Tech Fans Seek Policy Pals

WASHINGTON — The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation has come out with its latest tech policy to-do list of action items it wants official Washington to study on its July holiday break. (Congress does not return until this week, for example.)

The think tank, whose honorary board includes Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and her political opposite, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), has some policy innovations to spur the Internet of Things, broadband and more, including rethinking the FCC’s public interest standard for media mergers.

Here is a seven-point “lite” version of the expansive holiday reading list:

• “Congress should establish a uniform federal standard for data-breach notification to extricate consumers from the current patchwork of different state requirements that provide uneven protection.” But ITIF also said Congress should reject attempts to “add an additional layer of regulation that would benefit neither consumers nor industry, and instead pre-empt state laws.”

• While most companies already publish their privacy policies, ITIF wants Congress to require them to publish their security practices as well, citing “vague standards, regulation by buzzword, and information asymmetry.”

• One of the American Cable Association historic issues with regulation is that it disproportionately affects the smaller operators that take a harder bottom-line hit from compliance costs. ITIF proposes some help, at least on the cybersecurity front. “Many small businesses do not have anyone who is properly trained on cybersecurity issues, but they still need to mitigate common cyber threats,” it said. “So [the Small Business Association] should develop a free online ‘Cybersecurity Boot Camp’ that provides small businesses the concrete steps they need to create a basic cybersecurity program.”

• As connected cars become the norm, Congress will need to close a digital loophole — law enforcement can search a vehicle armed only with probable cause. And as those “connected cars become increasingly linked to people’s digital identities, there is a risk that police will use this exception to conduct digital searches without warrants,” ITIF said.

• The FCC’s Lifeline low-income broadband subsidy program should be remade into a “simple and streamlined voucher system providing eligible participants a subsidy that could be put toward virtually any communications tool of their choosing.”

• Calling the FCC’s public interest standard “squishy” when it comes to merger reviews, ITIF tabbed it an unpredictable process that creates, at least occasionally, “the appearance of transactional conditions drawn out of merging parties.” ITIF said it wants Congress to “add more specificity to the public interest standard in the context of merger review.” That would include how a merger would impact what it calls “dynamic innovation.”

• ITIF is proposing a Geneva Convention for the care and treatment of user data online. “The United States should engage with its trade partners to establish international legal standards for government access to data,” it said. That would be through multilateral agreements — which could be a tough ask from a president who is all about bilateral treaties — that establish international rules for transparency, settle jurisdictional disputes and coordinate enforcement, as well as limit access by governments to data from other countries.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.