Overnight Tech: FCC begins rolling back net neutrality | Sinclair deal puts heat on regulators | China blames US for 'Wanna Cry' attack

Overnight Tech: FCC begins rolling back net neutrality | Sinclair deal puts heat on regulators | China blames US for 'Wanna Cry' attack
© Greg Nash

FCC BEGINS NET NEUTRALITY REPEAL: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai's plan to roll back net neutrality rules took its first step forward on Thursday.

The commission voted 2-1 along party lines to advance Pai's Restoring Internet Freedom proposal, which would repeal current net neutrality protections.

Thursday's vote opens a period of public input.

The FCC's formal decision to consider the proposal did not come without resistance. The commission's lone Democrat, Mignon Clyburn, harshly criticized the proposal, and activists braved the heat to protest outside FCC headquarters.

"While the majority engages in flowery rhetoric about light-touch regulation and so on, the endgame appears to be no-touch regulation and a wholescale destruction of the FCC's public interest authority in the 21st century," Clyburn said in her dissent.

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Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMcConnell names Senate GOP tax conferees Overnight Health Care: 3.6M signed up for ObamaCare in first month | Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' next year | Dems push for more money to fight opioids Dems push for more money for opioid fight MORE (R-S.D.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, applauded the move and called for Democrats to come to the table to work out a legislative compromise on the issue.

"In politics, it is rare to get a second chance at bipartisan compromise, yet right now we have an opportunity to accomplish what eluded us two years ago -- clear and certain rules in statute to protect the open internet," he said on the Senate floor ahead of the commission's vote.

Pai's proposal would undermine existing net neutrality rules by undoing the legal basis of the regulations. The 2015 order imposed the rules by reclassifying the broadband industry as telecommunications services, which brought internet service providers under the FCC's authority.

The Obama-era net neutrality regulations, approved in 2015 as the Open Internet Order, aimed to create a level playing field on the internet by ensuring that broadband providers treated all online content the same.

Public interest groups that aggressively oppose Pai's repeal plan showed up in force outside of the FCC Thursday to protest the decision.

"Pai wants to continue the Trump administration's assault on free speech and political dissent, and hand over control of the internet to his corporate cronies at AT&T, Comcast and Verizon," said Free Press field director Mary Alice Crim. Free Press and groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation and Color for Change have rallied their supporters against Pai's plan.

Read more here.

Please send your tips, comments and net neutrality hot takes to Ali Breland (abreland@thehill.com) and Harper Neidig (hneidig@thehill.com) and follow us on Twitter: @alibreland@hneidig and @HilliconValley. We're also on Signal. Email or DM us for our numbers.

NET NEUTRALITY REACT:

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): "I commend @AjitPaiFCC for taking this step to address the #netneutrality issue, and to keeping the Internet open for consumers -- permanently"

Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerAmerica isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Schumer celebrates New York Giants firing head coach: ‘About time’ GOP should reject the left's pessimism and the deficit trigger MORE (D-N.Y.): "Chairman Pai's latest move is a flat out mistake and will not be tolerated by the American people. Unraveling net neutrality would stifle U.S. economic growth and innovation, and make it harder for our entrepreneurs to be successful. I am confident the American people and Democrats in Congress will once again be relentless in making their voices heard and resisting the senseless repeal of these critical consumer protections for an open internet."

Rep. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnFormer Dem Tenn. gov to launch Senate bid: report Google, Facebook and Drudge: What the new titans of media mean for America Learning from the states: Feds should adopt anti-pyramid scheme law MORE (R-Tenn.): "I remain hopeful that Republicans and Democrats, internet service providers, edge providers and the internet community as a whole can come together and work towards a solution. I thank Chairman Pai and Commissioner O'Reilly for their leadership to begin rolling back this Depression-era, utility-style regulatory structure for the internet."

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii): "This fight is just starting. Just like in 2014, the public now has the opportunity to stand up, be heard, and influence the outcome. It will take millions people standing up, just like they did before, to say that the internet needs to stay free and open. That's what it will take to win."

Internet Association CEO Michael Beckerman: "The 2015 rules are working, and the internet industry remains opposed to any changes to FCC regulations governing net neutrality. ISPs should not be able to use their position as gatekeepers to prioritize their own content over others. Internet companies stand with consumers, startups, and other beneficiaries of the ecosystem in our fight to maintain a free and open internet."

USTelecom CEO Jonathan Spalter: "The FCC is moving the conversation beyond the merits of net neutrality to how best to safeguard this universally embraced value with a modern, constructive policy framework. This rulemaking wisely focuses this debate and puts a pro-consumer, pro-innovation and pro-investment policy trifecta within our reach. The internet is a central, driving force for our modern economy, and there is a smarter path forward to unlocking the full, abundant promise of broadband for our nation."

REPORTER SAYS SECURITY 'MANHANDLED' HIM AT FCC: Security guards reportedly "manhandled" an award-winning reporter after he asked Federal Communications Commission officials questions at a public hearing Thursday, according to a National Press Club statement.

John Donnelly, a journalist at CQ Roll Call, was removed from the scheduled press conference by security after he attempted to ask the commissioners questions before they arrived at the podium.

Donnelly said two guards, using the backs of their bodies, pinned him to the wall while FCC Commissioner Michael O'Rielly passed. They then escorted him out of the event.

"I could not have been less threatening or more polite," Donnelly said according to the NPC release on the matter. "There is no justification for using force in such a situation."

The security at the monthly open meeting was unusually high as the FCC voted on the high profile issue of net neutrality.

"[W]e apologized to Mr. Donnelly more than once and let him know that the FCC was on heightened alert today based on several threats," a spokesman for the FCC said in an email Thursday.

The Hill's Olivia Beavers has the full story here.

SINCLAIR-TRIBUNE DEAL PUTS HEAT ON FCC: The proposed acquisition by Sinclair Broadcasting Group of Tribune Media Company is inflaming criticism of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which helped pave the way for the deal by relaxing media ownership restrictions.

Sinclair announced earlier this month that it had reached an agreement to buy Tribune for $3.9 billion. The announcement came several weeks after the FCC voted to ease restrictions on the amount of local television stations that broadcasters can own.

Broadcasters are now limited to serving 39 percent of the country's households. Last month, the FCC reinstated what's known as the UHF discount, which makes stations that used to broadcast on ultra-high frequency count less toward the 39 percent ownership limit.

Without the discount, Sinclair already reaches 38 percent of U.S. households, according to an analysis from Fitch Ratings. Once the discount goes into effect, the Fitch study finds, Sinclair's share will drop to 25 percent -- giving the company more room to buy local television stations.

Read more here.

CHINA BLAMES US FOR 'WANNA CRY': A Chinese state-run media outlet says that the United States is partially to blame for the "WannaCry" ransomware attack that is producing global shockwaves.

The editorial published in China Daily on Wednesday partly blames the National Security Agency (NSA) for the ransomware outbreak and accuses the U.S. of "hindering" international efforts to combat cyber crime.

The ransomware campaign has spread to at least 150 countries, crippling the British health system and Germany's train stations. In China, over 29,000 institutions were said to have been affected, including universities and gas stations.

Read more here.

ON TAP:

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) will speak on broadband infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at 8:30 a.m.

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