OVERNIGHT TECH: Net neutrality decision could come this month

THE LEDE: A federal court could issue its decision on the controversial net neutrality regulations this month or next, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler said Monday.

"We stand for the open Internet," Wheeler said in a talk at The Ohio State University, his alma mater. He said he is "hopeful" the D.C. Circuit will uphold the regulations.

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Verizon has sued to overturn the rules, which bar Internet providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful websites.

Wheeler signaled that he is uninterested in cracking down on the data caps and tiered-pricing models of broadband providers.

"We’re seeing the market evolve in such a way that there will be variations in pricing. There will be variations in service," he said. "I'm a firm believer in the market."

In what is becoming his stump speech, Wheeler reiterated his belief in the power of competition. He called himself an "unabashed supporter" of competition, which he is said is the "fundamental economic policy" of the United States.

He said he supports a "see-saw" approach, where regulation is aggressive in uncompetitive markets but hands-off in competitive markets. 

"A key goal of our spectrum allocation efforts is ensuring that multiple carriers have access to airwaves needed to operate their networks," he said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. "The importance of such competition was reinforced by a filing with the Commission from the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice last April."

The Justice Department urged the FCC to cap the amount of spectrum that Verizon and AT&T, the two largest carriers, can buy in the auction. But Republicans, AT&T and Verizon argue that the FCC shouldn't favor smaller carriers and that an unrestricted auction would produce the most government revenue. 

"I will not hesitate to invoke the full authority granted to us by Congress to protect competition, and I will not hesitate to use the full authority granted us by Congress where competition is not available to secure the public interest through the promotion of competitive markets," Wheeler said. 

He touted the decision by his predecessor, Julius Genachowski, to block AT&T's bid to buy T-Mobile. He argued that the decision has spurred investment and preserved competition in the wireless industry. 

House FTC hearing: Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Trade, will question the Federal Trade Commission’s role in protecting consumer data during a subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

In his prepared opening remarks for the hearing, which will examine the role of the FTC as it turns 100 next year, Terry discusses the FTC’s authority “to address the use and security of data” as companies give users free services in exchange for their data.

Terry will also call on the agency to issue a policy statement about how it plans to use its authority to act against "unfair and deceptive trade practices." Republicans, including FTC Commissioners Joshua Wright and Maureen Ohlhausen, have called on the FTC to issue such a policy statement.

In prepared testimony, the commissioners tell the committee that the FTC’s biggest challenges as the company enters its next century involve keeping the agency’s efforts up to date with constantly changing technology; decreasing federal resources; and an increasingly globalized market.

“As we approach our 100th anniversary, the FTC remains committed to finding ways to enhance its effectiveness in protecting consumers and promoting competition, to anticipate and respond to changes in the marketplace, and to meet current and future challenges,” the FCC wrote.

Rules committee considers Innovation Act: The House Rules Committee will consider the Innovation Act, a patent reform bill authored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), on Tuesday. The bill passed the Judiciary Committee last month, 33-5. According to the Rules Committee website, there are 26 amendments to the bill, many of which echo concerns raised during the daylong Judiciary mark-up.

Markey on smart cars: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wrote to 20 car companies Monday, asking for more information about privacy and security protections for connected cars.

“As vehicles become more integrated with wireless technology, there are more avenues through which a hacker could introduce malicious code, and more avenues through which a driver’s basic right to privacy could be compromised,” Markey wrote.

“These threats demonstrate the need for robust vehicle security policies to ensure the safety and privacy of our nation’s drivers.”

News on Facebook: Facebook announced Monday an update to its Newsfeed that will show users more “relevant” new articles and fewer memes. To help people find news on Facebook, the site will begin “distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook,” the company wrote in a blog post

“This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.”

Facebook will also begin suggesting related articles below a Newsfeed post about an article that a user has read “to help you discover more content you may find interesting.”

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

The Federal Trade Commission on Monday announced three consumer privacy issues that it plans to examine next year.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing next year on the commercial use of drones, including Amazon's plan to use drones to deliver products.

The Supreme Court declined to wade into a dispute between Amazon and New York over sales tax collection.

Apple is accusing a court-appointed monitor of charging exorbitant fees and violating its rights.

Sen. Markey said privacy protections need to be in place before Amazon starts delivering packages with drones.

The senior counterterrorism official at the United Nations will launch an investigation into Edward Snowden’s surveillance leaks.

 

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