OVERNIGHT TECH: Committee approves FTC commissioner

THE LEDE: The Senate Commerce Committee approved President Obama’s nominee to round out the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for the second time on Monday.

Terrell McSweeny was approved by voice vote during a brief executive session of the committee. She would be the third Democratic commissioner on the five-member FTC and greatly diminish the odds of a 2-2 deadlock. 

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The committee previously approved McSweeny by a voice vote in November. Because she did not receive a vote from the Senate last year, the panel was required to confirm her nomination again.

McSweeny was nominated last June, and has been the Justice Department’s top counsel on competition policy and intergovernmental relations. She previously served as a domestic policy adviser to Vice President Biden.

Court deals blow to prison call reform: A federal appeals court halted part of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) effort to impose limits on the amount that prisoners and their families are charged for phone calls. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday blocked part of the rules for interstate calls from taking effect until a court case challenging the reforms is settled.

Last summer, the FCC ordered phone companies to limit their charges for interstate calls, which can cost as much as 90 cents a minute plus fees. Companies providing phone service to prisons have since sued.

Rules that would cap the charges at 21 cents per minute for prepaid calls and 25 cents per minute for collect calls will remain intact. However, the court on Monday temporarily blocked a provision requiring companies’ charges to be based on costs of the inmate calling service.

FCC opens probe into 911 calls from hotels: The FCC is launching an investigation into hotels and other large institutions where 911 calls might not always go through.

Commissioner Ajit Pai said in a statement on Monday that the inquiry was launched in response to the December murder of Kari Dunn. Dunn was stabbed to death by her estranged husband in a Texas hotel room, but her 9-year-old daughter could not reach emergency services because she did not know to dial 9 to reach an outside line.

“All in all, she dialed 911 four times — but she never reached emergency personnel,” Pai, a Republican, said in a statement. “Kari’s daughter behaved heroically under horrific circumstances. But the hotel’s phone system failed her, her mother, and her entire family.”

He said that he sent a letter to the 10 largest hotel chains in the country to probe their policies for dialing 911 from a room.

The Dunn murder has captivated lawmakers as well. In December, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said that he was exploring legislation to prevent the kind of tragedy from happening again.

Communications Act update hearing grows: Wednesday’s Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on the Communications Act will be larger than originally announced. The Communications and Technology subcommittee had previously said that former Chairmen Richard Wiley, Reed Hundt and Michael Powell would appear to set off lawmakers’ multi-year effort to update the communications law. 

On Monday, the panel announced that former Chairman Michael Copps will also testify at the hearing.

 

ON TAP

A House Judiciary subcommittee will talk about the “scope of copyright protection” at a 10:00 hearing.

At 2:30 p.m., the five members of the White House review group on surveillance and intelligence will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

report suggests a National Security Agency domestic surveillance program “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.”

The FCC won’t say whether or not it has launched an investigation into curse words that made it onto the air during Sunday evening’s broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards.

Pablo Chavez, a senior lobbyist at Google, will join LinkedIn at the end of the month, marking the tech company’s continued Washington expansion. 

Federal officials are accusing Apple of waging “a campaign of character assassination” against a court-appointed antitrust monitor on e-book prices.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) urged the upscale retailer Neiman Marcus to take “proactive measurers” to help consumers affected by a December data breach

 

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