Overnight Regulation: Zero hour for net neutrality | Many comments on regulations are fake, WSJ finds | Dem wants DOJ to review NBC, Comcast merger

Overnight Regulation: Zero hour for net neutrality | Many comments on regulations are fake, WSJ finds | Dem wants DOJ to review NBC, Comcast merger
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Welcome to Overnight Regulation, your daily rundown of news from the federal agencies, Capitol Hill, the courts and beyond. It's Wednesday evening, and GOP negotiators have struck "an agreement in principle" on the tax bill. Now they're fine-tuning the details of how to pay for some last-minute changes to the bill.

 

THE BIG STORY

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is moving forward with a plan to scrap net neutrality rules, defying a massive outcry from activists, Democrats and consumers.

On Thursday, the FCC is expected to approve Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to repeal rules that require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally. The measure is expected to pass 3-2, with all the Republican appointees supporting repeal and all the Democratic appointees opposing.

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Polls on the topic vary, but a recent Morning Consult/Politico survey found that 52 percent of voters support the rules that are in place, including 53 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats. Overall disapproval of the rules sits at 18 percent.

Pai and the other FCC Republicans defend ending the rules, saying there is little danger that broadband providers will slow down or censor internet content if they aren't in place. The regulations are too onerous, they say, and hurt the industry's ability to innovate and tailor their services to consumers.

But Democrats, major internet firms and tech startups see the net neutrality rules as essential for preserving an open internet and creating a level playing field for web companies.

Ali Breland and Harper Neidig report.

 

But there's been backlash over the timing over the vote...

The New York Attorney General's office says as many as 2 million net neutrality comments filed to the FCC on the repeal proposal were fake.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D) slammed the FCC on Wednesday over the agency's decision to reject his previous request for information about comments filed about net neutrality and to delay the vote.

"As we've told the FCC: moving forward with this vote would make a mockery of our public comment process and reward those who perpetrated this fraud to advance their own hidden agenda," Schneiderman said.

More from Ali.

 

Republicans, though, are happy with the repeal plan.

More than a hundred House Republicans sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday applauding the agency's plan to repeal its net neutrality rules.

"This proposal is a major step forward in the effort to clear the way for the substantial investment necessary to advance our Internet architecture for the next generation and close the digital divide," the group of 107 House members wrote.

"When its effects are fully realized, more Americans than ever will experience the benefits of telemedicine, distance learning, streaming video, and future innovations made possible by broadband."

Harper has the rundown.

 

ON TAP FOR THURSDAY

A House Financial Services Subcommittee will hold a hearing at 9 a.m. titled ""Examining the Operations of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)."

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs will convene at 10 a.m. on the nomination of Margaret Weichert to serve as the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss nominations at 10 a.m.

 

REGULATORY ROUNDUP

Fake comments: Federal agencies are flooded with thousands of public comments when they write regulations -- and many of them are fake, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation.

The news outlet said it uncovered thousands of fraudulent comments on agency rulemakings. Some of them, under what appeared to be stolen identities, were posted by computers programmed to submit comments.

On the Federal Communication Commission's (FCC) plan to repeal Obama's 2015 net neutrality rules, which require internet service providers to treat all web traffic equally, the newspaper said it found 818,000 identical comment postings. The FCC rules garnered over 23.5 million comments, according to the FCC's website.

Lydia Wheeler has the story.

 

Media: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) is calling on the Justice Department to investigate whether the 2011 Comcast-NBC merger has hurt market competition.

Blumenthal sent a letter to the Trump administration's top antitrust prosecutor, Makan Delrahim, on Wednesday, asking him to revisit the deal and to try to keep in place behavioral conditions that are set to expire next year.

"Given your responsibilities as head of the Antitrust Division to enforce our nation's antitrust laws, it is incumbent on you to continue to ensure that Comcast's acquisition of NBCU does not undermine free and fair competition," Blumenthal wrote.

The Connecticut Democrat asked Delrahim to consider splitting up the two companies if he finds that their merger has dampened competition.

Last month, Delrahim sued AT&T and Time Warner to prevent those companies from carrying out a similar deal that's worth $85 billion. Prosecutors argue that allowing a telecom giant like AT&T to take control of Time Warner's entertainment holdings could stifle their competitors.

