OVERNIGHT TECH: Fight continues for critical infrastructure protections

THE LEDE: Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) is continuing to push the House to pass mandatory cybersecurity standards for critical infrastructure, such as electrical grids and gas pipelines, despite the fact that House leaders oppose the regulations.

Langevin offered an amendment on Wednesday to the Defense authorization bill that would require critical systems to meet security standards. His amendment is based on the language in Rep. Dan Lungren's (R-Calif.) Precise Act, which cleared a House Homeland Security subcommittee earlier this year.

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Lungren stripped out the mandates from his bill in a bid to win over House leaders, who had indicated they would not allow a floor vote on the regulations. Despite the concessions, the Precise Act has still not made it to the floor.


The Rules Committee is expected to decide on Wednesday night whether to allow a House vote on Langevin's proposed amendment to the Defense bill.

Langevin argued that beefing up cybersecurity protections is an important part of defending the country.

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"Our military leaders are clearly concerned about threats facing critical infrastructure, and we know the status quo of voluntary action has not worked," he told the Rules Committee.

He also offered an amendment to create a National Cyberspace Office that would have the power to set information security policies for federal computer systems.

Mayors question Verizon-cable deal: A group of nine mayors from upstate New York want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Justice Department to look closer at the proposed deal between Verizon and a consortium of cable companies.

The mayors of Binghamton, Buffalo, Cortland, Elmira, Kingston, Syracuse, Troy, Utica and the state capital, Albany, sent a letter on Wednesday to the FCC and DOJ expressing "deep concern" that the deal between Verizon and some of the largest cable providers in the country would have a "devastating effect" on their communities.

Verizon wants to enter into a $3.6 billion deal with a Comcast, Time Warner and Bright House Networks to buy blocks of spectrum held by the cable companies. The deal would also allow Verizon and the cable companies to cross-sell each other's services.  

The mayors say the proposed deal would deter any expansion of Verizon’s high-speed fiber-optic FiOS network, which would harm minorities because Verizon would no longer have reason to expand its FiOS service to the predominately minority-inhabited urban centers of the state. 

“We are deeply worried that the anti-competitive partnership between Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest wireless provider, and four of the leading cable companies will have a negative impact on economic development and job creation in our cities, leading to higher prices, fewer service options, and a growing digital divide,“ the letter reads. 

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) touted the mayors' letter in a press release.

Ed McFadden, a Verizon spokesman, said the letter should "be viewed through the prism of the ongoing contract negotiations" Verizon is having with its union, CWA. 

"Rather than expending energy in a misguided effort to harm the very company that provides good, well-paying jobs to 50,000 of its members, the CWA might consider working to achieve a contract that will benefit their members," McFadden said, adding that Verizon had planned out its FiOS deployment before striking the cable deal.

DeMint and Kerry clash over net-neutrality: Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) clashed again Wednesday during an oversight hearing for the Federal Communications Commission, this time over network neutrality.

When Kerry asked FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski if Congress should codify net neutrality, which today exists only as an FCC regulation that has been challenged in court, Genachowski said "I would encourage it."

But Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), an outspoken foe of net neutrality, said the technology sector "is one industry we don't need to encourage investment in."

The obstacle to expansion of the broadband economy is "arbitrary and unpredictable rule making," he said, before asking Genachowski how many complaints about violations of the FCC's net-neutrality rules the commission has received.

Genachowski admitted that the commission hasn't received any formal complaints.

The Internet is a "private network built with private capital," DeMint said, that gives consumers "dozens and dozens of choices."

"It's laughable that we think we can pick winners and losers, given our inability to manage anything," he said

"The issue isn't the Google ... of today," he said, "but the versions three, five, seven, or nine years from now ... opportunities that exist because of an open Internet."

Genachowski said since the advent of net-neutrality rules, "we've seen an increase in innovation across the broadband economy."


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Schumer introduced a bill to combat cellphone theft.

Lautenberg wants the FCC to investigate News Corp.

Republicans questioned a stimulus grant for broadband in W. Va.

Democrats urged the FCC to reform "special access."

The chief of the patent office said the backlog of applications is the lowest in years.