OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC pushback mounts ahead of 'fast lane' vote

THE LEDE: Web advocates are preparing for a final push before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) votes next week to allow Internet "fast lanes."

Activists and online entrepreneurs are hoping that their pleas raise the stakes for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler ahead of Thursday’s vote, as voices mount in opposition to the proposal.

Free Press is organizing a physical protest outside the commission’s Washington headquarters, billing its campaign as a “fight to save the Internet."

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“Thousands of activists, organizations and companies will participate in a day of action online and off to oppose the FCC’s plan to kill — rather than protect — the open Internet and allow rampant discrimination online,” the group said in an online organizing site. “Together we’ll dance, drum and shout that the agency must throw out its destructive plan and reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service. This is the only way to restore real Net Neutrality.”

Wheeler on Thursday indicated he is moving forward with the vote on the contested proposal, even as fellow commissioners on the FCC have expressed their displeasure. Ajit Pai, a Republican commissioner, on Thursday called on Wheeler to delay the vote, as has Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat like Wheeler. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, another Democrat, has also expressed concerns with the plan.

In a Thursday letter to President Obama and Wheeler, nearly 100 privacy, tech and left-leaning political groups claimed the proposal would lead to a “two-tiered Internet: a fast lane for those willing or able to pay for it, and a dirt road for the rest of us.”

“This is discrimination pure and simple,” wrote groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Writer’s Guild of America East, Consumers Union and American Civil Liberties Union. “It is the opposite of a free and open Internet.”

On Wednesday, major Web companies from Google to Amazon called the proposed rules “a grave threat to the Internet,” and their concern was echoed by dozens of venture capitalists on Thursday. In a letter to Wheeler, the investors feared that his plan “will not provide the necessary certainty that we need to make investment decisions” and could “stifle innovation in the Internet sector.”

The rules, they added, would prevent “an individual in a dorm room or a design studio” from taking risks and “experiment[ing] out loud on the Internet. The result will be greater conformity, fewer surprises and less innovation.”

House E&C passes satellite bill: The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted Thursday to reauthorize a bill that governs the satellite television marketplace. That bill — the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act — is set to expire at the end of the year, which would leave 1.5 million people without certain broadcast programming. The bill soared through committee consideration after leadership announced a bipartisan agreement on the bill earlier this week.

While Democrats initially worried that the bill failed to address broader video reform and could tie the FCC’s hands behind its back, the compromise announced Tuesday dialed back language aimed at limiting the telecom agency and opened the door for government studies on video marketplace issues that concern Democrats.

Judiciary also took a look: The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property also took up the satellite television bill Thursday during a hearing. During his written opening statement, House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) — who is leading his committee in its sweeping review of copyright law — touched on issues in the current video marketplace.

He pointed to committee members, including himself, whose constituents are unable to watch local broadcast programming “due to what could be best described as line drawing exercises over designated market areas gone astray.” He added that he looks “forward to resolving these market specific issues going forward as we determine whether the current video compulsory license system is working for the digital era.”

FCC puts $450 million to school broadband: The Federal Communications Commission is making $450 million in funding commitments to put broadband Internet in the country’s schools and libraries. Thursday’s announced funding is six times greater than the FCC approved at this time last year, and comes as part of a renewed dedication to the program by the Obama administration.

“Now more than ever, students and teachers rely on broadband Internet access to stay ahead of the educational curve,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.  “It is essential for the FCC to quickly and efficiently deliver the support that these institutions need to maintain and improve broadband service.”

The FCC’s program, called E-Rate, provides discounts of up to 90 percent to fund the broadband initiatives. President Obama has pledged to connect 99 percent of the country’s students to the Internet under the program, and the FCC has pledged to double funding over the next two years.

Polis to take bitcoins: Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), who earlier this year bought $10 worth of bitcoins at an event on Capitol Hill, will begin accepting the virtual currency for his reelection campaign. Mere hours after the Federal Election Commission (FEC) released a memorandum allowing bitcoin contributions worth up to $100, his campaign unveiled a new website specifically for bitcoin contributions.

"I am thrilled that the FEC has chosen to take a forward looking stance on digital currencies, recognizing the rights of individuals seeking alternatives to government backed currencies to participate in our democratic political process," Polis said in a statement. "Bitcoin, and other digital currencies, are just beginning to show the world what a tremendous tool they can be; whether it is reducing transaction costs in developing nations, giving people more options for engaging in commerce, or sending representatives dedicated to advancing personal freedom to Congress."

House staffer joins Uber: Former aide to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) Brian Worth has moved to Uber. Worth, who led coalitions in McCarthy’s office, will join a policy and communications team “whose ranks are comprised of a growing group of political exiles from a variety of backgrounds including campaigns, labor, advocacy and government,” a spokesperson told The Hill in an email.

According to previous filings, Uber has hired lobbyists for the past six months to focus on “innovation in the transportation marketplace.”

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

The House Intelligence Committee approved legislation to make a number of reforms to the National Security Agency on Thursday, sending the bill to the House floor.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will hold a vote next week on his proposal to allow Internet “fast lanes,” despite calls to delay it.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee voted over Democratic opposition Thursday to stall the Obama administration’s plan to relinquish its Internet oversight role.

Snapchat has settled with the Federal Trade Commission over the agency’s complaint that the photo-sharing app misrepresented the ways it collected and shared user data.

Political action committees can begin to accept the virtual currency bitcoin, according to the Federal Election Commission.

 

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