OVERNIGHT TECH: Internet governance campaign continues

THE LEDE: The Obama administration is continuing a campaign to explain its recent decision to relinquish oversight of the technical side of the Internet’s Web address system.

On Friday, Commerce Department Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling will speak at the Hudson Institute on the department’s plans to step back from its current role in overseeing the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Fadi Chehade, CEO of the nonprofit tasked with developing a plan to transition this oversight role away from the U.S. government, will also speak at the morning event.

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On Wednesday, Strickling and Chehade testified in front of the House Commerce subcommittee on Technology about the administration’s decision to carry through on its years-old plan to relinquish IANA oversight. While some — including Democrats on the subcommittee — say the move will lead to a more globalized Internet, critics worry the decision to step back will allow oppressive governments to impose restrictions on the free government.

Members of the House Commerce Committee, led by Vice Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Reps. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), introduced a bill last week that would prevent the Commerce Department from relinquishing its oversight role until the Government Accountability Office completes a review of the shift. 

On Thursday, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) took it one step further by introducing a bill that would prevent the U.S. government from relinquishing its oversight role without congressional approval. “The Internet Stewardship Act of 2014 would preserve this successful model from ever being changed unless the president persuades Congress that it is the right time to act through legislation,” Kelly said in a statement. “The power and reach of the Internet are far too important to liberty to ever be surrendered to forces that could potentially use their power to limit the Internet’s reach and suppress the free flow of ideas.”

Fears of an Internet takeover were prevalent during Wednesday’s hearing, with multiple subcommittee Republicans asking Strickling and Chehade to explain and justify why the U.S. government is relinquishing its oversight role and how the open Internet will remain protected without the backstop of U.S. authority. 

The pair told members of the subcommittee — especially skeptical Republicans — that the Commerce Department’s current role is “ministerial” and “clerical” and does not act as a backstop to foreign governments seizing control of the Internet. Without the U.S. government playing a disproportionate role in Internet governance, the Internet can become more globalized and stakeholder-driven, the two argued.

Strickling and Chehade will have another chance to tout the benefits of an IANA oversight transition during Friday’s event at the Hudson Institute, which will also include Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, deputy assistant secretary of State, and former Republican Federal Communications Commission Robert McDowell. McDowell, a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, said he will be raising questions about the accountability of Internet governance organizations if the U.S. steps back from its oversight role.

FCC 'Obama phone' database up and running: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is making an effort to crack down on fraud in a federal phone subsidy program. Its database to track people in the Lifeline program is “is preventing new duplicates and has rooted out remaining ones,” Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement on Thursday.

The FCC program, which began in 1985, subsidizes phone service for poor Americans. Though it got its start long before President Obama came to office and was expanded to cover cellphone service in 2005, it has sometimes been called the “Obama phone” program. Lifeline became a flashpoint for conservative critics of the president after videos emerged online seeming to show rampant fraud.

To crack down, the commission began compiling a database of Lifeline subscribers late last year to prevent people from signing up more than once. According to the FCC, it has already found $169 million worth of duplicates to eliminate or prevent from new enrollment. 

Separately, the FCC also released guidelines for new independent audits for major providers of the service on Wednesday. 

App group crosses the Atlantic: The Application Developers Alliance is launching a European board and sharpening its focus on European issues to expand its reach beyond the U.S. The trade group said on Thursday that the step would help it be closer to the dozens of firms and nearly 8,000 member developers working in Europe.

The 11-member board includes executives from Google, Intel, Yahoo and other key tech companies.

“Alliance activity in Europe will include developer-focused programming, education, business resources and policy advocacy,” Jon Potter, president of the trade group, said in a statement. “These are the cornerstones of Alliance success since our 2012 launch, and we are pleased that our European companies have urged our growth and invited our expansion.”

Feds release health IT report: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a new draft strategy and recommendations for using health information technology. The effort aims to make better healthcare devices while staying within the confines of the law and minimizing risks to patients.  

The report, mandated by Congress, breaks health IT devices down into three different categories based on function and level of risk of the device. It proposes the creation of a new health IT safety center that would reach across agencies to share ideas. 

Former Rep. lobbies for cable ad company: Viamedia, a cable TV advertising company, hired former Rep. David McIntosh (R-Ind.) to lobby on “legislative and regulatory activity affecting competition among cable TV advertising,” according to a disclosure report. The hire comes a month after the ad company brought on Jim Gottlieb, a former chief of staff to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) for influence on the same issue.

 

ON TAP

Lawrence Strickling, Fadi Chehade, Daniel Sepulveda and Robert McDowell talk Internet governance at the Hudson Institute, starting at 11 a.m.

Georgetown Law is holding a daylong event on consumer law titled "Making the Fine Print Fair," which will include an address from Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Major tech companies including Microsoft and Apple are teaming up to advocate for strong patent protections as patent reform efforts heat up on the Hill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is close to compromise on its patent reform bill and is expected to announce an agreement later this week.

The government of Turkey has ended its two-week-long ban on Twitter.

Mozilla is losing its new chief executive, Brendan Eich, whose donations to an anti-same-sex marriage measure embroiled the Internet nonprofit in controversy.

 

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