OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC chairman to push Universal Service Fund plan Thursday

The $8 billion Universal Service Fund was originally intended to subsidize the expansion of landline phone service in rural areas. Genachowski wants to transition the fund to support high-speed Internet deployment. Intercarrier compensation rules govern how much telecom companies must pay to carry each other's traffic.

The major telecom firms are pushing their own proposal, America's Broadband Connectivity (ABC) Plan, and hope the FCC will adopt as much of that as possible. At a briefing for reporters Tuesday, FCC officials said the chairman's proposal will not be a wholesale adoption of the ABC Plan, but they declined to discuss specifics ahead of the speech.

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The telecom companies describe their plan as a consensus framework that would benefit consumers. A study released Wednesday by the Phoenix Center, a free-market think tank, estimates the ABC Plan would save consumers $1.4 billion annually.

But a coalition of consumer groups sent a letter to the FCC on Tuesday trashing the ABC Plan and arguing that it is aimed at maximizing company profits, not helping consumers.

Next privacy hearing announced: The House Energy and Commerce Committee's Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee announced the next in its series of hearings examining online privacy issues. The subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.), will hold a hearing titled, “Understanding Consumer Attitudes About Privacy,” next Thursday at 9:00 a.m.

FCC cites companies for marketing jammers: The FCC's Enforcement Bureau cited 20 companies for marketing illegal cellphone jammers, GPS jammers and Wi-Fi jammers, the agency announced Wednesday.

"Jamming devices pose significant risks to public safety and can have unintended and sometimes dangerous consequences for consumers and first responders,” Enforcement Bureau Chief Michele Ellison said. 

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A second violation could to lead to fines of $16,000 to $112,500. 


ON TAP THURSDAY

The House Homeland Security Committee subcommittee on Cybersecurity will hold a hearing Thursday morning discussing the security implications of shifting federal operations to the cloud. Obama administration officials and vendors are eager to extol the benefits of moving to vendor-hosted storage and applications in the popular world of cloud computing, with easier updates, less maintenance and reduced spending on equipment and personnel. But security experts are just as quick to question the wisdom of relying on private firms to maintain government systems requiring the type of resilience and permanence rarely needed in the private sector.

Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) will attend a roundtable discussion at 10:15 a.m. to discuss veterans' issues with Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel. Microsoft was one of several companies that joined a White House program last month that seeks to reduce unemployment among veterans.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold an afternoon hearing on providing Internet infrastructure to native communities. Witnesses are expected to emphasize the necessity of broadband and wireless Internet access to the economic future of native communities to ensure equal access to e-commerce and the globalized marketplace.


ICYMI

House Republicans unveiled a cybersecurity plan, but argued against any new regulations.

The House on Wednesday quickly approved legislation intended to recapture millions of dollars' worth of unused funds from the 2009 stimulus law that were earmarked for promoting broadband access in rural and remote regions of the country.

Public Knowledge filed a motion to intervene in Verizon's lawsuit challenging the Federal Communications Commission's net-neutrality rules on Wednesday, making the group the first to join the legal defense of the new regulations.

Lawmakers on a House Energy and Commerce subpanel endorsed the Federal Trade Commission's proposed updates to a 1998 children's online privacy law Wednesday, but there was little consensus on how to move forward with broader privacy protection legislation.