TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: The FCC extended the net-neutrality comment deadline until Friday after a crush of comments crashed its website. The House is expected to vote today on a bill that would cut $17 million from the agency's budget. The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the future of the TV market. The House passed a bill to keep Internet access tax-free, but senators are trying to tie the bill to online sales tax legislation. And in a late vote Tuesday, the Senate passed a cell-phone unlocking bill.
CELL-PHONE UNLOCKING CLEARS SENATE: The Senate unanimously approved legislation Tuesday to legalize cell-phone unlocking. Unlike the House version, the bill lacks language to ban bulk unlocking of phones. The two chambers will now need to agree on one version before it heads to the president.
FCC PUSHES COMMENT DEADLINE: The public will have until Friday at midnight to file comments on the FCC's net-neutrality proposal. The agency moved the Tuesday deadline due to an "overwhelming surge in traffic" that crashed the website and prevented some people from filing, spokeswoman Kim Hart said. The FCC has already received 780,000 comments. There's still plenty of time for people to weigh in; the commission will accept reply comments until September.
THE COMMENT HIGHLIGHTS: Comcast is a fan of the FCC's proposal, and even suggests in its 71-page filing that the rules should be applied to wireless carriers. Executive Vice President David Cohen said in a blog post Tuesday that Comcast opposes Title II reclassification because it would be vulnerable to years of additional litigation and would "retard" investment and innovation in the broadband industry.
Mozilla on Tuesday reiterated its support for Title II classification and also argued that the FCC's net-neutrality rules should apply to wired and wireless Internet connections. The tech lobbying group Computer and Communications Industry Association also called for reclassification, saying they want "careful, targeted rules" to protect consumers from a "powerful few private sector interests."
Verizon, which sued to overturn the old rules, said it's fine with the no-blocking rule but that the commission should allow "flexibility for providers to negotiate differentiated arrangements or experiment with different service models" for website speeds.
FCC FUNDING BILL HEADS TO HOUSE FLOOR: The House is set to vote on an appropriations bill that would cut funding for a number of agencies, including $17 million from the FCC's budget. An FCC spokesman suggested that the agency's website wouldn't crash so much if Congress would just increase its funding.
BLACKBURN TARGETS MUNI BROADBAND: Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn is offering an amendment to the appropriations bill that would block the FCC from overturning state laws that limit municipal broadband networks. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he plans to preempt state laws against municipal broadband, and Tennessee's law looks like a likely first target.
SENATE TO STUDY VIDEO MARKET: Top cable and telecom executives will testify today before the Senate Commerce Committee on the future of the TV industry. The panel is working on legislation to reauthorize the satellite TV law STELA, but the hearing is on much broader issues.
In a statement, Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller said policymakers must ensure that "online video has the room needed to flourish and push toward a consumer-centric video marketplace."
Unlike other cable executives, Comcast's David Cohen will back a "clean" reauthorization of STELA without changes to weaken broadcasters' negotiating power. Comcast, of course, is also one of the major broadcasters because of its ownership of NBC-Universal.
THE HOUSE VOTES TO BAN INTERNET TAXES FOREVER..: Despite some passionate opposition during floor debate from Rep. John Conyers and a handful of other Democrats, the House passed on voice vote the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, which, as the name implies, would make permanent a ban on federal, state, and local taxation of Internet access. The measure now heads to the Senate, where a similar bill sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden has racked up more than 50 cosponsors. (Volz)
...SENATORS AIM TO ATTACH ONLINE SALES TAX: Sens. Dick Durbin, Mike Enzi, and others introduced a bill late Tuesday that couples the ban on Internet access taxes with legislation to allow states to tax online purchases from out-of-state vendors. Unlike what passed the House, this bill would extend the moratorium on access taxes for just 10 years instead of making it permanent. The Senate passed an online sales tax bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act, last year, but the bill has gone nowhere in the House.
Without condemning the online sales effort outright, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, the sponsor of PITFA, issued a statement urging the Senate to pass "a clean bill before the temporary tax moratorium expires." Sen. Ron Wyden also urged rejection of an online sales tax bill, saying it would "amount to a body blow to online retailers and services across the country."
SPRINT, T-MOBILE TEAM UP FOR SPECTRUM AUCTION: The third- and fourth-largest wireless companies are forming a joint venture, planning to spend as much as $10 billion to buy broadcasters' airwaves and help them sidestep the FCC's anti-collusion rules. (Ryan Knutson, WSJ)
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE WANTS A BOTNET BILL: The Rhode Island Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime said Tuesday he was working with Lindsey Graham, the panel's top Republican, on legislation to police the use of botnets, malicious programs that can hijack computers and control them remotely.
HOUSE COMMERCE DIVES INTO INTERCONNECTION: The House Energy and Commerce Committee asked stakeholders to weigh in on whether Congress or the FCC should regulate interconnection deals, a cousin of net neutrality, in its fourth white paper reviewing the Communications Act. Comments are due Aug. 8.
CHINESE HACKERS TARGETED SMALLER AGENCIES TOO: Chinese hackers appear to have broken into computer networks of the Government Printing Office and Government Accountability Office. (Michael Schmidt, NYT)
'HIDDEN FROM GOOGLE' SITE KEEPS TRACK OF BLOCKED SITES: A new website has been created to keep track of the sites removed from Google after the EU's right-to-be-forgotten decision. (Kevin Rawlinson, BBC)
GOOGLE, NOVARTIS TO MAKE SMART CONTACTS:The new contacts will detect glucose levels in the tears of diabetics and adjust for vision needs with an "autofocus." (Andrew Morse, WSJ)
COMCAST CUSTOMER SERVICE PHONE CALL GOES BADLY: A customer-service representative spent 18 minutes trying to convince a cancelling customer not to leave, for which the company has since apologized. (Casey Johnston, Ars Technica)
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT INVESTIGATES MUSIC PUBLISHERS FOR POSSIBLE COORDINATION: The DOJ is rumored to be investigating the major music publishers for evidence of behind-the-scenes coordination as part of its review of the ASCAP and BMI consent decrees. (Ed Christman, Billboard)
HERE'S HOW NASA THINKS WE'LL FIND ALIENS: The agency's plan involves a series of telescopes, escalating in size, that will eventually find signatures of life in the gases of a distant planet's atmosphere. (Brown, NJ)
THE DAY AHEAD
- The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the future of the video marketplace at 2:30 p.m.
- The Senate Commerce Committee and the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces will hold a joint hearing on "Options for Assuring Domestic Space Access" at 9:30 a.m.
- Rep. Greg Walden and Larry Strickling are among the speakers at the daylong Internet Governance Forum USA, which begins at 8:45 a.m.
- The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation will host a panel discussion on the IP transition at noon.