TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: The House overwhelmingly approved an amendment to curb NSA spying. Rep. Kevin McCarthy's victory could be a boost for the tech industry. T-Mobile's music streaming plan is stoking new net-neutrality fears. Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on net neutrality with testimony from FTC Commissioner Josh Wright, Professor Tim Wu, and former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell.
LATE BREAKING: HOUSE BACKS NSA LIMITS: The House voted 293 to 123 late Thursday in favor of an amendment to rein in the NSA. The amendment to a defense appropriations bill would bar the NSA from using funds to gain "backdoor" access to Americans' information. The measure from Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Thomas Massie would go beyond the privacy safeguards of the USA Freedom Act, which passed the House last month.
IS NET NEUTRALITY AN ANTITRUST ISSUE?: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte will argue at a hearing today that the antitrust laws can handle net-neutrality abuses. Rigid regulation risks stifling innovation, but enforcement of existing antitrust laws can ensure "improper behavior is prevented and prosecuted," Goodlatte will say in his opening statement.
Republican FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright will agree that antitrust "offers a superior analytical framework." But Tim Wu, the Columbia professor who coined the term "net neutrality," will argue that antitrust enforcement alone would fail to protect free speech and other noneconomic values.
TECH CLAIMS MCCARTHY WIN FOR THEIR OWN: Rep. Kevin McCarthy's ascension to Majority Leader is widely viewed as a reason to celebrate for the tech community. The Bakersfield, Calif., lawmaker has deep ties to Silicon Valley, having wooed the tech elite with his charm and open ear. He also backs issues like surveillance reform and expansion of visas for high-tech workers. The tech lobbying group TechNet said in a statement Thursday, "Few members of Congress have as deep an understanding and appreciation for the economic impact and social change created by technology as Leader McCarthy."
...MEANWHILE, CABLE WELCOMES SCALISE VICTORY: Incoming House Majority Whip Steve Scalise will still keep his seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, where he has pushed legislation that would strip regulatory protections for broadcasters. The American Television Alliance, a cable lobbying group, called him the "epitome of a leader" who puts his "policy knowledge and political skill to use for the benefit of functioning markets that help consumers."
T-MO'S MUSIC PLAN PROMPTS NET-NEUTRALITY FEARS: T-Mobile's plan to exempt the top music-streaming services from its monthly data caps has net neutrality advocates worried. The FCC's 2010 regulations mostly exempted mobile providers, but advocates argue that T-Mobile's plan could manipulate the Internet in favor of the largest companies.
In a blog post, Public Knowledge's Michael Weinberg argued that the announcement shows data caps are really about squeezing out profits, not managing network congestion.
"Regardless of whether they are fast lanes/slow lanes or metered lanes/unmetered lanes, the result is the same," Weinberg wrote. "Startups trying to compete with established players are undermined from doing so."
In a statement, T-Mobile said it will "add additional music streaming providers over time and any lawful and licensed streaming music service can work with us for inclusion in this offer." Unlike AT&T's sponsored data plan, T-Mobile is not charging companies to participate.
Controversies over net neutrality on wireless networks could prompt the FCC to take a closer look at the issue—especially in the context of Sprint's expected bid for T-Mobile.
I read the Tech Edge every morning."
Ashley, Senior Media Associate
SUPREME COURT LIMITS SOFTWARE PATENTS: In a narrow ruling Thursday, the Supreme Court said simply involving a computer in an idea doesn't mean it's patentable. The court didn't strike down all software patents (as some had hoped), and the justices offered little guidance for future patent disputes. (Sasso, NJ)
RULING IS LATEST BLOW TO PATENT COURT: The high court threw out five rulings from the Federal Circuit this year. (Lawrence Hurley, Reuters)
SENATE JUDICIARY HOLDS STELA: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold over a bill to reauthorize satellite TV law STELA until next week. Chairman Patrick Leahy said the Senate "must act swiftly to move a bipartisan, non-controversial" reauthorization bill. Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, however, is eyeing more ambitious revisions to TV regulations.
FCC SLAPS BIGGEST FINE EVER ON CHINESE FIRM: The FCC handed a whopping $34.9 million fine to a Chinese company that sold technology used to block radio signals, a practice known as mobile jamming.
O'RIELLY TO FCC: QUIT BEING AN OSTRICH: FCC Commissioner Mike O'Rielly is urging the agency to get its head out of the sand and modify its rules to accommodate the rapidly evolving video marketplace. (John Eggerton, B&C)
SPRINT LINES UP FINANCING FOR T-MO DEAL: Eight banks plan to fund the roughly $40 billion deal. (Kim/Sassard/ Sierra, Reuters)
MAJORITY OF AMERICANS OPPOSE COMCAST-TWC MERGER: A new poll from Consumer Reports shows that 46 percent of Americans oppose the cable merger, while only 11 percent support it.
DEMOCRATS ACCUSE GREG WALDEN OF BEING ABSENT ON MERGERS: "If you don't uphold and optimize the jurisdictions that are there, they will atrophy," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, the ranking Democrat on Walden's Energy and Commerce subcommittee on communications. (Kate Tummarello, The Hill)
KILL SWITCHES ARE WORKING, POLICE SAY: Police in New York, San Francisco, and London have noticed a dip in cell-phone theft after the introduction of kill switches. (Brian Chen, NYT)
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR DATA AFTER IT'S STOLEN? The payoff of carrying out a major hack depends on how well you can navigate the underground economy of data breaches. (Wade Williamson, Forbes)
WHERE DOES AMAZON END? Amazon is undoubtedly an innovative force to be reckoned with, but where do you draw the line between innovator and bully? (The Economist)
KEEP INTERCONNECTION DEALS SECRET: Daniel Lyons, a scholar with the Free State Foundation, argues that the FCC should resist calls to publicize the details of interconnection deals between Netflix and Internet providers.
THE DAY AHEAD
FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright, Tim Wu, and former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell will testify before the House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee during a hearing on net neutrality at 9 a.m.
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I read the Tech Edge every morning."
Ashley, Senior Media Associate