Ajit Pai was nominated to the Federal Communications Commission by President Barack Obama and on May 7, 2012 was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate. He was interviewed by Gregory Sopkin of Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP for a Federalist Society Teleforum on current hot topics before the Commission. Topics included incentive auctions, federal spectrum, the IP transition, process reform, and media ownership. Commissioner Pai's goal in all of these areas is to create a regulatory environment in which competition and innovation will flourish, and he seeks to shape regulation that gives private firms the strongest incentive to raise and invest capital; to develop new products and services; and to compete in established and new markets. Specifically, Commissioner Pai is working to remove uncertainty that can deter businesses and investors from taking risks, to revisit outdated regulations, and to set clear, modernized rules for the road.
Maureen K. Ohlhausen was nominated to the Federal Trade Commission by President Barack Obama and, on March 29, 2012, was confirmed unanimously by the United States Senate. She will be participate in a Teleforum on the FTC’s activities in the area of consumer privacy, including recent revisions to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule.
The rise of sophisticated technologies over the last few years has allowed websites and other online entities to gather and distill large amounts of data about particular internet users. Although there are many efficiency gains from this activity, such as the development of new services and better-targeted advertising, people have also become concerned about possible invasions of privacy from monitoring an individual’s internet activity. Recognizing that children’s online privacy is an especially sensitive area, COPPA prohibits an operator of a website or online service that is directed to children, or who has actual knowledge that it is gathering personal information from a child, from collecting such information without providing notice of its data collection and obtaining verifiable parental consent for it. The FTC recently expanded the COPPA Rule’s coverage to include more types of personal information, such as IP addresses, and to expand the definition of an operator to reach entities that do not collect or use children’s information. Commissioner Ohlhausen addressed how she seeks to balance the FTC’s mandate under Section 5 of the FTC Act to protect consumers against unfair or deceptive acts with the legitimate rights of business to gather and use information for commercial purposes and why she dissented from the FTC’s revision to the COPPA Rule.
The Federalist Society presented this program on the future of Universal Service. FCC Commissioner Deborah Taylor Tate delivered a keynote address. As the Chairman of the FCC’s Joint Board on Universal Service, Commissioner Tate is at the epicenter of these policy debates. After her address, a roundtable discussion convened that brought together leaders from Capitol Hill and various industry sectors to explore solutions to the vexing problem of reshaping Universal Service for the Digital Age.
In the second week of January, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its unanimous decision in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The case involved a fourth-grade teacher, Cheryl Perich, suing her employer, a church-based school, alleging retaliation for having asserted her rights under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the original suit, and the teacher intervened as a party. In the lower federal courts Hosanna-Tabor raised the “ministerial exception,” which recognizes that under the First Amendment religious organizations have the authority to select their own ministers—which necessarily entails not just initial hiring but also promotion, retention, and other terms and conditions of employment. Over the last forty years the ministerial exception has been recognized by every federal circuit to have considered it. Indeed, the exception overrides not just the ADA but also a number of venerable employment nondiscrimination civil rights statutes. Just who is a “minister,” however, has varied somewhat from circuit to circuit—and in any event the Supreme Court had never taken a case involving the ministerial exception. [Read more!]