This Week in Tech: Lawmakers to explore legalized Internet gambling


A spokesman for the Commerce Committee said the subcommittee hearing would focus on the issue of online gambling as a whole, rather than poker specifically, though a number of organizations have recently increased the pressure on Congress to legalize the card game alone.

Supporters of online poker argue it is a game of skill rather than luck. Energy and Commerce Committee member Joe Barton (R-Texas) introduced a bill this summer that would legalize and regulate online poker that has drawn strong support from casino owners such as Caesar’s and MGM — both of which stand to benefit greatly should the game be sanctioned by the government.

On Monday, AT&T will try to persuade U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle to throw out lawsuits from Sprint and C Spire Wireless seeking to block AT&T’s proposed $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile.

Sprint and C Spire argue the deal would violate antitrust law by stifling competition in the wireless market, but AT&T says its rivals lack the appropriate legal standing to block the deal.

The Justice Department has also sued to stop the merger, and Judge Huvelle will check in with the two sides in that case Monday in a status conference. The trial in the Justice Department’s case is set to begin Feb. 13.

Also Monday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will host a morning summit to educate small businesses on how to better prepare for today’s growing threat to their cybersecurity. Speakers include Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski, Department of Homeland Security Deputy Undersecretary for Cybersecurity Greg Schaffer and National Cyber Security Alliance Executive Director Michael Kaiser.

The Competitive Enterprise Institute will hold an afternoon briefing Monday at Cannon House Office Building on H.R. 2885, which would require all U.S. firms to check the employment eligibility of new hires using the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system.

A coalition of liberals, conservatives, business groups and privacy advocates has formed to oppose the bill, which was recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee. Speakers will include representatives from the ACLU, Center for American Progress, Institute for Liberty and National Small Business Association.

Among the bills scheduled for markup by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday is H.R. 3012, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the legislation would eliminate per-country limits on the number of H1-B and other visas aimed at skilled immigrants. The bill would also increase the per-country limits for family-based immigrants (those sponsored by a spouse or relative in the United States).

The public relations firm Ogilvy will host a discussion on online privacy issues Wednesday morning. The event will feature Erin Egan, the new director of privacy for Facebook; Stephen Balkam, CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute; and Mark Rasch, director of cybersecurity and privacy consulting for information technology company CSC. The Hill’s Brendan Sasso will moderate.

Participants will discuss the changing concept of privacy in the digital age as well as possible government regulations aimed at protecting consumer privacy. The event begins at 8 a.m. at Ogilvy’s Washington office.

THURSDAY: The FCC will hold its open meeting, where the commissioners are set to vote on plans to overhaul the $4.5 billion high-cost portion of the Universal Service Fund by shifting the focus from subsidizing landline phone service to broadband Internet access. Observers are watching closely since Chairman Genachowski has yet to make the details of his proposal public.

The commission will also consider a plan to revamp the intercarrier compensation system that sets the rates phone companies must pay each other to complete calls.

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