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TODAY IN TWO PARAGRAPHS: The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing at 9:30 a.m. today to consider the nomination of Michael Rogers to be the new head of NSA and Cyber Command. Privacy advocates and security experts are eager to learn more about Rogers's plans for leading the embattled spy agency. SoftBank Chairman Masayoshi Son plans to discuss the wireless industry at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at noon. He may try to pitch policymakers on the merits of a Sprint-T-Mobile merger.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on "Open Government and Freedom of Information: Reinvigorating the Freedom of Information Act for the Digital Age" at 10:15 a.m. Public Knowledge will host a panel discussion on the IP transition at 10:30 a.m. Technology company CEOs will discuss the "data economy" at an event moderated by Fareed Zakaria at 5 p.m. Down at SXSW, representatives from Public Knowledge and the i2Coalition, among others, will discuss the economic impact of NSA surveillance revelations at 1:30 p.m. as part of a daylong series of talks on innovation policy.
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FCC READY TO VOTE ON NEW MEDIA RULES: The FCC plans to vote on a proposal that would block joint sales agreements between TV stations at the next open commission meeting, scheduled for March 31. But Commissioner Mike O'Reilly joined fellow Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai in protesting the proposal put forward by Chairman Tom Wheeler, setting the stage for a partisan battle. O'Reily released a statement Monday saying the deal would hurt minority stations and create a "Mother-May-I" approach to doling out JSAs.
OPPOSITION MOUNTS TO TV BILL: Public Knowledge, Free Press, the National Consumer League, and other groups criticized a provision in the draft STELA bill that would end a video encryption standard. In their letter to House lawmakers, the groups argued that the standard—which allows retail set-top boxes like TiVo to access video—boosts competition and encourages innovation. The letter was also signed by the AllVid Tech Company Alliance, which includes TiVo, Google, and Best Buy. The cable industry argues that the encryption standard is an unnecessary burden that results in higher costs for consumers.
'PLETHORA OF COMPETITION': Asked Monday about the Comcast bid for Time Warner Cable, Sen. Marco Rubio said he needs to know more before taking a position. But the Florida Republican praised the "plethora of competition that now exists through multiple outlets" for video content. He pointed to over-the-air broadcast stations, satellite TV providers, online video sites like Netflix, and "multiple cable companies." Consumer groups have bemoaned the lack of competition in the industry, noting that millions of consumers only have one option for fixed broadband service.
RUBIO'S TECH BILLS: In his prepared speech, Rubio announced he will introduce a bill to force federal agencies to give spectrum to the private sector. He also plans to introduce legislation to make it formal U.S. policy to promote the current "multistakeholder" model of Internet governance, free from international controls. (Sasso, NJ)
U.S. STEPS UP MONITORING OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES: In an effort to foil the next Edward Snowden, U.S. intelligence officials plan to monitor federal employees electronically with security clearances, according to a report by the Associated Press. Drawing on data from a variety of government and private databases, the electronic system aims to preemptively spot potential leakers or corrupt officials, and is based off a program developed by the Defense Department. The personnel-monitoring system could go into effect as early as September 2014.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper floated the idea by Congress last month, saying, "What we need is a system of continuous evaluation where when someone is in the system and they're cleared initially, then we have a way of monitoring their behavior, both their electronic behavior on the job as well as off the job." (Stephen Braun, Associated Press)
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Ashley, Senior Media Associate
SNOWDEN SOUNDS OFF AT SXSW: The decreasingly hermetic fugitive's appearance on a giant screen Monday was greeted by thunderous applause by attendees of Austin's South by Southwest Interactive entertainment festival. As expected, Snowden lobbed a series of antigovernment soundbites to the crowd of technologists, including a declaration that NSA Director Keith Alexander and his predecessor, Michael Hayden, have harmed the Internet and national security "more than anything" else. Snowden also slammed lawmakers for not calling out Clapper last year when he testified that the government didn't collect bulk data from millions of Americans, stating simply: "We need a watchdog that watches Congress."
But Snowden's Q&A with the ACLU's Christopher Soghoian and Ben Wizner was not all rhetorical hand grenades. He also extolled the virtues of end-to-end encryption as a "defense against the dark arts for the digital realm" and said he isn't opposed to all forms of individual data collection. "It's not that you can't collect any data, it's that you should only collect data and hold it enough for the operation of the business.… Whether you're Google or Facebook, you can do these things in a responsible way." (Volz, NJ)
GOA: GOVERNMENT INVESTMENTS IN BROADBAND PAY OFF: A new Government Accountability Office report finds that government investments in broadband infrastructure help small businesses succeed. The report, released by Democratic Reps. Henry Waxman, Nancy Pelosi, and Anna Eshoo, showed that small business with access to federally funded or municipal Internet got faster and more reliable connections at a lower cost.
NETFLIX SPEEDS UP ON COMCAST AFTER PAYOUT: The streaming service's declining speeds finally saw an uptick after it paid Comcast for a direct network connection. Speeds on Verizon continued to drop. (Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica)
MT. GOX FILES FOR U.S. BANKRUPTCY: The bitcoin exchange is seeking bankruptcy protection, hoping to end a U.S. class-action suit. (Tom Hals, Reuters)
RAND PAUL HEADS TO BERKELEY: The senator will visit the California school to woo young voters with his anti-surveillance state message. (Shane Goldmacher, NJ)
EFF NAMES NEW PATENT-TROLL WARRIOR: Staff attorney Daniel Nazer has been chosen to replace Julie Samuels as the Internet freedom group's "Mark Cuban Chair to Eliminate Stupid Patents." Samuels left EFF last week to become the new head of Engine Advocacy.
VW, AUDI SIGN CONNECTED-CAR DEAL WITH VODAFONE: The telecom company will provide mobile broadband in Volkswagen and Audi models starting in 2015.
BUT VW CHIEF WARNS OF 'BIG BROTHER': Data-heavy cars are the future, said Martin Winterkorn, but privacy issues should be addressed. (Christine Tierney, Forbes)
NASA—NERDS, HELP US SAVE THE WORLD: The space agency wants citizen scientists to help it track asteroids for a prize. (Brown, NJ)
WIKIPEDIA FOUNDER STARTS USING BITCOIN: Jimmy Wales told Reddit he wants to "play around" with the digital currency. (Allie Jones, The Wire)
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I read the Tech Edge every morning."
Ashley, Senior Media Associate