January 07, 2016

Outline of President Obama's 2016 Privacy and Telecommunications Agenda

In December, the White House released its Unified Agenda, which outlines the various regulations different federal agencies are working on and where each is in the rulemaking process. The administration’s priorities for the telecommunications and privacy sectors are outlined below.

Department of Justice

The Justice Department focuses on law enforcement across a variety of platforms and includes a civil rights division, to protect against disability discrimination. Among the technology-related regulations the DOJ will be working on is:

  • Next Generation 9-1-1: The Department of Justice issued an Advance Notice of Public Rulemaking (ANPRM) on potential revisions to regulations aimed at ensuring direct access to Next Generation 9-1-1 services. The revisions included regulations on public safety answering points access for individuals with disabilities. The Justice Department is in the process of reviewing the approximately 146 public comments it received in response to its NG 9-1-1 ANPRM and expects to publish an NPRM addressing accessibility of NG 9-1-1 during fiscal year 2017.

Federal Communications Commission

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the primary agency regulating communications laws, regulation and technological innovation. The FCC is expected to continue its work on a number of important issues in 2016. The most heavily discussed include:

Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is focused on protecting consumers from “unfair methods of competition” and “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.” The FTC intends to continue its enforcement activities on a case-by-case basis. Areas it intends to focus on include protecting consumer privacy, protecting children, protecting seniors, protecting financially distressed consumers, fighting identify theft, and addressing new issues that arise from the evolution in our technology (such as mobile cramming and cross-device tracking).

  • Universal Service Fund Reforms: The FCC is expected to release its long-awaited reform to the high-cost and legacy support models for price-cap carriers participating in the Universal Service Fund. In addition, the FCC is expected to include regulations enabling telecommunications providers to receive funding for standalone broadband services. These regulations were originally set to be released in December; however, now they are expected in the first quarter of 2016.
  • Net Neutrality: While the FCC has already released its order on net neutrality, the issue is being debated in the courts and will continue to be a topic of conversation in Congress and at the executive branch.
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