OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC's Pai warns that net neutrality is only the 'first step'

THE LEDE: Ajit Pai, a Republican member of the Federal Communications Commission, said on Thursday that a court victory for net-neutrality rules would embolden liberal members of his agency to adopt more Internet regulations.

"With a court victory under the Commission’s belt, I believe that the net neutrality order would be the first step, not the last, on our regulatory path," he warned in a speech at the conservative Phoenix Center.

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The FCC's net-neutrality rules bar Internet service providers from slowing down or speeding up access to websites. Cellular carriers are prohibited from blocking apps that compete with their own services.

Supporters of the net-neutrality order say it is critical for ensuring an open and vibrant Internet, but critics consider it an illegal power grab that burdens businesses.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is currently considering Verizon's challenge to the rules. The same court rejected Verizon's lawsuit seeking to overturn the FCC's data roaming regulations earlier this week.

Pai predicted that if the court upholds the net-neutrality rules, the FCC will look into the network management practices of cellphone carriers and will consider regulating the use of data caps. He also said a victory would lead to more complaints under the existing net-neutrality rules and more aggressive enforcement.

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But if the FCC loses, he warned, Democratic commissioners will be tempted to reclassify broadband Internet as a "telecommunications service" under the Communications Act, which would give the FCC more authority to regulate it.

Pai said he would not support Internet reclassification under any circumstances.

"I am convinced that grafting creaky, burdensome common carrier regulations onto the Internet would dramatically slow broadband deployment, reduce infrastructure investment, frustrate innovation, hamper job creation, and diminish economic growth," he said.

He urged his Democratic colleagues to adopt a deregulatory agenda in 2013.

Judiciary panel discusses location privacy bill: The Senate Judiciary Committee considered Sen. Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) Location Privacy Protection Act on Thursday.

The committee is expected to vote on amendments and the bill itself next week.

The measure would require companies to get a customer's consent before collecting or sharing mobile location data.

The bill, which has six Democratic co-sponsors, is supported by privacy advocates such as the Center for Democracy and Technology, as well as domestic violence prevention groups.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the panel's ranking Republican said he supports the bill's domestic violence provisions, but he has some concerns with the commercial portion.

"Specifically, we need to work through some of the definitions to ensure they mean what we intend. We also have to examine the bill’s enforcement mechanism to make sure we don’t create unnecessary problems for litigants or the courts. Finally, we need to examine the impact the consent provisions will have on current and future technology," Grassley said.

The bill is unlikely to pass this Congress, but Franken is expected to push the measure again next year.

Dodd attempts to reframe piracy debate: Speaking at Variety's Content Protection Summit on Thursday, Motion Picture Association of America CEO Chris Dodd highlighted the connection between Silicon Valley and Hollywood and their robust working relationship over the years. In an attempt to bury the bad blood between the two industries during this year's Stop Online Piracy Act debate, Dodd likened Hollywood film creators and studios to tech companies.

“Hollywood and Silicon Valley have more in common than most people realize, or are willing to acknowledge. Not only does Hollywood work closely with Silicon Valley to create and promote films; Hollywood film and television creators are tech companies," Dodd said, according to prepared remarks. "They celebrate innovation through the world’s most cutting-edge content, and they embrace technology as imperative to the success of the creators in their community."

"It’s time to reject the binary framing of the issues," Dodd said. "The future isn’t about choosing between protecting free speech or intellectual property—it’s about protecting both."

FCC to FAA: Allow 'greater use' of electronic devices during flights: The head of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday pushed for wider in-flight use of electronic portable devices during airplane flights.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to "enable greater use of tablets, e-readers, and other portable devices" during flights in a letter sent Thursday to Michael Huerta, the acting administrator of the FAA. 

Ambassador: U.S. 'working day and night' to keep Internet rules out of treaty:  Ambassador Terry Kramer on Thursday said the United States will be working "day and night" to ensure new Internet regulations are kept out of a United Nations treaty.

"Fundamentally the conference, to us, should not be dealing with the Internet sector," Kramer told reporters on a conference call from Dubai, where the treaty is being negotiated at a conference hosted by the United Nations International Telecommunications Union.

Senators warn FCC not to relax media ownership rules: Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) blasted a Federal Communications Commission proposal to relax media ownership restrictions at a press conference on Thursday.

"We cannot live in a vibrant democracy unless people get divergent sources of information," Sanders said.

DeMint resignation leaves opening on Commerce Committee: Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) announcement on Thursday that he will resign from the Senate opens up the top Republican position on a powerful committee.

DeMint was set to succeed Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) as the ranking Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee until he revealed on Thursday that he would step down to lead the conservative Heritage Foundation.

House delays rules requiring officials to put financial info online: The House voted Wednesday to delay a law forcing senior government officials to publish information about their finances online.

It's the second time Congress has acted to delay implementation of the much-heralded law aimed at improving government transparency. The House vote would push the deadline for implementation to April 15, 2013. 


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