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Comcast Defends Merger to FCC

By Laura Ryan (@NJLJRyan), with help from Brendan Sasso (@BrendanSasso) and Dustin Volz (@dnvolz)

TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: Comcast meets face-to-face with the FCC's merger review team. Both Comcast and Time Warner Cable have decided to pull their sponsorship of a foundation dinner honoring FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. And an inspector general report finds that the FBI sometimes spies on the wrong person because of typos.

 

TOP NEWS

COMCAST MAKES CASE TO FCC MERGER REVIEW TEAM: Comcast executive David Cohen met Wednesday with the group of FCC lawyers who will help determine the fate of the cable giant's merger with Time Warner Cable. According to a new regulatory filing, Cohen—who was also the wiz behind the merger with NBC-Universal—told the FCC review team that they should make their decision based on the merits of the specific transaction, not on the trends of the media marketplace.

Based on the FCC's recent Internet Access Services report, Cohen asserted that a combined company would only have about 35.5 percent market share. He also rejected claims that Comcast would have unfair leverage in negotiations with TV channels, using the substantial increase in programming costs last year as evidence that programmers have plenty of bargaining power.

Finally, Cohen emphasized that the company is a "demonstrated leader" in diversity and philanthropy, but "we do not believe these initiatives are properly linked to the Transactions."

 

COMCAST AND TWC DUCK OUT OF CLYBURN DINNER: Comcast and Time Warner Cable are both pulling their sponsorship of the annual Kaitz Dinner celebrating diversity in the media after their sponsorship of the event came under media scrutiny. Both companies will make an unrestricted donation of the same amount instead.

The two companies have sponsored the event for many years, but decided to pull out of the event after the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics and Washington accused the cable companies of trying to curry favor with FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who is being honored at this year's dinner.

In a letter Thursday to the Kaitz Foundation, Comcast VP of Community Investment Charisse Lillie said that it was withdrawing their support of the dinner because "we do not want either the Commissioner or Kaitz to fall under a shadow as a result of our support for diversity in the cable industry." She also pointed out that their donation was made before Clyburn was selected as the honoree.

PRIVACY GROUP ASKS FTC TO DEFEND E.U. RIGHTS: The Center for Digital Democracy has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, claiming that 30 companies are violating the privacy rights of E.U. citizens. The complaint alleges that the companies aren't complying with Safe Harbor rules—an agreement with the E.U. that the FTC enforces in the U.S. The companies are mostly involved in data profiling and online targeting.

 

Jeff Chester, the group's executive director, claimed that there is "little oversight and enforcement by the FTC." The companies are failing to provide accurate information in their Safe Harbor declarations and are not giving Europeans meaningful opt-out options, he said.

TOP LINES

WATCHDOG: THE FBI SPIED ON THE WRONG PEOPLE: Because of typos, some people were wrongfully targeted under national security letters, according to a Justice Department inspector general report.

DID A PUNCTUATION ERROR OPEN THE FLOODGATES TO ONLINE GAMBLING? Rep. Jason Chaffetz and other anti-gaming advocates make their case for a rewrite of the Wire Act in Newsweek's new cover story. (Leah McGrath Goodman, Newsweek)

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AMAZON TESTS BOUNDARIES OF ANTITRUST: But the online giant has been avoiding scrutiny because it's been using its market power to lower prices. (Todd Shields and David McLaughlin, Bloomberg)

SPRINT PLANS 'DISRUPTIVE' PRICES: After giving up on buying T-Mobile, Sprint is now planning to announce "very disruptive" prices, according to its new CEO. (Marina Lopes, Reuters)

FORMER STATE DEPT. OFFICIAL CALLS FOR 12333 REFORM: John Napier Tye takes another swing at Executive Order 12333, for which he filed a whistle-blower complaint as he was leaving government in April. The Reagan-era authority is a far greater threat to privacy than the Patriot Act or Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, Tye said. (Charlie Savage, NYT)

T-MO SAYS IT WON'T ACTUALLY THROTTLE UNLIMITED CUSTOMERS: But the carrier is notifying customers who violate its policies. (Ina Fried, Re/Code)

COORDINATING ROBOTS BECOME A REALITY: A team of 1,024 tiny robots stand ready to carry out the commands of a team of Harvard scientists. (Carolyn Johnson, Boston Globe)

WHAT GOOGLE CAN LEARN FROM DARPA: Google hired DARPA's Regina Dugan to lead their "big-idea special forces" with the hope that she can foster the same culture of daring and impatience that has led to so many of DARPA's breakthroughs. (Miguel Helft, Fortune)

THE POPE'S SOCIAL-MEDIA GURU ON TWITTER AND RELIGION: "If the church in some way is not present in the digital, we're going to be absent from the experience and from the lives of many people. If we withdraw, then we're leaving those areas to the trolls. We're leaving it to the bullies," Monsignor Paul Tighe said Wednesday in Los Angeles. (Chad Garland, LAT)

CALIFORNIA CARES ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY MORE THAN TEXAS: But D.C., South Dakota, and Oregon sent in over twice as many comments as might have been expected based on their populations. (Elise Hu, NPR)

THE WHEELS ON THE GOOGLE BUS GO ROUND AND ROUND: Commuting between San Francisco and Silicon Valley twice a day is no treat, but it's much worse for the drivers of the infamous tech shuttles. (Jessica Guynn, USA Today)

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I read the Tech Edge every morning."

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