Overnight Tech: Fight over regulating Internet rates intensifies

LEDE: Democrats and Republicans in the House plan to offer dueling proposals related to the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules governing Internet service.

Republicans on a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Thursday are expected to advance a bill they say is aimed at making sure the FCC does not use its new rules to regulate and set the monthly rates that Internet service providers charge customers. Republicans tried and failed to insert the language into last year's spending bill.

But net neutrality advocates caution the single paragraph bill is overly broad, and is likely a guise to blunt other consumer protections at the FCC. The FCC's rules specifically avoid applying those kind of utility-style rate regulations, through a process known as forbearance. Democrats will offer their own amendment that would codify the FCC's forbearance language.

Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said Wednesday that the GOP legislation would make sure "no future FCC abuses" its power. The Democratic amendment is meant to call Republicans' bluff on the legislation's "stated goal."

OTHER BILLS: The subcommittee will also consider a bill that would permanently exempt small businesses from some of the transparency measures in the net neutrality rules. The bill would also expand the definition of a small business. The committee will also vote on a bill dealing with amateur radio operators.

BIPARTISAN SENATE SPECTRUM BILL GETS CLOSER: Where is the MOBILE NOW Act? Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up GOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work Ex-Trump adviser: Shutdown 'not worst idea in the world' MORE (R-S.D.) predicted on Tuesday that his spectrum reform bill would formally drop this week, co-sponsored by the panel's ranking member Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonDem campaign chairman expresses confidence over path to Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Dems urge tech companies to remove 3D-gun blueprints MORE (D-Fla.). Nelson confirmed on Wednesday night that the two are nearing an agreement. "The answer is yes," he said when asked whether Thune's statements that they were close to a deal were accurate. But he was less certain that the bill would drop this week. Though he first said he wasn't sure about the timing, he eventually gave a more specific answer: "I suspect a week or so."

80 HOUSE DEMS WEIGH IN ON LIFELINE: Eighty House Democrats signed on to a letter, out tomorrow, to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler supporting the commission's effort to modernize Lifeline to include broadband subsidies. The letter includes recommendations that the lawmakers say would help the program better serve its target constituency of low-income Americans. "To best serve these Americans, the Lifeline subsidy should be made portable to all telecommunications services whether offered as standalone services, or as bundle packages," they said. "This would allow the consumers to elect which service best meets their individual needs, applying the subsidy as a credit." Read the whole thing here.

FTC GOES AFTER ONLINE 'HIGH SCHOOLS': The Federal Trade Commission filed charges in Arizona against a number of individuals and corporations for operating websites for allegedly misleading people into paying money for easy online courses with the hope of receiving a high school diploma. The FTC said its complaint points to "numerous consumers who sought to use the diplomas they received from the defendants to get jobs, apply for college and even join the military, only to find out that their diplomas were not recognized."

GOOGLE EXEC SAYS SET-BOX SUPPORT ABOUT MORE THAN PROFITS: Milo Medin, the vice president of access services for Google, tried to dispel the notion that the company supports changes to the set-top box standards simply because they might make money off a more open ecosystem. "So right now, inside Google, I'm unaware of any plan to actually go build products that meet this interface. We have talked to folks inside who are now getting interested in it, but our advocacy about this has not been with actually a specific product in mind," he said, after appearing at a conference produced by INCOMPAS. "Sometimes, it's about, you want to do the right thing and you want to create an open infrastructure. I'm sure Android TV will eventually build something that could speak to this. I would not be surprised if Apple and Amazon and others would also do that, and I think that's great."

"The idea that we have a product in the wings -- just waiting for the FCC to go do this -- that isn't the rationale for doing this," he said. When asked what, exactly, Google was using for demos in Washington, he said it's "not a product, per se, but it's an implementation of the protocol spec."

SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES TERROR/SOCIAL MEDIA BILL: The Senate Homeland Security Committee passed a bill on Wednesday that calls on the Obama administration to articulate a broad strategy to thwart terrorists' use of social media and commissions a number of reports on the subject. The House approved a similar and largely non-controversial measure in December.

ZUCKERBERG PUSHES BACK ON MARC ANDREESSEN: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg rebuked comments made by venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, a board member at the company, saying that anti-colonialism "has been economically catastrophic for the Indian people for decades. Why stop now?" The comments came after a regulator in India came down with an opinion effectively blocking a Facebook program offering free web access to poor users. "As our community in India has grown, I've gained a deeper appreciation for the need to understand India's history and culture," Zuckerberg wrote. "I've been inspired by how much progress India has made in building a strong nation and the largest democracy in the world, and I look forward to strengthening my connection to the country." Andreesen has apologized for his statements.



At 10 a.m., the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology will markup a handful of bills related to net neutrality rules.

The Senate will try to advance a customs bill that includes a permanent extension to the Internet Tax Freedom Act.



A Senate effort to hold an online classified site in contempt of Congress is moving forward.

A key Democrat wants other government departments to adopt the Federal Communications Commission's definition of high-speed Internet.

The system that controls Google's self-driving cars can legally be considered a driver, according to a federal agency.

The FBI is requesting $38 million in funding to combat the risk of "going dark" -- a 23-percent increase over what the agency spent last year to counter the growing use of encryption technology.

Two lawmakers want to halt state lawmakers from moving on legislation that could affect encryption standards.


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