the provisions of the Commerce Committee-reported measure, S. 385, the Interoperable Emergency Communications Act.  Since 2001, we have heard the cries of public safety officials that the police, firefighters and emergency medical response personnel throughout the country need help achieving interoperability.

With this $1 billion program that helps every state, public safety will be able to move forward with real solutions and begin addressing the problems that have plagued our nation’s first responders for too long.

The legislation addresses all of the public safety issues that have been brought to the Commerce Committee’s attention.  It also includes $100 million to establish both Federal and State strategic technology reserves that will restore communications quickly in disasters equal in scale to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 

We must not politicize national security.  The Commerce Committee’s provisions included in this bill are very important, and I urge their adoption.  Again, I thank very much the cooperation of the Homeland Security Government Affairs Committee. We achieved our reported bills that I have mentioned here from the Commerce Committee because of the bipartisanship in our Committee.  I hope that this debate on this important bill before the Senate will continue in that same spirit.  The American people really expect and deserve nothing less.

 

Senator Ted Stevens and Congressman Don Young Speak at Signing of Enrolled Magnuson-Stevens Act

January 3, 2007

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) in his role as President Pro Tempore, sign the enrolled Magnuson-Stevens Act on Wednesday, January 3, 2007. Stevens was joined by Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) at the ceremony. The Magnuson-Stevens Act passed both the House and Senate last December. Legislation that passes both the House and Senate must be enrolled and signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate before being sent to the President for final signature and approval into law.

Op-Eds

Can the Right Technology End Distracted Driving?

February 5, 2014

Can the Right Technology End Distracted Driving?

By Sen. Jay Rockefeller

Roll Call

Feb. 5, 2014

JDR Head ShotAt any given moment during any given day, hundreds of thousands of drivers in the United States are using their phones while behind the wheel — talking, texting or searching for information — and endangering their lives and the lives of those around them. Technology may be part of our daily habits, but using these devices while driving is becoming a fatal vice that threatens to undo the remarkable progress we have made to improve highway safety. According to the National Safety Council, as many as a quarter of today’s automobile crashes involve drivers talking or texting on their phones, and there is no sign of the problem abating.

Surveys show that nearly all Americans know the perils of distracted driving — that texting behind the wheel, for instance, makes it 23 times more likely that they will be involved in a crash. Yet the temptations to use electronic devices, and the resulting tragedies, persist.

Auto companies and the software industry are now eagerly developing in-car “infotainment” systems that offer ever-more connectivity and features to mirror the temptations of our smartphones. They say consumers are demanding constant connectivity in the car, and that these systems are safer than the alternatives. Further, they claim transferring such functionalities from the phone to the built-in system will reduce distractions and increase our safety because drivers will put down their phones.

Despite these new advances, I reject this “lesser of two evils” reasoning that, because in-car infotainment systems are supposedly safer than hand-held smartphones, they belong in cars. Lost amid this focus on a technological solution is careful consideration of whether these onboard systems should, in fact, replicate so much of the connectivity — a lot of it completely unrelated to driving — that we have on smartphones. For instance, I see no reason drivers should be able to update their social-media profiles or compare restaurant and hotel reviews while behind the wheel. Furthermore, researchers have shown that distractions come in different forms, and, while these in-car systems can reduce the amount of time that the drivers’ hands and eyes are off the wheel and the road, attention can still dangerously wander. 

In contrast to the current industry approach, I believe we should be leveraging the technology in our cars and harnessing the same ingenuity to reduce distracted driving, rather than creating new forms of distraction. Many drivers may, in fact, prefer to limit their distractions while they are on the road. And many parents would like the ability to establish such limitations for teen drivers in their family. Perhaps we should be looking to limit the functionality of mobile and built-in technologies, rather than accommodate them.

I strongly believe phones should be capable of automatically limiting functionalities while in the car, whether the phones are connected to the in-car systems or not. We know that technological means of accomplishing this already exist, but they are not widely available and do not seamlessly operate across software platforms. Mobile device-makers, software developers, automakers and wireless carriers should be working collaboratively now to remove these obstacles. This is a problem that cannot be solved by just one industry alone, and I would like to see broad cooperation across the spectrum of stakeholders.

Later this week, I am convening a summit on this critical public safety matter and bringing all of the key industries to the same table and pushing them to act — and to act now. Over the course of my chairmanship of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I have dedicated significant attention to protecting Americans on our nation’s roadways. Yes, the car has never been safer, and technology has been a key ingredient in that success, but this progress is being undermined by the glut of nonessential technology that has nothing to do with the task of driving. 

It is my hope and expectation that the summit will spur industries to proactively seek technological solutions that can be widely adopted, readily available, and highlight to the public the life-or-death matter of staying focused behind the wheel.

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The Digital Revolution Must Be Televised Nationwide

October 16, 2007

The Hill Special Report: Telecom - A revolution is coming to television sets across this country. On February 17, 2009–less than 500 days away–television broadcasters will switch from analog to digital signals. For viewers, this change holds tremendous promise. By migrating to digital, they can enjoy dramatically sharper pictures and crisper sound. Broadcasters now offering a single channel of analog programming will be able to develop multiple digital channels, with more regional news, weather, children’s fare, and content for non-English speakers. On top of this, the switch to digital means more efficient use of our airwaves, opening up more spectrum for our nation’s first responders.


The rewards of a successful digital television (DTV) transition are enormous. Like in any revolution, however, these rewards come with an undercurrent of risk. As many as 21 million households rely exclusively on over-the-air television. These households risk seeing their sets go dark. So do millions more that have one or more analog sets that are not connected to either cable or satellite service. Yet a recent poll from the National Association of Broadcasters suggests that only 1 in 10 Americans know when the digital transition is coming.


