Overnight Tech: Iowa Dems, GOP defend Microsoft

LEDE: The Iowa Democratic Party on Thursday defended its partnership with Microsoft to provide caucuses reporting technology in the state, after Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats offer double-talk on Veterans Affairs Dean drops out of DNC chairmanship race Sanders vs. Trump: The battle of the bully pulpit MORE's (I-Vt.) campaign raised late suspicions.

"Microsoft and their App partner, InterKnowlogy, are global leaders in the technology industry, and we completely trust the integrity of their staff and the app," the state party's communications director Sam Lau said in a statement. 

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The controversy seemed short lived after the Sanders campaign raised concerns and pointed to hundreds of thousands of dollars Microsoft employees had donated to Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonDemocrats miss warning signs, even in blue Maryland Robert Gates doesn't expect job in Trump administration Dean drops out of DNC chairmanship race MORE in the past decade, mostly coming during her previous presidential run in 2008.

The deal with Microsoft has been in place since last year with no real public resistance. The company's civic engagement division is partnering with both the Democratic and Republican Party in the state to provide a caucus-reporting app backed up by its cloud technology. The technology, the company said, is meant "solely to administer and facilitate a neutral, accurate, efficient reporting system."

'I'LL KEEP THEM TO MYSELF': During a broader conversation with The Hill on Thursday about the company's help with the caucus, Microsoft vice president Dan'l Lewin declined to speculate on the Sanders campaign's motivation for the attack. "I have personal opinions, but I'll keep them to myself," he said.

'POLITICAL POSTURING': Iowa GOP Party co-chairman Cody Hoefert during an interview characterized Sanders's criticism as political posturing: "We believe in the integrity of Microsoft's staff, number one. Number two, there can be a boogey man behind every door if you think there is. And number three. I think that is maybe political posturing as maybe the senator is somewhat concerned about how caucus night may go for him."

FCC OPEN MEETING RECAP: The FCC cleared an item on Thursday requiring cable TV, satellite and radio stations to post information about political ad sales to the web. All five commissioners (Republican Ajit Pai concurred in part) signed off on the plan. It was introduced for broadcast TV in 2012.

They also approved the 2016 Broadband Progress Report. Its most vocal critic was Republican Michael O'Rielly, who faulted the conclusion that telecommunications capability was not being deployed in a timely and reasonable fashion. His Republican colleague Ajit Pai took a different approach to his discussion of the report, saying it was proof that the Obama administration's plans to expand broadband access had failed. The commissioners also voted for a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would make changes to the Emergency Alert System. It also asks for comments on how security in the system could be improved.

FEBRUARY SCHEDULE FOR FCC: In addition to proposed rules on set-top boxes, the commission will also begin asking questions about programming diversity and "the principal obstacles that independent programmers face in obtaining carriage on video distribution."

GOP HITS BROADBAND REPORT: Leading Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee used the report's approval as an opportunity to criticize the FCC's decision last year to change the benchmark speeds for wired broadband. "Moving the goalposts in the middle of the game is not productive, and it is not fair. When the FCC changed its definition of broadband Internet in 2015, it did not act out of necessity or market need, but rather to expand its power over job creators and Internet service providers," said Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and Bob Latta (R-Ohio) in a statement.

REPUBLICANS MUM ON SET-TOP ISSUE: Both Pai and O'Rielly were hesitant to comment on the cable box item that Wheeler floated on Wednesday. "I look forward to reading it, I read every item that I vote on, so I look forward to seeing what's in it," said Commissioner O'Rielly.

DON'T EXPECT AUCTION DATA YET: Wheeler was dismissive of the suggestion put forth by some, including Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, that the agency release some aggregate data on how many broadcasters have applied to participate in the spectrum auction scheduled to start in March. "It's aggregate of nothing right now," he said, because broadcasters could still drop out.

FACEBOOK ANTI-TERROR POST POLICY: Facebook has at least five offices around the world aimed removing terror-related material on its platform and has touted its ramped up efforts in private conversations with U.S. officials, according to Yahoo. The news outlet interviewed Monika Bickert, Facebook's chief of global policy management. During the interview, she said Facebook reports imminent threats to law enforcement on a case-by-case basis after review by lawyers. During the interview, she also made a broad distinction between policies meant to remove child pornography and policies to remove terror-related material -- a comparison that lawmakers have continuously used to push for more collaboration. 

CAN YOU FOIA SLACK?: As work email is seeing competition from a number of different chat platforms, like Slack, the Atlantic dug into whether those new forms of communication are subject to the Freedom of Information Act, when used by federal agencies. A number of agencies like NASA, the State Department and the General Services Administration have been experimenting with Slack. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to approve an annual report on broadband deployment that has become a magnet for controversy in recent years. 

The Obama administration is partnering with Lyft as it looks to boost healthcare coverage among part-time workers, like the company's drivers-for-hire.

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to make more information about political ads available online. 

T-Mobile is making it easier for customers to turn off Binge On, its controversial service that lets customers stream video online without using up their monthly data allotment.

Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign is questioning Microsoft's involvement in the Iowa caucuses next week. 

 

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