OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC moves on tech transition

THE LEDE: The Federal Communications Commission will soon begin studying how regulations should adapt as companies transition from old phone wires to Internet Protocol (IP)-based networks. 

Chairman Tom Wheeler said Tuesday that the commission will vote on a proposal in January that will set up a "diverse set of experiments" to study IP-based networks. 

"The time to act starts now," Wheeler said. 

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AT&T, which has been urging the FCC to move ahead on the experiments, called the announcement "a significant step forward for the industry." 

"The transition to broadband and IP services that has already begun is driven by consumers who are moving to the Internet and choosing to connect in ways not imagined just a decade ago," AT&T Vice President Jim Cicconi said. "Like any change it requires planning. The geographic trials directed by Chairman Wheeler will provide the real world answers needed to ensure a seamless transition."

But consumer advocacy groups worry that AT&T's goal is to scrap a host of regulations aimed at promoting accessibility and reliability as it transitions its networks. 

Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge, said it is important that the FCC show that the transition is not just about AT&T.

"It impacts the lives and well-being of every American," Feld said. "Nobody should doubt that this is a complex process, but it's important that the FCC lead the transition and take a major role in coordinating its outcome."

Silicon Valley patent office: The Patent and Trademark Office announced Tuesday that it will open a satellite office in the San Jose City Hall building.

Plans for a patent office in Silicon Valley were put on hold due to budget sequestration, but the Patent Office decided to move ahead after facing an outcry from California lawmakers.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and California Reps. Anna Eshoo (D), Zoe Lofgren (D) and Mike Honda (D) put out a joint news release applauding the decision.

“Opening this office in the middle of Silicon Valley, the highest patent-producing area in the country, was the logical choice," Feinstein said. "The next step is for Congress to free up funds to continue operating this office.These funds — which are actually fees from patent filings — should not be held hostage by the sequester."

Members praise entertainment industry: During a Tuesday hearing held by the House Judiciary subcommittee on Intellectual Property, committee members praised the entertainment industry for making content available digitally. The hearing included testimony from Amazon Vice President of Global Public Policy Paul Misener and John McCoskey, chief technology office of the Motion Picture Association of America.

“It’s mind-boggling to think how much access consumers have to content,” Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said.

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) pointed to the “more than 90 legitimate streaming services” that consumers can choose between. “There’s truly a service for every type of content consumer out there,” she said.

Misener said Amazon tries to “make the legitimate content as easily available and as inexpensively available as possible.” 

New patent demand letter bill: Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced the Demand Letter Transparency Act, which would require companies threatening patent infringement to provide more information about their infringement claims.

“Businesses are increasingly coming under attack by entities abusing current patent law by sending vague, overbroad and threatening demand letters to businesses that are playing a vital role in our economy,” Polis said in a statement.

 

ON TAP

The House Judiciary Committee will meet at 11:15 a.m. on Wednesday to mark up the Innovation Act, authored by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). On Monday, he offered an amendment that would remove the bill’s provision regarding the Patent Office’s review process. Some committee members who had opposed the bill in the past offered their support for the amended Innovation Act, while others said they would continue to oppose the measure.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will participate in a White House event at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday morning for the launch of a nonprofit initiative aimed at helping veterans find jobs in the wireless industry. 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Social conventions, not regulations, will protect users’ privacy in a world of increased user data, Google Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf said Tuesday.

President Obama on Tuesday called for an overhaul of how the federal government purchases technology.

Three Democratic senators filed a brief in federal court supporting a lawsuit to end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records. They argued that the program does little to combat terrorism. 

Lawmakers questioned the safety of driverless cars. 

Retailers applauded a Small Business Administration report finding that the lack of an online sales tax has hurt brick-and-mortar stores. 

The USA Freedom Act would prevent the bulk collection of data on Americans’ Internet activities, the bill’s author said.

The Obama administration declassified a court order that allowed the NSA to collect Internet records on millions of Americans. 

Some high-ranking Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are still unhappy with committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s (R-Va.) updated patent reform bill.

The White House announced its support for the patent reform bill introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).

 

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