OVERNIGHT TECH: Senate panel approves FTC nominee

THE LEDE: The Senate Commerce Committee voted late Tuesday to advance President Obama’s Federal Trade Commission nominee to the floor of the Senate.

The nominee — Terrell McSweeny — was approved by a unanimous voice vote.

In addition to being the Department of Justice's chief counsel for competition policy and intergovernmental relations, McSweeny worked in a policy advisory role for Vice President Biden both in his current role and in the Senate. 

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As the government shutdown was ending last month, the committee attempted to have McSweeny approved by the committee and confirmed by the Senate, but an unknown Republican objected.

In a statement on Tuesday, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said McSweeny is “terrific” and congratulated her “on the strong bipartisan support she received in the Commerce Committee today.”

McSweeny’s “extensive public policy background will serve her well at the FTC as she fights for consumers,” he said.

“Now that the Commerce Committee has approved her nomination with overwhelming support, it’s time for the Senate to act with the same vigor and confirm Terrell.”

Rockefeller looks to shake up video market: Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at ensuring that online video services can be viable competitors to cable television.

His bill, the Consumer Choice in Online Video Act, would provide certain legal protections to online video sites and would bar cable, broadcast and media companies from engaging in anti-competitive practices.

It also includes provisions to support Internet video service Aereo, which broadcasters claim is stealing their content. 

Consumer groups Public Knowledge and Free Press applauded the bill.

“Powerful cable, Internet and broadcast companies shouldn’t be allowed to run roughshod over online video competitors," Free Press policy director Matt Wood said. "This bill would keep those incumbents from discriminating against online options, and would help put those alternatives on a more equal footing with traditional providers."

John Bergmayer, an attorney for Public Knowledge, said the bill will pave the way for new competitive online services—not just support the ones that currently exist. 

But industry groups reacted with skepticism.

The National Association of Broadcasters criticized any proposal that "may legitimize theft of copyrighted programming."

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association warned against "creating marketplace disparities that would 'cherry pick' rights and obligations for some."

NSA hearing: The Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Privacy will hold a hearing Wednesday to discuss increasing transparency in U.S. surveillance programs.

The hearing will by led by subcommittee Chairman Al Franken (D-Minn.), who recently reintroduced his Surveillance Transparency Act. The bill would increase government reporting requirements and allow companies to report more information about the surveillance requests they receive.

“Right now, the public isn’t getting the most basic information about what’s going on with government surveillance programs,” Franken said in a statement.

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who reintroduced the bill with Franken, will testify at the hearing.

Other witnesses include Robert Litt, general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence; Brad Wiegmann, deputy assistant attorney general at the Department of Justice’s National Security Division; Richard Salgado, Google’s director of Law Enforcement and Information Security; and Kevin Bankston, from the Center for Democracy and Technology.

"It's high time that the Internet companies that we trust with the privacy and security of our data were allowed to share basic statistics about what they do — and don't do — when the NSA comes calling," Bankston said in a statement. "We the people have a right to know, the companies have a right to tell us, and their sharing such basic information will not harm national security."

 

ON TAP

The Senate Judiciary Committee's NSA hearing will begin at 10 a.m.

The House Homeland Security Committee will hold a hearing at 10 a.m. on whether personal information is secure on HealthCare.gov.

The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold an event at 2 p.m. to examine “challenges and opportunities” in the 5 GHz spectrum band, which the Federal Communications Commission plans to use to improve Wi-Fi performance.

The hearing will feature testimony from representatives for the FCC, Cisco, Toyota and Comcast.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Aaron Cooper, a top Senate Judiciary Committee aide who was instrumental in passage of a major patent reform bill, is joining the law and lobby firm Covington & Burling.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, applauded the U.S. Postal Service's agreement to deliver Amazon packages on Sundays.

Watchdog groups that advocate on trade issues are demanding to know whether the National Surveillance Agency has spied on them.

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced a bill Tuesday that would end sports blackouts.

 

Please send tips and comments to Brendan Sasso, bsasso@thehill.com, and Kate Tummarello, katet@thehill.com.

Follow Hillicon Valley on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @BrendanSasso, @ktummarello  

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