OVERNIGHT TECH: Lawmakers eager to see Internet wiretap plan

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said he would have to review the issue more, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) declined to comment.

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“We’ve been considering all possible options to address the ‘Going Dark’ problem and to ensure we have the tools we need as technology advances. ‘Going Dark’ solutions would not create any new surveillance authority,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

“This always requires a court order. None of the ‘going dark’ solutions would do anything except update the law given means of modern communications," Andrew Weissmann, the FBI's general counsel, said in a statement.

Senate Judiciary begins immigration bill markup on Thursday: The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin working its way through the roughly 300 amendments to the Gang of Eight's sweeping immigration bill on Thursday.

Tech observers will be keeping a close eye on amendments offered by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), but for different reasons.

Hatch's amendments are generally favorable to the tech industry because they would bring the immigration reform bill more in line with the Immigration Innovation Act, or I-Squared, that he introduced earlier this year. The I-Squared bill proposes to free up more green cards for highly skilled workers and significantly increase the H-1B visa cap.

InSPIRE STEM USA, a coalition of businesses and advocacy organizations, praised an amendment offered by Hatch that would propose an increase in the fees for green cards applications, which would go towards a fund dedicated to improving U.S. education programs in the so-called STEM fields, or science, technology engineering and math. 

“With a new fee on employers seeking to hire foreign workers through green cards, each state would be provided new funds to strengthen educational programs to prepare students for STEM jobs that will help keep America globally competitive," said Beneva Schulte, executive director of inSPIRE STEM USA, in a statement.

On the other hand, Grassley's amendments would elevate the concerns that the tech industry already has with the H-1B provisions in the immigration bill. For instance, one of his amendments proposes to modify the non-displacement requirements for employers that hire H-1B workers. Under the current bill, a company must attest that a new H-1B hire did not or will not replace a U.S. worker doing the same type of job 90 days before and after his or her visa application is filed.

However, Grassley's amendment would double that requirement to 180 days.

Tech companies already find this provision troubling because they argue that the fast-paced nature of the industry causes them to frequently evolve their businesses, so they may abandon a particular product or gadget in favor of a new one or an updated version. Because of this, tech companies say they can't forecast layoffs or whether they will close a certain business division in three to six months.

Rockefeller presses for STEM reform:
Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said the country should welcome highly skilled immigrant workers with advanced degrees in technical fields during a committee hearing on Tuesday. He noted that Google and Yahoo were both "founded or co-founded by foreign born immigrants.”

“Tens of thousands of high skilled immigrants come here every year to study, work or start a business," Rockefeller said at the hearing. "We should welcome these people because they make our economy and our country stronger. They create American jobs."

But he also said the U.S. needs to close its skills gap in the so-called STEM fields, which include science, math, technology and engineering. Rockefeller called the nation’s approach to educating more future STEM workers “woefully inadequate”.

“Science, technology engineering and mathematics — those are the most important things we can study. Other than being nice to each other in the classroom and don’t shoot,” he said. 


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

McCain works on 'a la carte' TV bill: Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is working on legislation that would pressure cable and satellite providers to allow their customers to pick and choose the channels they pay for, his office confirmed on Wednesday.

Consumers have long complained about the rising costs of cable TV packages and having to pay for dozens or even hundreds of channels just to gain access to the few that they actually watch. But McCain's legislation, which he is expected to introduce in the coming days, will likely face furious opposition from both the TV broadcasters and cable providers.

Conservatives urge Congress to block softening of TV indecency rules: Dozens of conservative family values groups urged lawmakers on Wednesday to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from weakening its rules against indecency on broadcast television.

"We urgently request that you do all you can to stop the proposed enforcement standard, including opposing any nominee to the Federal Communications Commission who supports changing the current standard," the groups wrote in a letter to members of the Senate Commerce Committee and House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Senators: Funding boost needed to help law enforcement take down hackers: Federal law enforcement agencies should have more funding to investigate and prosecute hackers, senators argued at a hearing on Wednesday.

"I am sympathetic that the Justice Department and the FBI lack adequate resources to respond to the severe cyberthreat. These are immensely complex and challenging cases to put together," said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the chairman of the Judiciary Committee's subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, which was holding the hearing.

Markey touts telecom work in first general election ad: Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) is touting his work on telecom policy in his first ad of the general election campaign for Senate in Massachusetts.

In the ad, Markey is credited with helping to boost innovation in the industry with his work on the Telecommunications Act of 1996.


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