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AT&T Threatens to Skip Spectrum Auction

Welcome to National Journal's Tech Edge, a morning tip sheet with the news you need in technology policy, featuring a roundup of the best coverage and exclusive tips for the day ahead. Got this by forward? Sign up at

By Alex Brown (@AlexBrownNJ), Laura Ryan (@NJLJRyan), Brendan Sasso (@BrendanSasso), and Dustin Volz (@dnvolz)


TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: AT&T is ready to play chicken with the FCC over the agency's proposal to cap bidding in the upcoming spectrum auction. Democratic Sen. Al Franken wants Netflix to join his side in the Comcast-TWC merger battle, while Comcast continues to build its army of lobbyists. Barry Diller says Aereo has a 50-50 chance of survival, while Justice Alito is back on the case after all, ending the chance of a tie. 


AT&T READY FOR WAR OVER AUCTION RULES: AT&T is threatening to boycott the FCC's spectrum auction after the agency floated a proposal that would limit the company's ability to bid. In a filing, AT&T VP Joan Marsh said the rules would put AT&T in an "untenable and unacceptable position," and she warned that the company may "choose to withhold its capital for other investments and sit out of the auction entirely." If AT&T pulls out, it could be a disaster for the FCC, which is expecting billions of dollars in auction revenue. Litigation over the rules could also tie the proceedings up in court.

FRANKEN TRIES TO RECRUIT NETFLIX TO COMCAST BATTLE: The Minnesota Democrat is leading the charge against the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger and wants Netflix in his camp. Franken sent Netflix a letter Wednesday asking the video-streaming company to explain whether or not the deal could hurt Internet users and content providers. Referencing the controversial connection deal between Netflix and Comcast earlier this year, the senator expressed concern that a combined Comcast-TWC would use its "clout" to act as a "gatekeeper" to the Internet. Although Netflix has been a harsh critic of Comcast, it has yet to comment on the impending deal. But Netflix has recently asked the FCC for permission to review confidential documents—a sign the company is watching the merger closely.


MEANWHILE, COMCAST RECRUITS MORE LOBBYISTS: Comcast continues to bulk up its D.C. presence as it tries to muscle its TWC purchase past regulators. New registration forms show that the cable company added Polaris, Washington Tax and Public Policy Group, and the Normandy Group in the last week to its fleet of lobbyists.

LYFT PICKS UP FIRST LOBBYISTS: The ride-sharing company Lyft is ramping up its D.C. presence. The San Francisco-based startup hired Jochum Shore & Trossevin and TwinLogic Strategies to lobby for the "removal of barriers and anticompetitive activities that inhibit ride sharing," according to the lobbying registration forms. Lyft and its rival Uber have encountered legal obstacles in multiple cities. A spokesperson for Lyft said that the company is working to educate policymakers at the federal, state, and city level on the community benefits of peer-to-peer transportation.

AGENDA SET FOR APRIL FCC OPEN COMMISSION MEETING: The five FCC commissioners will consider USF reforms and spectrum sharing at the April 23 meeting.


GOOGLE'S EARNINGS DISAPPOINT: The company has traditionally gushed profits without breaking a sweat. Now it takes more of an effort. (David Streitfeld, NYT) 


ALITO NO LONGER RECUSED FROM AEREO CASE: The conservative justice will join the rest of the bench next week when Aereo faces off against the major broadcasters, ending concerns of a tie. (Volz)

BILL GATES HAS A PLAN TO CASH IN ON GOOGLE GLASS: The Microsoft cofounder has filed a patent for technology that would sound an alarm if sneaky cameras are spotted nearby. (Volz)

SAMSUNG TRIED TO CAPITALIZE ON STEVE JOBS'S DEATH: As Apple and Samsung fight out a patent trial, lawyers for Apple are using Samsung emails about how to hit its rival after Jobs's death as evidence it stole designs. (Brian Chen, NYT)

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HOW DILLER TOOK AEREO BIG:... Billionaire mogul Barry Diller wasn't content to offer the rebroadcasting service in just one city—and now a Supreme Court case is testing his ambitious plan. (Greg Stohr/Alex Barinka, Bloomberg)

… AND PEGS SCOTUS CASE A COIN FLIP: Diller told The Hollywood Reporter that Aereo's survival odds are "50-50."

WATCH A CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE SHOOT DOWN A 'GOVERNMENT DRONE': House contender Matt Rosendale of Montana wants Big Brother out of his airspace. (Brown) 

VIDEO EXPLAINER – HOW COPYRIGHT COULD SINK YOUR PANDORA STATION: The rise of digital music services has the music industry in a fix. Depending on whom you ask, neither the services nor the musicians are very happy. (Ryan)


  • National Foundation on the Arts and Humanities and the Institute of Museum Services will hold an event on the need for broadband connectivity in U.S. libraries at 9 a.m.
  • The FCC will hold a daylong workshop on Technology Transitions and Public Safety beginning at 9 a.m.
  • The Cato Institute will hold a panel discussion on Google Glass and Libertarian policy at noon.
  • Georgetown University will host a discussion on ICANN at 7 p.m.

Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Love it - first thing I read in the morning."

Amy, VP of Communications

I read the Tech Edge every morning."

Ashley, Senior Media Associate

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