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On April 19, 2016, the U.S. Senate voted 95-3 to approve a security-focused, passenger-friendly bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal air travel programs. The bill included several bipartisan provisions authored by both members of the Senate and the House of Representatives to improve the safety and efficiency of airport security. The bill’s comprehensive security improvement initiatives include:
- Reducing wait times through PreCheck – Senate passed security provisions awaiting House action include the TSA PreCheck Enhancement which would help enroll more Americans in expedited security screening to reduce waits by vetting more passengers before they arrive to get them through checkpoints quickly.
- Using K-9s and personnel to increase safety and efficiency – The Senate bill includes provisions to enhance the security presence of K-9 units and other personnel in pre-screening airport areas and increases preparedness for active shooter incidents.
- Securing international flights bound for the U.S. – Because some international airports abroad operating non-stop flights to U.S. airports lack the security equipment and expertise of U.S. and other state-of-the-art airports, the Senate FAA bill awaiting House action authorizes TSA to donate unneeded security equipment to foreign airports with direct flights to the U.S., permits increased cooperation between U.S. officials and partner nations, and requires a new assessment of foreign cargo security programs.
- Addressing the insider threat of terrorism – The Senate passed bill also enhances requirements and vetting for airport employees with access to secure areas. It expands the use of random and physical inspections of airport employees in secure areas and requires a review of perimeter security.
At 6:30 on the morning of September 26, 1955, the Jacksonville, Florida-based crew of the Snowcloud Five departed Guantanamo, Cuba for Category Four Hurricane Janet.
The aircraft and eleven brave lives were lost to the storm. Hurricane Janet then went on to hit the Yucatan peninsula, with a death toll numbering over five hundred.
As a current NOAA Corps hurricane hunter pilot tells it, when folks ask him if he’s crazy, he just answers, “You’re worth it.” The dedicated officers of the NOAA Corps and the scientists their planes carry are passionate.
And even after the tragedy of the Snowcloud Five, NOAA employees continue to brave the elements to provide severe weather warnings.
So as a senator from the state with the most hurricane strikes in the U.S. mainland, I am deeply appreciative of the work of our witness, the National Hurricane Center, the NOAA Corps hurricane hunters, and the Hurricane Research Division. And I’m proud that each of these entities call Florida home.
Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure to get my hands on technology that can extend the impressive reach of the NOAA hurricane hunters.
Did you know that the hunters fly as low as 1500 feet in these storms?
They do that because the lowest levels of a hurricane—called the boundary layer where the storm meets the ocean—provide critical information about what the storm is going to do. Hurricanes are fueled by warm ocean water. And yesterday, we got to see the hunter’s new partner: a hurricane drone called “The Coyote.” NOAA will deploy eight of these drones—made by Raytheon—during the upcoming hurricane season, which officially starts next week. The Coyote can fly as far as 50 miles away from the hurricane hunter airplane gathering important data about the storm, and especially, about the boundary layer.
Dr. Knabb, I hope you won’t take offense when I say that I hope your job is very boring this year. We’ve been spared from “the big one” for several years now.
Though I hope that trend continues, I also realize that it’s only a matter of time. And we have to be ready.
After the horrific series of storms in 2005—Katrina, Rita, and Wilma—it became clear that our ability to forecast the intensity of a hurricane was not up to par. So several expert reports recommended that we invest $85 million a year for the next 10 years to improve the forecasts.
Seven years ago this month, NOAA formally established the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project.
The five-year goal of the project to reduce average track and intensity errors by 20% has been met. And that’s no small feat. Research within NOAA and at places like the University of Miami has significantly improved our ability to predict where a hurricane will go and how strong it will be.
But proposed budget cuts by the administration threaten the ten-year goal of the program. This is unacceptable.
That’s why Senator Rubio and I filed legislation to codify the Hurricane Forecast Improvement Project. This program is about saving lives and property from one of the most fatal natural disasters.
And we simply cannot afford to be penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to hurricanes.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew claimed 26 lives—15 in Florida alone—and left more than 160,000 Dade County residents homeless. Its economic cost to the United States was over $25 billion dollars.
Hurricane Katrina was responsible for 1833 deaths and $108 billion in damages.
And as Ranking Member Booker knows too well, Superstorm Sandy took 147 lives, damaged at least 650,000 houses, and left 8.5 million customers without power.
So I appreciate Senator Rubio for calling this hearing today. We can’t afford to look in the rearview mirror and wish we had invested more in the science.
Thanks Dr. Knabb for all you do to help us prepare for and avoid the devastation that comes with hurricanes.
"Two years ago, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intention to transition the functions of the Internet Assigned Number Authority (IANA) to the global multistakeholder community.
