Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: House Judiciary to consider compromise NSA reform bill

THE LEDE: The House Judiciary Committee announced Monday that it will hold a meeting Wednesday to consider a compromise version of the USA Freedom Act.

That bill — originally introduced by former Judiciary Chairman and Patriot Act author Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) in October — ends sweeping surveillance programs at the National Security Agency (NSA). While the bill has been in front of the committee for months without movement, lawmakers will this week consider a version of the bill modified by a manager’s amendment from Sensenbrenner.

The amendment limits government agents’ ability to search records to those two “hops” removed from a target, which was a step that President Obama announced earlier this year, with those orders lasting for 180 days. It also gives companies legal protection for handing their records over to the government and allows for them to be reimbursed for the time and effort it takes to comply with the data requests.

{mosads}The compromise amendment drops a measure that have would loosened restrictions on what companies can tell people about the information they give over to the government, changes transparency requirements for the U.S. government’s reporting on its surveillance and calls for a panel of experts to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rather than an advocate to push back on proposals for new surveillance programs.

Harley Geiger, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, wrote in a blog post that one measure in the new amendment is “stronger” than the original bill. The new version requires that “specific selection terms” are used to get records, which eliminates the possibility of grabbing them in bulk.

“Beyond this, the amendment would create new government reporting requirements, a declassification of significant FISA Court opinions, and establish a panel of outside experts that the FISA Court may draw on for input,” he wrote.

Laura Murphy, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, said in a statement that “details still need to be hammered out” on the bill, but that Congress needs to pass “real reform, not window-dressing, so that a bill goes to the president’s desk to prevent the government from spying on every American.”

Also this week, the House Intelligence Committee will consider a competing surveillance reform bill from Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.).

Franken launches net neutrality petition: Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is urging supporters to “save the Internet” and block potential “fast lanes” that would be possible under the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) draft net neutrality rules.

On his campaign website, Franken has a new petition for the FCC arguing that equal treatment of online content “is critical to maintaining a free and open Internet” and the idea of higher speeds for one site over another “would be devastating to that principle.”

“There’s still time to preserve net neutrality,” the petition added. “Say no to ‘fast lanes!'”

Franken has been a vocal critic of the plan laid out by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, which the commission will vote on at its monthly meeting next week. The Democrat has previously told the chairman that the plan would “destroy” the free and open Internet, and has launched similar petition efforts in the past.

House E&C to consider TV, Internet bills: The House Energy and Commerce Committee in a meeting Wednesday will consider a bill to reauthorize an expiring law governing the satellite television marketplace and a bill that would prevent the Obama administration from relinquishing its oversight role of the technical side of the Internet’s Web address system.

Beginning Wednesday and continuing into Thursday, the Commerce Committee will consider the bill to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act and the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters Act.

Cellphone inventor calls spectrum auctions ‘terrible’: Martin Cooper, the original inventor of the wireless phone, isn’t a huge fan of the FCC’s spectrum auctions.

“I think auctions are terrible,” he said at the State of the Net Wireless conference on Monday. The value of the airwaves “is doubling every two-and-a-half years,” he added. “I think that the results of the auction are giving a huge bargain to whoever is buying them.”

He called for a “technological roadmap” to guide the thinking of lawmakers and regulators about the issue, “because if you had that kind of roadmap you can start making demands about what to expect from the licensees.”

AT&T blasts auction limit backers: The Competitive Carriers Association (CCA) is advocating for “both bad policy and bad law” by pushing the FCC to limit the ability of Verizon and AT&T to buy in-demand airwaves, AT&T Vice President Joan Marsh wrote in a blog post on Monday.

Marsh criticized the CCA for trying to limit the two wireless giants’ ability to participate in next year’s spectrum auction while also complaining about restrictions on its own companies. According to her, the trade group is in an “uncomfortable box” and merely pushing for “an auction environment where they can bid free from robust bidding competition.”

High court to hear telecom case: The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case centering on a local government’s requirements to explain why it denied a permit to build a new cell tower. In the case, Roswell, Ga., only notified T-Mobile that it was denying the request but did not explain its detailed thinking about the decision.

The justices will hear arguments in the case, T-Mobile South v. City of Roswell, in their next session.



The FCC is holding a workshop on modernizing the school broadband program E-Rate. Chairman Tom Wheeler and the four other commissioners are all scheduled to attend and deliver remarks.

The WifiForward coalition is holding a daylong conference with appearances from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel.



Mozilla asked the FCC to abandon its plans to allow Internet “fast lanes” in net neutrality rules.

Less than a year after a major data breach that exposed the personal and financial information of as many as 110 million shoppers, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel is stepping down.

Anxiety is rising in the tech industry about the fate of patent reform.

Two tech industry powerhouses are joining forces. 

Visitors to Yosemite National Park aren’t allowed to bring their drones with them.


Please send tips and comments to Kate Tummarello, katet@thehill.com, and Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.com

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Tags Al Franken Internet access Jim Sensenbrenner Jim Sensenbrenner Mass surveillance National Security Agency Network neutrality Privacy of telecommunications Spectrum auction USA Freedom Act
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