OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC begins review of AT&T/T-Mobile

THE LEDE: The Federal Communications Commission opened a docket Thursday to study the proposed merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. The Commission will work with the Justice Department to determine how the merger will impact competition in the wireless market and whether the transaction benefits the public. The merger would leave the new entity and Verizon Wireless as the major players in the mobile market, with Sprint Nextel a distant third.

The nonprofit advocate Consumers Union is already buying ads opposing the merger, while the Sunlight Foundation reports AT&T lobbyists are busy raising money for lawmakers.

Obama administration to unveil strategy for secure online identities: Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) will be on hand Friday at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to unveil the administration's National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC), which will attempt to improve on the passwords users use to log in online.

The White House wants to create a marketplace in secure online credentials with both public and private identity providers. Civil rights activists will doubtless be watching closely for the details of any government-issued online credentials, given past opposition to any form of national identity card. The White House's legislative recommendations are expected to inform the upcoming debate over cybersecurity legislation, which Senate Democrats promise will restart soon after months of inaction.

House Judiciary passes patent reform: The House Judiciary Committee cleared chairman Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) America Invents Act by a vote of 32-3, sending it to the full House for a vote after adopting a manager's amendment from Smith earlier in the day that, among other things, raises the threshold for an inter-partes re-examination. Like the bill that passed the Senate 95-5 last month, Smith's bill would switch the United States to a first-to-file system and allow the patent office to keep the fees it collects. With the White House and both parties onboard, the bill appears likely to become law this year.

FCC wants apps that target underserved communities: The FCC is teaming up with the Knight Foundation to launch the Apps for Communities Challenge, which will award $100,000 in prizes to developers that create apps that target the people least likely to take advantage of the digital revolution: those with disabilities, seniors and immigrants.

"As job postings move increasingly online, for example, if you’re not online, you can’t find a job. Yet, over 100 million Americans aren’t online," FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said at the kickoff event in Washington. "About one-third of our population, and even higher percentages among low-income Americans, people with disabilities, minorities and those whose first language is not English."

ICYMI:

Genachowski remains hopeful Congress will pass legislation authorizing spectrum auctions.

As tax season gears up, the Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers about tax-related identity theft.

Salon Media Group's stock is experiencing some unusual volatility this week.

Google's first quarter profits missed expectations, thanks to rising personnel costs.

Arianna Huffington says the class-action lawsuit against her site has no merit.