Washington Watch Net Neutrality for Christmas? Post-Transaction Offers and Wyden to the Rescue

FCC Chair GenachowskiDefies GOP on Net Neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has suffered a string a setbacks on net neutrality this year.  In April, the D.C. Circuit ruled the FCC lacked authority for the net neutrality principles adopted by the Bush FCC and therefore the Obama FCC lacked authority for its more comprehensive regulatory proposal on net neutrality.  FCC Chairman Genachowski then offered the “third way” proposal in which the FCC would reclassify broadband access services as a telecommunication service (as opposed to all broadband services) which would enable the FCC to proceed with the net neutrality regulations released in 2009, but this was strongly opposed by Congressional Republicans.

On Election Day, every one of the 95 House Democrats who had pledged to support Net Neutrality legislation lost and Republicans have warned Genachowski not to proceed any further on the issue.   Nonetheless, this week Genachowski released a watered down proposal to be voted on at the Commission’s December 21 meeting that pro-net neutrality critics claim fails to cover mobile broadband providers, but which Republican Commission members have called “reckless”, “inappropriate” and “partisan.”

Rockefeller Post-Transaction Offer Bill Passes the Senate

What began a year ago as a stinging staff report by the Senate Commerce Committee into the “aggressive marketing  techniques” employed by the billion dollar post-transaction offer industry, ballooned into an investigation by the New York attorney general which yielded over $10 million in fines and penalties from companies such as Webloyalty.

This week the Senate approved Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) “Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act”  which would curtail the use of such offers by requiring that the consumer re-enter their credit card information rather than have it transferred directly from the original merchant.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the bill will save consumers millions in unauthorized charges each year.

Senator Wyden Blocks Counterfeiting Vote

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s unanimous passage of the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA) sparked concern over possible swift lame duck passage of what some have dubbed the “Internet Censorship and Copyright Bill” because of the wide latitude given to the government to shut down infringing sites.  Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), has blocked any further consideration of the bill, stressing that the bill “seems almost like using a bunker-busting cluster bomb, when what you need is a precision-guided missile.”

Senator Reid Pushes for Repealing Ban on Online Poker

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is hoping to push legislation during the lame duck session that would permit online poker, but limit entry to preexisting gambling license holders on an initial basis.  Permitting online gambling could generate $40 billion in tax revenue over a ten year period.  The bill is not a sure bet, however, since social conservatives in Congress have indicate they object to any repeal.

More Info: Wireless gets a free pass on net neutrality, Ars Technica; House Republicans Tell FCC: No Net Neutrality for Christmas, Wall Street Journal; Did the FCC just bless a capped, two-tier Internet?, Ars Technica; Rockefeller Bill Summary; Senator Ron Wyden Has Hopefully Killed the Internet Censorship Bill, Geekosystem; Majority Leader Harry Reid Supports Online Poker Legislation;  Poker News Daily