AAF Government Report

April 23, 2010

Clark Rector Jr., Executive Vice President – Government Affairs
Alaina Flaherty, Federation Intern

Senate May Consider FTC Issue Soon

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has scheduled a vote for Monday, April 26 to begin consideration of financial reform legislation. The House passed version of the bill grants sweeping new rulemaking authority to the Federal Trade Commission. AAF recently warned members of the dangers of these new powers. That alert can be read here.

As of this writing, the Senate bill does not include the FTC language. However, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Rockefeller recently said, "As we consider Wall Street reform and the creation of a new consumer protection entity, we must recognize the important role of a vibrant FTC. I am working closely with Sen. Dodd and my colleagues to give the new consumer financial protection bureau and the FTC the tools they need to stop bad actors and protect Americans from fraudulent financial products and services."

A coalition of consumer groups has written to Senators urging them to include the House language in the bill. AAF and many other allied associations have written to Senate leadership urging them not to use financial reform to grant the FTC broad powers that extend far beyond financial issues. That letter can be found here. AAF and many of those same groups took out an ad in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call to spread the same message.
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AAF Comments to FCC on Children's Issues

AAF and a broad coalition of advertising and media corporations and associations recently provided comments to the Federal Communications Commission on its Notice of Inquiry Empowering Parents and Protecting Children in an Evolving Media Landscape. The wide ranging comments compellingly argue against the assumption implicit in the NOI that a broad array of societal problems and behaviors are caused by, or can be significantly attributed to media exposure. The full comments can be found here.
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FDA Looks to Reduce Sodium

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is working on measures that would place mandatory limitations on the amount of sodium allowed in manufactured food products. If and when adopted, the plan would allow companies to gradually reduce the amount of sodium in their products, in an effort to assure they do not lose customers due to radical changes in taste.

The FDA has not yet determined what the legal limits should be. Still in question is how the agency will account for inherently salty foods, such as pickles. Also uncertain is how the FDA will allow manufacturers to compensate for the preservative properties of salt. Opponents of the plan argue that self-regulation and full disclosure on labels is the best option for consumers.
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State Officials Oppose Spectrum Auction

The National Governors Association and others sent a letter to the Senate Commerce and House Energy and Commerce Committees urging them to oppose the auction of the D-block of spectrum in the 700 megahertz band to commercial bidders. The NGA asked instead that the national broadband plan be altered so this spectrum will be relocated for public safety users.

The NGA letter argues that auctioning the spectrum will not ensure first responders will have "reliable and resilient communications capabilities" needed for public safety. Other signatories included the Council of State Governments, U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Conference of State Legislatures and the National League of Cities.

House Homeland Security ranking member Peter King, R-N.Y., has introduced a bill to mandate the allocation of the D-block spectrum to public safety officials thereby doubling the amount of spectrum set for public safety use.

The Federal Communications Commission's national broadband plan calls for a nationwide wireless network for public safety officials to be built from spectrum already allocated to that purpose, as well as from additional spectrum from the D-block. In 2008, the FCC unsuccessfully tried to auction off the D-block to a commercial bidder. At that time, a condition of the sale was to enter into a partnership with first responders. The Commission plans another auction with no strings attached for the bidders. House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher, D-Va., supports the FCC auctioning the D-block without any conditions.
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FCC Determined to Push Broadband Agenda Forward

Despite the recent DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruling limiting the FCC's authority over the Internet, many Democratic senators are urging the Commission to push forward with their national broadband plan.

At a recent Senate hearing, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski acknowledged some of the Commission's plans were on shaky ground, though he said he is still committed to strengthening their authority over the Internet. Republican senators warned the Chairman against reclassifying the Internet as a telecommunications service, thereby increasing FCC jurisdiction. If there is a reclassification, "the legitimacy of the agency would be seriously compromised," stated Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-TX, the Commerce Committee ranking member.

Commerce Committee Chairman John Rockefeller, D-W.Va., has expressed deep concern over the future of the broadband plan in the wake of the Court's ruling and has promised congressional action to provide "a new framework" for broadband issues.

There is a large diversity of positions among Web service companies and service providers, as well as politicians over these issues. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps has predicted FCC authority and net neutrality will not be "solved without a fight."
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