OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC releases program carriage order

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“The FCC’s program carriage decision represents an unfortunate trifecta: a flawed process that the FCC stubbornly refused to correct, substantive policy discussions that show little regard for the limits of agency authority or constitutional rights, and a disturbing lack of appreciation of the potential impact of government intervention on consumers or the marketplace. In other words, we are profoundly disappointed not only in what the FCC did but how they did it. Regrettably, we must now explore other avenues for redress.” —NCTA President Michael Powell

“This will promote diversity in cable TV offerings by insuring that independent cable channels have a shot at getting carriage on large cable systems. It has been 19 years since Congress directed the FCC to stop cable operators from discriminating in favor of their own affiliates, but the FCC’s lax enforcement has largely nullified the impact of the law. These changes will not, by themselves, fix all the problems with a system dominated by a handful of cable operators, but it is certainly a welcome change all the same.” —Media Access Project policy director Andrew Schwartzman

Spectrum dropped from debt deal: The debt-ceiling compromise does not affect spectrum policy, unlike an earlier proposal from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Reid’s original plan aimed to raise billions of dollars for deficit reduction from voluntary spectrum auctions. Reid’s plan also would have allocated the D Block section of spectrum for use by emergency responders and would have set aside $7 billion through fiscal 2017 for the creation of a nationwide interoperable public-safety network.

The debt-ceiling compromise dropped all of Reid’s spectrum provisions. Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the author of a bill to allocate the D Block for first-responders, said he was disappointed spectrum issues were not included in the debt deal.

“We had hoped that a version of our legislation would have been in the deficit package this week," Rockefeller said. "Despite that setback, I will continue to fight to make sure that by the 10th anniversary of 9/11 we have this bill signed into law.”

Broadcasters, on the other hand, were relieved spectrum auctions were not included in the bill.

"We are pleased that the negotiated debt-ceiling bill, to be considered by Congress, does not threaten free and local broadcasting.," said Gordon Smith, president of the National Association of Broadcasters. "NAB will continue working with lawmakers on incentive auction legislation that is truly voluntary."

Rep. Eshoo: Rule to stop loud TV ads should apply to every provider: A recently enacted law aimed at reducing the volume of TV commercials should apply to all pay-TV providers, according to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who wrote the legislation.

Eshoo introduced the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which was signed into law in December and limits the volume of advertisements to the same levels as the programs they interrupt. She wrote to the Federal Communications Commission, which is in charge of implementing the new rules, on Friday, urging the agency to ensure the new standard applies to all cable, satellite and video distributors, not just broadcasters.

Rep. Honda introduces two tech bills: Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) introduced a measure on Monday to boost the government's efforts to foster and commercialize research in nanotechnology, and another to make electronic devices more energy efficient.  

Public Knowledge attacks AT&T over data limits: AT&T announced Friday it would limit data speed for its heaviest users. Beginning Oct. 1, smartphone customers might experience reduced speeds if they were in the top 5 percent of data users in the previous billing cycle. The move is intended to alleviate congestion on the company’s network. Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge bashed the announcement on Monday.

"AT&T's announcement that it will throttle the wireless service of so-called 'heaviest users' of its wireless service is simply the latest example of Internet rationing, an anti-consumer, bait-and-switch tactic being used by Internet service providers,” said Harold Feld, legal director for Public Knowledge.

Commerce Secretary Locke formally resigns: Gary Locke formally resigned as Commerce secretary Monday to become the first Chinese-American to serve as U.S. ambassador to China. 

FCC reaches spectrum agreements with Canada and Mexico: The FCC announced agreements with Canada and Mexico on Monday to improve high-speed broadband access to people near the borders and to improve public-safety communications.

New telecom law firm in town: The law firm Telecommunications Law Professionals launched in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Carl W. Northrop, a former partner at the firm Paul Hastings, will head the new group. Several of the firm's other founding lawyers also left Paul Hastings.

Opposition to Internet sales tax grows: Democrats introduced a measure Friday that would allow states to collect sales taxes from online purchases. Online retailer Amazon supports the bill, but other groups have come out against it:

"Forcing small businesses to take on the same costs and tax burdens as national retail businesses is unrealistic, unfair and will unbalance the playing field between giant retailers and small business retailers on the Internet.” —Brian Bieron, eBay's director of government relations

“Giving governments even more sweeping powers to tax won’t restore any part of the private sector to health, especially the small businesses Americans are counting on to lead a resurgence in job and income growth.” —Pete Sepp, vice president of the National Taxpayers Union

"The Main Street Fairness Act bills will make it more complicated, expensive and onerous to conduct business on the Internet." —Rey Ramsey, TechNet president

"As we collectively work our way back to economic prosperity, we respectfully disagree with the recommendations of Senator [Dick] Durbin (D-Ill.) and Representative [John] Conyers (D-Mich.) to impose new taxes on the Internet at this critical time." —NetCoalition


ON TAP TUESDAY

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will visit the Best Buy store in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C., to unveil the results of the first nationwide test of wireline broadband service. The study measures the speed of home broadband service as first proposed in the National Broadband Plan. Consumers Union policy counsel Parul Desai and ITIF senior research fellow Richard Bennett will also be on hand. Stay tuned to Hillicon for full coverage.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright will hold a closed briefing for the Senate Armed Services Committee on cyber-issues. The Pentagon recently released its cyberstrategy declaring the Internet a war domain but declined to specify what type of cyber-attack would constitute an act of war, much to the consternation of members of the panel.


ICYMI: The Justice Department intensifies its investigation into the sale of Nortel's patent portfolio.

Smartphone maker HTC sues Apple in Britain after losing a patent case in the U.S.