OVERNIGHT TECH: House to vote on STELA, paving way for Senate

THE LEDE: On Tuesday, the House will vote on a bill that makes tweaks to the video marketplace while reauthorizing the law governing satellite television. That law, the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), is set to expire at the end of the year, which would leave roughly 1.5 million Americans, mostly in rural areas, without access to NBC, ABC and other programming.

The bill in front of the House on Tuesday goes beyond simply reauthorizing STELA. As a result of a bipartisan compromise out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the bill will also make some changes to the way broadcasters negotiate with cable and satellite companies, eliminate a federal requirement for specific security equipment in cable boxes and give broadcasters more time to unwind resource-sharing arrangements that the Federal Communications Commission effectively banned earlier this year.

While Democrats on the Committee pushed for more reforms, Republicans led by committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, said the broader reforms should instead be considered as the committee continues with its years-long effort to overhaul the Communications Act, which governs the telecommunications industries and regulators and was last updated in 1996.

The House is considering Tuesday's bill under a suspension of the rules, meaning it will require two-thirds majority for approval. Lawmakers’ quick maneuvering with the bill indicated that they had little doubt that would happen. Passage would leave all eyes on Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who has yet to introduce legislation despite having expressed a desire to reform existing retransmission rules with the STELA bill. Earlier this month, Rockefeller announced that he and other members of the panel would work on legislation through the August recess and bring out a bill in September. The Senate Judiciary Committee has already moved forward with a clean bill.

Rockefeller said the House vote doesn’t change the impetus for the Commerce Committee to get its bill done. “You don’t have to put pressure on our committee to get something out,” he said off the Senate floor Monday. “We want to.”

Rockefeller also said he hopes the committee can stick with the September timeline. “We want to have everything on the table. We like competition,” he said, echoing praise he issued last week for online video companies that add competition to the video marketplace. “Streaming video and all that stuff is good.”

IBM to name chief accessibility officer: Frances West, a 25-year veteran at IBM, is set to take over as the new chief accessibility officer, the company will announce on Tuesday. In her new role, West will focus on making sure that the company’s technology is accessible by people with disabilities, such as text-to-speech tools for users who are blind. “We see a great opportunity to design for accessibility fundamentally from the start and to enhance the abilities of individuals through technology – and we intend to lead,” CEO Ginni Rometty said in a statement.

“Incorporating accessibility and choice into everything we do – and engaging our partners in business, government and academia to advance accessible design, standards and policy – will bridge the silos that have isolated too many for too long,” West wrote in a blog post on Monday evening. “As we work to extend human capabilities through smarter design and greater accessibility, we also will strengthen our brand and forge new relationships and improve the quality of life.”

West, who has served on the boards of directors for organizations like the American Association of People with Disabilities and the Assistive Technology Industry Association, was formerly the head of the company’s Human Ability and Accessibility Center.

Lobbying totals trickle in: Many major corporations were still filing their lobbying totals for the second quarter of the year on Monday evening, but some interesting numbers are already in. The Consumer Electronics Association looked to be an early gainer, with a $550,000 increase over the last three months. The trade association spent $1.12 million in the second quarter of 2014, compared to $570,000 earlier in the year. AT&T also bumped up its totals amid a quest for regulators to approve its planned merger with DirecTV, from $3.67 million during the first three months of the year to $3.82 million.

Not everyone in the tech world is dropping more cash on K Street. Oracle dropped off its lobbying spending a tad, from $1.51 million to $1.46 million. The National Association of Broadcasters dropped from $5.28 million earlier in the year to to $4.65 million for the second quarter. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association, too, dipped from $4.14 million to $4.01 million.

Trade groups like the Information Technology Industry Council and CTIA-The Wireless Association both stayed even, at $270,000 and $2.16 million, respectively.

WhiteHouse.gov, YouPorn.com use invisible trackers: Privacy and data journalist Julia Angwin rang the alarm bells about browser “fingerprinting,” a technologically advanced online tracking method that is “unusually hard to block” and is used by major websites, including WhiteHouse.gov and YouPorn.com.

“Like other tracking tools, canvas fingerprints are used to build profiles of users based on the websites they visit — profiles that shape which ads, news articles or other types of content are displayed to them,” Angwin wrote in a Mashable article on Monday. But unlike the common cookie-based tracking tools, fingerprinting trackers “can’t be prevented by using standard web browser privacy settings or using anti-tracking tools such as AdBlock Plus.”

New privacy, tech center at Georgetown Law: Georgetown University Law Center announced Monday a new program dedicated to privacy and technology. The new Center on Privacy and Technology will train law students and give professors the opportunity to weigh in on federal and state debates, including about government surveillance, connected devices, biometric data collection and the growing use and sophistication of data collection and analytics. The center will be led by Alvaro Bedoya, chief counsel to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy.

Fred Upton and the Internet Association check out beers, food truck: House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) joined the Internet Association for a trek though Kalamazoo, Mich., on Monday. The lawmaker stopped off at a local organic food truck, a jewelry maker, studio and Bell’s Brewery on their crawl, which was catalogued on Twitter. The Web company trade group recently took a similar Main Street tour with Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), ranking member of the Senate Commerce panel.



U.S. Air Force Space Command Commander Gen. William Shelton is talking about the U.S.’s future in space at the Atlantic Council at 9:00.

The American Enterprise Institute is hosting a morning event on Internet governance, featuring a keynote from the Commerce Department’s Larry Strickling at 11 a.m.

At noon, Republic 3.0 is holding an event on what should be patentable, featuring opening remarks from David Gerk, of the Patent and Trademark Office’s Policy and International Affairs Office.

The House turns to STELA reauthorization around 2:00.



The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pressuring the Senate to take up and “expeditiously” pass a Senate cybersecurity bill that would encourage companies to share information about cyber threats with each other and the federal government.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton headed to Twitter and Facebook on Monday as part of a book promotion tour that has been placing her in the spotlight ahead of a possible 2016 presidential bid.

Government leaker Edward Snowden is going to work on making technology more secure from prying eyes, he said over the weekend.

The New York Times editorial board is pushing back on the proposed and reported multibillion mergers in the media and communications industries.

The Federal Communications Commission is being bombarded with passionate calls for a wholesale change to the way the Internet is regulated.


Please send tips and comments to Kate Tummarello, katet@thehill.com, and Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.com

Follow Hillicon Valley on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @ktummarello, @jmhattem