FCC chairman Tom Wheeler was once again called before Congress today. His task: to justify the commission’s vote to protect consumers from the potential, likely harms of monopoly ISPs out to make a buck in any way they can. Or, in other words, to defend the agency’s recent vote on net neutrality.
It’s been a busy day for tech talk in Washington. Today, both the House and the Senate held hearings on net neutrality and a proposed bill to regulate it. A parade of former regulators, lobbyists, business representatives, lawyers, and consumer advocates sat on Capitol Hill and once again hashed through the debate, while elsewhere in the District, a current FCC commissioner was giving a lunchtime speech about why the FCC shouldn’t regulate at all.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler took the hot seat today in an oversight hearing before the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology to testify about current issues before his agency, including net neutrality. The overriding theme of the day? Pretty much everyone who spoke hates the rule the FCC narrowly approved for consideration last week — just for different reasons.
Earlier this week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on mandatory binding arbitration clauses, those fun bits of contractual language that take away your right to sue a company and force you into a resolution process that is heavily weighted in the company’s favor. The hearing was chaired by Senator Al Franken of Minnesota, who earlier this year introduced the proposed Arbitration Fairness Act, and so he obviously has a thing or two to say on the topic. [More]
CNN is reporting that the FDA has referred the Tylenol recall case to their criminal division for investigation. At issue is a pattern of non-compliance with FDA warnings and failures by management of McNeil to investigate and provide a timely resolution to serious problems with the product. These problems include excess amounts of the active ingredient in Tylenol, acetaminophen.
Remember the recalled liquid Tylenol and other children’s medicines last month? Or the stinky drugs that were recalled back in January? Or the children’s Tylenol that was recalled last September? The FDA remembers, which is probably why it’s “conducting a company-wide investigation of McNeil Consumer Healthcare’s drug manufacturing practices to determine whether similar problems exist throughout the company.” Also, a date has now been set (May 27) for the House Committee hearing where the CEO and chairman of parent company Johnson & Johnson are expected to testify.
Today’s Toyota hearings featured a lot of amusing defensive yelling by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and, of course, the long awaited testimony by Toyota President Akio Toyoda. In addition, Yoshimi Inaba, CEO of Toyota North America, revealed that the company knew of the sticking pedal issue in Europe a year before accidents in the US.
Recently, the SEC settled with Bank of America over charges that the company mislead its investors about the $3.6 billion in bonuses paid by Merrill as the brokerage was being taken over. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, however, isn’t buying it. He’s refusing to approve the settlement until it can be shown that the $33 million Bank of America agreed to pay is adequate. That’s nice, but he best part is that the judge is being hilariously sarcastic during the hearings.
Tomorrow, a Senate committee will hold a hearing on legislation that grants passengers the right to deplane if their plane is delayed on the runway for more than 3 hours. The legislation will also require that airlines provide water, food, and bathroom facilities during delays. If passed, it will be ignored by Delta.
Yesterday, four U.S. Senators sent a letter to FCC acting chairman Michael Copps requesting an investigation into whether exclusivity deals between handset makers and national carriers are ultimately good for consumers, and they plan to hold a hearing on the issue on Wednesday, June 16th. They join a growing number of people and organizations, including the Rural Cellular Association (RCA), who say exclusivity deals benefit no one but the carriers and manufacturers.
The House Commerce Committee is currently holding a hearing on the salmonella-tainted peanut butter. Included on the witness list are the families of several people who were killed or sickened by the peanut butter, as well as the president and plant manager of the Peanut Corporation of America. It’s really compelling testimony, and we’re sure the grilling of the PCA people will be intense. You can watch it online at C-SPAN or the committee’s website. (Photo: goaliej54 and greefus groinks)
We know there’s salmonella story fatigue setting in, but this new overview from yesterday’s Senate hearing is the best yet as far as piecing together exactly how salmonella-tainted peanut butter made it into our food supply for such a long period of time, and why it took so long to trace it back to a single rotten peanut plant in Georgia. Ultimately the blame lies with Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) for failing to maintain its factory and for not destroying lots that tested positive for salmonella, but both the FDA and the CDC had a role in it, too. One example: the FDA didn’t even know the plant produced peanut butter or peanut paste until 2007.
“When AT&T provides broadband service by speed, it will do so in discrete, non-overlapping tiers,” Quinn said in written testimony. “We will strive to provide service within the speed tier purchased by the customer and, if we find that we are not providing service within the ordered speed tier, AT&T will take action either to bring the customer’s service within the ordered tier or give the customer an option to move to a different tier.”
Our beloved fatherteacher Ben Popken seems just fine with his newly lasered eyes, but not everyone sees such great results, says Reuters: “Blurred vision, dry eyes, glare and double-vision have led to depression and in some cases suicide, several patients told a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel.” These patients want the FDA to take a more active role in regulating the LASIK industry (currently the FDA regulates the equipment but not the people who use it).
Consumers were finally allowed this week to testify in favor of a proposed Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights without being forced to sign waivers allowing their creditors to release private financial records to the public. The three cardholders who testified lambasted their credit card companies for penalizing them even though they abided by their cardholder agreements.
Join us at 9:30 as we liveblog the Arbitration Fairness Act’s second hearing before Congress. Arbitration is an extrajudicial jury-free way to resolve disputes where decisions are handed down by arbitrators who rule against consumers in 98.4% of cases. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution will be considering S. 1782, an Act to banish mandatory binding arbitration from consumer disputes.
Liveblogging The Senate Permanent Subcommittee On Investigations Hearing On Arbitrary Credit Card Rate Increases
Today at 9:30 a.m., Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) will continue his investigation into the unfair and deceptive practices of the credit card industry. Today’s topic: arbitrary rate increases for cardholders in good standing. The hearing picks up where Senator Levin left off in March, when he questioned the use of excessive fees, interest charges, and the abuse of grace periods.
Liveblogging The Senate Commerce Committee Hearing On Cigarettes, The FTC, And Deceptive Advertising
Starting today at 2:30 p.m., the Senate Commerce Committee will ask the FTC why it can’t accurately measure the level of tar or nicotine in cigarettes. The Commission has admitted: “[our] ratings tend to be relatively poor predictors of tar and nicotine exposure.” The Committee is concerned that “light” and “ultra light” cigarettes are really just dolled-up deathsticks slapped a pretty name, and that the FTC doesn’t have sufficient legal firepower to stamp out deceptive marketing practices.