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House Considers Online Sales Tax and Debates TV Law

Welcome to National Journal's Tech Edge, a morning tip sheet with the news you need in technology policy, featuring a round-up 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 IN TWO PARAGRAPHS: The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. to consider whether to empower states to tax online purchases. Advocates hope Chairman Bob Goodlatte will signal a potential House move to take up the issue, but opponents say its prospects in an election year are slim. The House Communications and Technology Subcommittee will hold a hearing on whether to reauthorize the satellite-TV law STELA at 10:30 a.m. The cable industry will push for new provisions to strengthen their hand in negotiations with broadcasters.

The House Small Business Committee will hold a hearing on 3-D printing at 1 p.m. The Senate Armed Services Committee will have a hearing on military space programs at 2:30 p.m. The House Armed Services Committee has a hearing on IT and cyber operations at 3:30 p.m with Gen. Keith Alexander.


Join National Journal on Wednesday, March 12, for "The Future of Nuclear Security Policy Summit," underwritten by the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Knight Broadcast Studio, Third Floor, Newseum, 8-10 a.m. RSVP @ http://the-future-of-global-nuclear-security-policy-summit-tickets


HOUSE APPROVES FCC PROCESS BILL: The House approved the FCC Process Reform Act in a voice vote Tuesday night. The bipartisan legislation sets minimum comment periods, establishes timelines for agency actions, and requires greater transparency in the commission's decision-making. It also updates the FCC's "sunshine rules" to allow three or more commissioners to meet privately, an amendment that helped win Democratic support. Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden, the bill's author, said the legislation aligns closely with recommendations outlined by the FCC's working group on the matter. Although Walden pared back a previous version of the bill in order to win Democratic support, it's unclear whether the Senate will take it up. Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who introduced a similar bill in the Senate last month, applauded the action and pressed the Senate to follow suit.

BATTLE LINES FOR STELA: House lawmakers have pulled off an impressive feat by floating a draft STELA bill that has the support of cable companies, satellite providers, and broadcasters. But a provision that would repeal a security standard for cable boxes will draw the ire of TiVo's Matt Zinn at the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee hearing today. He will argue the standard is critical for preserving competition for cable boxes. Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo and Matt Wood of Free Press will also criticize the cable-box provision as well as as language that would limit the FCC's ability to police broadcaster sales deals.

FEINSTEIN SETS SENATE ABLAZE WITH CIA ACCUSATIONS: In a 40-minute screed Tuesday morning, Sen. Dianne Feinstein sharply accused the CIA of interfering with her committee's investigation into the agency's Bush-era programs and potentially violating the Constitution. Feinstein's early-morning battle cry, which the CIA quickly denied—Director John Brennan carefully told NBC's Andrea Mitchell just 90 minutes after Feinstein's speech finished that allegations of CIA "spying" were "beyond the scope of reason"—blindsided some fellow lawmakers and muddled party lines.

Powerful Democrats Patrick Leahy and Harry Reid immediately backed Feinstein, as did Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham. But some Democrats, including Barbara Mikulski, and the top Republican in her own committee, Saxby Chambliss, urged caution. "Right now we don't know what the facts are," Chambilss said, adding that he wants the committee to resolve the issue internally. Appearing on Bloomberg TV, Marco Rubio chimed in to urge an "impartial investigation" but cautioned that "I don't think anyone has a clean hand." (Volz, NJ)


SOFTBANK HEAD SAYS T-MOBILE MERGER WOULD BENEFIT CONSUMERS: Masayoshi Son said a Sprint-T-Mobile merger would boost speeds and drive down prices, and he wants another meeting with skeptical regulators to make his case. (Brown, NJ) But Sprint won't be getting any love from AT&T. "If Mr. Son is having a bad experience with US Wireless, it must be because he's using Sprint," Jim Cicconi, AT&T's top lobbyist, said in an emailed statement.

MORE SOFTBANK NEWS: BRUCE GOTTLIEB JOINS AS EXECUTIVE VP: Bruce Gottlieb, the outgoing president of National Journal and a former top aide to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, will head SoftBank's new D.C. office. The move indicates an expanded focus on U.S. policy issues following the Japanese company's purchase of Sprint last year.

NSA NOMINEE WARNS OF CYBERATTACKS: Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, President Obama's nominee to head the NSA and Cyber Command, confirmed that Ukraine has suffered cyberattacks—but declined to point the finger at Russia. Rogers also warned that U.S. computer systems are vulnerable and urged Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation. Sen. Saxby Chambliss said he is "very close" to introducing a cybersecurity bill with Sen. Dianne Feinstein. (Sasso, NJ)

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ROGERS HAS A TOUGH JOB AHEAD OF HIM: Rogers will take over an agency that is engulfed in controversy with demoralized staff who aren't used to having to defend themselves publicly. "Congratulations," Sen. Jack Reed told Rogers during Tuesday's hearing. "I don't know if that's in order or not, but congratulations." (Sorcher, NJ)


GOOGLE ADDED TO HOUSE COPYRIGHT WITNESSES: Copyright policy counsel Katherine Oyama will testify Thursday before a House Judiciary subcommittee looking at the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. She's joined by award-winning composer Maria Schneider, Elsevier counsel Paul Doda, Paul Sieminski, general counsel at Automattic, and two professors.

THE EVOLUTION OF THE FISA COURT: The "Raw Take" order signed ten months after the Sept. 11 attacks made it easier for intelligence officials to disseminate unfiltered personal information gathered during court-ordered wiretaps. (Savage/Poitras, NYT)

CBS WEIGHS SHUTDOWN OF BROADCAST SIGNAL IF AEREO WINS: If Aereo prevails in its Supreme Court battle with the major broadcasters, CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves said CBS would consider shutting down its broadcast signal and offer its content over the Internet. (Reuters)

FINRA WARNS CONSUMERS ABOUT BITCOIN: The self-regulatory organization issued a warning about fraud, hacking, and price fluctuations with the online currency.

NEW YORK OPENS DOOR TO BITCOIN EXCHANGE APPLICATIONS: New York State's financial regulatory department announced Tuesday that it would begin accepting applications to operate digital currency exchanges and plans to have a regulatory framework in place by the end of the second quarter. (Jason Del Rey, Re/Code)

TENNIS CHANNEL GOES BACK TO FCC: After exhausting its options in court, the Tennis Channel is asking the FCC to rework its decision that Comcast discriminated against the sports network. (John Eggerton, Multichannel News)

YAHOO INTRODUCES NEW VP OF INFORMATION AND SECURITY: Yahoo announced that security expert Alex Stamos will step into the role of vice president of information and security. The well-known surveillance critic will lead Yahoo's information security efforts. (Kate Tummarello, The Hill)

SMALL BUSINESSES PUSH INTERNET SALES TAX BILL: Small-business owners are pushing House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte to make online sales tax a top priority. (Bernie Becker, The Hill)

INSIDE THE WORLD'S LARGEST BITCOIN MINING OPERATION: Business Insider gets a tour of one of the largest bitcoin mining operations, located in a secret location in Washington state. (Dylan Love, Business Insider)

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF EVERY SATOSHI NAKAMOTO: Well, at least 28 of them living in Japan. And like the Dorian Satoshi of southern California, they all deny creating bitcoin. (Hiroko Tabuchi, NYT)

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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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