OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC chief pushes cellphone unlocking

THE LEDE: Tom Wheeler, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is urging cellphone carriers to allow their customers to unlock their phones and switch to competitors.

Wheeler sent a letter on Thursday to Steve Largent, head of CTIA-the Wireless Association, warning that the industry could face mandatory regulations if it fails to act. 

"Enough time has passed, and it is now time for the industry to act voluntarily or for the FCC to regulate," Wheeler wrote. "Let's set a goal of including the full unlocking rights policy in the CTIA Consumer Code before the December holiday season."


He revealed that FCC staff has been engaged in negotiations with CTIA over unlocking for the past eight months. The only outstanding issue, Wheeler wrote, is whether carriers should have to notify consumers when their phone is eligible for unlocking.

"Absent the consumer's right to be informed about unlocking eligibility, any voluntary program would be a hollow shell," Wheeler wrote.  

The letter is one of Wheeler's first acts as FCC chairman and shows he is willing to crack down on industry groups — including the ones that he has ties to. Wheeler was Largent's predecessor as president of CTIA, leading the lobbying group from 1992 to 2004. 

It makes sense that Wheeler would want to demonstrate his independence from the group early in his tenure. 

Scott Bergmann, CTIA vice president for regulatory affairs, emphasized that consumers already have a variety of choices for unlocked phones. 

“We look forward to continuing discussions under Chairman Wheeler’s leadership and to ensuring consumers continue to benefit from the world-leading range of competitive devices and offerings," he said.


Do Not Track Kids resurfaces: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) have reintroduced their Do Not Track Kids Act, which would limit the ways websites and apps can collect information from young Internet users. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) are also sponsoring the bill, which was first introduced by Markey and Barton in 2011.

The bill introduced Thursday would expand the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) from users under the age of 13 to users under the age of 16. COPPA, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires child-directed websites and apps to obtain parental consent before collecting certain personal information online.

“When it comes to kids and their use of the Internet in the new mobile environment, it is especially important that the strongest privacy protections are in place so that children do not have personal information collected or disclosed,” Markey said in a statement.

The bill would also create an “eraser button” so that young Internet users and their parents can have public personal content deleted.

Children “are prone to mistakes; we need to make sure those mistakes aren’t exploited online,” Barton said in a statement.

Judge OKs Google Books: A federal judge ruled Thursday that Google Books does not violate copyright law. Working with libraries, Google digitized books to create a searchable database that showed users information about the book and snippets of text. Copyright holders claimed those snippets violated their intellectual property rights.

After years in the courts, the U.S. District Court in Manhattan found that Google’s use of copyrighted works in Google Books is protected by the fair use doctrine largely because Google’s snippets cannot replace the copyright works.

Instead, the Judge Denny Chin wrote, Google Books’s use of snippets leads to more book sales. “Google Books provides a way for authors' works to become noticed, much like traditional in-store book displays. Indeed, both librarians and their patrons use Google Books to identify books to purchase,” he wrote.

MPAA brings on prominent IP lawyer: The Motion Picture Association of America announced Thursday that it has hired Steven Fabrizio as senior executive vice president and global general counsel. Fabrizio is an intellectual property lawyer at Jenner & Block and has worked on highly watched online piracy cases, including those against Hotfile.com and Isohunt.com.

“Steve has been one of the entertainment industry’s most effective advocates for years, and has the perfect blend of knowledge, skill, and experience to lead the MPAA’s already talented legal team,” MPAA CEO and former-Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) said in a statement.




The White House held a meeting Thursday with tech companies and advocacy groups to discuss issues with the U.S. patent system.

Edward Snowden leaked as many as 200,000 classified U.S. documents to the media this year, according to NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander.

The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously Thursday to loosen rules restricting foreign ownership of broadcast TV and radio stations.

California's attorney general shut down 10 websites Thursday that allegedly pretended to be the state's official insurance exchange under ObamaCare.

Google told a Senate panel that U.S. Internet companies are concerned about proposals from other countries that would place national boundaries on the Internet.

The Federal Communications Commission released a smartphone app Thursday that will measure the speeds of users' wireless connections.


The number of U.S. government requests for Google user data have more than tripled over the past three years, the company said Thursday.


Please send tips and comments to Brendan Sasso, bsasso@thehill.com, and Kate Tummarello, katet@thehill.com.

Follow Hillicon Valley on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @BrendanSasso, @ktummarello