OVERNIGHT TECH: Walden renews push to overhaul FCC rules

THE LEDE: Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Communications and Technology, will renew his push on Thursday for legislation that would overhaul the way the Federal Communications Commission operates.

Walden's subcommittee will hold a hearing on the legislation featuring testimony from former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, Stuart Benjamin of Duke Law School, analyst and author Larry Downes, Randolph May of the Free State Foundation, Richard Pierce of The George Washington University Law School and James Bradford Ramsey of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.

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The House passed Walden's bill last year in a 247-174 vote, but the Senate never took up the proposal.

Walden's bill would require the FCC to conduct cost-benefit analyses before adopting new rules, meet binding deadlines and provide the public an adequate opportunity to review proposals. The legislation would also bar the FCC from imposing conditions on transactions that aren't directly related to the harm of the deal.

Republicans argue the legislation would make the FCC more predictable and fair, but Democrats are worried that it would hamper the agency's ability to protect consumers.

"[The bill] hasn’t nor will it go anywhere," Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the subcommittee's ranking member, will say, according to a copy of her opening statement. "Administrative Law experts tell us it would tie the Federal Communications Commission up in years of litigation. Simply put, the bill contains bad policy."

FCC holds hearing on prison phone rates: The FCC held a hearing on Wednesday to consider limiting the amount that prisons can charge inmates and their families for phone calls.

The agency heard from advocacy groups, family members of prisoners, state regulators and the telephone industry. Reps. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) were in attendance.

"Regardless of why that inmate is in jail, the exorbitant inmate calling regime deeply and chronically affects the most vulnerable among us," Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said, adding that reforming the system is a "priority" for the commission.

Senate to hold hearing on E-Rate: The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will hold a hearing next Wednesday to examine efforts to expand the FCC's E-Rate program to provide faster Internet in schools. 

New patent bill drops in the House: Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) introduced a patent bill on Wednesday aimed at combating patent litigation abuse and so-called patent trolls. The patent bill received statements of support from the Coalition for Patent Fairness, which counts Google and Verizon as members, and the Application Developers Alliance. 

"The explosion of patent troll activity diverts resources away from research and development, hinders innovation and stifles entrepreneurship," Jeffries said in a statement. "The civil litigation system is critical to our democracy. In this instance, Congress must prevent it from being abused.”


ON TAP

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission is hosting a roundtable discussion on Thursday that will look how the U.S. should handle its cybersecurity policy with regards to China, particularly its response to Chinese cyber theft. The panel will be moderated by Commission Chairman William Reinsch. Speakers will include Catherine Lotrionte, director of Georgetown University's cybersecurity project and former assistant general counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency; Bruce Quinn, vice president of government relations for Rockwell Automation; Roy Kamphausen; deputy director for the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property; and James Mulvenon, vice president of Defense Group Inc's intelligence division. 


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Honda trails in cash race as Silicon Valley execs embrace House challenger: Some of the biggest players in the U.S. tech industry are writing big checks for the Democrat challenging Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), helping the newcomer to a huge fundraising edge over Silicon Valley’s longtime congressman.

Former Obama administration official Ro Khanna raised a whopping $1 million in the first three months of his campaign against Honda, a substantial haul for a rookie candidate. 

Apple found guilty of price fixing: Apple illegally conspired with publishers to raise the price of e-books, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

After a three-week trial, Judge Denise Cote determined that Apple "played a central role in facilitating and executing" a conspiracy to stifle competition from Amazon and raise the price of most e-books by two or three dollars. A separate trial will determine damages.


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