tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 14, 2013 8:00am-8:31am EDT
the as a historian it's hard to think about. but i felt, here is the turning point aside from my parents passing was we really, as a community, as a people, really need to understand inequality a whole lot better. historians out to be able to help us do that. that's a good place to close so thank you all very much. [applause] ..
senator blumenthal, what is telephone c? >> guest: telephone cramming is the practice of putting unauthorized third party charges on telephone bills. in other words, charging consumers for supposed services that they never ordered and never received but sometimes don't notice, and even when they notice, have to pay. and it is a practice that is literally costing consumers billions of dollars. there are legitimate third party vendors and third party charges on telephone bills, but it is a little bit like having a credit card or using your telephone number as a credit card, but the practice of cramming is literally cramming charges as you would on a credit card for unauthorized and unauthorized -- unordered services. >> host: can you give an example of who may be placing those charges on a telephone bill or what kind of a charge it might be? >> guest: the charges can vary
from supposed entertainment venues to services that may purport it to be provided, any manner of service. the telephone numbers, obviously on land lines, are available in the phone book. so anybody who supposedly is offering the service or more likely a fraudulent kind of operation can put a charge on a telephone bill if the company is willing to put those charges on the bill. and this measure that i've offered would, essentially, prohibit those third party vendors from having access to telephone numbers by forcing companies to stop it and only telephone-related services or bund with led services as -- bundled services as with satellite, for example, would be allowed to be placed on the bill with.
>> host: so why do telephone companies allow these third parties, number one, access to a bill and to add charges to a bill? >> guest: they tend to facilitate these kind of third party vendors because they help make money for the telephone company. and they also feel that it is something that consumers may want with. and, in fact, it is a convenience, but it's also a grave danger, and consumers may have no idea how they are imperilled by the easy access of the frauds and crammers and scammers to telephone lines. it's a little bit like saying i'm going to a pay my bills by leaving a bunch of cash on the corner of 53rd and third avenue, and you come pick be it up. well, the cash may be there, but unlikely. >> host: so, senator blume b that would, is there an -- blumenthal is there an estimate of how much this is costing american consumers? >> guest: the total that is
charged through these both authorized and unauthorized third party charges is about $2 billion a year. over the past five years, about $10 billion, and there are 300 -- 300 million of them every year. how many are actually fraudulent, how many are crammed, so to speak, we don't know precisely, but a substantial the enough margin, and the danger is increasing exponentially that we feel that this kind of ban is absolutely necessary and profoundly significant. >> host: senator blumenthal serves on the commerce committee in the senate. prior to that he was attorney general in the sate of connecticut. did you get complaints about this when you were attorney general? >> guest: oh, very much so. this practice of cramming has been around since the 1990s. i was attorney general of connecticut for 20 years, and we made a regular practice of going
after crammers who were just fraudsters and scammers, and most often the telephone company cooperated. but often pursuing these fraudsters after the fact provides inadequate remedies. they need to be stopped before the charges are made because afterwards we can seek refunds, but very often they disappear, and the telephone company may be unwilling or unable to find them or to make refunds. and so the bill, very importantly, provides not only for refunds, but also for penalties on the telephone company if it permits these unauthorized third party charges. >> host: so, senator blumenthal, are legitimate companies participating in this so-called cramming? >> guest: not in cramming, because cramming by its definition is an unauthorized or unpermitted call. there are legitimate third party vendors and third party charges,
but if somebody wants to use his or her telephone line as a credit card, he might as well actually get a credit card, because that's a much more secure and safe way of charging. and that's why this kind of measure is necessary, to prevent a practice that is so fraught with danger and peril to the consumer and so unscrutinized and little overseen by the telephone company that it is really important to ban it entirely. and the costs of oversight and scrutiny are so high that the telephone companies on their own have not been willing to do it. >> host: so why just land lines, not wireless? >> guest: well, that's an excellent question. wireless probably is the next frontier for these crammers to explore, and that's why we are investigating the possibility that cramming is actually taking place on wireless as well.
