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Digital Liberty blog

Coalition Urges 116th Congress to Support Intellectual Property By | March 13, 2019

Today, Digital Liberty joined a coalition of over 70 cosigners urging the 116th Congress to protect intellectual property rights for every American innovator.

The coalition sets forth principles on intellectual property including protecting intellectual property rights on the internet, among other principles, while pointing out that intellectual property is a fundamental property right that deserves the same respect as a physical property.

Click here to read a copy of the letter.


Members of the 116th Congress:

It is an exciting time for America, particularly in the knowledge-based economy. American entrepreneurship, ingenuity and creativity lead the world, and we believe that intellectual property (IP) rights are a key ingredient to American competitiveness.

FTC slaps lip-syncing app with huge fine in COPPA case By Demri Scott | March 06, 2019

As the internet has grown and become increasingly more connected, more and more troves of data are being collected on the websites and apps we use every day. With this data collected, there is a growing concern for consumer data privacy online. 

With the privacy debate heating up, the Federal Trade Commission announced that, the app now known as TikTok, will receive a $5.7 million fine for infringing on the children’s privacy law, COPPA. The fine is the largest monetary settlement the FTC has imposed in a COPPA case.

The app allows users to make their own lip-synced videos to music and to share them with other users. The problem is that, according to the FTC complaint, the operators of the app knew that many users were under 13 and failed to notify parents about the app’s data collection or obtain parental consent before collecting and using the data.

Thousands of parents reached out to the app claiming they didn’t give consent for the app to collect data on their children.

Excessive cable franchising fees have to go By Demri Scott | January 31, 2019

Every year, the government rakes in billions from Americans by exploiting cable franchising fees, a complicated policy issue that many don’t even know exists.

Local governments can ask cable providers to pay cable franchising fees, which started as a result of technological boundaries. Since service was limited to city limits, local franchising authorities framed cable franchising fees within a particular municipality in exchange for access to public rights of way. Cable franchising fees are still on the books and are limited to a 5% fee in an effort to prevent LFAs from imposing exorbitant fees.

How many JEDIs do we need? By Katie McAuliffe | December 10, 2018

Digital Liberty joined a coalition letter supporting a review of the $10 billion JEDI contract to build and maintain cloud service for the DOD. The full text of the letter is posted below: 

Dear Acting Inspector General Fine,

On October 22, 2018, Reps. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Tom Cole (R-Okla.) sent a letter to you requesting an investigation into allegations surrounding the development of requirements and the request for proposal (RFP) for the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative (JEDI) cloud program.  The undersigned organizations, acting on behalf of our millions of members and supporters across the country, write in support of this request.

Keep Spam Out of Text Messages By Demri Scott | December 04, 2018

Text messaging is a trusted source of communication for Americans. That is not a coincidence.

Historically, text messaging has a spam rate of 2.8% while other messaging services such as email have spam rates as high as 53%. The rate of spam on SMS is so low for a reason—carriers are able to filter out spam messages. But that is only because the regulatory definitions currently in place allow providers to do that.

On this month’s FCC Open Meeting is an item on robotexts, ruling on a petition from Twilio, a mass texting service. The draft item on text messages would formally classify messaging as an information service, not a telecommunications service, reaffirming the regulatory definition of mobile messaging. It might seem mundane but maintaining the regulatory definition of SMS would ensure that consumers do not see an influx in text messaging spam.

Broadband in Space By Katie McAuliffe | November 14, 2018

America has a goal of connecting everyone to high-speed Internet access with a particular focus on connecting rural areas. Over the last two years, the president and congress have approved additional rural broadband spending and we are likely to see more in the Farm Bill.

We also want more competition in the marketplace so that people have a choice of providers. With 5G wireless will be better able to compete with wireline services.  The FCC is even reducing regulatory barriers for broadband from space.

SpaceX has been the focus in the news, but the FCC is reviewing satellite proposals for broadband from Telesat, LeoSat and Kepler Communications as well.

The FCC’s consideration shows a move to increase market competition for broadband as never before. These approvals are a positive and the FCC has shown diligence in balancing satellite needs with safety for other space mission and the decommissioning of space junk.

On 5G San Jose doesn’t get it By Demri Scott | November 13, 2018

A number of cities are getting ready for 5G by setting up policies that will allow companies to invest in next generation technologies. Unfortunately, some cities like San Jose still do not get it that exorbitant fees would effectively prevent 5G deployment. 

Earlier this year, the FCC approved several items that will speed up the deployment of next generation technologies by setting guidance on reasonable cost recoupment fees, and a timeline for the approval process, all of which were guided by and are in line with preexisting legislation at the state level. While previous generations relied on large cell towers, 5G will require a dense concentration of small cells to cover a particular area.

Since 5G deployment relies on small cells, which are so different from previous generations, the regulatory process for deployment needed to be updated so providers were not effectively prohibited from deployment. 

Net Neutrality's Impact on the Midterms By Brooke Starr | November 05, 2018

Technology policy has origins almost as far back as the founding of the country itself, while today the U.S has the largest tech market in the world, reaching $1.6 trillion in 2018. Tech policy, however, does not seem to be a pivotal issue in our nation when it comes to elections, although it has incredible importance to not only the economy, but also our daily lives in the form of the internet and social media. Roslyn Layton recently published, “Tech Policy and the Midterm Elections” for the American Enterprise Institute, arguing that although tech policy has deep roots in American policy, it does not seem to be a key driver in elections. She analyzes the potential effects of the net neutrality debate in particular.

5G Depends on America’s Carriers By Demri Scott | October 23, 2018

5G will revolutionize our lives whether it’s through IOT technologies such as telemedicine, or automated vehicles, the opportunities are endless.

But, the switch to 5G will require providers to make fundamental changes in spectrum use and infrastructure, while implementing softwarization.  A new report released by MIT economist Dr. William Lehr details these changes and explains that companies will need to invest in a massive amount of financial, technical and operational resources to make 5G technologies available in the near future.

5G will require Mobile Network Operators to have a combination of high, mid and low band spectrum assets. In the past, MNOs have relied on licensed spectrum and build up their spectrum assets through auctions and mergers. Access to spectrum helps consumers the most as it leads to lower cost and higher quality of service. 5G requires a lot of spectrum and in order to remain competitive in the market, MNOs will need to have enough spectrum to deploy 5G.

ATR & Digital Liberty support the Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act By Demri Scott and Brooke Starr | October 12, 2018

On October 11, Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore) introduced a bill to promote neutrality, simplicity, and fairness in the taxation of digital goods and digital services (S.3581). The bill establishes a framework that would protect Americans from being charged duplicative and discriminatory taxes online. A sister bill, H.R.7058, was introduced in the House on October 12. 

A similar bill (S.851/H.R.1643) was previously introduced in the 114th Congress by Senator Thune (R-S.D.) in the Senate and Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) in the House. The House bill made it through four separate committees and a mark-up before being ordered to be amended in June of 2015. The Senate bill was read twice then referred to the Committee on Finance.