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Senate Bill Would Let Viewers Drop Broadcast Channels Senate Bill Would Let Viewers Drop Broadcast Channels

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Senate Bill Would Let Viewers Drop Broadcast Channels

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

TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: The Senate Commerce Committee's leaders want to let cable and satellite TV subscribers drop broadcast channels. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler chastised Verizon, saying its "all the kids do it" excuse to throttling isn't good enough. Wheeler also is "seriously considering using the FCC's powers under Title II to reinstate net neutrality rules, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court will declassify by the end of the month a 2013 opinion involving its interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.



SENATE COMMERCE UNVEILS TV BILL: The leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee are taking aim at an important revenue stream for local TV broadcasters. Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller and ranking member John Thune circulated a proposal Friday that would allow cable and satellite TV subscribers to drop broadcast channels from their packages. The senators plan to attach their "Local Choice" proposal to legislation to reauthorize the satellite TV law STELA.

The goal of the bill is to slash the increasing fees that broadcasters are demanding from cable providers and to prevent disruptive blackouts. Instead of negotiating with cable providers, the broadcasters would have to convince consumers to pay for their channels.

It's an ambitious plan to reshape the TV industry, but there's little time left in the calendar for controversial legislation. The broadcasters are sure to pull out all the stops to kill the proposal, but so far, they've been careful not to come out guns-blazing. The National Association of Broadcasters issued a statement questioning "whether there is sufficient time for key committees in Congress to give this proposal the thorough review that is warranted."


WHEELER SKEPTICAL OF VERIZON'S THROTTLING RATIONALE: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler cast doubt on Verizon's defense against claims that it is throttling some customers' traffic to prevent congestion for the rest of its customers. Speaking during an commission meeting Friday, Wheeler said that he worried that economic motivations–rather than technological–are driving Verizon's decision to slow down certain customers' traffic.

Wheeler's comments followed a letter from Verizon to the FCC saying it only slows down traffic for customers who are using an outsize amount of data, and pointed fingers at the other major carriers for doing the same. The FCC sent inquiries to the other major carriers, according to the Wall Street Journal. But during Friday's meeting, Wheeler said that "all the kids do it" isn't a valid defense.

WHEELER RESPONDS TO TITLE II PUSH: The FCC is "seriously considering" using its sweeping powers under Title II to reinstate net neutrality rules, Chairman Wheeler wrote in a response to 13 Democratic senators that was posted online Friday.

Wheeler also responded to Republicans who have criticized his statements about overturning state bans on municipal broadband. The FCC chief said federal preemption is "not a step to be taken lightly," but argued he is on sound legal ground.


FCC ANNOUNCES NET NEUTRALITY ROUNDTABLES: Six meetings are set, two for the morning and afternoon of Sept. 16 and Sept. 19 and one each on Oct 2 and Oct. 7.

FISA COURT TO DECLASSIFY PATRIOT ACT OPINION: The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decided last week that it will release one of its pre-Snowden opinions that discusses its interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The February 2013 opinion, to be released by August 29, "does not sound like it relates to the bulk data collection" of phone records at the NSA, according to Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the ACLU, which last summer filed motions for access to decisions involving Section 215. But the opinion, which instead appears to involve a more targeted counterterrorism investigation, may still shed further light on how the government uses 215 in practice and how it is generally applied by the courts.

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LOBBYING UPDATE: Netflix hired Corley Consulting to lobby on telecommunications mergers and net neutrality, according to a new lobbyist registration.

THE REAL REASON YOU CAN'T TEXT 911: The FCC passed rules Friday to require all text providers to enable text-to-911 capabilities by the end of the year, but less than two percent of emergency call centers are equipped to accept text messages. (Ryan, NJ)

AMAZON AND DISNEY GO HEAD TO HEAD: Amazon will not accept pre-orders of some of Disney's upcoming releases, the same tactics it used against Hatchette. (Greg Bensinger, WSJ)

JUDGE REJECTS SETTLEMENT OFFERING IN ANTI-POACHING CASE: U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh deemed the $324.5 million class-action settlement from Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe to remedy claims of anti-competitive hiring practices as too low. Koh noted "compelling evidence" that Steve Jobs was "a, if not the, central figure in the alleged conspiracy" and said the settlement would need to total at least $380 million to match a similar one last year involving Disney and Intuit. (Dan Levine, Reuters)

AMAZON/HACHETTE FEUD TAKES WRONG "ORWELLIAN TURN": Amazon is now telling its customers to email Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch and clamor for low e-book prices. The retail behemoth invokes George Orwell to bolster its case, but takes one of his quotes sorely out of context. (David Streitfeld, NYT)

SCHUMER WARNS OF DATA SHARING FROM FITNESS DEVICES: The New York Democrat took to Central Park to blast Fitbit and similar devices for sharing personal health data with third parties, and called on the FTC to alert customers of such risks. In response, Fitbit said it does not sell user data--but declined to clarify whether it shares data without selling it. (Emily Ngo, Newsday)

LAWMAKERS WARN OF SECURITY RISK IN FCC CONTRACT: Reps. Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger want the FCC to consider national security as it debates whether to award a valuable contract to oversee the phone number system to either Neustar or Telcordia. (Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post)

TECHNOLOGY'S LOST YEAR IN CONGRESS: Tech is one of the least partisan issues in Congress, yet lawmakers have accomplished next to nothing this term. Here are six tech failures of the 113th Congress. (Joe Mullin, Ars Technica)

THE DOWNFALL OF ANONYMOUS: "For the FBI, not even the most technically adept member of Anonymous can stay anonymous forever." (Kevin Collier, The Daily Dot)



  • Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker is in San Francisco to meet with Mayor Ed Lee and leaders of Bay Area tech companies to talk abot the departmetn's Big Data initiative and how companies can innovate with government's open data. 


  • The American Enterprise Institute will hold an event with Newt Gingrich on "Veterans and their Smartphones: Creating a 21st Century Veterans Service System," at noon.

  • The National Democratic Institute will hold a discussion on open source tools for civic organizing at 5 p.m.


  • New NSA Director Mike Rogers will participate in an intelligence discussion and deliver keynote remarks about his agency at a dinner hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance at 8 pm.

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

Sign up form for the newsletter