Impeachment Trial

The Senate impeachment trial of President Trump continued this week, with the House managers concluding their argument on Friday. The President’s Counsel presented their defense this week. The duration of the trial remains to be determined as senators consider whether to call witnesses, notably former National Security Advisor John Bolton.

Review of NTIA’s Federal Spectrum Management Processes

On the other side of the Capitol, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) last Friday requesting a review of the NTIA’s federal spectrum management processes. Citing what they see as a broken management system, Pallone and Walden asked GAO to study six specific issues ranging from improving coordination between agencies that share spectrum bands to increasing the efficiency of frequency allocation dispute resolutions.

Section 230

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who chairs the House Consumer Protection Subcommittee, told reporters this week that she is considering introducing legislation to amend Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. She said her bill would not make a “massive change” to the liability protection, but would reform certain aspects. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) is also expected to soon introduce legislation to repeal Section 230 in its entirety, while Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) have discussed Section 230 reform legislation focused on child exploitation.

Collins Challenges Loeffler

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Doug Collins (R-GA) launched a primary challenge against Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) this week. Collins is expected to step down at the Committee’s top Republican amid its ongoing investigation into online platforms and market power. House Oversight and Reform Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan (R-OH) is seen as a potential replacement for Collins.

Huawei & the UK

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle criticized the UK’s decision this week to allow Huawei to build limited parts of its 5G networks with several Republican members, including Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Reps. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Jim Banks (R-IN), and Liz Cheney (R-WY) calling into question the US-UK “special relationship.” A key concern among critics is that the UK’s decision might influence other European markets, such as Germany, to follow its lead.

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Proposal, USMCA

On Monday, President Trump hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House ahead of unveiling of his Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal on Tuesday. Elsewhere, the President swore in Jovita Carranza as the new administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) on Monday and on Wednesday, signed the US-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade agreement into law. For the tech community, the agreement shows promise in its attention to global access in digital trade and a free flow of data across borders. Another win for industry is the inclusion of protections extending the United States’ liability shield for online content to Mexico and Canada. Canada still needs to ratify the agreement, which is expected to wrap up by April, and all three countries need to meet their obligations outlined in the deal before it can enter into force.

Digital Tax

With a goal of keeping everyone, including France and the United States, at the negotiating table, global digital tax talks continued yesterday and today between about 135 countries at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Digital tax discussions began in earnest among the G-20’s leaders in 2013 and there is an expectation that by the end of 2020, the OECD will build support for major reforms. Some countries, like Austria and Italy, which have already passed their own digital tax rules targeting tech firms, have said they could drop national efforts if the countries can collectively can come to a compromise within the framework of the OECD. Although France and the U.S. brokered a temporary truce on digital tax last week in Davos, the future of how these discussions play out is certain to be contentious.

Rural Digital Opportunity Fund

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission adopted rules for its Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which is a reverse-auction mechanism that will provide up to $20.4 billion over 10 years in subsidies for broadband deployment in remote parts of the country. The RDOF auction will prioritize networks with higher speeds, greater usage allowances, and lower latency.  FCC Chairman Ajit Pai indicated a desire for the auction to begin later in 2020.

Read more in McGuireWoods Consulting’s Emerging Technologies Washington Update.