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Obama Touts Internet in Schools, And Why You Can't Watch Youtube at the Super Bowl

Welcome to the 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 ONE PARAGRAPH: President Obama announced a step forward in his proposal to improve Internet access in schools during his State of the Union address Tuesday. Actions by the Federal Communications Commission and companies including Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon will bring high-speed broadband to more than 15,000 schools and 20 million students over the next two years, Obama said. Eric Holder is expected to update the Senate Judiciary Committee on how the Department of Justice will respond to President Obama request for changes to the NSA during an oversight hearing at 10:00 a.m. in Dirksen 226. James Clapper is expected to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee open hearing on current and projected national security threats at 10:00 a.m. in Hart 216.


THE FULL SOTU TECH SCORECARD: Obama's address was sprinkled with nuggets of tech policy for us to chew over. The highlights:

  • E-Rate: To achieve the president's goal of improving Internet service in schools, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said he will use "business-like management practices" to make the agency's existing E-Rate funds go farther this year. The White House said it will have more details about the philanthropic commitments from the tech companies in the coming weeks.

  • NSA Spying: As expected, Obama offered nothing more than a passing reference near the end of his speech on his efforts to "reform our surveillance programs" in an effort to restore public confidence in the intelligence community.

  • Immigration: Like in years past, Obama's demand to "get immigration reform this year" in order to boost the economy and shrink the deficit by $1 trillion over the next two decades elicited strong applause from Dems.

  • Patent Reform: Even an otherwise motionless Mitch McConnell stood and applauded at the cursory line Obama offered urging Congress to "pass a patent-reform bill that allows our businesses to stay focused on innovation, not costly, needless litigation." Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy sent two tweets--his only during the entire speech--praising the president's call for reform.

  • Cybersecurity: The issue was a focus in previous speeches, but this year, Obama said only that the U.S. must "combat new threats like cyberattacks."


CHANNEL SHARING TRIAL: Two Los Angeles television stations announced on Tuesday that they will participate in an experiment that has important implications for the FCC's upcoming spectrum auction. KLCS and KJLA agreed to share the same spectrum channel under a proposal devised by CTIA, the wireless industry's trade group. If the experiment—which still needs FCC approval—goes according to plan, viewers won't notice any interruption in service.

As part of the FCC's planned auction, some broadcasters will take a hefty paycheck to sell their spectrum and go out of business. But sharing a channel would allow two broadcasters to sell some spectrum while continuing to operate on a smaller chunk of airwaves. CTIA hopes the experiment with the L.A. TV stations will demonstrate to the FCC (and other TV broadcasters) that stations can share spectrum without technological problems. If the experiment leads to more broadcaster participation in the auction, it could result in the FCC auctioning more airwaves to the wireless carriers, resulting in faster speeds for their customers.

WHEELER HINTS AT NET-NEUTRALITY PLAN: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler suggested on Tuesday that he may address net neutrality violations on a case-by-case basis, That's unlikely to satisfy net-neutrality's strongest advocates, but it could keep the agency clear of a time-draining Capitol Hill fight over its regulatory authority. (Brendan Sasso, NJ)

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ROCKEFELLER QUESTIONS TARGET: Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller wants to know why Target didn't notify the Securities and Exchange Commission and investors about its recent data breach. In a letter to Target's CEO Tuesday, Rockefeller said he was "puzzled" that the company appears to be violating 2011 SEC guidance advising companies to disclose data breaches to investors.

DOJ OK WITH HACKING LAW 'CLARIFICATIONS': Mythili Raman, the acting chief of the Justice Department's Criminal Division, defended the importance of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a controversial anti-hacking law, at the State of the Net conference Tuesday. But she said DOJ has no interest in prosecuting people for trivial issues like violating a site's terms of service or lying about one's age on a dating site. The administration would support "appropriate clarifications" by Congress to make clear such behavior is not illegal, she said.


SCOTUS TAKES UP BROADCASTERS' QUESTION IN AEREO CASE: In what could be perceived as a blow to Aereo, the Supreme Court took up the question presented by broadcasters rather than the Internet TV company. (Kyle Alspach, Boston Business Journal)

NEW TOP DEM ON HOUSE IP SUBCOM: Rep. Jerry Nadler is the new ranking member on the House Judiciary's subcommittee on courts, intellectual property and the Internet. He replaced Rep. Mel Watt, who left Congress earlier this month to head up the Federal Housing Finance Agency.

NSA TO NAME NEW PRIVACY OFFICER FROM DHS: Rebecca Richards, a privacy officer at DHS, is reportedly taking on a similar role at the surveillance agency. She will be the first to hold the new position and could be officially named as early as today. (Paul Rosenzweig, Lawfare)

BITCOIN INVESTORS DEFEND REPUTATION, PROMOTE 'SAFE HARBOR': Investors responded to the recent online black market sting by saying such use is the exception, not the norm, and proposed exemptions for startups that could hamper bitcoin's growth. (Andy Greenberg, Forbes)

RAND PAUL TAKES AIM AT CLINTON: "She's been a big proponent of the surveillance state and the NSA." (Sasso, NJ)

SORRY, YOU CAN'T STREAM VIDEO ON YOUR PHONE AT THE SUPER BOWL: The NFL is blocking video streaming so networks don't get too bogged down to update user's social media posts. (Chris Welch, The Verge)

GOOGLE: DEEPMIND PURCHASE IS FOR SEARCH, NOT WORLD DOMINATION: Google's much-scrutinized purchase of the AI developer is designed to enhance its search, not program robots, the company said. (Nick Bilton, New York Times)

ANGRY BIRDS: Rovio Entertainment denied it shares its data with the NSA and promised to "re-evaluate" working with third-party advertising networks if they are being used for spying purposes. (Rovio)

GOOGLE LOSES PATENT INFRINGEMENT CASE: Software giant must pay 1.36 percent of AdWords revenue to Vringo. (Joe Mullin, Ars Technica)

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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