we did an information, or i should say the committee did two years ago that shows very dramatically the growing and pervasive amount of this kind of cramming, the unauthorized third party charges on land lines. but wireless offers the same kind of opportunities x they need the -- and they need the same kind of protection. >> host: senator blumenthal's bill is called the fair telephone billing act of 2013. where does it stand right now in the legislative process? >> guest: where it stands is in committee, the commerce science and transportation committee where i serve. senator rockefeller is chairman, a leading sponsor of the bill. i am cosponsors it along with senator klobuchar of minnesota, and my hope is that we will have a favorable vote by committee and then on the floor of the senate. >> host: what's the argument against your bill?
>> guest: the argument against the bill is that it's a convenience and a service, but it is, again, so fraught with danger that it's a service that by its nature may lead to fraud and overcharging, and that's why we want to prevent it. >> host: do you have republican cosponsors yet or a house bill? >> guest: we have no republican cosponsors, we're hoping for this them and for a house bill. >> host: senator richard blumenthal, democrat of connecticut, we are talking about telephone cramming here on "the communicators." thank you, sir. >> guest: thank you. >> host: and now joining us on "the communicators" is representative jason chaffetz, a republican from utah. he serves on the homeland security, judiciary and government reform committees. and he's here to talk about a couple of bills that he has introduced. number one is the saving high-tech innovators from
egregious legal disputes, also known as the shield act. representative chaffetz, what does this bill do, and what does it address? >> guest: well, the idea is to make sure that technology can thrive in this country without these unwarranted lawsuits coming at people. patent reform is needed, particularly those people who are trying to put forward, you know, just sue everybody, particularly these small start-up companies. look, there is a way through the courts to be able to pursue justice, but if you have an act out there or if you have a lawsuit out there that has, is totally unwarranted, you're going to have to pay for that. so it's loser pays, and it's intended to make sure that we get rid of these unwarranted attacks on patents that really just aren't justified. >> host: could you give an example of an attack on a patent? >> guest: well, yeah. for instance, we had jcpenney come and testify that they're just the end user of a particular piece of hardware,
and yet they were being sued for using this. and, again, if there's a legitimate use out there, hey, then go ahead and go to the courts. but you're going to have to put up a bond, and you're going to have to demonstrate that you have the wherewithal to pay for those court costs if you lose because right now shell companies are being formed, they lose, then the shell company has no assets and, again, we just bog down the courts. and there are literally just tens of thousands of these lawsuits going out door all the time. >> host: so what is a patent troll in. >> guest: i think it's an appropriate name. again, there's very legitimate ways and reasons why they should be in court trying to dispute patents, but these trolls have set up these shell organizations and are just literally suing everybody they possibly can without any justification. and i think this piece of legislation would go a long way in protecting those and making sure that we get the legitimate lawsuits funneling up to the courts the way they should.
>> host: specifically, representative chaffetz, what does your legislation do? >> guest: well, it creates this multiprong test which says, look, if you're a university, if you're the original inventer of this patent, of course, you can pursue these things. but what you often have is somebody going and acquiring the rights to this patent only to turn around and just sue everybody they can possibly think of. so a multiprong test can and key to this is setting up a bond so that if you do lose the case, you're going to have to pay for those court costs which isn't the case now. >> host: what is the financial impact estimated to be of this. >> >> guest: oh, it's in the billions and billions of dollars. as i talk to high-tech start-up companies from utah to california to new york, i mean, wherever it might be, this is one of the greatest impediments particularly for the small companies. now, you know, the microsofts and the oracles and the googles of the world, i mean, they're being sued all the time, but they have the financial wherewithal and the legal staff to take care of that.
