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TODAY IN ONE PARAGRAPH: The Obama administration took action on patent reform, with measures that include making prior art more accessible for patent examiners. With the White House's patent quality announcement out of the way, all eyes return to the Senate, where stakeholders hope the Judiciary Committee can eke out a suitable compromise on how to combat abusive litigation. FCC Chair Tom Wheeler weighed in on a couple of major mergers, and the FCC rolled out initiatives to improve 911 cell-phone accuracy and closed captioning.
WHITE HOUSE ROLLS OUT THREE PATENT-REFORM ACTIONS...: The trio of orders are intended to improve the workings of the Patent and Trademark Office. Chief among the measures is one aiming to make it easier for patent examiners to be aware of relevant prior art when considering whether to grant a patent. The other two allow engineers and technologists to provide more technical training to patent examiners and establish a full-time official at the patent office to provide free assistance to inventors needing legal representation. (Volz, NJ)
...BUT ADMINISTRATION MAKES CLEAR: IT'S YOUR TURN, CONGRESS: "This is an area where you can see a sweet spot for bipartisan compromise," said Gene Sperling, director of the president's National Economic Council. "We're not here to negotiate where that sweet spot is, but there is one and people should be able to find it." (Volz, NJ)
WHEELER WEIGHS IN ON DEALS: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler offered a few hints at his thinking on major business deals following the agency's meeting Thursday. He confirmed reports that he told Sprint he is "skeptical" about their possible purchase of T-Mobile. He revealed that Comcast and Time Warner Cable did not approach the FCC before announcing their merger. "So I'm now in the position of sitting and waiting for Comcast to make the requisite filing so we can begin considering it. And we'll give it a full and fair and open hearing," he said.
Wheeler called Google Fiber, which recently announced a major expansion, a "great idea" and said the broadband market "needs to be continually growing in competition."
FCC PUSHES 911 CELL-PHONE ACCURACY: The FCC advanced a proposal Thursday to require more accurate information about the location of indoor 911 cell-phone callers. Republicans and CTIA expressed concern about the aggressive timeline, but that didn't get far with Tom Wheeler. "Hey, we're dealing with human life," the FCC chairman said. (Sasso, NJ)
AND UPGRADES CLOSED CAPTIONING: The FCC also unanimously approved new rules aimed at improving the quality of television closed captioning. The rules require the captions to be accurate, complete, properly placed, and in sync with the dialogue. The rules are looser for live programs than prerecorded shows.
DHS WON'T BE TRACKING YOUR LICENSE PLATE: The Homeland Security plan to create a nationwide license tracking system was scrapped after it met loads of backlash. (Nakashima/Hicks, WaPo)
DOD RELEASES SPECTRUM PLAN: The Defense Department released a report Thursday saying it will try to turn over more spectrum to the private sector. The military controls large amounts of the nation's airwaves, and the wireless industry has accused it of dragging its feet on using the spectrum more efficiently. Teri Takai, DOD's chief information officer, said that in order to relocate or share spectrum, the department will need adequate funding, time, and comparable spectrum.
FCC SAYS IT'S NOT TRYING TO CONTROL THE NEWS: A new study on news coverage is not an attempt to revive the Fairness Doctrine, Wheeler said Thursday. (Ryan, NJ)
FACEBOOK EXPANDS TARGETED ADVERTISING: Ad-buyers can now get more location-specific and use events like divorces and spouses' deaths to hone in on users. (Yoree Koh, WSJ)
U.S. MOBILE NETWORKS AMONG EARTH'S SLOWEST: Only the Philippines has slower mobile speeds; Australia is at the top. (Leo Mirani, Quartz)
KANSAS MUNICIPAL BROADBAND BAN IS DEAD: The plan to prevent local governments from providing Internet appears to be on its last legs. (Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica)
WYDEN, ISSA WIN INTERNET FREEDOM AWARD: The Interrnet Association recognizes the lawmakers for their open Internet efforts.
COMING SOON: FREE INTERNET FROM SPACE: Even North Koreans will get free WiFi, thanks to one company's plan to launch hundreds of tiny satellites. (Brown, NJ)
EUROPE'S LOOKING FOR EARTH 2.0: The European Space Agency's PLATO mission will try to find another habitable planet. (Rich McCormick, The Verge)
WHY CAN'T BIG CITIES GET GOOGLE FIBER: Getting super-fast Internet to a high-population area is extremely complex, and bigger cities aren't likely to give Google the control their mid-sized counterparts are offering. (Brian Fung, WaPo)
D.C. PROBABLY WON'T SWEAT THE FACEBOOK-WHATSAPP MERGER: The $19 billion acquisition seems likely to pass muster with antitrust regulators. (Alex Byers, Politico)
CALIFORNIA INTRODUCES ED TECH PRIVACY BILL: A California lawmaker introduced legislation aimed at protecting the privacy and security of student data. The bill is targeted at the business practices of the $8 billion educational technology industry. (Natasha Singer, NYT)