Happy New Year! LGBT Technology Partnership hopes that you have had a relaxing holiday season and are entering 2015 refreshed and with renewed vigor! This year promises to be the year of all things connected with more electronics and apps synced to the Internet than ever before. Policymakers will no doubt spend a considerable amount of time in 2015 examining current regulations in an effort to keep up with an ever-changing tech landscape and make tough decisions on looming policy issues. We at the Partnership are excited to hit the ground running and are looking forward to a dynamic year. As always, we will continue to monitor the issues relevant to our community. A few things we are already keeping an eye on include: Net neutrality – The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to finally hold a vote on the net neutrality rules advocated by President Obama. According to the LA Times, Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, has indicated that he will propose net neutrality rules that treat broadband Internet service providers as utilities subject to more rigorous regulation than they have been to date. Late last year President Obama asked the FCC to put Internet providers under the same rules as telephone companies to uphold an Open Internet and prevent broadband providers from speeding up or slowing down some web sites over others. New net neutrality rules will be voted on at the Commission’s February 26th meeting.
However, Congress may be the first to act. According to recent headlines, “A bipartisan effort has been underway for several weeks in Congress to draft [net neutrality] legislation that would supersede the FCC’s efforts…” POLITICO reports that Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has been working on a net neutrality bill with Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.). The race is on to find a net neutrality solution. Congressional Action – Senator Leahy has just reintroduced the Copyright and Marriage Equality Act, a bill that fixes the wording in the Copyright Act currently preventing same sex couples from receiving inheritance rights stemming from copyrights. The legislation would correct the wording of the Act so that the federal government can recognize all legally married same sex couples for inheritance purposes under the Copyright Act. We will closely monitor this legislation. Internet Filtering – Last year, LGBT Tech lead the effort with Rep. Mike Honda’s office to ask the FCC why LGBT content is filtered in public schools and libraries. FCC Chairman Wheeler responded in November. LGBT Tech will continue efforts at the state and federal level to monitor internet filtering regulations or laws that may have an unexpected or disparate impact on LGBT users.
As always, we will continue working to inform and educate lawmakers on the impact of such legislation on LGBT people, especially youth and rural LGBT people that may be disproportionately affected. Want to get involved? (#DontBlockLGBT) eHealth and Big Data – The Internet of Things dominated the headlines coming out of CES 2015. A more connected world brings with it new data security issues and privacy concerns and LGBT Tech will remain vigilant. We will specifically focus on those areas of data tracking (such as wearables or other fitness technologies that track users’ habits) that may raise privacy concerns for LGBT individuals. As a matter of fact, according to industry press, one of the buzzwords at CES was “wearables,” including fitness and health trackers. We look forward to working with you this year, bringing you the most up-to-date information about tech and tech policy around the LGBT community.