i'm not saying it's right, but they have the wherewithal to do it. you have a lot of these start-ups, though, that are being destroyed because a patent troll will come in, threaten a lawsuit and say, look, you're going to have to spend a hall million dollars -- half million dollars defending yourself, or you can send us a check for $75,000. it feels like extortion. it's much like europe is doing, and we want to do that here in the united states. >> host: is in this part of the downside, though, of our free market system? >> guest: no. look, we want people to be able to pursue remedy through the courts. i mean, we're one of the best in the world. but this, obviously, needs some changing. and if you align financial incentives, usually get the result you need. it's got wide bipartisan support, and i look forward to its passage. >> host: and finally on the shield act, i wanted to ask you is it different than the america invents act, the patent reform legislation that went through a
couple of years ago? >> guest: it is a little different. it's much more narrow in its scope because we really are trying to get at the patent troll issue. this is a two, three-page bill, it's very short and narrow in its focus. not just towards high-tech, but patents in general. and it's different than the bigger, broader patent reform that was reviewed a couple years ago. >> host: where does it stand legislatively? >> guest: good bipartisan support, it's been introduced, chairman goodlatte has been very supportive of the concept, and these things take time. we have had some hearings which is a good step, but the next step would be a markup, and i hope we can do that sooner rath or than later. -- rather than later. >> host: is there a senate bill yet? >> guest: i'm not sure about that, but right now we're focused on the house. >> host: well, another piece of legislation you have introduced, the gps act, does have senate companion legislation. what does this legislation do,
sir? >> guest: well, geolocation is a useful tool for all americans if they choose to use it. what i'm worried about is not only the law enforcement component, but also individuals who are surreptitiously following somebody, triangulating somebody and following somebody maybe on their phone or in their car or their mobile device, maybe it's an ipad. you should be able to have your own privacy. i think americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy and should not have to give up all of those rights just because they choose to use one of these mobile devices. so the gps act says in order to access somebody's geolocation information, you would have to o have a probable cause warrant. right now if an individual wanted to follow somebody in st. louis and they happened to be in phoenix, they could do it. it's not against the law. and you can go down to radio shack and get a smart 17-year-old who can figure out how to do this. that seems wrong to us, and it
really should be against the law. >> host: sporters include the electronic frontier foundation and the aclu. representative chaffetz, what's law enforcement's response to your gps act? >> guest: well, i think one of the things they need to look at is the obama administration's approach to this. there was a key and very important supreme court ruling called the jones case in which the court 9-0 ruled that by law enforcement using this hockey puck-sized gps device they could not follow somebody. it was a violation of the fourth amendment, their fourth amendment. but justice alito also indicated in his writings that congress is going to go have to look at this on how pervasive gps is in a broader sense, and we're really going to have to get in and look at where are those lines, where do you give up your liberties, where is their security? and so it's a very important
thing. it really does affect every single american. >> host: and on the three committees that representative chaffetz serves -- homeland security, judiciary and oversight and government reform -- he is involved in subcommittees on national security, terrorism and counterterrorism. as interest in the gps act or similar legislation, has it been heightened by what's been going on with the nsa? >> guest: oh, absolutely. we have broad bipartisan support on this. as you said, senator wyden has been the champion in the senate, a good, strong dem t accurate. over in the house chairman conyers, former chairman of the judiciary, jim sensenbrenner, have been very supportive. trey gowdy, a former prosecutor. so i think we've got very good support on both sides of the aisle, and i think the more parents and people become acutely aware that these gps type of devices can be very helpful in your day-to-day life, they can also be a tool and a conduit for somebody who's got some nefarious thoughts and
