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Lawmakers Plan Tweaks to TV Bill, and AT&T to Propose Trials Lawmakers Plan Tweaks to TV Bill, and AT&T to Propose Trials

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Lawmakers Plan Tweaks to TV Bill, and AT&T to Propose Trials

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 ONE PARAGRAPH: The House Commerce and Trade Subcommittee will hear from academics during its second hearing on the FTC on its 100th anniversary at 9:30 a.m. AT&T will release details about its IP transition trial proposals. The Bipartisan Policy Center will discuss cybersecurity threats to the electric grid at 9 a.m. in a panel featuring former NSA Director Michael Hayden and former FERC chairman Curt Hebert.


TV BILL IN THE WORKS: The Republican leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are working on an update to STELA, a satellite TV bill that expires at the end of the year. Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden had said he preferred a clean bill, but, according to TV industry sources, the committee is now working on a bill that would make certain regulatory tweaks in favor of the pay-TV industry. Cable and satellite providers would be able to sell tiers of programming that don't include broadcast channels. Broadcasters wouldn't be able to cut off cable providers during "sweeps weeks" when ratings are tallied. The bill would end the requirement that cable set-top boxes use "cable-card" encryption and would limit the ability of broadcasters to negotiate as a group.

More details about the proposal will likely come at Wednesday's hearing, which will feature testimony from NCTA chief Michael Powell and executives from DirecTV, TiVo, and Schurz Communications.


REPUBLICANS WORKING ON PRIVACY BILL?: During an interview on C-SPAN's The Communicators, Republican Rep. Joe Barton said the House GOP leadership is "beginning to put packages together" of online privacy protection legislation that may be on the floor by the summer. "I think Google and Facebook are intrusive when they capture information without your permission," said Barton, a longtime privacy advocate. The interview (which features NJ's Brendan Sasso) will air on Saturday. The Texas lawmaker also pushed for his online poker legislation and laughed at the notion that Congress intended to give the FCC authority over the Internet with Section 706 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

McCASKILL INTRODUCES PATENT-TROLL BILL: Amid an already crowded field of legislation, the Missouri Democrat, joined by Sen. John Rockefeller, dropped a new patent-reform measure that would strengthen the Federal Trade Commission's policing against "unfair or deceptive" demand letters from patent trolls and reinforce the power wielded by state attorneys general to go after bad actors. The bill calls for stronger enforcement muscle than either the House-passed Innovation Act or what Sen. Patrick Leahy has offered in his bill, but it's likely to face opposition from Republicans worried about granting too much authority to the FTC. The Senate Commerce Committee will mark-up McCaskill's bill on Wednesday.

LAWMAKERS WANT TO CRACK DOWN ON HIDDEN PHONE FEES: Rep. Anna Eshoo and others sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler urging the commission to open a proceeding on the disclosure of below-the-line fees on consumers' monthly phone bills.

AMICUS FILINGS MOUNT IN SOFTWARE PATENTS CASE: The friend-of-the court briefs are piling up for the Supreme Court's review of Alice v. CLS, the hotly anticipated software patent case slated for March 31. BSA's new literature urges a narrow ruling, stating that "the patents at issue in this case are invalid. But it is just as plain that true software innovations are eligible to be patented under U.S. law." The Electronic Frontier Foundation added its name to the scrum as well Thursday, taking a hard stance against broad software patents on grounds they undercut innovation.


GOOGLE PUSHES BACK ON VIDEO TAKEDOWN ORDER: After a court ruling in favor of an actress who claims she was duped into appearing in an Islamophobic film, Google is complying—begrudgingly—by removing the video. Its removal notice states its disagreement with the order and vows to fight it. (Alex Hern, The Guardian)

…AND IT COULD UNITE SILICON VALLEY AND HOLLYWOOD: The ruling over an actor's right to veto a movie's distribution opens up lots of questions—including whether sources can nix articles about them. (Timothy Lee, WaPo)

NSA HEAD ASKS CONGRESS TO HELP STOP CYBERATTACKS: As a solution to stalled cyber legislation, Sen. McCain suggested the creation of a select committee to handle the quickly evolving policy area at a hearing Thursday. (Jordain Carney, NJ)

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DISH (PROBABLY) WON H-BLOCK SPECTRUM: The FCC ended its H-Block spectrum auction, and it appears Dish Network was the big winner. But it'll be several days before any official announcement. (Sasso, NJ)

PELOSI BACKS ESHOO FOR E&C SLOT: The former speaker is supporting the California Democrat to lead the party's members on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. (Ben Geman, NJ)

NSA HELPS BRITAIN SPY ON WEBCAMS OF YAHOO USERS: Snapshots of 1.8 million global Yahoo users were collected during a six-month interval in 2008, "including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications." (Ackerman/Ball, The Guardian)

FEDS SAY DATA-COLLECTION REFORM IS A SECRET: The NSA is taking proposals for how to store its phone-call metadata. It's not telling the public what those proposals are. (David Kravets, Wired)

YELLEN SAYS FEDERAL RESERVE WON'T HANDLE BITCOIN: It's a matter for the Justice Department to deal with. (Catherine Hollander, NJ)

NASA WANTS TO TRACK EVERY RAINDROP AND SNOWFLAKE ON EARTH: Watching the water cycle—via a satellite that launched Thursday—will help us predict disasters and monitor climate change. (Brown, NJ)

HOUSE MEMBERS FORM SPECTRUM CAUCUS: Reps. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., and Doris Matsui, D-Calif., are cofounding the group to inform their colleagues on spectrum policy.

IDENTITY THEFT TOPPED FTC'S COMPLAINT LIST LAST YEAR: Debt collection, banks, and lenders round out the agency's most-complained-about issues.

HOW OBAMACARE'S TECH FAILS WERE (MOSTLY) FIXED: "Unknown to a nation following the fiasco, [Denis] McDonough's assignment from the President had boiled down to something more dire than how to fix the site. As the chief of staff remembers his mission, it was 'Can it be patched and improved to work, or does it need to be scrapped to start over? He wanted to know if this thing is salvageable.' " (Steven Brill, Time)

AS DROPBOX PREPS FOR IPO, PRIVACY CONCERNS EMERGE: The online storage company's recent changes to its privacy policy and terms of service have not gone unnoticed, especially a clause requiring users to settle issues through arbitration rather than formal legal claims, unless they choose to opt out within the first 30 days. (Mark DeCambre, Quartz)

WIFIFORWARD EVENT FEATURING ROSENWORCEL: FCC Commissioner Rosenworcel will participate in a panel discussion of W-Fi uses in the 5 GHz band Tuesday at 8:30. It is the first event hosted by WifiForward, a coalition group made up of companies including Comcast, Google, and Microsoft.

PEW: EVERYBODY LOVES THE INTERNET: The verdict is in: an overwhelming majority of Americans use the Internet, and most people think it has been a boon for their personal lives and society, according to a study released Pew on the eve of Web's 25th birthday. (Brian Resnick, NJ)

NASA FOUND 715 NEW PLANETS: The Kepler Mission's discoveries have nearly doubled the amount of planets we know about. Four of the newly discovered planets could possibly be habitable.

CHINESE PRESIDENT TAKES OVER CYBERSECURITY AGENCY: Xi Jinping said he wants to make China a "cyber power" and took personal command of its new security group. (William Wan, Washington Post)

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

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