Overnight Tech: Facebook defends Internet access plan

LEDE: Facebook executive Kevin Martin on Monday defended the social media company's Free Basics program, which offers limited Internet access in developing countries but has been criticized by some net neutrality advocates.

During the State of the Net conference in Washington, he said it is not fair that Facebook's program aimed at low-income people is receiving widespread criticism while Amazon offers a low-end version of the Kindle that also offers only limited access to the Internet.

"It has access to a curated set of Internet sites. It's not access to the full Internet," he said of Amazon's product. At another point, he added: "It can't be that we allow poor people who can afford to buy a Kindle but we don't want to allow poor people who can't."

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He said it would be significant if Facebook's initiative could help connect a portion of the world "without a government subsidy." But he said Free Basics isn't the only answer, adding that the company supports various government programs to help connect the poor.

He said that Facebook's data shows that about half of people who use Free Basics eventually go on to purchase full Internet access. He said another 40-to-45 percent of people try it then completely leave the program. Another 5-to-10 percent, he said, continue to use the limited service without upgrading. It is those users that net neutrality advocates are most concerned about.

DID FCC MAKE RIGHT CALL ON ZERO RATING?: Martin is a former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. On Monday, he said he believes the agency made the right choice during last year's net neutrality proceeding by not creating a bright-line rule against zero-rating, the practice of not charging customers for some types of data. The FCC, instead, said it would judge different offerings by companies on a case-by-case basis.

LABOR CHIEF HEADS TO SILICON VALLEY: Labor Secretary Tom Perez is going to Silicon Valley this week for conversations on issues ranging from the on-demand economy to paid leave. Tuesday will bring him to a roundtable discussion with labor coalition Silicon Valley Rising to talk about "innovative new forms of worker organizing and challenges on the job in the tech and on-demand sectors." On Wednesday, he's participating in an event that will include, among others, representatives from companies including Facebook and Survey Monkey.

GET YOUR NAILS DONE IN A LYFT?: BuzzFeed News has an interview with Lyft's Creative Director, Jesse McMillin, about what a future filled with driverless cars could mean for the ride-hail company. He suggests that you could have different types of vehicles for different rider-needs, since a car would no longer need to be designed for a driver. "There's a lot you can do with not just the vehicle itself but things you can add into the vehicle. The things you can offer could be very modular -- drinks and that kind of thing -- to, like ... something like a little touchscreen table connected to your seat that allows you to do work," he told BuzzFeed.

MICRO MEDIA BLITZ: Lyft Co-Founder John Zimmer also appeared on Recode's podcast to talk about the firm's plans and its recently announced partnerships, including one with General Motors involving driverless cars.

MEANWHILE: Uber may be substantially larger than Lyft, but it's also getting sued at a higher rate. In fact, an analysis of federal court records produced by Fusion shows that it has been subject to more lawsuits than any other company in the on-demand economy.

THE EXODUS: Sunday night brought the announcement that four executives are leaving Twitter. The head of Vine also said he is departing for Google to work on virtual reality projects.

VERIZON'S TRANSPARENCY REPORT: Verizon received 139,569 U.S. law enforcement demands for customer data in the second half of 2015, according to a transparency report released by the company. A little less than half came from subpoenas. It also received 25,844 emergency requests for information. It also received between zero and 499 National Security Letter demands, regarding more than 500 customers.

 

ON TAP:

At 4:30 p.m., AT&T holds its earnings call for the fourth quarter of 2015.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

The Department of Labor on Monday said it plans to revive a survey of "contingent" workers, which could shed new light on the scope of the so-called on-demand economy.

The push to repeal a recently approved cybersecurity law is gaining momentum.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell on Monday insisted that law enforcement must have a way to legally read encrypted communications as a solution to the so-called "going dark" problem.

Negotiators from both sides of the Atlantic this weekend expressed urgency behind reaching a new Safe Harbor agreement before an end-of-the-month deadline.

And Donald Rumsfeld helped create an iPhone game app for a difficult version of solitaire handed down from Winston Churchill.

 

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