By Brendan Sasso and Jennifer Martinez - 07/15/13 10:35 PM EDT
THE LEDE: The Federal Communications Commission should cap the amount of money it spends through its Universal Service Fund, according to Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.).
Walden, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Communications and Technology, expressed skepticism about proposals to expand USF programs in a letter to Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn on Friday.
He asked Clyburn to "tread carefully" before considering any program expansions, and noted that USF costs are "ultimately born by American families in the phone rates they pay."
"Capping the fund will provide families some certainty and minimize fluctuation in their monthly bills," he wrote. He said the FCC should submit any proposals to expand the fund to the Federal-State Joint Board.
Walden didn't mention any particular proposals, but the most prominent effort to expand the USF is President Obama's plan to spend more on the E-Rate program to provide faster Internet for schools.
The Senate will hold a hearing on the plan on Wednesday, and the FCC is scheduled to vote on whether to move ahead with the proposal on Friday.
In addition to E-Rate, which pays for Internet service in schools and libraries, the USF also includes programs to subsidize phone service for low-income consumers and to expand Internet and phone service in rural areas.
Walden acknowledged that some supporters of new USF initiatives have proposed paying for them with savings from elsewhere in the fund, but he wrote that savings are in "the eye of the beholder and depend upon the baseline against which they are measured."
Consumer groups oppose AT&T-Leap deal: Consumer groups Public Knowledge and Free Press are calling on federal regulators to block AT&T's proposed $1.2 billion purchase of Leap Wireless.
"If AT&T is allowed to remove Leap from the market, the customers it serves, particularly minority and low-income communities, will be disproportionately affected, and might have nowhere else to go," Harold Feld, vice president of Public Knowledge, said in a statement.
"This takeover would result in fewer choices, higher prices and job losses," Free Press President Craig Aaron said.
AT&T argues the deal would boost the quality of its network and provide better service for customers of both companies.
Public Knowledge says it's time for copyright holders to step up: In response to the release of anti-piracy standards from the White House and eight ad networks on Monday, Public Knowledge President Gigi Sohn said in a statement that it's time for copyright holders to craft their own best practices on ways to ensure the "rights of Internet users and intermediaries are protected in their efforts to enforce copyrights."
"This is far preferable to having the ad networks engage in guesswork that can have unintended consequences for users," Sohn said.
She also argued that a copyright alert system that launched earlier this year "places much of the responsibility on Internet service providers," rather than content creators, to combat piracy. Sohn, who sits on the advisory board of the anti-piracy effort, said it's time for copyright holders to do their part.
Under the system, ISPs send a series of alerts to subscribers whose accounts might have been used to illegally distribute music, movies or other entertainment content via file-sharing. Copyright holders, however, flag ISPs about the potential violation in order to launch the alert process.
"The administration should encourage these rights holders best practices with as much enthusiasm as they have for best practices for intermediaries," Sohn added.
International Anti-Piracy Caucus lauds anti-piracy best practices: The four co-chairmen of the International Anti-Piracy Caucus cheered the release of the best practices and called it "welcome news," but said they would be following up to see "if these voluntary best practices are actually helping to reduce the flow of revenue to those engaged in online theft."
The chairmen include Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai will discuss his vision for an E-Rate program that meets students' needs in a "fiscally responsible way" at the American Enterprise Institute on Tuesday afternoon.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
McAfee's Schneck likely choice for DHS cybersecurity chief: Phyllis Schneck, vice president and chief technology officer for the public sector at McAfee, is the likely choice to be the next deputy undersecretary for cybersecurity at the Department of Homeland Security, according to two sources familiar with the matter.
Schneck currently leads security and global threat intelligence initiatives for the private sector at McAfee. She has also been a fixture on witness panels at congressional hearings on cybersecurity, specifically ones that examine the partnership between the public and private sectors to protect key U.S. infrastructure.
White House releases anti-piracy best practices: The White House partnered with Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other online advertising companies to unveil a set of industry-developed best practices that are aimed at keeping online ads off websites that illegally offer pirated content and counterfeit products.
The eight participating companies on Monday said they are committed to cutting off the flow of money to illicit websites that rely on online ads to generate revenue and fund their operations. The best practices were developed with support from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a nonprofit that represents media and technology companies that sell online ads.
Tech opposes privacy exception for civil probes: Google, Facebook, Microsoft and other Internet companies are urging the Senate to rebuff federal regulators who want the power to seize emails without a warrant.
Internet Association revamps website: A new website from the Internet Association, a lobbying group for Internet companies, lets users comment on and edit legislation important to the industry.
FCC extends indecency comment deadline: Regulators are extending the comment period on a controversial proposal to ease restrictions on cursing and “nonsexual nudity” over public airwaves. The action drew fire Monday from opponents of the idea, who have called upon the Federal Communications Commission to scrap the plan.
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