OVERNIGHT TECH: Senators spar over Verizon spectrum deal

The Lede: Both the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Antitrust subcommittee sent letters today to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and Attorney General Eric Holder about the Verizon spectrum transaction. 

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) has serious concerns about the deal and wants a cautious review. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called for an expedited review of a deal that he thinks is ready to go. 

Kohl made clear that he's not prejudging the deals to be unlawful under the Communications Act or antitrust laws. But he also makes clear that he believes the transactions should be "examined closely" because they present "serious competition concerns."

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Lee countered, saying “I do not believe the spectrum purchase or commercial agreements will restrict competition or otherwise harm consumers." 

“The evidence suggests that these agreements are primarily pro competitive and will benefit consumers by putting previously fallow spectrum to efficient use, expanding consumer choice through the introduction of a new bundled offering and spurring innovation in the development of new technologies and products," he said.

Verizon wants to buy the airwaves to improve service for its 4G network for smartphones. But public-interest advocates fear the deal will harm competition by putting too much of the airwaves into Verizon's hands.

Both the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission's antitrust divisions must sign off on the $3.6 billion deal, which would involve Verizon buying spectrum from cable giants Bright House Networks, Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

In a statement, Verizon executive vice president Tom Tauke said the letters show the deal is receiving adequate scrutiny and that it should be consummated sometime this summer.

Digital government isn't the same as open data, says US CIO

U.S. chief information officer Steven VanRoekel says the Obama administration's new digital government plan isn't a re-warmed version of previous "open government" directives and programs. VanRoekel spoke Thursday at an event called "Building a Digital Government” at the U.S. Department of the Interior, which was sponsored by the American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC).

The White House's data.gov website was a "very important first step" in government transparency and making government data accessible to citizens, VanRoekel said. But under the new digital government program announced Wednesday, it will "evolve" into a kind of "developer portal" where application developers can learn how to build applications to make government data accessible to citizens. 

The rise of the open data movement was a "catalyzing event" for data transparency that raised awareness of the idea, VanRoekel said. The entire idea of digital government is about "taking [open] data to the next step," he added. 

He asked: "What's different now is the convergence of open data ... and the consumerization of technology?" 

"It's a journey," explained U.S. chief technology officer Todd Park. Data.gov was a "great step forward," he said, but the goal now is to get developers to "proactively engage" with the data. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Both the House and Senate launched investigations into the troubles surrounding Facebook's lackluster initial public offering.

A pair of House Republicans wants more information on Twitter's tracking practices.

The FCC considered approving the use of flying cell tower drones at its open meeting today.

And Google was asked to take down 1.2 million pages for copyright violations last month.