OVERNIGHT TECH: Senators seek permanent ban on Internet taxes

THE LEDE: Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and John Thune (R-S.D.) introduced legislation on Thursday to permanently ban state and local taxes on Internet service.

Their bill, the Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act, would also ban multiple and discriminatory taxes on digital items, such as downloadable songs, movies or apps.

Congress passed the Internet Tax Freedom Act in 1998 to put a moratorium on Internet service taxes. The law has been extended three times, but is scheduled to expire next year. There is currently no ban on discriminatory taxes on digital goods.

"As the Internet Tax Freedom Act enabled and promoted Internet access and adoption across America, the Internet became a platform to facilitate global commerce, sparking nothing short of an economic revolution,” Wyden said in a statement.

“Keeping the Internet accessible to consumers encourages innovation and investment in our global economy," Thune said.

The legislation earned praise from wireless carriers and Internet providers.

"Extending the Internet tax moratorium will protect consumers and small businesses from new and burdensome state and local taxes on Internet access," the National Cable and Telecommunications Association said in a statement.

Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) have introduced similar legislation, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act.

House Commerce forms privacy group: Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), the leaders of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, announced an online privacy working group on Thursday.

ADVERTISEMENT
Terry said the goal of the group is to examine whether Congress should act to require stronger protection for users' personal information.

Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.) will co-chair the group.

President Obama has called on Congress to enact comprehensive online privacy protection legislation, but the proposal has gained little traction on Capitol Hill.

Goodlatte to POTUS: House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) told President Obama that surveillance laws must have strong oversight and protect Americans' civil liberties during a meeting at the White House on Thursday with other lawmakers. 

“At today’s meeting, I stressed to the president that Congress must ensure that the laws we have enacted are executed in a manner that is consistent with congressional intent and that protects both our national security and our civil liberties," Goodlatte said in a statement. "We must ensure that America’s intelligence gathering system has the trust of the American people.”

Goodlatte said he plans to hold a classified hearing in the Judiciary Committee this September that will review the National Security Agency's surveillance programs and determine whether the laws used to operate those programs need to be improved.

House Intelligence Committee leaders Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) also attended the White House meeting. Members from the upper chamber attended as well, including Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.).

Schiff to introduce FISA court reform bill: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) is aiming to introduce a bill after the August recess that would add an adversarial process to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court proceedings. Under his bill, Schiff said the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board would select a pool of attorneys that could be called upon to argue the opposing side in a key FISA court proceeding.

"They'd have to be attorneys that can acquire the necessary security clearances," Schiff said in an interview. "The FISA court would be able to appoint one of these attorneys in cases of constitutional dimension involving programmatic changes."

The aim of the bill is to "make sure that there's a voice speaking on behalf of the privacy interests of the American people," he said. He expects that the bill will have bipartisan support when it's introduced. 

Schiff has already introduced two other pieces of legislation that propose to reform the FISA court. One bill would require more disclosure of FISA court opinions, and another would require that the president nominate and the Senate confirm all judges on the court.

Fried to MPAA: The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) announced on Thursday that it has hired Neil Fried, the former chief communications counsel for the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Fried will be the group's senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs.

 

ON TAP

Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) will join senior congressional staffers and representatives from Facebook, Google and Twitter to discuss the intersection of technology and governance at the "Connected Congress" event on Friday morning in the Capitol Visitor Center. 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Privacy advocate: Three Democratic senators introduced legislation on Thursday that would create an office to advocate for privacy rights before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court.

Tech and ag team up: The California technology and agriculture industries joined forces on Thursday to canvass Capitol Hill and lobby for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Patent troll problem: Tech start-ups made a case before a House Judiciary Committee panel on Thursday that current intellectual property laws may be less a form of protection and more a form of protectionism.

Snowden gets asylum: Russia has granted temporary asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, his lawyer announced on Thursday.

Snowden has been given permission to stay in Russia for one year and has already departed the Moscow airport, his lawyer said.

 

Please send tips and comments to Brendan Sasso, bsasso@thehill.com, and Jennifer Martinez, jmartinez@thehill.com.

Follow Hillicon Valley on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @BrendanSasso, @JenMartinez