By Brendan Sasso and Jennifer Martinez - 06/18/13 10:58 PM EDT
Republicans also grilled Wheeler over a 2011 blog post in which he said the FCC should have used the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile to impose aggressive new regulatory requirements on the combined company. Republicans argued that regulators should only consider the potential harms of a specific deal and not use mergers as an opportunity to enact new policies.
"I believe that the merger review process is a specific process that deals with that specific case, the facts in that situation, and is guided by the law and precedent," Wheeler said.
Throughout the hearing, Wheeler emphasized his belief that promoting competition is a central role for the FCC.
He hinted that he would consider capping the amount of spectrum that Verizon and AT&T could buy in the upcoming auction.
"I believe that there is a responsibility that Congress has given the commission to have an effective auction and to preserve and protect competition, which includes smaller players," Wheeler said, adding that preserving access to spectrum is a "key issue that the commission has to consider."
In response to questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) about whether Internet providers are using data caps in an anti-competitive manner, Wheeler said he would support gathering more information about the issue.
He also said that he thinks consumers should be allowed to unlock their cellphones after they have completed their contracts with their carriers.
CBO touts Senate immigration bill's reforms for high-skilled workers: The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that passage of the Senate's immigration bill would lead to "slightly higher" productivity, thanks in part to the increase in immigration of highly skilled workers. The finding is sure to provide positive fodder for tech companies lobbying for the bill's passage on the Hill.
The CBO said this rise in immigration "would tend to generate additional technological advancements, such as new inventions and improvements in production processes." The increase in productivity "would make workers and capital alike more productive, leading to higher GDP, higher wages, and higher interest rates," it added.
Compete America slams Brown amendment to immigration bill: Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) unveiled an amendment to the Senate immigration bill on Tuesday that would require employers to offer a job to "an equally or better qualified American worker" before seeking to apply for a visa for an H-1B worker. The amendment would undo a key measure in the compromise language that Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) agreed to last month, which was adopted into the final version of the bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“My amendment would ensure that qualified U.S. citizens are given a fair shot at a fair wage for jobs before businesses seek visas for skilled workers," Brown said in a statement. "It is the right thing to do for our country’s hard-working men and women, and it is the right way to move our immigration system forward.”
But Scott Corley, executive director of Compete America, contends that Brown's amendment would place extra burdens on American tech companies when they make hiring decisions. In a statement, Corley said the compromise language agreed to by Hatch and Schumer in the current version of the bill already strikes the right balance.
"The Brown Amendment is a solution in search of a problem. Our companies hire Americans more than 85 percent of the time — at a minimum," Corley said. "Sen. Brown’s amendment ignores the fact that our companies, as non-dependent and non-high-skilled dependent employers, deserve the benefit of the doubt since they already are committed to hiring Americans."
FBI Director Robert Mueller will head back to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing. Mueller will likely face tough questions from the Judiciary panel on the administration's sweeping surveillance activities.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Wheeler hints at light enforcement of TV indecency: Tom Wheeler hinted on Tuesday that he would support voluntary efforts to clean up the content of broadcast television rather than cracking down with steep fines.
He noted that the courts have been "pretty specific and restrictive" on the FCC's efforts to police TV indecency. Broadcasters and civil liberties groups have frequently challenged the FCC's fines, claiming that they violate free speech rights.
"I do believe, however, that it is possible to call upon our better angels with some leadership," Wheeler said.
Google files petition to publish number of FISA requests for user info: Google filed a petition on Tuesday that asks the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for permission to publish the aggregate number of national security requests its receives for user data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, citing its First Amendment rights.
CTIA official leaves to head up venture capital group: The National Venture Capital Association poached a tech lobby leader to become its new president and chief executive.
Bobby Franklin, the executive vice president of CTIA – The Wireless Association, will take the helm of the trade group for investors this fall. He leaves CTIA after nearly a decade with the organization, first working as its chief lobbyist in 2003.
Schiff: Phone providers should retain metadata on phone calls, not NSA: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Tuesday encouraged the intelligence community to restructure a National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance program that gathers metadata on the phone records of Verizon and other phone providers' customers.
Schiff argued that Americans may feel "much more comfortable" if telecommunications companies retained the metadata on customers' phone calls rather funneling it to the secretive spy agency. This way, the NSA would have to go to the telecommunications companies to query phone records of interest.
FCC pick backs Obama's plan to expand Internet in schools: Tom Wheeler said on Tuesday that he supports expanding a federal program to provide faster Internet access in schools.
"It is not good enough for us to have 1996 textbooks in the classroom. I don't think it's good enough to have 1996 connectivity in the classroom," Wheeler said during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.
House panel questions value of biosurveillance program: More than a decade after the 2001 anthrax attacks, a House oversight committee on Tuesday questioned the track record of a controversial surveillance program launched to prevent future incidents of bioterrorism.
BioWatch, the nationwide system designed to detect early signs of anthrax or other deadly agents in the air, was denied further funding by Congress last year following multiple reports that it was defective.
Ex-FTC chief Leibowitz heads to law firm: Jon Leibowitz, former head of the Federal Trade Commission, has become a partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell and will focus on antitrust and tech privacy issues.
He had been a free agent since leaving the bipartisan regulator in February, where he served as a commissioner from 2004 until becoming chairman in 2009. He worked to write rules to protect consumer privacy on the Internet, including tougher regulations for collecting personal information of children.
Yahoo releases figures on thousands of government requests for user data: Yahoo is the latest tech company to release data on the number of government requests for user data it receives in the wake of the revelations over the National Security Agency's (NSA) Internet surveillance program.
The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Internet company received between 12,000 and 13,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement for user data in the last six months, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and general counsel Ron Bell said Monday in a post on the company's Tumblr account. The most common requests sent to Yahoo "concerned fraud, homicides, kidnappings and other criminal investigations."