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Tech Edge

Liberals Want to Reclassify the Internet

July 15, 2014

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

TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: Today is the deadline for the first round of comments in the FCC's net-neutrality proceeding, and much of the debate is focused on the agency's authority. The House is expected to vote in the afternoon on a bill to permanently ban Internet access taxes.

TOP NEWS

LIBERALS PUSH FOR TITLE II: The only way to save net neutrality is for the FCC to use its broad powers under Title II of the Communications Act, Sens. Edward Markey, Chuck Schumer, Al Franken, and Bernie Sanders will argue today. The liberal senators have prepared a letter to the FCC and will hold a press conference this morning with Internet advocacy groups.

 

Sen. Ron Wyden also backed the push for Title II "common carriage" regulation in a comment to the FCC. Wyden wrote that the FCC should call the Internet what it is: a "telecommunications service."

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would clearly prefer not to reclassify the Internet, but mounting political pressure could make it a more appealing option for him.

... BUT CABLE INDUSTRY THREATENS LITIGATION: The National Cable and Telecommunications Association says in its comment that common-carriage regulation would stifle investment and would "likely fail to survive judicial scrutiny."

The Internet Association, which represents Google, Facebook, and others, dodged the issue entirely in its filing. A coalition of investment firms and nonprofit foundations explicitly backed the controversial move in a comment.

WHAT ELSE TO WATCH AS FINAL COMMENTS COME IN: Will there be a broad push to apply the rules to wireless networks? Is there any way for the FCC to ban Internet "fast lanes" without reclassifying the Internet? Will the Obama administration weigh in with a comment from the Commerce Department?

FCC AIMS TO FIGHT FRAUD WITH UNIVERSAL SERVICE FUND 'STRIKE FORCE': The FCC is creating a "strike force" to crack down on waste and fraud in the Universal Service Fund. Loyaan Egal is joining the FCC from the Fraud and Public Corruption Section of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia to head up the force. The USF collects money from fees on Americans' phone bills and distributes the funds to four programs that aim to connect poor and rural Americans to phones and the Internet, but frequent claims of abuse make it a constant source of controversy at the FCC.

HOUSE READIES VOTE ON BILL TO PERMANENTLY BAN INTERNET TAX: The House is expected to vote Tuesday afternoon on the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act. With more than 220 cosponsors, the bill is likely to pass the chamber and move to the Senate, where a mirror bill has racked up more than 50 cosponsors. The measure, which for the first time would make permanent a ban on federal, state, or local taxes for Internet access, earned a 30-4 approval in the House Judiciary Committee last month, with some dissent voiced by Democrats who would prefer Congress temporarily extend the tax moratorium.

The ban on taxing Internet access is set to expire on Nov. 1 and has been around since 1998, earning three temporary extensions. CTIA and the Information Technology Industry Council sent letters to House leaders Monday urging swift passage. But the tax ban is not without its detractors. Last week, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report indicting the "harmful" legislation, which it calculated would cost states up to $7 billion in potential annual revenue.

TOP LINES

VIDEO WITNESSES ANNOUNCED: Comcast's David Cohen will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee during a Wednesday hearing on video regulation. The other witnesses will be AT&T's John Stankey, Public Knowledge's Gene Kimmelman, Dish Network's Jeff Blum, Shawn Ryan of the Writers Guild of America-West, and University of Nebraska Professor Justin Hurwitz.

COMMERCE DEPARTMENT TO HIRE DATA OFFICER: Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced that the department is hiring its first data officer to manage its vast data resources and help "unlock" more government data in the future.

FOX LOSES BID TO STOP DISH'S REMOTE-VIEWING SERVICE: The Dish Hopper with Sling allows viewers to watch their programs anywhere, and a circuit court said the technology won't irreparably harm Fox. (Eriq Gardner, Hollywood Reporter)

WHITE HOUSE REJECTS TESLA'S DIRECT-TO-CONSUMER SALES PETITION: The electric car company got enough signatures for a White House response to its petition to bypass state dealership regulations, but the administration says it won't get involved. (Damon Lavrinc, Jalopnik)

VERIZON'S NETFLIX SPEEDS SLOW AGAIN: The video-streaming service dropped 17 percent in its June speeds on Verizon FiOS, but Verizon says the gradual setup of direct connections—paid for by Netflix—should help the problem. (Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica)

YOUR IPAD COULD GIVE YOU A RASH: Nickel, found in some laptops and cell phones, can trigger skin reactions in people who have an allergy. (Brett Molina, USA Today)

UBER REDUCING DRUNK DRIVING? Data from Philadelphia indicates that drunken driving is way down among under-30-year-olds since the chauffeuring app—and others like it—were introduced. (Rob Wile, Business Insider)

LIGHTSQUARED SETTLES DEBT FIGHT WITH DISH'S ERGEN: LightSquared's bankruptcy plan included a dispute over more than $1 billion in debt to Dish Chairman Charles Ergen, which had scuttled earlier plans; the agreement allows LightSquared to start moving forward on plans to reorganize. (Tiffany Kary, Bloomberg)

BRITAIN TO BUILD A SPACEPORT: The Brits are planning to build their first commercial spaceport, which could be used by companies like Virgin Galactic, and will announce eight possible locations Tuesday. (Robin McKie, The Guardian)

'NIPPLEGATE' IS STILL BIGGER THAN NET NEUTRALITY: Public interest in the FCC's new Internet rules is surging, but it has a ways to go before it catches up with the infamous "wardrobe malfunction." (Ryan)

MCDOWELL: NET NEUTRALITY A GUISE FOR MORE GOVERNMENT CONTROL: The former FCC commissioner says moves to "protect open Internet" are unnecessary and will give regulators too much control over speech online. (WaPo)

THE DAY AHEAD

  • The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism will hold a hearing on breaking up cybercriminal networks at 2:30 p.m.

  • The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet will hold a hearing on "Moral Rights, Termination Rights, Resale Royalty, and Copyright Term" at 1 p.m.

  • Rep. Jim McGovern will hold a briefing on "Killer Robots" at 1 p.m.

  • The Digital Policy Institute will host a webinar on net neutrality at 2 p.m.

  • Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger will speak about the security of the electric grid at an event hosted by the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress at 2:30 p.m.

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