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TODAY'S TOP PARAGRAPH: The U.S. government announced late Friday that it plans to give up control over the Internet's address system. Lawmakers, advocacy groups, and businesses are trying to make sense of what the decision means for the future of the Internet. Dianne Feinstein is still convinced a drone was snooping around outside her home, telling 60 Minutes that the technology presents "major" privacy concerns that require careful regulatory consideration. A federal judge decided to keep the royalty rate Pandora pays songwriters at its current rate, ending the legal battle between the music streaming company and ASCAP in a draw. The decision could prompt a renewed effort by music groups to update the regulations for music licensing that date back to 1941.
WHO WILL CONTROL THE INTERNET?: The Commerce Department plans to give the "global Internet community" control over the database of names and addresses that allows computers around the world to connect to each other. The transition won't happen until 2015, and even then, there likely won't be any sudden changes. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was already managing the address system under a contract from the Commerce Department. But having the ultimate authority over the domain database was the most important leverage the United States had in debates over the operation of the Internet.
The real fear is that by giving up authority over the address system, the U.S. could be exposing the Internet to a power grab by some other government or an intergovernmental organization like the United Nations. It's no secret that Russia, China and other nations want more power over the Internet to censor speech and better control the flow of information. "If the Obama Administration gives away its oversight of the Internet, it will be gone forever," Daniel Castro, an analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, wrote.
But the U.S. is specifically designing the transition to try to prevent another government from stepping in. ICANN will have to develop its proposal for managing the system before the U.S. gives it full control. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Larry Strickling insisted that the U.S. will reject any ICANN proposal that gives power to another government or intergovernmental group.
Although there was some immediate push-back to the announcement, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have praised the move. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller said the announcement will help ensure a free and open Internet. Sen. John Thune, the ranking Republican on the Commerce Committee, said he will watch the process carefully, but that he trusts "the innovators and entrepreneurs more than the bureaucrats — whether they're in DC or Brussels."
FEINSTEIN: DRONES POSE 'VERY, VERY MAJOR' PRIVACY CONCERNS: 60 Minutes revisited the topic of commercial drones on Sunday night, though this iteration was less an infomercial for Amazon prototypes and more an exploration of the industry's technological and regulatory prospects. The segment found Sen. Dianne Feinstein renewing her frequent calls for regulation of "size and type" for private use and a certification process for operators. The California Democrat, who has grown increasingly vocal of her privacy concerns in recent months, recounted her tale of finding a drone buzzing outside a window of her San Francisco home during a protest, though demonstrators say it was just a toy helicopter.
PANDORA, ASCAP FIGHTS ENDS IN DRAW: A federal judge decided to keep the royalty rate Pandora pays songwriters at its current level, 1.85 percent, in a decision Friday that does not make either party happy. Pandora wants to pay songwriters the same rate as terrestrial radio, while songwriters want Pandora to pay a rate closer to the one paid to performance artists. The ongoing legal battle between Pandora and the American Society of Composers and Publishers has put the decades-old regulatory system that sets music royalties under the spotlight, and ASCAP indicated in a statement that it will double-up on its efforts to update those rules to reflect the changing market. Judge Denise Cote's full decision remains under seal. (Ben Sisario, NYT)
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RURAL CALL BILL INTRODUCED: Sen. Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, introduced a bill on Friday aimed at addressing rural call completion problems. The legislation would expand upon steps the FCC took last year.
ROCKEFELLER SUBPOENAS BILLING COMPANY: Rockefeller issued a subpoena to Mobile Messenger, a billing aggregator, as part of the Commerce Committee's investigation into unauthorized third-party charges on cell-phone bills.
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CYBER ATTACK ON NATO WEBSITE: Several of NATO's websites were attacked by a group with ties to Ukraine. (Croft/Apps, Reuters)
WORLD WIDE WEB'S SILVER ANNIVERSARY: A retrospective of the World Wide Web on its 25th birthday. (Ryan, NJ)
GODADDY GETS READY FOR IPO: The largest online registrar company is preparing to file for an IPO as early as 2015. (Demos/Spector, WSJ)
U.S., EUROPE MOBILE TELECOMS AND THE MAGIC NUMBER FOUR: Wireless providers on both sides of the Atlantic are hoping to break the magic spell the number four has cast on the mobile telecom industry. (Economist)
CONGRESS LOOMS OVER PIRACY FIGHT: The content industry is pressing Internet companies for voluntary changes to crack-down on piracy. Lawmakers are hesitant to wade back into a copyright fight after the disastrous failure of SOPA, but the possibility of congressional action looms over the industry negotiations. (Kate Tummarello, The Hill)
IBM DENIES SHARING DATA WITH NSA: IBM denies handing over any customer data to the NSA and says it would challenge any such request, the company said Friday.
TWITTER CEO GOES TO CHINA: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo his headed to Shanghai to meet with government officials, signalling Twitters interest in breaking into China's lucrative market. (Gerry Shih, Reuters)
WHAT IS ALIBABA?: As the Chinese e-commerce company prepares to break into the U.S. market, not everybody in the U.S. understands exactly what it is. (Juro Osawa, WSJ)
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Patent and Trademark Office will hold a forum on the anniversary of the implementation of the American Invents Act's first-to-file provisions at 1 p.m. PTO Director Michelle Lee will participate.
The New America Foundation will host author Dr. Laura DeNardis for a lunchtime discussion of her new book, "The Global War for Internet Governance." Public Knowledge CEO Gene Kimmelman, Embassy of Brazil's Benoni Belli, and Google's Sarah Falvey will join.
The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation will host a discussion on the "National Broadband Plan: Four Years Later" at 12 p.m. Participants include Blair Levin and White House Deputy CTO Nick Sinai.
The New America Foundation will hold an event on WiFi, spectrum auctions, and unlicensed spectrum at 12:15 p.m.
Senate and Hill staffers will participate on a Georgetown Law panel on "Communications and Technology Policy in the 113th Congress and Beyond" at 6:30 p.m.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board plans to discuss Section 702 of FISA Amendments Act at its March meeting at 9 a.m.
The FCC will host a daylong rural broadband workshop beginning at 9 a.m.
Alternative scoring methods is up for discussion at the FTC's second event in its spring privacy series, starting at 10 a.m.
The Constitution Project will host Sen. Richard Blumenthal, PLCOB's Alexander Joel, and FBI Deputy General Counsel M.E. Bowman for a lunchtime panel discussion called "Lifting the Veil on the FISA Court."
Department of Commerce, NTIA, and USPTO will hold an Internet Policy Task Force multistakeholder forum on the notice and takedown system under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act at 9 a.m.
The FCC's Communication, Security, and Interoperability Council will hold its a meeting on emergency alerts and cybersecurity best practices at 1 p.m.
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I read the Tech Edge every morning."
Ashley, Senior Media Associate