"Since that time, the multistakeholder community—made up of businesses, technical experts, academics and civil society—has spent more than 26,000 working hours on the IANA (pronounced eye-ANNE-uh) transition proposal, and held more than 600 related meetings and calls.
"At the outset of this hearing, I would like to acknowledge the hard work undertaken by many stakeholders, some of whom are here today as witnesses, in taking on the daunting task of developing the transition proposal.
"Regardless of where one stands on the transition, we should recognize the difficult work that has been done, and the ongoing commitment that will be needed if the transition is to be completed in a way that addresses the important concerns that have been raised about the future governance of the Internet.
"On March 10th, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) forwarded to NTIA for review the transition proposal developed by the global community of Internet stakeholders.
"NTIA set a target of 90 days to complete its review, which is expected to be completed on June 10th, whereupon NTIA will issue a report stating its determination as to whether the proposal meets the criteria NTIA outlined when it first announced the transition, such as the requirement that the proposal maintain the openness and global interoperability of the Internet.
"If NTIA approves the transition, ICANN expects to produce an implementation report by August 15th.
"The existing IANA contract is set to expire on September 30, 2016, unless NTIA acts to extend it or Congress acts to delay the transition.
"These dates are rapidly approaching, which is why I called this hearing today to examine the stakeholders’ transition proposal.
"Our Committee held an earlier hearing on the proposed IANA transition in February of 2015.
"At that hearing, I said I would review any IANA transition plan to make sure it both meets the requirements laid out by NTIA, and that it adopts meaningful accountability reforms, such as curtailing government involvement in apolitical governance matters; providing additional oversight tools to the multistakeholder community; and adopting an independent dispute resolution process.
"Last year, I also introduced the DOTCOM Act along with Senators Schatz, Wicker, and Rubio, which our committee approved on a bipartisan basis.
"With that bill, which also passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 378 to 25, we all made it clear that any transition plan must not “replace the role of the NTIA with a government-led or intergovernmental organization.”
"Further, the DOTCOM Act would require any transition plan to maintain “the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet domain name system.”
"I hope to hear from each of our witnesses whether they believe the proposed IANA transition plan developed by the multistakeholder community meets these requirements, as well as whether it satisfies NTIA’s criteria.
"In particular, I am interested to learn whether the stakeholder community has delivered a proposal with accountability reforms strong enough to give Congress and the American people confidence that the time has come to privatize the IANA functions.
"At last year’s IANA hearing, I said that the goal of everyone here is the same: we want one, global Internet that is not fragmented nor hijacked by authoritarian regimes.
"Whether the IANA transition goes forward or not, I know that everyone wants to ensure all Internet users can continue to have complete faith that the IANA functions will be carried out effectively and seamlessly long into the future.
"We have a distinguished panel here today, representing a diverse variety of perspectives, professional experiences, and personal views.
"I’m looking forward to hearing from each of you.
"With that, I turn to the ranking member for any comments he would like to make."
"Good morning. Welcome to today’s hearing on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
"When passing TCPA nearly 25 years ago, Congress expressly sought a balanced approach that “protects the privacy of individuals and permits legitimate telemarketing practices.”
"As a result of TCPA, a number of abusive and disruptive telemarketing practices have been significantly reduced or eliminated. For example, companies have to maintain “do-not-call” lists and cannot make solicitation calls before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m.
"But, TCPA is also showing its age, and there are opportunities to build on its consumer benefits while also ensuring consumers fully benefit from modern communications. "Consumers should be able to take advantage of new technologies that help them avoid falling victim to unscrupulous actors and those callers who ignore “do not call” requirements. I doubt there is a person in this room who has not received a recorded voice on their mobile phone telling them they have won a cruise.
"We should also ensure that the FCC continues to take action against abusive and harassing practices, and has the tools it needs to bring bad actors to justice, including those operating from overseas. We recently took a step in this direction by unanimously approving Ranking Member Nelson and Senator Fischer’s anti-spoofing legislation as part of the FCC Reauthorization Act.
"But, our discussion today is not only about policing abusive and harassing practices and stopping bad actors. We must also acknowledge that most businesses are trying to do the right thing and play by the rules, and we need to understand whether TCPA is inadvertently hurting the good actors and consumers.
"When Congress passed TCPA, cell phones were uncommon and mobile telephone service was extremely expensive. It made sense to have particularly strict rules about contacting people on their mobile phones.
"Today, however, mobile phones are not only ubiquitous, they are actually smart devices that do much more than just send and receive phone calls.
"Consumer behavior is also far different today than in 1991. In fact, today’s consumer expectations about communications connectivity and the benefits of better contact with their doctors, schools, favorite charities, and – yes – even their lenders would be unrecognizable to Congress 25 years ago.
