OVERNIGHT TECH: Markey champions E-Rate in first Senate hearing


THE LEDE: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) praised E-Rate, a program he helped create when he was in the House, at his first Senate hearing on Wednesday.

"I love the fact that my first hearing in the Senate is about the E-Rate," Markey said at a Commerce Committee hearing. "In a lot of ways, it is the educational program of the last 18 years in America."

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E-Rate, which is managed by the Federal Communications Commission, funds Internet service in schools and libraries. President Obama has called on the FCC to temporarily expand E-Rate to provide Internet speeds of up to one gigabit per second in schools across the country.

"A program designed nearly seventeen years ago needs to reflect the connectivity and technology needs of our schools and libraries today and in the future," Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said.

The FCC is scheduled to vote on Friday to move forward with the president's proposal.

Republicans on the committee praised the benefits of E-Rate, but urged the FCC to focus on making the program more efficient rather than growing its size. E-Rate, which costs about $2 billion per year, is funded by fees on monthly phone bills.

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Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) criticized the program's application process, and ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) said any modernization initiative should rely on the existing budget.

"It is very important for all government programs to stay within their means in this difficult fiscal and economic environment," Thune said.

Thune praised Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's speech from Tuesday laying out a plan to crack down on waste in the program.

Spectrum auction bill: Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) are expected to introduce legislation on Thursday to auction the 1755-1780 MHz spectrum band. The wireless industry has been eyeing the spectrum, which is currently in federal hands. The bill would pair the spectrum with the 2155-2180MHz band.

Matsui and Guthrie are the leaders of the Energy and Commerce Committee's spectrum working group, which has been studying ways to provide more spectrum for the private sector.

US blames China for halting ITA trade talks: United States Trade Representative Michael Froman on Wednesday said the U.S. is "extremely disappointed" that negotiations to expand the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) at the World Trade Organization were suspended, blaming China's position for ultimately halting the talks.

"Unfortunately, a diverse group of Members participating in the negotiations determined that China’s current position makes progress impossible at this stage," Froman said in a statement. "We are hopeful that China will carefully consider the concerns it heard this week from many of its negotiating partners, and revise its position in a way that will allow the prompt resumption of the negotiations.”

The ITA eliminates tariffs on a broad range of information technology products. Member countries have been negotiating about expanding the list of products covered under the agreement.

Coalition of 50 industry groups press Congress to combat patent trolls: A coalition of roughly 50 industry groups, ranging from The Internet Association to the Motion Picture Association of America, called on Congress to pass legislation that's aimed at combating patent trolls. In a letter sent to House and Senate leadership on Wednesday, the industry groups note that patent trolls' suits against other companies have quadrupled since 2005, and they're increasingly targeting startups that are just getting off the ground.

Patent trolls refer to entities that acquire bundles of patents and make money off of them by threatening to sue other companies for infringement. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) are working on legislation that tackles the issue. 

"There is no single solution to this complex question, but meaningful reforms like these would make it more difficult for patent trolls to continue their destructive business model," the letter reads. "This broad support and the willingness of Congress to work across the aisle and across chambers on this complex issue is a testament to its importance."

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the Information Technology Industry Council and the Computer and Communications Industry Association also signed onto the letter.

ON TAP

The House Energy and Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade will hold a hearing on Thursday to consider whether federal data breach legislation is necessary.

The witnesses slated to testify are CompTIA Chief Legal Officer Dan Liutikas; Debbie Matties, vice president of privacy at CTIA; Jeff Greene, senior policy counsel of cybersecurity and identity at Symantec; Kevin Richards, senior vice president of government affairs at TechAmerica; Andrea Matwyshyn, assistant professor of legal studies and business ethics at the University of Pennsylvania; and David Thaw, visiting assistant professor of law at the University of Connecticut's law school.  

The House Homeland Security Committee’s Cybersecurity subcommittee will examine President Obama’s executive order on cybersecurity and the administration’s development of a cybersecurity framework under the cyber order at a hearing.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Franklin heads to privacy, civil liberties board: Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior policy counsel at The Constitution Project, is leaving the civil liberties watchdog group to serve as the executive director of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

Franklin will join the newly formed board as it reviews the government's use of surveillance law in the wake of the revelations about a pair of National Security surveillance programs that are used to collect Americans' phone records and monitor the Internet traffic of foreign targets.

ACLU: Police are using license plate readers to collect people's location data:
Police departments across the United States are using license plate readers to store information about people's whereabouts in databases without their knowledge, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) concludes in a report released on Wednesday.

The report found that police departments are storing people's license plate data and location information for multiple years — or in some cases, indefinitely — even though the majority of drivers whose whereabouts have been recorded haven't been accused of a crime. For example, only 47 out of every one million license plates read in Maryland were linked to serious crimes, the report says.

DOJ official admits collecting data unrelated to terrorism:
The second-ranking Justice Department official acknowledged on Wednesday that the government has been collecting phone records that are not relevant to any terrorism investigation.

Under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the government has the authority to seize records only if they are "relevant" to a terrorism investigation.

Bill would require Senate confirmation for surveillance judges: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) announced on Wednesday that he will introduce legislation that would require that the president nominate and the Senate confirm all judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Currently, the chief justice of the United States names the 11 FISA Court judges, who all also serve on other federal courts. As a result of this selection process, 10 of the 11 FISA judges were originally appointed to the federal bench by a Republican president.

GOP senator: White House 'helping friends' led to lax online gambling rules: Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) thinks that the Obama administration was trying to help "friends" when it changed rules on Internet gambling in 2011.

“The administration changed all this, changed it all,” he said on Wednesday. “And the reason that the administration changed this was so that their friends in Illinois and New York could put their lottery tickets online.”

Senators deride online gambling regs: Lawmakers on Wednesday expressed broad agreement that more regulations are needed for online gambling.

A Senate panel on Wednesday derided out-of-date regulations that make it easy for almost anyone to bet money online without proving their identity.

Lofgren, Sensenbrenner urge administration to let tech giants publish surveillance data: Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) urged top administration officials on Wednesday to let Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other tech companies publish information on the national security requests they receive for user data.

In a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, the two Judiciary Committee members said the government has prevented tech companies from "taking basic steps to preserve confidence in U.S. Internet services" by barring them from making this data public. 

Congress will kill Patriot Act if spying continues, bill's author threatens: The author of the Patriot Act warned on Wednesday that Congress would refuse to reauthorize the law if the National Security Agency continues its vast phone record collection program.

"There are not the votes in the House of Representatives to renew Section 215, and then you're going to lose the business record access provision of the Patriot Act entirely," Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said during a Judiciary Committee hearing. "It's got to be changed, and you have to change how you operate Section 215 otherwise ... you're not going to have it anymore."

Markey named to Senate Commerce Committee:
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will continue his longtime work on telecommunications issues in the upper chamber.

Markey, who was sworn into the Senate on Tuesday after winning a special election, has been named to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Federal Communications Commission and technology issues. 


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