OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC considers cutting prison phone rates

Critics say the high prices cut off inmates' connection with their families and communities, making them more likely to commit new offenses.

Softbank files to buy Sprint: Japanese cellular carrier Softbank formally filed its request with the FCC on Thursday to buy a controlling stake in Sprint.

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The companies first announced their $20.1 billion deal last month.

In the filing, the companies argued that because Softbank doesn't have other cellular interests in the United States, the deal doesn't raise competitive concerns. 

"To the contrary, the transaction is expected to greatly stimulate wireless competition and innovation. It offers the potential to transform the U.S. wireless marketplace by creating a more vibrant rival to compete with today’s two predominant wireless providers, Verizon Wireless and AT&T," the companies wrote.

AT&T has urged regulators to take a close look at the deal because it would give a foreign company control over a large chunk of the nation's airwaves.

Copyright alert system faces scrutiny: At the Internet Society's conference in New York on Thursday, representatives from Verizon, Time Warner Cable, Fox Entertainment Group, Recording Industry Association of America and Motion Picture Association of America faced a tough grilling from the crowd on the new copyright alert system (CAS) that's set to launch soon. The CAS is aimed at cutting down on illegal peer-to-peer file sharing of copyrighted material, such as movies and music. Under the program, some Internet service providers will send alerts to people who allegedly distribute pirated entertainment content on peer-to-peer networks. If customers don't respond to the alerts, they may face a set of "mitigation measures," such as having their Internet speeds temporarily slowed down.

Some audience members questioned whether the new alert system would threaten free speech and if there are checks in place to ensure innocent Internet users wouldn't affected by the program. 

The industry representatives said the CAS is primarily aimed at educating people about copyright infringement and has consumer protection measures baked into it. For more on the CAS, read our story from last month.

"This is an opportunity to make it a collaborative process that puts consumer education first, which is a win rather than going down a path that is confrontational with consumers," said Fernando Laguarda, vice present of external affairs at Time Warner Cable. 

GOP senators fire warning shot at FTC as Google decision looms: Ten Republican senators led by Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) warned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Thursday not to stretch its regulatory powers.

The letter to FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz does not explicitly mention Google, but amounts to a clear warning to tread carefully as the agency considers whether to sue the Web giant over alleged antitrust violations.

Senate Judiciary Committee to vote on email privacy bill: The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a markup on Nov. 29 of legislation that would require police to obtain a warrant before reading people's emails, Facebook messages or other forms of electronic communication.

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) added the warrant requirement to H.R. 2471, a House bill that would loosen video privacy regulations. 

McConnell hopes cybersecurity legislation comes up next month: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Thursday that he hopes cybersecurity legislation is brought up again in the Senate.

McConnell said he opposed a cloture motion on the Cybersecurity Act, S. 3414, Wednesday night because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wouldn’t allow an open amendment process. Reid had said he’d allow a “finite” number of Republican amendments.

Senate approves reauthorization of Safe Web Act: The Senate on Wednesday voted in favor of reauthorizing a House bill aimed at expanding the powers the Federal Trade Commission has to clamp down on Internet fraud and online scammers.

The Safe Web Act enables the FTC to share information about cross-border fraud with foreign law enforcement authorities and expands the type of fraud that the agency can take legal action against. The bill was first passed in 2006 and the reauthorized version is now headed to the president's desk to be signed into law.

Genachowski says cybersecurity mandates should be excluded from telecom treaty: FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has called for cybersecurity mandates to be kept out of an international telecommunications treaty that will be negotiated next month in Dubai.

Genachowski on Wednesday called the proposals to add cybersecurity regulations to the global treaty "misplaced and ultimately counterproductive," according to his prepared remarks for a cybersecurity conference hosted by U.S. Central Command.