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The Week Ahead: What Denmark's deregulation could mean for US telecom policy

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The Week Ahead: What Denmark's deregulation could mean for US telecom policy

About the FCC:

Before President Donald Trump named Ajit Pai as the next chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, there were a handful of people with more extreme deregulatory views — who questioned even the need for a federal telecom regulator — who were seen as possible candidates to take over the agency's top seat. Among those people was Roslyn Layton, a fellow at Denmark's Aalborg University.

On Oct. 17, Layton and Pai will come together at George Mason University's Mercatus Center to discuss what the U.S. can learn from Denmark when it comes to modernizing U.S. telecommunications law.

In 2011, the Denmark government dismantled its telecom regulator, reshuffling the agency's remaining functions and staff into different departments. The move came 12 years after a group of political parties forged an agreement emphasizing the need for a no-subsidy, market-based, technology-neutral telecom policy that relied heavily on competition rather than regulation to drive innovation and fair pricing.

According to Layton, "a telecom regulator is not essential to deliver telecom laws." She argued earlier this year that a deregulated U.S. market would still be subject to competition law and consumer protection standards under the Federal Trade Commission.

"The Federal Trade Commission can actually recover damages for consumers, whereas the fines collected by the Federal Communications Commission do not benefit those abused," she said.

Interestingly, in 2011, the same year Denmark's central telecom regulator was disbanded, the Danish telecom operators' trade association created a self-regulation body based on a set of net neutrality principles and a multistakeholder process. By contrast, net neutrality protections in the U.S. are currently overseen by the FCC, though it remains unclear how long that will be the case.

Under Pai, the commission has launched a proceeding aimed at overturning the Open Internet Order of 2015, which reclassified broadband as a Title II service under the Communications Act, making broadband subject to more stringent regulatory authority. As part of the proceeding, the FCC has asked whether bright-line net neutrality rules are necessary going forward. Net neutrality proponents say the rules are essential to prevent broadband service providers from discriminating against online content that they do not own, but others argue there are other ways to ensure a free and open internet.

While dismantling the central telecom regulator and moving to "self-regulation" on issues like net neutrality would be relatively extreme actions that would undoubtedly cause partisan rancor in Congress, there are other interesting developments in Denmark that could come up during the Oct. 17 presentation.

The country has mandated digital communication between public sector authorities, citizens and enterprises. For instance, the government eliminated printed forms and letters, required e-invoicing for businesses and set up a standardized bank account for citizens where the government could pay out benefits directly to them. This has led to strong broadband adoption rates in the country. According to Europe's Digital Progress Report in 2017, 94% of Danish citizens are online and the vast majority have at least basic digital skills.

In Congress:

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers and its global brand, the International Society of Broadband Experts, are gearing up for their annual Cable-Tec Expo, set to take place in Denver this year. Among the many topics that will be covered at the event, several panels will focus on ensuring the security and connectivity of the internet of things.

This is also a topic that has attracted Congressional attention, especially because connected devices have been used by bad actors to launch Distributed Denial of Service attacks against websites, web-hosting servers and internet infrastructure providers. In August, Sens. Mark Warner, D-VA, and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., co-chairs of the Senate Cybersecurity Caucus, introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at improving the cybersecurity of connected devices. The Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act of 2017 would require all devices purchased by the U.S. government meet certain minimum security requirements, meaning the devices would have to be patchable and they could not include hard-coded passwords that can't be changed.

According to Warner and Gardner, the internet of things is expected to include over 20 billion devices by 2020. "While I'm tremendously excited about the innovation and productivity that Internet-of-Things devices will unleash, I have long been concerned that too many Internet-connected devices are being sold without appropriate safeguards and protections in place," Warner said in connection to the bill.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

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Congressional hearings:
Oct. 18 The Senate Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on the oversight of the U.S. Department of Justice, with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions set to testify.
FCC events
Oct. 16 The FCC's Disability Advisory Committee will meet at 9. a.m. ET. The committee was established in December 2014 to make recommendations to the commission on a wide array of disability matters and to facilitate the participation of people with disabilities in proceedings before the commission.
Oct. 16 The 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee's working group for terrestrial services is set to meet by phone at 1 p.m. ET. The advisory committee is chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to provide the FCC with public views and recommendations in preparation for the 2019 World Radiocommunication Conference.
Industry events
Oct. 15-17 INCOMPAS, the internet and competitive networks association, will host its annual show in San Francisco. Panel topics include net neutrality and network management. An event dedicated to small cells will be collocated within the larger show.
Oct. 16 The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers will host a daylong internet inclusion event looking at how digital inclusion efforts could affect businesses, organizations, governments and citizens.
Oct. 16 The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation will host America Working Forward, a national workforce conference that showcases employer-led solutions to closing the skills gap.
Oct. 16-19 Broadcasting & Cable and Multichannel News will present NYC Television Week, covering a variety of topics relevant to the next generation of television viewing, including virtual reality and advanced advertising.
Oct. 17 The Federal Communications Bar Association will host a fall reception to meet and greet new FCC Commissioners Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel.
Oct. 17 The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host TecNation 2017, aimed at understanding the way technology is changing business.
Oct. 17 New America will host an event titled, "Old Laws and New Technology: How Can We Keep Up?" The discussion will cover issues like privacy and artificial intelligence, while also asking whether regulation is truly necessary, or whether voluntary frameworks can suffice.
Oct. 17 TEDx Wilmington is hosting a TEDx Salon dedicated to exploring what technology means for travel, from the impact of autonomous vehicles to more integrated travel networks.
Oct. 17 George Mason University's Mercatus Center will host an event titled, "Modernizing US Telecom Law: Lessons from Denmark."
Oct. 17-20 The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers and International Society of Broadband Experts will host their annual Cable-Tec Expo in Denver.
Oct. 18 The New Jersey Wireless Association will host its Wireless Deployment Summit featuring FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly as a keynote speaker.
Oct. 18-19 The National Association of Broadcasters will host NAB Show New York, showcasing next-generation technology for the media, entertainment and telecom industries. The event will include a TV on Wall Street program, a one-day conference offering a business perspective on the economic influences driving the evolution of media. The one-day program is produced in partnership with S&P Global Market Intelligence and Summit Ridge Group.

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