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DC Update: Innovation Act passes House, Republicans announce Comm Act update

Innovation ActThis was a particularly active week in Washington with regard to legislation that affects radio and our overall communications technology landscape. Here’s what happened.

Innovation Act Passes the House

The Innovation Act passed the House on Thursday by a vote of 325 to 91 with broad bipartisan support. The bill is intended to fix some gaps of patent law, in particular those which permit patent trolls to go after customers and users of technologies, like the trolls who are suing podcasters and HD Radio broadcasters.

Like most legislation that goes through the Capitol Hill sausage grinder, it’s not perfect. But the Innovation Act as it is would likely do more to protect the podcasters and broadcasters currently being threatened with lawsuits for using technology that is either freely available or, as in the case of HD Radio, they license from another company. The bill would allow a technology owner, like HD Radio’s iBiquity, to step in on behalf of its customers.

Patent trolls depend on many of their targets settling because of the often prohibitive costs of defending themselves in court. The Innovation Act provides some potential relief by making the plaintiff liable for the defendant’s legal costs if they lose and the lawsuit is deemed “unreasonable.”

Now it’s up to the Senate to craft its own version of the bill.

House Republicans Announce Communications Act Update

The chairmen of the House Commerce Committee and the Communications and Technology Subcommittee announced during a Google Hangout on Tuesday that they intend to begin a review of the Communications Act, last revised in 1996. Representatives Fred Upton (R-MI) and Greg Walton (R-OR) were joined by former FCC Chairman Robert McDowell, who served under President Bush, to discuss their plans for the update.

They were long on generalities and short on specifics, mostly emphasizing the changes in internet and wireless technology since the ’96 Act. Revealing an obvious deregulatory bias, McDowell recalled how the 1996 Act was built on the 1934 Act which itself was built on the foundation of the 19th century Railroad Act. He emphasized that different technologies are regulated based on their history which he said is increasingly “irrelevant.”

Radio felt an enormous impact from the Communications Act of 1996 because it eliminated the national cap on station ownership and greatly relaxed the market caps, resulting in a tidal wave of over-leveraged industry consolidation that arguably gutted most commercial stations of their local staffs and service. Though no specific mention of radio was made in the hangout, rules about internet service, wireless broadband and other digital technologies would affect the broader radio landscape, which itself is no longer confined to the broadcast airwaves.

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) has long been an active player in communications law and policy. In a statement, he urged caution with a Communications Act update. “Changes should not be made simply for change’s sake, but rather based on clear and documented need,” he said. “I urge my colleagues to proceed in a bipartisan manner and to hold numerous hearings in order to generate the record an undertaking this substantial will require.”



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10 Responses to DC Update: Innovation Act passes House, Republicans announce Comm Act update

  1. LMFAO!!! December 6, 2013 at 12:59 pm #

    Paul has become quite the shill for iNiquity – here’s hoping that Wyncomm crushes the HD Radio scam!

  2. Paul Riismandel December 6, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    So, LMFAO, you support patent trolling as long as it affects HD Radio? You don’t care if independent podcasters get sued out of existence based on a patent for cassette programs sent through the mail in the 1990s?

    If you read my coverage you’ll also note that iBiquity itself has not been targeted or sued by the troll, just broadcasters and auto manufacturers.

  3. Bitter Mets Fan December 6, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Ignore LMFAO!!! Paul chance are its HD Radio Farce who for the past half decade has been going on a holy crusade against anything relating to HD Radio in the slightest positive light.

    I’m not a fan of HD Radio either but at least it did lead to some great FM radios being made.

    • LMFAO!!! December 7, 2013 at 10:02 am #

      Except that retailers gave up on HD Radio a long time ago, because they were deaf and no one was buying them!

      • Bitter Mets Fan December 7, 2013 at 11:02 am #

        Best Buy still makes them under their Insignia brand but considering there are zero AM HD Radios being sold I’m surprised that corpse is still being kept alive.

        Plus being able to remove the battery on the portable HD radio would of been a plus.

        • LMFAO!!! December 7, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

          Paul is shilling that AM HD is still alive, implying a mandate from the FCC. The FCC will never be able to mandate HD because of its propriety nature and royalites. Paul has become buddies with John Anderson of DIYmedia, as both are starting to shill for iNiquity. I guess they are unconcerned about IBOC’s jamming affects to the smaller, community, adjacent-channel stations.

          • Bitter Mets Fan December 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

            “I guess they are unconcerned about IBOC’s jamming affects to the smaller, community, adjacent-channel stations.”

            Agreed. : 0

          • Paul Riismandel December 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm #

            Except for the fact that indeed John Anderson and I have been friends for the last 13 years, the rest of your allegations are laughable and stand without a shred of evidence.

            In fact, I think turning the AM band all-digital with HD Radio would be a travesty. I support no such thing. As I have written on this very site, HD on AM is horrible. My opinion has not changed.

            However, to pretend that the FCC is not taking it seriously is to stick one’s head in the sand. That’s what iBiquity and others hope for, that they can sneak it in without serious comment. So that’s why John and I have both called it out, to make sure the possibility is taken seriously by opponents and people who want to keep HD off the AM band.

            You’re welcome.

          • John Anderson December 17, 2013 at 8:39 pm #

            You, sir, are on fucking crack. If you’ve read the last 10 years of my research, you’ll see that I’m no shill. However, I am a realist: your anti-HD trolling, using juvenile pejoratives like ‘iNiquity,” give your game away.

            So either step it the hell up or invent new epithets, yo.

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