In the days before the lawsuit was filed, Delrahim criticized the previous administration's decision to clear the Comcast-NBC merger with temporary conditions.

Harper Neidig has more here.

Education: Education Secretary Betsy DeVosElizabeth (Betsy) Dee DeVosOvernight Defense: Fallout from tense NATO summit | Senators push to block ZTE deal in defense bill | Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to run Afghan war Blackwater founder makes new pitch for mercenaries to take over Afghan war Warren: Trump should have fired Pruitt ‘28 scandals ago’ MORE is set to appear on Capitol Hill for an annual oversight hearing next week, a committee spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

DeVos is scheduled to take the hot seat before the House Education Committee on Dec. 20, just days before lawmakers are expected to leave town for their holiday recess.

Committee Democrats are likely to grill DeVos over her recent decision to roll back Obama-era guidelines on how colleges and universities should handle allegations of sexual assault on campus.

Lydia reports.

 

Environment/Defense: The Pentagon has taken few steps to prepare its overseas installations for climate change, a government watchdog said Wednesday.

"While the military services have begun to integrate climate change adaptation into installations' plans and project designs, this integration has been limited," the Government Accountability Office (GAO) said in a report released to the public on Wednesday. "For example, only about one-third of the plans that GAO reviewed addressed climate change adaptation."

During the Obama administration, the Pentagon issued directives for the military to adapt to climate change, which it labeled a national security threat.

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Fears rise over Trump-Putin summit | McCain presses Trump to hold Putin 'accountable' for hacking | Pentagon does damage control after NATO meet Mattis doesn't mention Russia by name at meeting with Balkan officials: report Trump references ‘legitimate media and fake-news media’ at meeting with NATO leader MORE has also called climate change a national security threat, telling Congress during his confirmation process that "a changing climate -- such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others -- impact our security situation."

Rebecca Kheel has the story.

 

Environment:  The Senate Commerce Committee voted Wednesday to move forward with the nomination of Barry Myers to be head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The 14-13 vote, along party lines, puts Myers in a position for a vote in the full Senate.

Myers was until recently the CEO of AccuWeather Inc., which he founded with his brother.

The weather forecasting company provides products similar to some NOAA services such as the National Weather Service, leading to concerns among Democrats that Myers is unacceptably conflicted.

More here from Timothy Cama.

 

Defense: President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE plans to nominate Lisa Gordon-Hagerty to be the Department of Energy's (DOE) undersecretary for nuclear security, a job that oversees the country's stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Gordon-Hagerty, a veteran of DOE and the White House, currently leads the national security consulting firms Tier Tech International and LEG Inc., the White House said in a statement.

In her new role, she would also become head of the National Nuclear Security Administration within DOE. The agency oversees the development, maintenance and disposal of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

Ellen Mitchell reports.

 

Energy: A federal watchdog says the Trump administration improperly withheld funding from a Department of Energy (DOE) research office this year ahead of proposed funding cuts for the office.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found the Trump administration violated federal spending laws when it did not allocate $91 million in appropriated funding this year for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which researches advanced energy.

Once GAO informed DOE about the investigation, the department spent the funds, according to the GAO's report.

Devin Henry has the story.

 

Cybersecurity: Three defendants have pleaded guilty to charges involving Mirai, a tool used to throw websites offline that was released to the public and eventually used against Twitter, The New York Times and Netflix.

Paras Jha, Josiah White and Dalton Norman pleaded guilty in Alaska last week to charges stemming from Mirai, according to court documents unsealed on Tuesday.

Mirai launches distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, coordinated floods of traffic so large they overwhelm victims' servers and force them to crash or severely slow. Mirai generated the traffic by creating networks of hacked internet-connected devices, such as security cameras, and having them all contact a target at the same time.

Joe Uchill reports.

 

IN OTHER NEWS

Will regulators penalize Fox-Disney deal over sports? (The Wall Street Journal)

Net neutrality: A case study with JetBlue and Amazon (The Wall Street Journal)

Government cleans house at audit regulator (The Wall Street Journal)

France proposes age-of-consent rule for Facebook users (Reuters)

Advocates ready legal showdown with FCC on net neutrality (Reuters)

Europe's kebab war is over (Bloomberg)