OVERNIGHT TECH: Wheeler worries about Verizon’s throttling

THE LEDE: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is warning Verizon about its recently-announced plans to slow mobile traffic for certain wireless subscribers. In a letter on Wednesday, Wheeler told the company that he is “deeply troubled” by Verizon’s plan to throttle, or slow, mobile traffic for subscribers with unlimited plans who use a lot of data when the company’s networks are busy.

Earlier this month, Verizon announced that, beginning in October, the heaviest data users with unlimited 4G data plans would sometimes have their connections slowed as the company expands its “network management” practices. “They may experience slower data speeds when using certain high bandwidth applications, such as streaming high-definition video or during real-time, online gaming, and only when connecting to a cell site when it is experiencing heavy demand,” the company said in a blog post.

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In his letter, Wheeler raised concerns about the company’s plans to slow traffic for users that are paying for unlimited data. “‘Reasonable network management’ concerns the technical management of your network; it is not a loophole designed to enhance your revenue streams,” Wheeler wrote. “It is disturbing to me that Verizon Wireless would base its ‘network management’ on distinctions among its customers' data plans, rather than on network architecture or technology.”

While wireless companies were not included in the FCC’s original net neutrality rules — which were struck down by a federal court earlier this year — Wheeler’s proposal to rewrite the rules asks whether the protections should apply similarly to cellphone networks.

In the blog post announcing the company’s plans, Verizon stressed the targeted nature of the new traffic rules. "It’s important to remember that the vast majority of data customers will not see any impact from Verizon Wireless’ Network Optimization policy, and will be able to browse the Internet, stream music and videos, upload pictures and send emails as they always have,” the post said.

After Wheeler’s letter, Verizon again defended the targeted nature of the new traffic management plan. “What we announced last week was a highly targeted and very limited network optimization effort, only targeting cell sites experiencing high demand,” the company said in a statement. “The purpose is to ensure there is capacity for everyone in those limited circumstances, and that high users don't limit capacity for others."

 

Software companies come out against student privacy bill: A new Senate bill to increase privacy protections for students is coming under fire from the software industry. After Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced their Protecting Student Privacy Act, the Software and Information Industry Association, which counts a number of educational software companies among its members, called the measure unnecessary.

Current regulations, industry-wide voluntary obligations and measures built into contracts allow companies to “give students access to revolutionary learning technology while ensuring that their information is used only for educational purposes,” public policy vice president Mark MacCarthy said in a statement. "We share the privacy protection goals of Senators Markey and Hatch, but it’s critical to ensure that any new rules do not inadvertently create obstacles to the effective use of information."

PTO wants a fee-shifting bill: The Supreme Court’s decision to loosen some of the rules deciding when the loser in a patent case is forced to pay the winner’s fees needs some extra clarification from Congress, the deputy director of the Patent and Trademark Office said. Michelle Lee pointed out to House lawmakers that the court still limited the process of “fee-shifting” to “an exceptional case.” But what exactly that means is still a bit up in the air, she said

“Companies could benefit from greater certainty about when fees could be shifted and when they could not,” Lee said. “I think there’s room for legislative clarification on that issue.”

The fee-shifting issue was one of the contentious matters that dragged out negotiations in the Senate over the Innovation Act, the bill to take on patent “trolls,” – which companies say harass them with meaningless lawsuits to extract settlement. That bill died in the upper chamber earlier this year. 

Reid letter makes room for Title II, advocates say: Net-neutrality advocates are hopeful that the recently-pledged support from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will give the FCC the room it needs to reclassify Internet providers. While Reid didn’t weigh in on reclassification — which is generally considered to be an uphill political battle as it would give the agency more power to regulate Internet providers — his letter this week “provides cover for Chairman Wheeler to do the right thing,” according to Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal, who received Reid's letter.

"In the letter, Senator Reid says he will support and defend whatever FCC recommends as long as it protects the open Internet. That takes away a crucial talking point that some folks have been saying that the Senate won't defend Title II reclassification,” Segal said in a statement, noting that Reid acknowledged there is likely to be a political battle regardless of the path Wheeler takes to rewrite the rules. "Chairman Wheeler claims he wants to protect the open Internet. He has few reasons left for inaction,” Segal said.

Web manager says domains don’t count as property: Country code domain names like .us or .uk aren’t property and can’t be handed over in legal cases, the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) told a federal court on Wednesday. In a filing, the organization, which manages the online system of domain names, said that it could not hand over control of the domain name extensions of Iran, Syria and North Korea because they are “not property” and are not “owned” by the countries any more than a city or region owns its zip code. 

The case centered on victims of terrorism from the countries, whom courts had ruled were owed hundreds of millions of dollars. They went after the three domains as payment.

Salesforce.com joins BSA: Cloud software company Salesforce.com is hopping onboard with BSA-The Software Alliance, the trade group announced on Wednesday. Burke Norton, the San Francisco-based company’s chief legal officer, said in a statement that the lobbying organization “has a long track record of effectively advocating on behalf of the global software industry, and we look forward to collaborating with other industry leaders to advance policies that promote innovation and growth and that expand markets worldwide.”

 

ON TAP:

The House Science Committee holds a hearing on technology for the border at 10 a.m.

TechFreedom is holding a lunch event with former FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright starting at 12:15.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a bill Wednesday that would allow law enforcement agencies to access a cellphone user’s location information in an emergency.

A group of senators want the Justice Department’s help to ban online gambling.

A bipartisan team of senators is looking to better safeguard students’ privacy by placing new limits on schools and companies that share personal information.

Responding to the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov, a bipartisan group of House members on Wednesday proposed reforms to the way the government buys information technology.

 

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

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