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House to Vote on NSA Limits as Defense Amendments - Brought to You by SoftBank

By Laura Ryan (@NJLJRyan) with help from Brendan Sasso (@BrendanSasso) and Alex Brown (@AlexBrownNJ)

TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: The House is expected to vote on two amendments to a Defense appropriations bill that would rein in NSA spying. The FCC's Broadband Report has some bad news for Comcast's bid for Time Warner Cable. Commissioner Ajit Pai pushes his E-Rate plan at the 11th hour. Facebook crashed this morning, blacking out the site for a short time worldwide. The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on the satellite TV law STELA. Today could be the day for the Supreme Court's decision on Aereo or other tech cases—tune in at 10 a.m. to find out.



HOUSE TO DEBATE NSA POWER AGAIN: Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Republican Rep. Thomas Massie are pushing two amendments that would limit the NSA's ability to spy on Americans.The first amendment would bar the NSA from using any funds to search for Americans' communications under Section 702 of FISA. The amendment would close the "loophole" that has allowed the NSA to target Americans in the batches of foreign data it collects. The second amendment would prohibit the agency from using any funds to build backdoors into data security products.

The amendments to the Defense appropriations bill have the support of Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, John Conyers, Justin Amash, and others. The measures would go beyond the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House last month.

REPORT FINDS DSL LAGGING BEHIND: Internet speeds are faster than ever—except for DSL, according to the FCC's annual broadband report card. DSL providers haven't improved much and are failing to meet their advertised speeds, the report found. The findings undercut an important argument in Comcast's bid to buy Time Warner Cable: that DSL is a stronger competitor to the cable giants. (Sasso, NJ)


...AND FCC CONFIRMS INTERNET CONGESTION: The FCC also found that speeds are suffering due to congestion on network interconnection points. The FCC, which already announced last week that it is looking into the issue, didn't point any fingers about who is at fault.

HOUSE JUDICIARY VOTES TO EXTEND BAN ON INTERNET ACCESS TAXES...: The committee voted 30-4 to pass the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prevents states from levying taxes on Internet access. The original ban on such taxes is set to expire on November.

...WHILE SENATORS MAY SEEK TO ADD ONLINE SALES TAX: Some senators may add online sales tax provisions to the House bill if it makes its way to the upper chamber. The Senate passed an Internet sales tax bill last year, but it has stalled as the House explores alternative measures. House Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte has said the two tax proposals should be kept separate. (John McKinnon, WSJ)

PAI TOUTS E-RATE PLAN: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to drop his E-Rate reform proposal today or tomorrow, but Commissioner Ajit Pai took one last opportunity Wednesday to share his five-part "student-centered" plan. Speaking at a Federal Communications Bar Association event, the Republican commissioner said that he will not support any reform that raises the fund's budget. Instead, he said E-Rate reform should be focused on prioritization, simplification, and transparency. He also said it is a chance for the commission to break its partisan voting streak.


PRIVACY GROUPS TAKE HARD LINE ON USA FREEDOM ACT: Thirty-two civil liberties groups are warning that they will oppose the USA Freedom Act unless the Senate Intelligence Committee to toughens up the bill's limits on the NSA. In a letter Wednesday, the groups called for a "definitive" end to bulk collection by tightening the definition of a "specific selection term." The groups also pushed for stronger transparency provisions, reforms to the FISA court, and other changes.


NSA PARTNERSHIPS GET ACCESS TO INTERNET BACKBONE: New Snowden documents reveal that NSA "third-party" partnerships give as many as 33 partners access to global Internet backbone cables, according to a Danish newspaper. (Geist/Gjerding/Moltke/Poitras, Dagbladet Information) 

T-MOBILE OFFERS FREE MUSIC STREAMING: T-Mobile Chief John Legere says the mobile carrier's new unlimited free music streaming is a "glimpse" of what competition would look like if it joined forces with sprint. (Brian Chen, NYT)

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FACEBOOK BACK ONLINE AFTER GLOBAL OUTAGE: Facebook's website server crashed in the wee hours of the morning, temporarily causing the social media site to go dark around the world. (Reuters)

PRIVACY BILL REACHES CRITICAL MASS: A majority of house members support a bill that would prevent police from searching electronic communications without a warrant, increasing the likelihood it will see a vote this year. (Kate Tummarello, The Hill)

MEET THE FIRE PHONE: Amazon unveiled its smartphone, equipped with 3D cameras and all things Amazon. The price tag? $199. (David Pierce, The Verge)

AMAZON HIRES DRONE LOBBYISTS: The company is paying Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld to advocate for its proposed drone delivery program. (Byron Tau, Politico)

MICHAEL O'LEARY EXITS MPAA: The Motion Picture Association of America will say goodbye to longtime head of government relations, Michael O'Leary.

WORLD CUP BREAKS STREAMING RECORDS: The World Cup has already broken peak traffic records for Akamai, ESPN, and Univision. (Todd Spangler, Variety)

GOOGLE READY TO COMPLY WITH 'RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN' RULES: Europe is requiring search providers to remove links that individuals say violate their privacy; Google says it will start taking down links by the end of the month. (Mark Scott, NYT)

WELCOME TO THE … BITCOIN BOWL? Thanks to BitPay's three-year sponsorship, college football players will now play in the Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl. (Michael Katz, SB Nation)

GAO: FEDS NEED TO START SMALL ON TECH PROJECTS: Huge government tech projects—such as the—should proceed in small increments, rather than long-term, all-at-once rollouts, said GAO IT director David Powner. (Quentin Hardy, NYT)


  • The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a full committee markup of legislation to reauthorize the satellite TV law STELA at 9:30 a.m.

  • The Supreme Court will issues decisions beginning at 10 a.m. We are still waiting for decisions on Aereo, patents, and cell phone searches…

  • Chairman Tom Wheeler, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and Rep. Jose Serrano will open the FCC's workshop on mobile phone theft prevention at 9 a.m.

  • John Podesta and White House CTO Todd Park will participate in an event hosted by the White House and Georgetown University on big data and government performance at 1 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

Sign up form for the newsletter