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Last-Minute Change Prompts Battle Over Cell-Phone Unlocking Last-Minute Change Prompts Battle Over Cell-Phone Unlocking

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Last-Minute Change Prompts Battle Over Cell-Phone Unlocking

Welcome to National Journal's Tech Edge, a morning tipsheet 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 is expected to vote Tuesday on H.R.1123, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte's bill to legalize cell-phone unlocking. But a last-minute change to not allow bulk unlocking has caused Silicon Valley Democratic Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo to pull their support and rally opposition. The House will vote on the bill under a suspension of the rules, meaning it will need a two-thirds vote to pass. The lower chamber is also expected to vote on a modified version of the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (also known as FITARA), which aims to improve the way the government awards technology contracts.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, and Goodlatte will speak at the National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference beginning at 11:15 a.m. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration will hold its second meeting on the privacy concerns surrounding facial recognition technology at 1 p.m. The New America Foundation is hosting a panel discussion on the economic impact of the NSA spying revelations at 4 p.m.


DEMS LAUNCH BID TO BLOCK UNLOCKING BILL: Lofgren and Eshoo sent a "dear colleague" letter urging members to oppose Goodlatte's cell-phone unlocking bill. The lawmakers are strong supporters of allowing consumers to unlock their phones and switch providers, but they accused Goodlatte of making "secret" changes to the bill after it passed committee last year. The new version keeps in place a ban on unlocking phones in bulk.


"The new provision could have negative effects on consumer choice and could undercut an important court decision that protects consumer choice and prevents monopolistic practices," the Democrats wrote in their letter. "We cannot in good conscience support a bill that risks giving up so much for so little gain."

But the bill still has support from top Democrats including Rep. John Conyers, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, and Jerrold Nadler, the ranking member of the intellectual property subcommittee.

AT&T AND VERIZON EYE NETFLIX DEALS: Following on the heels of Netflix's deal for a direct connection to Comcast's network, both AT&T and Verizon said they are pursuing similar arrangements with the online video site. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said on CNBC that he has talked with Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, and that the executives think a deal would be in both of their interests.

AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel said in a statement that the company is "in discussions with Netflix to establish a more direct connection between our networks, similar to agreements we have with others, so that AT&T broadband customers who use Netflix can enjoy an even better video experience."


FED IT BILL TO GET ANOTHER HOUSE VOTE: The Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA), which garnered some renewed interest during the bungling of the Obamacare website launch, was passed out of the House last summer and tacked on to the Senate's annual defense reauthorization bill before being stripped from it in December. The bipartisan measure, backed by Reps. Darrell Issa and Gerald Connolly, has since been modified and is due for another vote today, according to leadership scheduling and aides in the House Oversight Committee. It would elevate CIOs at federal agencies (including, in the new version, the Defense Department) to the level of presidential appointee and allow them to oversee agency budgets, attempt to rein in wasteful spending on IT acquisitions, and require agencies to more diligently track and report their IT issues.

BROADCASTERS WANT TO KEEP BLACKOUT RULES: The National Association of Broadcasters filed comments Monday on an FCC proposal to allow cable and satellite providers to bring blacked-out games to fans even if their local broadcast affiliates are banned from showing them. That proposal, NAB said, would hurt local stations and encourage sports leagues to put more content on pay TV—to the detriment of fans who still watch sports programming over the air.

...AND ASK SUPREME COURT TO KILL AEREO: Broadcasters made their case against Aereo, which they say is stealing their content, in a brief filed with the Supreme Court. The Court will decide whether or not Aereo "publicly performs" copyrighted television material. The Court will hear oral arguments on April 22.

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DINGELL TO RETIRE: Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving member of the House and the former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, announced he will retire at the end of the term. He had hinted at interest in trying to reclaim his old job as the committee's top Democrat. His retirement leaves Reps. Anna Eshoo and Frank Pallone to vie for the post.


SENATE PLANS COMCAST-TWC HEARING: The Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it will review Comcast's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable at a hearing on March 26.

HOUSE HEARING ON TV LAW: The House Communications Subcommittee will hold a hearing next week on STELA, a satellite television law which is set to expire at the end of the year.

WHITE HOUSE BIG DATA WORKSHOPS: The White House will hold a series of workshops on the issues surrounding the collection and storage of massive amount of data. The first workshop will be held next Monday at MIT.

US PLANNED CYBER ATTACKS ON SYRIA: The Pentagon and the NSA developed plans to use cyber attacks on the Syrian military, but President Obama has so far turned them down (David Sanger, NYT)

HOLDER: CONGRESS MUST ACT TO FIGHT DATA BREACHES: The attorney general called on Congress to enact legislation that would "create a strong, national standard for quickly alerting consumers whose information may be compromised." (Volz, NJ)

SCHUMER CALLS FOR CONNECTED-CAR GUIDELINES: Sen. Chuck Schumer called for privacy guidelines for drivers' location data, asking federal agencies to provide an opt-out for owners who don't want their information shared with third-parties. FTC praised Schumer's call for action. (Brown, NJ)

$19 BILLION WAS BARGAIN DEAL TO ZUCKERBERG: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at the Mobile World Congress that Facebook underpaid for WhatsApp. "The reality is that there are very few services that reach a billion people in the world. They're all incredibly valuable, much more valuable than that," Zuckerberg said. (Sam Schechner, WSJ)

BOTNET ROBS $220,000 IN DIGITAL CURRENCIES: Bitcoin and other virtual monies were hit by a global malware virus called "Pony" in a hack that lasted from September through January. (Dan Goodin, Ars Technica)

LAWYERS OBJECT TO NSA SPYING: In a letter to NSA Director Keith Alexander, the American Bar Association attacked the agency over recent reports that it spies on American lawyers working overseas, possibly violating attorney-client privilege.

GOP PLOTS TO CLOSE TECH GAP: Strategists hope a series of tech training workshops at CPAC can be the start of an all-encompassing effort to catch up the the wizardry deployed by liberals during Obama's reelection campaign. (Brian Fung, WaPo)

WHY LINKEDIN IS EXPANDING TO CHINA: The social network for professionals is hoping to tap the huge Chinese market, and it believes it has less to lose than others by subjecting itself to the "Great Firewall" of censorship. (Volz, NJ)

UNDERSEA CABLE PLANNED TO DODGE NSA: The European Union and Brazil agreed to build an undersea cable to reduce Brazil's reliance on the U.S. in the wake of NSA spying revelations. (Robin Emmott, Reuters) 

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."

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