Overnight Tech: Internet tax ban heads to Obama

LEDE: The Senate on Thursday sent a bill to the president's desk making permanent the ban on states and localities taxing Internet access. 

The passage of the provision, which was wrapped into an unrelated customs enforcement bill, marks the end of a years-long struggle to put the 1998 ban on the books for good and remove a sunset date. Nearly every major telecom trade group applauded the move, and the White House said President Obama would sign it soon.  

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"Nothing's ever permanent around here but you know if you do permanency, you don't have these cliffs to deal with that periodically have vexed Congresses for a long time," Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Memo: Winners and losers from the battle over health care GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support MORE (R-Ky.) said after the vote. 

The customs enforcement bill passed the House last year. A deal struck earlier this week allowed the bill to move forward after being held up for months over the Internet tax ban. In exchange for letting the bill move forward, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised members that "sometime this year" the Senate would consider the separate Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to collect online sales tax on purchases made from a retailer based outside the state. 

OBAMA ON A NERDIER AMERICA: Popular Science magazine released an interview with President Obama on Thursday where he talked broadly about his tech and science policy initiatives. He also ruminates on how the nerd is now mainstream. "What's remarkable is the way 'nerd' is such a badge of honor now," he said. "Growing up, I'm sure I wasn't the only kid who read Spider-Man comics and learned how to do the Vulcan salute, but it wasn't like it is today. I get the sense that today's young people are proud to be smart and curious, to design new things, and tackle big problems in unexpected ways. I think America's a nerdier country than it was when I was a kid--and that's a good thing!"

PANDORA LOOKING TO SELL?: Trading on Pandora's stock was briefly halted after a New York Times report that the company was exploring an acquisition. The Times reported that the company is working with Morgan Stanley to talk to possible buyers. The news comes not long after a federal panel raised the royalty rates Pandora pays to record companies.

TRIAL OF PARIS UBER DRIVERS STARTS: The trial of two Uber executives in Paris for running an illegal taxi service has started, the Wall Street Journal reports. The execs pushed back on the idea that they were deeply involved with the launch of Uberpop, the service -- similar to Uber X in the United States -- that upset French regulators. "We made decisions like, are we going to put it on a flier or a piece of A4 paper," said one of them, while describing his role.

CRUZ'S DATA COLLECTION: The Associated Press rounded up the data-mining techniques of a number of presidential candidates, and found that Ted CruzTed CruzHow 'Big Pharma' stifles pharmaceutical innovation AIPAC must reach out to President Trump Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support MORE's app is particularly aggressive in asking users to hand over data, including their location information and phone contact list. His app has been downloaded on about 61,000 devices, according to The Associated Press. Cruz's and the other candidates' lackluster digital privacy practices have been highlighted before by groups like the Online Trust Alliance

TWO VIRTUAL REALITY STARTUPS JOIN ESA: Magic Leap and Virtuix have joined up with the Electronic Software Association, underscoring the link between the augmented and virtual reality space and the gaming industry. An ESA lobbyist joined Magic Leap last year.

WHEELER CELEBRATES COMM ACT: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was on hand to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1996 Telecommunications Act during an event at the Library of Congress on Thursday. In his remarks, he directly tied the federal law that backs up his agency to the commission's current activity. "In the 21st century, the Communications Act commands us to reorient our focus to the effects of digital networks on consumers, competition and innovation," he said.

ALSO THERE: Former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Larry Pressler (R-S.D.); the FCC's Michael O'Rielly, Jessica Rosenworcel, and Mignon Clyburn; former Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.), Jack Fields (R-Texas) and Tom Bliley (R-Va.).

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

Uber has agreed to pay $28.5 million to settle a pair of class action lawsuits that allege the ride-hailing company misled users about the safety of its service. 

Republicans on Thursday advanced a bill meant to prevent the Federal Communications Commission from regulating the rates charged for Internet service. 

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said on Thursday that improving the nation's cybersecurity and protecting against terrorism remain two of the department's "cornerstones" in the final year of the Obama administration.

Some of Washington's most prominent tech and telecommunications trade groups want to dissuade the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from significantly changing the way data privacy issues are regulated for Internet service providers.

Google is planning to expand Europeans' "right to be forgotten" online, but not as far as regulators had wanted. 

 

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