ideas to follow somebody without their knowledge. that really should be against the law. and law enforcement really should have to demonstrate to the court that they have probable cause in order to go follow somebody without their knowledge. >> host: do you hear from constituents on this issue? >> guest: oh, absolutely. i think certainly with the nsa revelations, people have been acutely aware and concerned about what the government is doing, are they following them? the obama administration has not clarified their position post-jones on how they're going to deal with this. there was a freedom of information act request that the aclu put in with the department of justice. every single page was redacted. we don't know what the administration's position on this is. i questioned the fbi director, he said he wouldn't, couldn't talk about it at that point. i think that ought to be concerning to people. >> host: and congressman jason chaffetz is a republican from utah. you're watching "the
communicators" on c-span. and now joining us on "the communicators" is representative zoe lofgren, democrat of california, who represents several of the big technology companies in her california district. want to talk to her about some pieces of legislation that she's working on. and i want to start with a topic that seems to be gaining a little bit of steam, and that's cell phone unblocking. >> guest: yes. >> host: what are you working on? >> guest: well, i have the cell phone unlocking bill that, basically, amends section 12 to 01 of the digital millennium copyright act that allows, weirdly enough, the registrar of copyrights to control technology relative to alleged copyright. i think most americans were really surprised when the library decided that they couldn't unlock the cell phone that they owned without going to their carrier. that's really not, it's not
right, it doesn't respect property rights and, in fact, there's really no copyright involved. it's just a way for monopolies to exert their monopoly control in, after somebody has purchased a piece of equipment. if they want to enforce their contract, there's plenty of ways to do that. you know, they can sue, they can -- even if they want to, they could wreak -- break the phone if they wanted to do that. but you can't keep people from unlocking their phone. my bill is the most expanse i effort. it -- expansive effort. it allows for third parties to provide software to do it lawfully. it's just an absurd situation that we have, and it's been absurd for a long time, but this actually brought it to the attention of the american public. >> host: how hard are the verizons and at&ts fighting this bill? >> guest: well, they were witnesses, and i thought their testimony was pretty lame, honestly. they couldn't come up with a
really good reason why. i think the president has mentioned that this is inappropriate, gone to the fcc. i don't know if they really have jurisdiction. but i think most americans would consider the current situation to be ridiculous and, therefore, it's a good incentive for the congress to act. >> host: are you finding bipartisan support for this in. >> guest: yes, yes, we are. >> host: i also want to talk to you about a tax issue. wireless tax fairness act. >> guest: right. well, the -- it turns out that localities and states are taxing wireless cell phone access. not the phone purchases themselves in a disproportionate way. in fact, i guess it's an easy thing to do because they're taxing these plans as if they were syntaxes. i mean, it's, you know, kind of
tobacco-like. and what we've said as a congress and as a country is that we do not want to disproportionately burden access to the internet. we had an internet fairness tax that has huge bipartisan support. when you think about where we are in 2013, 2014 coming up, how do people get access to the internet, especially people who are less affluent? it's through their cell phones and digital devices. of so we have a moratorium on disproportionate taxes on cell phone access. again, we have bipartisan support on that. i'm hopeful that we in the middle of all of this acrimony can come together and do something sensible like that. >> host: well, as we're getting close to the end of the first session of the 113th congress, do you see potential action on these bills? >> guest: well, i hope so. for example, the cell phone pill passed the house -- bill passed
the house last, congress by a huge margin. we have over 200 cosponsors of the bill now. i mean, you would think that if you're getting close to a majority of the house cosponsoring the bill, we might have time to actually bring it up. >> host: now, if they don't make it through this session, do you have to reintroduce -- >> guest: no. it's good for the entire congress. of so i'm hopeful that we'll get action. >> host: what's the status of ecpa? what is it and what does it stand -- >> guest: well, it's the electronic privacy communication about. it was adopted in 1986. where were we digitally in 1986? a long ways from where we are today. and it's really to -- no longer, to longer fits our digital world. i'll just give you an example. most people when they use e-mail think they they, their communications are private.
