OVERNIGHT TECH: GOP ire grows ahead of net neutrality vote

THE LEDE: The head of the House Oversight Committee is increasing his pressure on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler ahead of the agency's net neutrality vote.

Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzMajority of Republicans say Trump should release his tax returns Chaffetz presses Kerry on Clinton Foundation Gowdy: FBI barely probed Clinton about intent on emails MORE (R-Utah) on Monday said that he was "disappointed" by Wheeler's decision not to testify in his committee this week and bemoaned the FCC's reluctance to hand over documents sought by the committee. "Throughout this process, the FCC has failed to establish the appearance this rulemaking is independent, fair and transparent," he wrote in a letter to the FCC chief, days before the commission is set to vote on tough net neutrality rules.

ADVERTISEMENT
Chaffetz urged regulators to "immediately" release to the public the text of the net neutrality rules set to come up on at Thursday's vote. Currently, the rules aren't scheduled to be released until after the commission votes. Chaffetz compared the recent process to the FCC's consideration of media ownership rules during the Bush administration, which occurred "only after conducting many public hearings, publishing the proposed changes, offering a public comment period and defending the changes in congressional testimony."

An FCC spokesperson said that Wheeler has agreed to testify before the committee but asked to appear at a later date, given the short amount of time before the committee's hearing on Wednesday. That's unlikely to satisfy critics, however, who accuse the agency of rushing through tough Web rules after being bullied into the position by President Obama.

TECH TELLS THE HILL TO BUTT OUT: On the other side of the issue, Computer and Communications Industry Association head Ed Black has an op-ed in The Hill on Monday telling Congress back off. "A democracy inherently works best with checks and balances," he wrote. "At times Congress has created independent agencies to insulate some government functions from excessive political pressure -- even their own."

Black criticized lawmakers whom he said are trying to use last-minute hearings before the Thursday vote to push for their own "flawed" net neutrality bill or trying to exert unnecessary levels of oversight on the agency. "We hope Congress can conduct oversight and consider new updates to the Telecom Act -- without trying to block the FCC from following existing law and protecting the core principles upon which a vibrant Internet depends."

KEEP ON ROCKING ON AN OPEN WEB: Members of R.E.M., Death Cab for Cutie, Neutral Milk Hotel and other bands joined up with the Future of Music Coalition and Free Press in a letter on Monday supporting Wheeler's move. "The Internet is one of the greatest amplifiers of our contributions to society, and society benefits from access to a diverse array of lawful online content," they wrote, in a self-conscious bid to add some cultural cachet to the rules.

"We know that you will face political opposition and coordinated attacks from well-funded corporations. But isn't it cooler to have us on your side than some giant ISP? We think so," they wrote. The letter was signed by rockers Kathleen Hannah, Jello Biafra, Spoon's Britt Daniel, Aerosmith's Joe Perry and Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo, among others.

ETSY SAYS NO 'NEGATIVE EFFECT' OF LEGAL CHALLENGE: Etsy CEO Chad Dickerson said companies have lived under uncertainly from a drawn-out legal challenge to net neutrality rules before and they can do it again. Dickerson, who supports strong rules, said he is "optimistic that they will hold up in court."

"Though a court challenge is likely, we lived under similar conditions between 2010 and 2014, when Verizon challenged the FCC's last set of net neutrality rules, without negative effect," he said in a blog last Friday, describing his support for the proposal scheduled for a vote Thursday.

FEDS WAGING WAR ON THE WEB?: Ajit Pai really doesn't like Title II. The Republican FCC commissioner published an op-ed in Politico on Monday along with Federal Election Commissioner Lee Goodman, warning about new plans for "government regulation of the Internet." In addition to the net neutrality rules looming this week -- which they say will affect "almost every nut and bolt of the Internet" -- the two also warned about an FEC effort to extend reporting rules to political groups on the Internet. The FEC deadlocked on the issue in October but the initiative will nonetheless "inevitably discourage citizens and groups from speaking freely online about politics," they wrote.

EUROPE GETS IN ON THE ACTION: The secretary general of the largest party in the European Parliament is adding to the chorus around net neutrality. Antonio López Istúriz-White of the center-right European People's Party over the weekend chided President Obama for lambasting European regulations while at the same time calling for tough net neutrality rules from the FCC.

"The president's position is riven with contradictions," Istúriz-White wrote in a Financial Times op-ed. "He promotes burdensome regulations at home that could put the development of the Internet on ice in an attempt to protect one set of actors in the ecosystem. In another breath he calls on Europe to follow the very same successful U.S. model he wants to jettison to make life in Europe easier for that very same group of Over The Top players!"

