US Broadband in 2021; Policies Promoting Infrastructure, Competition, National Security and Universal Access

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During his presidential campaign, President Biden committed “to build back better in rural America” by “expand[ing] broadband, or wireless broadband via 5G, to every American.” Last month, President Biden renewed his focus on “universal broadband” through the announcement of a bipartisan agreement for a large infrastructure bill that highlights broadband connectivity. Between setting the goal and realizing congressional appropriations to implement his “Build Back Better” initiative, federal (and in some situations, state) regulators have also confronted several important broadband infrastructure issues this year as they balance an understandable desire for competition and choice among broadband networks and service offerings against the practical challenges and economic realities of broadband deployment. What progress has the Biden Administration made so far?

Broadband is more important now than ever. According to a 2021 report by Parks Associates, 41% of US broadband households have been working or attending schools remotely, with the COVID-19 pandemic having driven approximately 7.2% of those households to upgrade their broadband network last year. Terabytes of data are communicated and shared every second through broadband Internet platforms – the most ubiquitous means of communication and connection.

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Here Come the Proposed CCPA Regulations We’ve All Been Waiting For

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After a long wait, the California Attorney General’s (AG) office held a news conference on October 10, 2019, and published proposed regulations implementing the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Companies gearing up for CCPA’s January 1, 2020, effective date should quickly review and assess the proposed regulations’ potential effects on their operations and consider attending upcoming public hearings or submitting public comments by December 6, 2019.

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Texas Amends State Breach Notification Law and Creates Advisor Council to Study Privacy Laws

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Businesses in Texas that own or license computerized data will expect a shortened data breach notification deadline for any breach of sensitive personal information after January 1, 2020. Meanwhile, reporting to state attorney general (“AG”) will become mandatory if more than 250 Texans are involved in a single data breach.

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FTC: “Illegal Robocallers, You’re Out”

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In an active week of FTC announcements, the agency on March 26, 2019, announced four major settlements with entities that were responsible for billions of illegal robocalls made to consumers nationwide. The entities targeted by the agency initiated illegal robocalls across a number of industries – they pitched auto warranties, debt-relief services, home security systems, fake charities, and Google search results services. These settlements resolved FTC allegations that the defendants had violated the FTC Act and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule.

In Veterans of America, the FTC’s complaint against Travis Deloy Peterson alleged that he “created and used a series of corporate entities and fictitious business names that sound like veterans’ charities to operate a telemarketing scheme that used robocalls to trick generous Americans into giving their vehicles or other valuable property to him” since at least 2012. The settlement includes a monetary judgment of $541,032.10 and would permanently ban defendant Peterson or his employees or contractors from soliciting charitable contributions, making misrepresentation in advertising or promoting any good or service, initiating robocalls, and engaging in deceptive and abusive telemarketing.

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FTC Seeks Information from Platform-Based ISPs about Their Privacy Practices

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Following congressional hearings last month on potential federal data privacy legislation − Hearing on Policy Principles for a Federal Data Privacy Framework in the United States before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Hearing on Improving Data Security at Consumer Reporting Agencies before the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy − the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on March 26, 2019, announced the initiation of a study concerning the privacy policies, procedures, and practices of seven internet service providers (ISPs). The FTC has used this process in other industries or areas of focus to gather information that it may later share in a public report.

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New Washington State Privacy Bill Incorporates Some GDPR Concepts

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A new bill, titled the “Washington Privacy Act,” was introduced in the Washington State Senate on January 18, 2019. If enacted, Washington would follow California to become the second state to adopt a comprehensive privacy law.

Similar to the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), the Washington bill applies to entities that conduct business in the state or produce products or services that are intentionally targeted to residents of Washington and includes similar, though not identical size triggers. For example, it would apply to businesses that 1) control or process data of 100,000 or more consumers; or 2) derive 50 percent or more of gross revenue from the sale of personal information, and process or control personal information of 25,000 or more consumers. The bill would not apply to certain data sets regulated by some federal laws, or employment records and would not apply to state or local governments.

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