Government Relations Update April 2018
Farm Bill Advances with Additional Broadband Provisions
The House Agriculture Committee voted 26-20 to order the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2) to be reported to the full House of Representatives. The “farm bill,” as it is commonly known, is a major piece of legislation drafted every five years that dictates the direction of U.S. agricultural policies for the near term. This year’s bill directs the Department of Agriculture to implement a number of changes to its rural broadband deployment programs managed by the Rural Utilities Service (RUS). These include a new minimum standard for speeds of 25Mbps down and 3Mbps up for RUS-backed programs, authorization for RUS to fund “middle mile” projects under its Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program, and the creation of the Innovative Broadband Advancement Program to issue grants and loans to projects that make use of “innovative broadband technologies.”
Senate Consumer Privacy Bill Introduced
Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and John Kennedy (R-LA) introduced legislation to address ongoing public concerns regarding consumer data protection. The Social Media Privacy Protection and Consumer Rights Act (S. 2728) is designed to provide clarity and control to the users of social media and other online platforms, primarily through mandating an opt-out feature from data collection and requiring companies to inform consumers of any privacy violations within 72 hours. Other measures in the bill include a requirement for terms of service agreements to be stated in plain language and provisions for users to see what information about them has already been collected and shared. The bill is now under review after a referral to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.