OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC releases tentative April agenda

THE LEDE: The Federal Communications Commission released a tentative agenda for its April 7 open meeting. Items include a second report and order on data-roaming agreements between commercial wireless carriers, a notice of inquiry on accelerating broadband deployment and an order that would reform the rules for attachments to utility poles. The last item is aimed at reducing the barriers to the availability of broadband and wireless services.

Rockefeller touts benefits of R&D at hearing: Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) used a Thursday hearing to once again emphasize the importance of federal research and development funds in boosting the U.S. economy. Officials from several executive branch agencies related to the sciences defended the Obama administration's fiscal 2012 budget request and its investments in R&D noting countries like India and China have ramped up their efforts in recent years, putting the U.S. at risk of falling behind.

“Maintaining our status as the world’s leader in innovation, education, science and technology is directly linked to our ability as a nation to push the frontiers of human understanding in innovative and transformational ways," said NASA chief scientist Dr. Waleed Abdalati. "NASA Science inspires and serves humankind in ways that are truly unique and in ways that are critical for ensuring that we as a society not only survive, but thrive, in whatever future the human race carves out for itself.” 

Internet gambling bill introduced in the House: Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and John Campbell (R-Calif.) reintroduced a bill Thursday that would allow online gambling outlets to obtain licenses to operate legally in the U.S. The bill passed the House Financial Services Committee last summer and has attracted bipartisan support in the lower chamber.

House passes GOP bill to defund NPR: The House passed a bill Thursday to defund NPR despite strong opposition from Democrats. The GOP-backed measure will now head to the Senate after passing the lower chamber in a 228-192 vote. All House Democrats and seven Republicans voted against the bill. The White House said it was "strongly opposed" to the measure on Thursday but stopped short of threatening a veto. The effort appears unlikely to pass the Senate.

Reactions from prominent House Dems:

"It is shameful that House Republicans are seeking to erode these benefits under the guise of balancing the budget, although the Congressional Budget Office reports this bill will provide no savings to taxpayers and will not reduce the deficit." — Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.)

“Republicans have declared an emergency to rush this bill to the Floor without any hearings to examine the proposal. We have many emergencies to deal with in our county, but attacking and crippling NPR is hardly an emergency.” — Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.)

"What is particularly disappointing is the role being played by a dishonest, doctored video that is very clearly edited to trick viewers into thinking NPR is a partisan news outlet. James O’Keefe’s dishonest hatchet job has no place in this discussion over the future of one of America’s most important national treasures." — Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.)

Rep. Bono Mack: White House letting trade deals linger on behalf of Big Labor: Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) charged at a hearing Wednesday that the Obama administration is ignoring stalled trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama at the behest of organized labor. Bono Mack warned that the South Korean agreement is passed on its own the other two deals might fall by the wayside.

House to hold hearing on spectrum hoarding: The House Communications subcommittee will hold a hearing in April on spectrum issues, according to chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.). Among the topics of discussion will be voluntary incentive auctions as well as the allegations by broadcasters that cable and wireless firms are hoarding airwaves rather than deploying them. FCC chairman has dismissed the charges, while the NAB has asked for an independent analysis to determine exactly how spectrum is currently being used.

Bill would add technical expert to FCC: Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) introduced a bill Thursday to allow the FCC to appoint an electrical engineer or computer scientist to provide their in-depth expertise to the agency's decision-making. The bill would also commission a study on technical policy and the availability of technical personnel at the FCC and make recommendations in those areas.

On Tap Friday: National Broadband Plan author and former FCC official Blair Levin will speak at an event hosted by Georgetown University to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the plan. Levin spoke to Hillicon this week about the effort, calling it a great plan and suggesting Tigger or Obi Wan Kenobi would make good mascots.

The Center for American Progress is hosting an event at noon on Open Government featuring U.S. Archivist David Ferriero, OMB Watch executive director Gary Bass, Sunlight Labs director Tom Lee, and HHS chief technology officer Todd Park among others.

ICYMI:

Rep. Joe Courtney (R-Conn.) wants UConn's first-round NCAA tournament basketball game to be shown on network TV instead of cable.

Frequent Google critic Consumer Watchdog compared naming Eric Schmidt Commerce Secretary to putting Bernie Madoff in charge of the SEC.

The New York Times rolled out its plans for an online paywall. Digital subscriptions will cost $15 per month.

Pew Research Center found more than half of adults used the Web for political purposes during the last election cycle.