that's why we have passwords, that's why, you know, we guard our accounts. under ecpa if you have an e-mail that has been many your inbox -- in your inbox for more than 180 days, there's no -- you can get it without a warrant, just with a subpoena. i mean, most people don't realize that. it's a ridiculous situation. i mean, the things you say -- that you save are the things that mean a lot to you. so the spam has the protection, but, you know, the wonderful e-mail from your daughter that you saved has none. so that needs to be changed. cloud computing, there's really no protection in cloud computing from a privacy point of view. that's not only important to users, it's also an important business issue. if you are a u.s. company offering cloud computing and you go to europe and say, you know, any police agency can get your stuff with a subpoena, do you think you're going to be able to
sell your services in germany to competitors? i don't think so. >> host: well, has the furor of the nsa revelations died away in congress? >> guest: i don't think it has. we had a classified briefing in the judiciary committee this week. i'm, obviously, not allowed to discuss what went on, but i'll just say this: i went into the hearing with a lot of concern, and at the end of the hearing i had more concerns than i did at the beginning. so i think there will be additional inquiries. obviously, we want to be safe as a country, but i don't think our safety needs to be at the expense of our constitution. >> host: representative lofgren, when it comes to internet and telecommunications issues, how does your post on the judiciary committee assist you? >> guest: oh, it's very helpful because, as you know, intellectual property is the purview of the judiciary
committee, and there's such a connection now between ip law and freedom of the internet. you know, we constant tally see ip content owners wanting to encroach on internet freedom if an effort to protect their rights. obviously, they do have rights, but so do users of the internet. i think, also, increasingly we're going to find a need to examine old assumptions. and the nsa issue has brought this to the forefront. you know, there are common dock trips under constitutional law. plain sight, you know, there's no expectation of privacy if you're in plain view. well, okay, that's fine if you're walking down the street. does that -- how does that work in the digital world where as you walk down the street, your picture is taken by every store, every atm machine and all those photos could then be compiled
and facial recognition technology could be utilized to actually identify where you are every moment of every day? is that the expectation? i don't think so. so i think we're going to have a need as -- and i think this will be bipartisan -- to say how do these old doctrines actually work in a digital environment. the technology has changed everything. >> host: well, something that technology companies are very interested in is immigration reform. >> guest: yes. >> host: with everything going on in congress, in washington, is immigration reform dead? >> guest: i don't think immigration reform is dead. i work on this every single day. i think we have viable ways forward. the question is, the republicans permit a vote? -- will the republicans permit a vote? if we get a top to bottom reform measure on the floor for a vote, it would pass. so the real question is, what will the republican leadership do? will they allow the congress to vote or not? i hope they do, but i can't make
them. >> host: representative zoe lofgren, democrat of california, joins us on "the communicators." >> guest: thank you. >> c-span, created by america's cable companies in 1979, brought to you as a public service by your television provider. >> every weekend since 1998 c-span2 are's booktv has shown over 40,000 hours of programming with top nonfiction authors including di di meyers. >> i thought, wow, you know, that's the answer. if there were more women in politics, more women across public life, more women in power around the world, things would change. so i called my editor and said i'm going to write a book called why women should rule the world, and she said, okay. >> all of us in the working class are subjected to punitive taxes, being ignored by the elite media, not getting any kind of special interest help in washington like the fat cats get. we're all in that same boat no
>> the poorest county in america, which isn't in appalachia or the deep south, it actually happens to be on the great plains up in nebraska -- a region of struggling ranchers and dying farm towns -- and in the election of 2000 this county went for the republican candidate for president, george w. bush, by a part of greater than 80%. now, this puzzled me when i first read about it. as it puzzles many of the people that i know. for us, it's always the democrats that are the party of the workers and the poor and the weak and the victimized. figuring this out, my friends and i think, is basic. this is like part of the, part of the abcs of adulthood, if you will. [laughter] and when i told, when i told a friend of mine about that county that was so enamored of president bush, she was perplexed, and she asked me
this: how can anyone who's ever worked for someone else vote republican? [laughter] how could so many people get it so wrong? i think her question is apt. in fact, i think it is, in some ways, the preeminent question of our times. people getting their fundamental interests wrong is what american political life is all about. >> and visit booktv.org to watch more programs from the last 15 years and continue watching booktv all weekend long for more nonfiction authors and books. booktv continues now with daniel jonah goldhagen. mr. goldhagen argues that anti-semitism is more threatening today than at any other time since the holocaust. this lasts about an hour, 20 minutes. [applause] >> thank you, rabbi hamilton, and thank all of you for being here.