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Week Ahead: FCC extends deadline for net neutrality comments

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Week Ahead: FCC extends deadline for net neutrality comments

In Washington:

The first round of the North American Free Trade Agreement modernization talks are set to begin on Aug. 16 in Washington. And though the agreement was first negotiated more than two decades ago, long before the age of smartphones and ubiquitous high-speed broadband, the technology sector is hoping to make cybersecurity and other tech issues a part of the conversation.

In an Aug. 4 blog post, Ed Brzytwa, director of global policy at the Information Technology Industry Council, said a modernized North American Free Trade Agreement that "addresses a wide range of digital priorities would turbocharge the U.S. economy." Presently, the initial negotiating objectives for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative include several digital provisions, including ensuring data can move freely across borders, prohibiting data localization requirements and prohibiting parties from requiring companies to turn over software source code.

But Brzytwa said a number of other objectives should be prioritized, including promoting a free and open internet, and seeking industry-led, globally interoperable approaches to privacy and cybersecurity. Additionally, Brzytwa said the negotiating governments should ensure the use of industry-led international standards in technical regulations; and promote balanced copyright rules and strong protections for patents and trade secrets.

The first round of NAFTA talks will run from Aug. 16 to Aug. 20, followed by a second round Sept. 1 to Sept. 5 in Mexico City. A third round is scheduled to take place in Ottawa a few weeks later. It is unclear exactly what should be expected from the talks. Prior to the election, President Donald Trump called NAFTA "the worst trade deal" ever signed, and it seemed like he planned to pull out from the agreement entirely. He subsequently agreed to renegotiate the agreement after speaking with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

At the FCC:

The Federal Communications Commission is giving consumers, executives and interest groups more time to file reply comments in the current net neutrality proceeding. The commission said late Aug. 11 that the new deadline for reply comments is Aug. 30, two weeks later than the original deadline, which had been Aug. 16. Under the proceeding, the commission is looking to overturn the Open Internet Order of 2015, which reclassified broadband as a common carrier service. The reclassification made broadband subject to more stringent regulatory authority, enabling the FCC to enforce its net neutrality rules against blocking, throttling and paid prioritization.

As of Aug. 14, the proceeding had attracted nearly 20 million comments. The majority of these are "express" comments, a simplified comment filing process for consumers that is based on topics, rather than a docket or rulemaking number. One question that has surfaced repeatedly is how much attention the commission will give these consumer comments as it considers the proceeding. During a press conference after the FCC's open meeting in August, commission Chairman Ajit Pai said, "We want the public to be able to share their perspectives on this issue."

Yet Pai added that under the dictates of the Administrative Procedure Act, the commission must have substantive evidence for any conclusion it might reach on an issue. Asked what makes a comment "substantive," Pai answered that the FCC is interested in learning about "things like infrastructure investment or the effect on innovation [and] the importance of access."

Earlier this month, 21 senators wrote to Pai asking the chairman to extend the commission's reply comment period in the net neutrality proceeding by an additional 30 days, pushing the deadline back to mid-September. "Given the unprecedented number of comments, we urge the FCC to extend the reply comment period to allow sufficient time for the public to ensure their views are reflected in the record," the senators wrote in an Aug. 3 letter. The two-week extension, then, can be seen as somewhat of a compromise.

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Industry events:
Aug. 13-15 NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association will host its North Central Regional Conference in Sioux Falls, S.D. The regional conference provides operators a small-group setting to discuss changes in regulatory and legislative issues, advancing technologies and the changing landscape of rural telecommunications.
Aug. 14-17 Worldwide Business Research LLC will host eTail, a conference centered on e-commerce. Panels will explore the intersection of social media and shopping, the best use for real-time digital advertising and the future of marketing and retail.
Aug. 15 Gabelli & Co. will host a Broadcasting Symposium in New York City. The symposium will feature fireside chats on topics including broadcast consolidation, the FCC's regulatory plans under the Trump administration and the advertising environment. Participants will include executives from E.W. Scripps Co., Entercom Communications Corp., Entravision Communications Corp., Gray Television Inc., Meredith Corp. and Nexstar Media Group Inc.
Aug. 15 Instinet, a Nomura company, will host its 4th Annual Media Telecom Conference. Presenters will include executives from Sprint Corp. and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
Aug. 15-17 The National Telecommunications and Information Administration's Institute for Telecommunication Sciences and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Communications Technology Laboratory will host the International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies. The government-sponsored conference will focus on how millimeter wave frequencies, approximately 20 GHz and above, can and will be utilized in the future.
Aug. 16 The Practising Law Institute will host FinTech 2017, a program and webcast exploring the legal and compliance issues arising out of advances in financial technology — including crowdfunding, blockchain technology and cryptocurrency.
Aug. 18 The Federal Communications Bar Association will host its State and Local Practice Committee Brown Bag Lunch. At the event, Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable Commissioner Karen Charles Peterson and Wireless Infrastructure Association President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein will talk about their experiences as members of the FCC's Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee.
Aug. 18 The law firm Squire Patton Boggs will host its Venture Law Meetup with a presentation for tech startup entrepreneurs and investors on negotiating venture capital investments. The presentation will focus on deals in Australia and Silicon Valley, as well as the why and how of re-domiciling a startup to the U.S.
Earnings calls:
Aug. 14 WideOpenWest Inc. reports its quarterly earnings results.
Aug. 16 MSG Networks Inc. reports its quarterly earnings results.
Aug. 17 Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. reports its quarterly earnings results.

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