To ensure success, we must draw up a battle plan. At the federal level, this responsibility falls principally on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).


The FCC is charged with managing the airwaves used by our nation’s broadcasters. It must act decisively to ensure that broadcasters are fully prepared for the switch. It also must ensure that consumers are not only generally informed about the DTV transition, but also are given information tailored to advise them about changes occurring in the communities where they live.


The NTIA is in charge of the government program that, beginning January 1, 2008, will allow consumers to request up to two $40 coupons per household to defray the cost of digital-to-analog converter boxes. These boxes make it possible for consumers who rely on over-the-air service to continue to receive television broadcasts. Without them, their sets could cease to work. But with three months to go, the NTIA program is plagued by uncertainties. It is not clear which boxes have been certified and which retailers will stock them on their shelves.


Getting these boxes in the hands of consumers is a challenge. Getting the word out is even more daunting. Yet to date, efforts on the outreach front have been patchy. The FCC is in the early stages of reaching out to at-risk populations. The NTIA has $5 million to spend on consumer outreach, but its efforts have barely begun. Making a complicated situation even more difficult, the General Accountability Office (GAO) has suggested the absence of federal action is raising questions about who has ultimate authority for the switch. In the ominous words of a recent GAO witness: “It’s pretty clear to us that there is no one in charge.”


The time has come to manage the mechanics of the transition with the American public in mind. First, to get this done right, the Administration should establish a federal, interagency DTV Task Force, co-chaired by leadership at the FCC and NTIA. The DTV Task Force would determine how best to marshal existing resources across the federal government and advise Congress as to what additional measures may be necessary to ensure a smooth transition. A similar structure was used successfully to coordinate federal action in addressing the Y2K problem.


Second, as we develop this national effort, it is imperative that we match our work with local needs and strategies. National messages will only take us so far. What works in Houston may not work in Honolulu. Questions about the impact of broadcast tower construction, the presence of translator stations, and the need for antennas will require local answers. We need the equivalent of DTV “block captains” ready, willing, and able in every media market in this country.


Finally, we must enhance transparency and accountability for the digital transition. Indeed, success will require that we regularly measure data in each television market. As part of this assessment, the DTV Task Force should consider ways of collecting and reporting granular data that will validate successful strategies and provide early warning when we are at risk of running off the rails.


The countdown to February 17, 2009 is on. For the revolution to yield benefits for viewers across the country, the time to act is now.

THE HILL OP-ED: Communications issues still need Congress’s attention

February 7, 2007

As our nation moves farther into the digital age, there are several important issues that Congress should consider which will dramatically affect the way millions of Americans communicate. These issues include reforming universal service, easing the transition to digital television, and encouraging Internet access.


All Americans deserve the advantages presented by essential communications, and telemedicine and distance learning are especially important to rural America. To encourage the deployment of such services, we must maintain and reform the universal service program, which helps connect the entire nation. An important and overdue first step is the USA Act (S.101 – the Universal Service for Americans Act), which mirrors language contained in the comprehensive communications bill reported out of the Senate Commerce Committee last year.


The USA Act would place all communications companies on a level playing field, acknowledging new technologies and lowering the burden on industry. The bill ensures continued support for schools and libraries to provide broadband Internet access to students, library patrons and health clinics (including rural pharmacies). Additionally, it creates a program to support the expansion of broadband Internet access in underserved areas. More will need to be done, but these measures are desperately needed to ensure access to communications for all Americans so our nation does not lose its technological edge.


Basic communications services for Americans are not the only issues that need to be addressed. A sea change is coming in the way Americans watch television, especially for those who receive broadcast signals over the air. Last year, the Senate set a hard date for the transition from analog television broadcasting to digital television broadcasting. This transition will allow broadcast spectrum to be devoted to emergency interoperable communications for police, firemen, paramedics and other first responders.


Also, pursuant to the digital transition law, valuable broadcast spectrum will be auctioned and proceeds will fund a converter box program to ease the digital transition for consumers. Auction proceeds will also fund important grants for public safety and first responders. To help with the transition, the National Association of Broadcasters is launching a massive education campaign to ensure consumers are aware of the coming change and are prepared for the switch to digital signals.


The Internet is an increasingly vital part of our daily lives, and Congress must work to ensure that we do not hinder its growth. It is imperative that the government find ways to encourage the deployment of broadband throughout the nation and promote increased Internet access for all Americans. The digital television transition, which passed last Congress, will free up valuable spectrum for increased broadband Internet deployment.


The FCC has also played an important part in this goal by recently approving an item that will speed the deployment of advanced networks by telephone companies. Such networks will provide competition for cable companies, and reduce prices. These networks will also increase quality television programming and offer Americans even faster Internet access. Congress can also play a role in supporting improved Internet access by extending the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which will expire on Nov. 1, 2007.


As Congress addresses these pressing communications issues, it should not get sidetracked by theoretical problems. Some members of Congress would impose net regulation in an era of unprecedented investment, innovation and job creation. I continue to support the right of every broadband consumer to access all legal content on the Internet. But behind flashy catchphrases, special interests are pushing agendas that will not solve the communications issues that require immediate attention. In fact, both Robert Kahn and David Farber, known as the father and grandfather of the Internet, are firmly opposed to sweeping regulation of the Internet.


The Internet has not only existed, but flourished without unnecessary government intervention. It is my hope that special interests do not succeed in denying consumers the benefits of communications technology, investment, innovation and jobs.


Stevens is the ranking member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.