OVERNIGHT TECH: New cellphone unlocking bill ready to move

Most contract phones come "locked" to one carrier. Because of a Library of Congress decision last year, customers must obtain their carriers' permission to legally unlock their phones even after they have completed their contract.

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The decision was based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which bans people from circumventing a "technological measure" to gain access to a copyrighted work. 

"When I wrote the DMCA, the law was intended to allow choice and protect consumers. This straightforward restoring bill furthers that objective," Leahy said. "When consumers finish the terms of their contract, they should be able to keep their phones and make their own decision about which wireless provider to use."

Leahy's bill would not amend the DMCA. Instead, it would overturn the Library of Congress's decision and order the agency to consider expanding the exemption to cover tablets. 

Chris Lewis, the top lobbyist for consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge, applauded Leahy for seeking to address the problem, but said the bill would only be a "three-year band-aid."

"Public Knowledge supports legislation that permanently codifies an exemption for unlocking, and a broader discussion around further reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's anti-circumvention provisions that created this problem in the first place," Lewis said.

Ajit Pai, a Republican FCC commissioner, endorsed cellphone unlocking on Monday and said Congress should permanently exempt the practice from the DMCA.

"The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), as it pertains to this issue, unnecessarily restricts consumer choice and is a case of the government going too far," Pai said. "Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: a permanent exemption from the DMCA for consumers who unlock their mobile devices."

Lots of IT jobs for laid-off government workers: The market for Washington, D.C.-area information technology (IT) jobs is strong, which is good news for government workers laid off because of sequestration, according to CompTIA, an IT trade association.

The salary for D.C.-area IT workers is 7 percent higher than the national average, according to a recent study by the group. 

"Given the recently imposed $85 billion in sequestration budget cuts and another looming government shutdown, federal government employees are bracing for down-sizing. For D.C. area IT professionals, however, the outlook in the private sector is much more optimistic," Todd Thibodeaux, CEO of CompTIA, wrote in an emailed statement. 

Personnel moves: Alec Ross, senior adviser for innovation to the secretary of State, announced on his Twitter and Facebook accounts that Tuesday will be his last day at the department.

Ross is widely credited with the State Department's work promoting Internet freedom abroad. In a Facebook post, Ross said he plans to delve into two writing projects and also work as an adviser to "investors, corporations, institutions and government leaders to help them understand the implication of macro factors emerging at the intersection of geopolitics, markets and increasingly disruptive network technologies." 

Nu Wexler, communications director for Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), announced in an email on Monday that he is leaving the Hill to join the Washington office of Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications. Wexler will serve as vice president for public affairs at the company, and his first day in the new gig is March 22. His last day in the senator's office is Friday. 


ON TAP

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold an Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing on Tuesday at 2:45 p.m. All five commissioners are scheduled to testify.

An aide to committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said the senator plans to ask the commission officials about FirstNet, the planned nationwide broadband network for first-responders. Rockefeller was a champion of the legislation authorizing the network, which was one of the last outstanding recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

The aide said Rockefeller will also discuss E-Rate, a Universal Service Fund program to connect schools and libraries to the Internet.

Other topics could include media ownership regulations, the planned auction of TV airwaves to cellular carriers and 911 reliability regulations. Klobuchar will likely ask about giving the FCC authority over cellphone unlocking.

Also on Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee is holding its annual public hearing on worldwide threats. The country's top intelligence officials will be on hand to testify, including CIA Director John Brennan, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The Senate Armed Service Committee will hear from Gen. Keith Alexander, head of U.S. Cyber Command, and Gen. C. Robert Kehler, head of U.S. Strategic Command, at a Tuesday morning hearing on the defense authorization request for 2014.


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Video game industry starts education campaign: The video game industry said Monday it will roll out a nationwide public education campaign amid calls that violent games play a role in gun deaths. 

The campaign is aimed at educating parents about tools that can help them manage the type of content their children are exposed to when playing video games.

Since the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the video game and entertainment industries have been criticized by lawmakers and the National Rifle Association for producing graphic violent content that they say fuels violent behavior in real life. 

White House demands China stop cyber spying: Tom Donilon, the president's national security adviser, urged China on Monday to stop hackers from breaking into U.S. computer systems and stealing business secrets.

"The international community cannot afford to tolerate such activity from any country," Donilon said in a speech in New York.

Donilon said that U.S. officials have urged China to recognize the "urgency and scope" of the problem and to take "serious steps" to stop the hackers. He said the Chinese government should engage in a dialogue to establish acceptable rules of behavior in cyberspace. 

Broadcaster group worried FCC will limit auction proceeds: A coalition of TV stations interested in selling off their broadcast licenses is worried that the Federal Communications Commission will try to limit their cut of auction revenue. 

In a filing with the FCC on Sunday, the Expanding Opportunities for Broadcasters Coalition warned that limiting revenue for TV stations could cause the entire auction to fail.

Commerce officials call for cybersecurity bill: Commerce Department officials on Monday stressed that Congress needs to pass cybersecurity legislation that incentivizes companies to boost the security of their computer systems and networks, adding that the executive branch cannot grant that power. 

"Tax incentives, liability protections— those are things that the president can't wave a magic wand and make happen," said Ari Schwartz, senior policy adviser to the secretary of Commerce, at a briefing about the executive order hosted by law firm Venable. "Congress needs to pass those things."

NMPA: Pandora CEO's departure may mend fences: The head of the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) on Monday said the forthcoming departure of Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy presents an opportunity for the online radio service to patch up its fractured relationship with the songwriting community.

NMPA CEO David Israelite said songwriters are frustrated that roughly 4 percent of Pandora's revenue goes towards compensating them for their music, while nearly half of company's revenue goes towards paying recording labels and recording artists. Meanwhile, Israelite notes that Pandora has filed suit to lower the percentage of revenue it pays to songwriters.

Leiberman joins AEI: Former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is joining the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank announced Monday.


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