OVERNIGHT TECH: How many net neutrality comments were there?

THE LEDE: The Federal Communications Commission is standing behind its count that 3.9 million public comments were submitted regarding proposed rules on net neutrality.

The Sunlight Foundation took issue with the number in a blog post Tuesday, in one of the first comprehensive analyses of the final round of comments, which ended in September.

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"We spent enough time with these files that we’re reasonably sure that the FCC’s comment counts are incorrect and that our analysis is reasonably representative of what’s there," the open government group wrote.

The FCC's number has gained widespread attention, and shattered the previous record for public comments set in 2004 over Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the Super Bowl. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is likely to issue finalized net neutrality rules in the next few months.

The Sunlight Foundation said it is impossible to know the true number because some of the comments were grouped together in bulk files with no separation. While the FCC said 2.5 million comments were submitted between July and September, the foundation counted a little under 1.7 million.  

An FCC spokesperson said the grouping likely led to the varying numbers. Because of the crush of submissions, the public was able to comment though a number of formats, including an online filing system and through email. The email submissions -- which numbered in the thousands -- were grouped without separation, making them nearly impossible to count.

The official said the commission is "well aware" of the limitations of its comment system, which dates back nearly two decades, and is working on improvements.

Google, Verizon sign patent agreement: Verizon on Tuesday renewed its call for lawmakers to take up patent reform legislation in the new Congress. The call came in a blog post announcing that the company signed a patent licensing agreement with Google to "help reduce the supply of patents that so-called patent trolls can assert against us," according to Randal Milch, Verizon's general counsel who was recently named policy advisor for the CEO.

"We look forward to striking similar deals with other high-tech companies also concerned with the innovation tax that patent trolls often collect," he said. "But these deals can’t fix the system by themselves. More needs to be done. We continue to support Congress’s effort to enact meaningful patent litigation reform in the coming year."

Waxman encourages freshmen to eye tech: New lawmakers on the Energy and Commerce Committee would do well to prioritize tech policy issues, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said on Tuesday. "We have a number of new members who are being added to the committee," the retiring ranking member said at a Capitol Forum conference on broadband Internet.

"Some of them may want to throw themselves into the communications policy area, especially since some of the other areas are going to be so difficult -- certainly important, but very difficult to work together and pass legislation," he added. Unlike other issues the powerful committee deals with -- such as healthcare or environment -- tech and communications policy is relatively bipartisan, he noted. The Communications subcommittee has its work cut out for it in 2015, when lawmakers get to work drafting an update to the 1996 Telecommunications Act.  

FCC prepares Sprint fines: Multiple media outlets reported the FCC is readying a $105 million fine against Sprint amid allegations that it crammed customers' phone bills with unwanted services, including text message alerts. National Journal first reported the preparations, similar to an equally priced settlement with AT&T in October. In that case, AT&T paid $80 million in refunds to customers, $20 million in penalties to states and $5 million to the FCC. An FCC spokesperson declined to comment on the possible future action.

MPAA statement on Sony: The Motion Pictures Association of America released its first statement on the cyber hack of Sony nearly three weeks after the initial reports. The lobbying group released the statement amid reports that other studios could not agree for weeks on how to address the issue.

"Sony Pictures is not just a valued member of our association family, but they are friends and colleagues and we feel for them," the group said in a statement shared with The Hill. "We continue to be in constant touch with their leadership and will be of any assistance to them that we can."

EFF heads to patent office: The Electronic Frontier Foundation is heading to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Wednesday afternoon to make arguments in a hearing about a patent for podcasters. The digital liberty group has launched a campaign against the Personal Audio patent, which it claims should not have been granted. 

Snowden to Manning: Edward Snowden commended Chelsea Manning — formerly Bradley Manning — for an "extraordinary act of service" ahead of Manning's 27th birthday on Wednesday. Manning is serving a more than 30-year sentence for leaking thousands of military and diplomatic documents in 2010.

"As a result of your courageous act, the American people are more informed about the workings of our government as it positions itself for endless war," Snowden said, in the note featured in the Guardian.

NSA wraps up first year on Twitter: The National Security Agency wished itself a "happy first anniversary" on Twitter after joining the social network last year. It has sent 344 messages and accumulated more than 40,000 followers, as it deals with the fallout from the revelations last year about secret government surveillance programs.

 

ON TAP:

The Patent Office hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m.

The Bethesda AFCEA chapter is holding a symposium on cybersecurity starting at 8 a.m.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s (R) decision to dip his toe into the 2016 waters could draw significant interest from the influential and deep-pocketed tech sector.

Opposition to net neutrality dominated the second round of the FCC's comment period, according to the Sunlight Foundation.

Concerns over net neutrality don’t need to torpedo Congress’s work on updating the nation’s telecommunications laws, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said on Tuesday.

The hackers who attacked Sony threatened terrorist attacks against the United States on Tuesday, warning people who plan to go see "The Interview" in theaters could face a "bitter fate."

Sen. Al Franken says that Uber still has a lot of explaining to do.

 

Please send tips and comments to Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.comand Mario Trujillo, mtrujillo@thehill.com

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