Overnight Tech: Apple Music under pressure

LEDE: Sen. Al FrankenAl FrankenOvernight Energy: EPA moves to repeal Obama water rule GOP senator calls for tight scrutiny on AT&T's proposed Time Warner merger Howard Stern: I have a 'man crush' on Al Franken MORE (D-Minn.) has asked the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether Apple has engaged in anticompetitive behavior with the recent launch of its music streaming service.

Franken joins a growing chorus that has questioned whether Apple is inappropriately leveraging its massive operating system to favor its streaming service, Apple Music, over competitors.

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The Minnesota senator called out Apple's licensing agreements with app developers, who can also be Apple Music competitors like Pandora or Spotify. Those agreements require a 30 percent cut of all in-app purchases and many times prevent app makers from telling customers, within the app, that they can find a product cheaper outside the app store.

"In the case of music streaming services, Apple's licensing agreements have prevented companies from using their apps to inform users that lower prices are available through their own websites, to advertise the availability of promotional discounts, or to complete a transaction directly with a consumer within their app," Franken wrote in a letter to the heads of both agencies.

Apple is under growing pressure to answer to the antitrust allegations. The FTC is reportedly pursuing a probe into the issue. On Monday, the Verge reported that the consumer protection regulator had subpoenaed rival music services as it pursued the inquiry. In addition to Franken's letter, Consumer Watchdog has asked the FTC and the Department of Justice to investigate Apple's practices.

SENATE COMMERCE STARTS HEARINGS ON WIRELESS BROADBAND: FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel will come to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to appear before the Senate Commerce Committee at a hearing on wireless broadband, The Hill has learned from a Senate aide. The panel will explore how spectrum policy should be bolstered to deal with growing demand. Other witnesses include think tank experts and CTIA chief Meredith Attwell Baker. It will be the first in a series on the topic.

DISH CONFIRMS FCC MOVING TO TAKE AWAY SPECTRUM DISCOUNTS: In a statement, Dish Network said that they were told in a meeting that an item under circulation from Chairman Tom Wheeler's office would deny the $3.3 billion in spectrum bidding credits they obtained by bidding through two smaller companies. Dish general counsel R. Stanton Dodge said in a statement that the company disagreed with the decision. "Our approach to the AWS-3 auction, which followed 20 years of FCC precedent and complied with all legal requirements, was intended to enhance competition -- in the auction and in the marketplace long term," he said. Mario has more here.

SENATORS CALL FOR STRONG FCC PRIVACY PROTECTIONS: Nine Democratic senators made recommendations for the Federal Communications Commission to develop strong privacy protections as part of its net neutrality rules. The commission gained added privacy authority when it reclassified broadband Internet, and is in the process of drafting rules. In a letter, the senators urged the FCC to create a strong definition of Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI), which cannot be shared unless a customer consents. The group also called for requirements on transparency, hack notification, and for a complaint process.  

UBER WIRE: DE BLASIO BLINKS: The administration of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is reportedly scrapping, for the time being, its plan to cap the number of vehicles used by ride hailing services like Uber. An agreement reported by the New York Times will reportedly launch a four-month study of Uber and other ride services. Uber went after the mayor aggressively, including by adding a "de Blasio" tab to the app that featured long wait times and a message for riders to speak out against the cap. They also made the case that Uber served poor and non-white communities better than the classic New York yellow cabs. The city is hailing this as a win -- because the cap is still an option if relationships between the two parties don't improve.

STATES PRESS WIRELESS CARRIERS ON ROBOCALL BLOCKING: Forty-five attorneys general from around the country on Wednesday pressed the leading wireless carriers to implement and inform consumers of call blocking technology to screen out robocalls. The FCC recently clarified that phone companies are allowed to offer the call blocking services. The attorneys general said the companies should "act without delay." The letter went out to the leaders of AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint and CenturyLink.

CBP STUDYING BODY CAMERAS: The U.S. Custom and Border Protection agency will update reporters Thursday on a study that explores the feasibility of having its officers wear body cameras. The study was commissioned in 2013 by Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske. The agency noted the cameras "are viewed as a potential tool that may help CBP continue its progress toward greater transparency and accountability."

 

ON TAP:

At 10 a.m., a House Small Business Committee subcommittee will host a hearing entitled "Modern Tools in a Modern World: How App Technology is Benefiting Small Businesses."

At 10:30 a.m., the Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up the Financial Services and General Government spending bill, which contains a net neutrality rider.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiBipartisan friendship is a civil solution to political dysfunction Dems press for paycheck fairness bill on Equal Pay Day After 30 years celebrating women’s history, have we made enough progress? MORE (D-Md.) plans to offer amendments to a spending bill Thursday that would boost funding to improve federal cybersecurity and protect millions of people whose personal information was exposed in a major breach.

Reaction was mixed among industry and public interest groups after AT&T's proposed $49 billion merger with DirecTV inched closer toward approval Tuesday night.

Senate Republicans are pushing a measure to bar the Federal Communications Commission from regulating broadband Internet rates under its net neutrality rules.

A consumer group is asking federal regulators to look at whether Apple broke antitrust rules while establishing its new music service.

A day after Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTime asks Trump Organization to remove fake cover from golf clubs Why UK millennials voting for socialism could happen here, too House intel panel interviews Podesta in Russia probe MORE gave out Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Cybersecurity: New ransomware attack spreads globally | US pharma giant hit | House intel panel interviews Podesta | US, Kenya deepen cyber partnership Graham gets frustrated in public ‘unmasking’ debate GOP senator: Don't expect Trump to 'have your back' on healthcare vote MORE's number, the South Carolina Republican is demonstrating how to destroy a cellphone.

 

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