NC NEWSPAPER ENDORSES FCC PREEMPTION: The North Carolina-based News & Observer endorsed the Federal Communications Commission's plan to preempt a state law that puts some restrictions on the expansion of the Wilson, N.C., municipal broadband program. The newspaper says the law is a clear example of "water-carrying for cable and phone companies" that want to keep out competition: "The FCC should knock down this state-sponsored protection for commercial providers and set Wilson and all municipalities free to give their residents high-speed Internet access at the lowest cost possible," wrote the newspaper's editorial board, which tends to endorse Democratic presidential candidates.

HOUSE TO TAKE UP FCC BILL: On Tuesday, the full House will vote on a bill to streamline the FCC by merging a number of reports it is require to produce for Congress. The FCC Consolidated Reporting Act also eliminate some outdated reports. It will be considered under suspension of rules after easily passing the lower chamber in the last two Congresses. The Senate Commerce Committee will consider companion legislation Thursday.

HOUSE PANEL PLOTS FCC BUDGET HEARING: The House Communications subcommittee is planning to hold a hearing on March 4 to review the FCC's budget. "Joe Montana was king of the football world and Tom Brady was barely a teen the last time Congress authorized the FCC," Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said in a statement. The move comes increasing ire at the FCC in the face of the net neutrality move. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the head of the Senate Commerce Committee, has expressed equal desire to reauthorize the FCC for the first time in decades.

NSA CHIEF CLAIMS SUCCESS IN RESPONDING TO SONY HACK: National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers took questions at the Open Technology Institute on Monday, and touched on last year's hack of Sony Pictures. He pointed to the lack of any follow-on attack from North Korea, as a sign that the Obama administration's new sanctions seem to have sent the message. "It seems to have had in the near term the desired effect," he told the crowd.

Rogers also touched on Edward Snowden, whose leaks he said had a "material impact" on the NSA's work, and called for tech companies to allow federal agents to sidestep their encryption methods to target potential hackers and criminals. The call for measures to circumvent those technical defenses was met with criticism from the tech community, and Rogers had a noticeably feisty tiff with Alex Stamos, Yahoo's chief information security officer, that seemed to offer a sobering view of the gulf between Fort Meade, Md., and Silicon Valley.

SNOWDEN LIKES PUNS: During an "Ask Me Anything" chat on Reddit on Monday, Snowden said that he laughed along with Neil Patrick Harris's joke during the Oscars on Sunday evening that the leaker "could not be here tonight for some treason." "To be honest, I laughed at NPH," Snowden wrote. "I don't think it was meant as a political statement, but even if it was, that's not so bad. My perspective is if you're not willing to be called a few names to help out your country, you don't care enough."

TRADE AIDE HEADS TO ITI: Trade lawyer and former deputy assistant U.S. trade representative Josh Kallmer is heading to the Information Technology Industry Council to lead its global policy shop, the group will announce on Tuesday. The move comes amid new focus on trade on Capitol Hill, where talk of a "fast-track" deal is swirling. "Josh is the right person to lead our global efforts at the right time," CEO Dean Garfield said in a statement. "His experience working in the public and private sectors to advance 21st century trade agreements will serve ITI, our members, and the technology sector well." Kallmer starts on Tuesday.

ON TAP:

At 9 a.m., COMPTEL is hosting a "competition and innovation policy summit at the Newseum that will include remarks from Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Democratic FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is holding an event on cross-border data flows starting at 9 a.m.

Also at 9 a.m., the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy is holding an "introductory event" on the effort to rewrite the Communications Act.

At 11:30, IBM is holding Capitol Hill briefing on a "brain-inspired computer chip" that it says allows computers to "sense" sights and sounds much like humans.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced on Monday that it has reached settlements with two developers who claimed their apps could accurately detect the risk of melanoma.

Given the chance to do it all over again, Edward Snowden says he would have leaked his vast trove of top-secret documents earlier.  

The head of the National Security Agency is echoing the Obama administration's call for some kind of legal mechanism to force companies like Apple and Google to leave holes in people's digital protections.

The two Republicans on the Federal Communications Commission are making a final plea to delay Thursday's vote on net neutrality rules.

The fact that a film about Edward Snowden won an Oscar for best documentary isn't silencing criticism of the leaker from the head of the National Security Agency (NSA).

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

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem