OVERNIGHT TECH: Liberals, former officials back Wheeler for FCC chief

THE LEDE: Former government officials and public interest advocates came out in support of nominating Tom Wheeler to chair the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a letter to President Obama on Thursday.

The letter is an important vote of confidence in Wheeler, a front-runner for the job who has come under fire in recent weeks for his past career as an industry lobbyist.

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Professor Susan Crawford, a liberal favorite, signed the letter, along with attorney Andy Schwartzman and former officials including Phil Weiser, Sonal Shah, Phil Verveer, Larry Irving, Terry Kramer, Kevin Werback and Paul de Sa.

They wrote that Wheeler "will have an open mind and an intelligent take on the challenges that will confront the new Chairman."

The letter rebuts the criticism of public interest advocates such as the New America Foundation and Free Press who have warned that Wheeler is too close to industry groups.

Wheeler was the president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the lobbying organization for the cable industry, from 1979 to 1984. Later, he led CTIA, the lobbying arm for cellphone carriers. He was a major fundraiser for Obama and currently works as a venture capitalist.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, also expressed concern about Wheeler's lobbying ties this week.

"A lobbyist is a lobbyist," Rockefeller said to reporters. "He's been lobbying for some of the things he'd be making decisions on."

But in their letter, the liberals and former officials wrote that Wheeler "has consistently fought on the side of increasing competition," noting that when he worked for the cellphone and cable industries, they were upstarts rather than established giants they are now.

"He has started or helped to start multiple new, high-tech companies that created quality American jobs while pushing the frontiers of technological innovation," they wrote. "He understands the importance of reclaiming the pro-competition, pro-innovation, pro-growth regulatory ideal."

They praised Wheeler's work on Obama's presidential transition team and his work with broadcasting and medical device nonprofits, and wrote that because of his experience on an FCC advisory committee, he would "be able to hit the ground running" at the agency.

Other candidates to succeed outgoing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski include Karen Kornbluh, former ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Larry Strickling, the head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration; and FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn.

Push for CISPA underway: House Republicans started whipping votes for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, on Thursday and are expected to do more outreach to GOP members on Friday to get a sense of a vote count for the measure, according to a tech lobbyist. House Intelligence Committee aides also held a briefing about CISPA on Wednesday for House staffers that work on cybersecurity issues. The preparation paves the way for the expected vote on CISPA next week in the full House. At this point, observers are expecting for the bill to clear the lower chamber, just as it did last year. 

McCaul plugs away on cybersecurity bill: House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said he is getting "very close on developing a draft" of a cybersecurity bill after holding more than 100 meetings with stakeholders. McCaul declined to comment on when he's aiming to mark up the bill, but said he expects it will "complement" CISPA.

"We're getting very close on developing a draft of the bill that we will want to share with stakeholders to get their buy-in before we mark anything up. We're doing that right now," he said. "We could have gone at the same time as CISPA, but we we're starting over [on] a brand new bill. ... We want to do it right, do it methodically and then move forward."


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Internet governance bill advances, but Democrats wary: The House Communications and Technology subcommittee approved a bill on Thursday to support Internet freedom despite Democrats' concern that it could undermine existing laws and regulations.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the subcommittee's chairman, insisted the measure is only a statement of policy and would not repeal any existing rules.

"As a matter of law, a statement of policy does not impose statutorily mandated responsibilities on an agency," Walden said.

Tech group representing Google, Yahoo backs CISPA: A trade association that represents Google, Yahoo, Cisco and Oracle has come out in support of a controversial cybersecurity bill that is slated to be voted on in the House next week.

In a letter sent to the leaders of the House Intelligence panel on Wednesday, TechNet CEO Rey Ramsey said the cybersecurity bill addresses the need for industry and government to be able to send and receive information about cyber threats to one another in real time. He also commended the Intelligence panel leaders for taking steps to address privacy concerns with their bill, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), but also said the trade group looked forward to continuing talks on "further privacy protections."

Senate vote emboldens House lawmakers in push for online sales tax: Two House lawmakers continued their push for online sales tax legislation at a press conference on Thursday.

Reps. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said a recent Senate vote has given their bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act, more momentum.

Facebook's Zuckerberg launches immigration reform lobby group: A new lobby organization co-founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other tech executives launched on Thursday, focusing its efforts on rallying support for immigration reform.

The new group, named FWD.us, boasts an all-star roster of Silicon Valley tech executives and venture capitalists and has drawn attention because it marks one of Zuckerberg's first steps into the Washington political realm.


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