"More than 90 percent of Americans now have a mobile phone, and nearly half of all households in the United States are mobile-only. These percentages are even higher for young adults. Simply put, if you can’t reach these people on their mobile phones, you are going to have a hard time reaching them at all.
"The balance forged decades ago may now be missing the mark, and consumers may be missing the benefits of otherwise reasonable and legitimate business practices.
"The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was tasked by Congress with assuring a balanced application of TCPA. The Commission, however, has struggled to apply TCPA to a changing communications marketplace, and the agency actually seems to be creating more imbalances and more uncertainty.
"The Commission’s rules have created new questions rather than answers.
"For example, what is an auto-dialer? The Commission will not answer that clearly, and instead only says it is something other than a rotary-dialed telephone.
"The FCC declared last year that it would not “address the exact contours of the ‘auto-dialer’ definition or seek to determine comprehensively each type of equipment that falls within that definition.” Hospitals, charities, utilities, banks, and restaurants should not have to engage engineers and telecommunications attorneys in order to know if they can call their customers without being sued.
"Another example is what to do if a customer’s number has been reassigned? While the FCC claims to have addressed this issue, companies say there is still no way to know with certainty. What is certain, however, is that if a phone number has been reassigned and you call it more than once, you could be liable for $500 per call, even if the new party never answers.
"TCPA litigation has also become a booming business. TCPA cases are the second most-filed type of case in federal courts, with 3,710 filed last year alone. That represents a 45 percent increase over 2014.
"And the companies affected by an unbalanced TCPA may surprise you. For example, Twitter stated the following in a filing at the FCC:
“As a result of this hyper-litigious environment, innovative companies increasingly must choose between denying consumers information that they have requested or being targeted by TCPA plaintiffs’ attorneys filing shake-down suits. No company should be put to such a choice.”
"The cost of getting the balance wrong isn’t just burdensome litigation, it is also the cost to consumers—and to the economy—of the important consumer contact that is not being made for fear of running afoul of an ill-defined rule:
"Text messages to let parents know about weather-related cancellations; calls to let struggling low-income households know how to keep the heat from getting cut off; calls to alert borrowers that they are at risk of defaulting on their debts and ruining their credit ratings; and follow-up calls to patients to make sure they understand their post-discharge treatment plans.
"Another specific matter that will be discussed today is the Obama Administration’s carve out to allow robocalls to mobile phones to collect debts owed to or guaranteed by the federal government.
"The Administration used last year’s must-pass Bipartisan Budget Act as a vehicle to achieve its robocall carve out. The Committee reached out to the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Education to testify about why the Administration has prioritized this robocall carve-out for years. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration is not represented before us today, but we will continue to seek its input as its robocall carve-out is implemented by the FCC and as the Committee continues its oversight of TCPA.
"Ultimately, finding the right balance is essential to protecting the privacy of consumers while making sure they have reasonable access to the information they want and need, and making sure good faith business actors can reasonably assess the cost of doing business.
"We have a variety of perspectives with the panel before us and I look forward to hearing your testimony and appreciate your participation today."
Mr. Chairman, today we’re going to hear a lot about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act – and what some say needs to be changed about that law.
This law is one of the preeminent and most loved consumer protection statutes we have. And protecting consumers will be my focus here today.
There are few things that unite Americans more than their visceral dislike of robocalls.
Go anywhere in this country and ask the average consumer: Do you want to receive more unwanted robocalls? How about more robocalls on your mobile phone?
You may just get a mobile phone thrown at you.
In fact, I’m quite sure most folks would love to give unwanted telemarketers a taste of their own medicine, if given the chance.
I know that I do not want any more robocalls – especially on my cell phone.
It is a sentiment that nearly all of us share. That is why, for the past 25 years, our nation’s laws have sided firmly with consumers on this issue.
And it’s no wonder.
The number of consumer complaints about robocalls continues to increase. The FCC receives tens of thousands of robocall complaints per month. The FTC receives hundreds of thousands per month.
And we all have stories close to home.
One of my staff members signed up for land line service one morning, and by the afternoon – before he had even given his new number to family and friends – his phone was being flooded by robocalls. He soon gave up the land line.
In fact, many of my friends have abandoned their land line phones for wireless only phones, in part, in order to escape the incessant robocalls.
For most of us, our cell phone is our lifeline and our haven. If we allow those annoying robocalls to begin freely bombarding folks’ mobile phones, where do those people go to escape the harassment?
What happens when people start to ignore calls to their mobile phones from unknown numbers so they don’t have to hear another recording, only to miss an important call about a loved one or friend?
What about elderly and low-income Americans? Many of these consumers still subscribe to cell phone calling plans that are restricted in the number of minutes they can use per month.
Opening the flood gates to wireless robocalls to those individuals would have an immediate adverse impact, jeopardizing the lifeline those phones represent.
