OVERNIGHT TECH: House panel to consider compromises on satellite TV bill

THE LEDE: The House panel looking to reauthorize a satellite television law will consider bipartisan compromises to a reauthorization bill during a meeting Tuesday but will keep the bill narrowly focused, members said Monday evening.

During opening statements at a Monday markup, scheduled to resume Tuesday morning, members of the House Commerce subcommittee on Communications expressed a willingness to go forward with subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden’s (R-Ore.) bill to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, which governs the satellite television market and has key provisions set to expire at the end of the year.

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The top Democrats on the subcommittee — ranking member Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ranking member of the Commerce Committee — asked the Republican leaders of the subcommittee to commit to bipartisan compromises as the bill moves to the full committee.

“I’m glad to report that we’re making progress,” Waxman said, adding, “we still have some issues to work through.”

Waxman pointed to a provision in the bill that would restrict the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) ability to change the way it regulates broadcasters until it completes its congressionally-mandated quadrennial review, which was supposed to take place in 2010.

“I share my ... colleagues' desire to see the FCC complete the long overdue quadrennial review,” but the committee should not limit the FCC over the delayed review, Waxman said. He added that he wants “to work with the chairman and the ranking member ... to see if we can remove this language before we get to full committee.”

Eshoo asked for Walden’s commitment to engage in a bipartisan matter to settle the disputes over the bill. “There’s no question that you have the votes ... so if you want to roll us, you can,” she said, “but that was never the tradition of the committee.”

She said she spoke with Walden over the weekend and “walked through essentially the ... sections of the bill where we had some issues,” including a provision in the bill that would end a federal requirement for specific security equipment in cable set-top boxes.

“I think that there is hope for working out at least ... the set-top box issue,” she said. Eshoo added that, while on the phone with Walden over the weekend, she floated an alternative to the bill’s elimination of the security equipment requirement. 

Waxman said he expects “Eshoo will introduce a proposal as an amendment that will get bipartisan support.”

Despite a previous push from some on the subcommittee, the panel’s Republicans repeatedly said that bigger reforms to the video marketplace should be addressed in the House Commerce Committee’s efforts to overhaul the Communications Act, the foundational law governing the communications industries and the FCC that was last updated in 1996.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who proposed a more comprehensive video market reform bill last year, said he looks “forward to a more comprehensive review” through the Communications Act update process.

Members’ concerns with the video marketplace “should be addressed in the broader Communications Act update,” Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) said in his opening statement. “This is a rehearsal for the real issues that come before this committee.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee will turn its attention to reauthorizing the expiring satellite bill with a hearing on Wednesday. 

House Intelligence Committee leaders to unveil NSA reform bill: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the panel’s ranking member, will unveil new legislation to reform government surveillance on Tuesday morning. 

The new bill will “improve” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the lawmakers’ offices said. “The Chairman and Ranking Member have been working together for the past nine months to determine how to update FISA with the goal of protecting critical national security capabilities and further enhancing privacy protections,” the offices added in a statement.  

The announcement comes days before the Obama administration’s deadline to unveil reforms to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) phone record collection program that go above and beyond changes President Obama outlined in January. At the time, Obama directed Attorney General Eric Holder and top intelligence leaders to develop a plan to shift the government’s database of records about people’s phone calls out of the spy agency’s hands. 

In interviews in recent weeks, Ruppersberger has indicated that the legislation would have phone companies hold the data, but that government agents would be able to search the record with oversight from federal courts. The bill would reportedly not require the companies to hold on to the records for longer than they currently do.

Rubio hails Uber, calls for cutting regulations: Uber should be held up as a case study for scrapping old and outdated regulations, according to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who toured the company’s Washington headquarters and praised it in an op-ed on Monday.

“In the 21st century, the American people cannot afford the status quo,” he wrote in the Tampa Bay Times. “The Internet has unlocked economic possibilities most of us could not have dreamed 10, five or even one year ago.”

Uber, which lets people orders taxis and private cars from their smartphones, is barred from Rubio’s hometown of Miami, where regulations “limit consumer choice and protect existing monopolies,” he wrote.

The focus on Uber comes weeks after Rubio’s visit to Google’s Washington HQ, and ahead of a possible run for president in 2016. At Google, Rubio berated regulations that he said limited innovation, and pledged to prevent a “takeover” of the Internet from the United Nations or a foreign government. 

Report calls for export controls to limit surveillance:  Democratic governments could impose limits on the exports of surveillance technology to prevent the tools from being used to suppress the media and violate human rights, according to a new report. The analysis from the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, Britain’s Privacy International and Germany’s Digitale Gesellschaft found that existing export control regulations are out of date and unsuited for modern technology. 

“States should update their export control regulations vis-à-vis surveillance technologies which will allow them to meet their human rights obligations and foreign policy objectives,” the authors wrote. “Export controls represent an opportunity for states to step up to the plate and take their international human rights obligations seriously.”

The report added that new regulations were “one piece of a broader policy framework” to ensure that surveillance technology is not abused. 

Udall calls for 'reboot' of spy agencies: The NSA, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other top spy offices need a “reboot,” according to Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.). In an op-ed in the Colorado Springs Gazette on Sunday, Udall, who is facing a tough reelection bid, claimed that revelations about the spy agencies have undermined the public trust.

“The Constitution is clear and Coloradans agree: Our democracy depends on respecting the separation of powers and Congress conducting independent, aggressive oversight of the executive branch,” he wrote. “And these principles are even more important in light of the recent public revelations about CIA and NSA overreach.

The Colorado Democrat added that the Church Committee’s investigations in the 1970s led to a “reset” for the spy agencies in the wake of the Watergate scandal, and “the revelations of the past year show we need a similar reboot today.”

Udall, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been a vocal critic of the NSA, after documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden showed that the agency was snooping on Americans’ phone calls and mining data from leading Web companies. He has also lambasted the CIA for searching the Intelligence Committee’s computers.

Telecom trade group hires lobbyist: Meagan Foster, a director of government affairs at NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, is heading to USTelecom. Starting on April 7, Foster will be the vice president for government affairs at the broadband provider trade group, it announced on Monday. She previously worked for Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska).

 

ON TAP

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen will discuss connected devices known as the “Internet of things” at an event organized by The Washington Post at 9:00 a.m.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee continues its markup of the satellite TV law at 10:30 a.m.

The chairman and ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee unveil their bill at 11:00 a.m.

Starting at 1:00 p.m., the Commerce Department is holding a third meeting as a part of its stakeholder process to address privacy concerns around facial recognition technology. 

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Ajit Pai will testify on the commission’s budget before the House Appropriations Committee in the afternoon. 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

LinkedIn is teaming up with other tech giants and advocacy groups to promote privacy and free speech online.

The Federal Communications Commission should block a proposed merger between the country’s two larger cable providers, a union of movie and TV writers told the agency.

Apple and Comcast are reportedly discussing a deal for a new streaming television service.

 

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