What about trying to drive down the road with your mobile phone ringing incessantly with robocalls? Talk about distracted driving. And where would it all end?
Let me, of course, acknowledge that much of Americans’ frustration with robocalls are because of fraudulent callers. Scammers will always be a problem. That’s why, for example, Senator Fischer and I teamed up on our bill to combat spoofing. That’s why I also would like to see a revamped and improved Do-Not-Call list.
At the same time, I appreciate that there are legitimate business – or other – reasons to call consumers on their wireless phones.
But there is already an answer to that – just get the consumer’s consent first as businesses have been able to do since the law was passed in 1991.
In the bubble of Washington, policy makers are often in danger of losing sight of what is in the actual best interests of consumers.
But make no mistake: outside this hearing room, outside the corporate boardrooms, outside the offices of defense counsel or debt collectors, the idea of allowing greater access for robocalls to consumers’ cell phones without their consent is an idea that is dead on arrival with the American people.
I want to welcome our panel for appearing before us today and look forward to your testimony.
NBC, CBS, FOX, CNN, Gizmodo, and Others Cover Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune’s Letter to Facebook on “Trending Topics” Bias Allegations
"Good morning, I welcome all our witnesses to today’s hearing, which presents a good opportunity to discuss ways to improve the efforts of the federal government, the private sector, and academia in R&D; STEM education initiatives; and technology transfer of scientific research to commercial applications.
"The Committee has jurisdiction over important federal science agencies, including the National Science Foundation, or NSF, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP, and the Committee has been actively developing legislative proposals to confront the challenges associated with advancing the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise in our budget environment.
"The good news is that, among individual countries, the United States is still the largest investor in public and private R&D, comprising 27 percent of the global R&D total in 2013 according to the National Science Board. But China is catching up, with 20 percent of the global total.
"While we could hope for more resources, tough budget realities underscore the importance of developing policy solutions that maximize our federal investments so we can stay competitive, get the biggest bang for our buck, and leverage even more private sector resources to expand the reach of our R&D. This Committee has been active on this front.
"Last year, in consultation with Ranking Member Nelson, we established an Innovation and Competitiveness Working Group of the Commerce Committee to inform efforts to craft legislation to reauthorize science and technology R&D policies previously directed under the America COMPETES Acts. We asked Senators Gardner and Peters to lead this Working Group, and we are appreciative of their sustained efforts over many months to help develop consensus-based policy solutions that could comprise a bipartisan Commerce Committee product.
"The Working Group convened a series of candid, bipartisan discussions to gather input from the U.S. science and research community regarding federal R&D policy priorities. The roundtable format of these meetings allowed for a free-flowing discussion among key stakeholders.
"These roundtable meetings focused on the topics of “Maximizing the Impact of Basic Research,” “STEM Education and Workforce Issues,” and “Research Commercialization and Technology Transfer.”
"We had broad participation by research universities, government advisory bodies, and non-profit research organizations in the informal discussion with Senators. Members of the public and interested groups were also invited and encouraged to submit input on the topics via email, with over 250 emailed submissions received on these three topics.
"Common themes arising from the roundtables included support for continued investment by the federal government in basic research, as well as encouragement of wider participation in STEM subjects; stronger partnerships among government, the private sector, and academia that could better leverage discoveries emerging from our research universities to drive innovation; and the importance of minimizing barriers and improving incentives for universities and the private sector to better maximize the scientific and economic return on limited federal research resources.
"The Committee’s Working Group is developing bipartisan legislation drawing on the input received from the roundtables and stakeholder feedback, related bills introduced by members of the Commerce Committee and others, and policy recommendations made by entities such as the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and the National Academy of Sciences. We are hopeful the bill will be ready in the coming days.
"Again, I thank the witnesses for being here today and I look forward to hearing about policy ideas that can leverage our science and technology enterprise, such as improved public-private partnerships, reduction of administrative burdens, and improved strategic planning of the federal R&D investment.
"We have a distinguished list of witnesses from academia, the private sector, and government advisory bodies testifying before the Committee today.
• "Dr. Droegemeier joins us having just finished his term as Vice Chair of the National Science Board this past Friday.
• "Dr. Wing has served as Corporate Vice President for Microsoft Research as well as at NSF, and contributed to a recent report published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences entitled “Restoring the Foundation.”
• "Dr. Atkinson’s organization, ITIF, has published numerous recommendations related to tech policy, and both he and Dr. Droegemeier previously participated in our Working Group roundtables on STEM and commercialization.
• "Finally, Dr. Munson joins us from the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering, where he has helped translate university research into commercial applications, including at his own company, InstaRecon.
"I welcome our distinguished panel and now invite your testimony."