Overnight Tech: The 'zero-rating' fight continues | App rejects Russian intel report on Trump | Instagram to sell ads in 'Stories'

Overnight Tech: The 'zero-rating' fight continues | App rejects Russian intel report on Trump | Instagram to sell ads in 'Stories'
© Greg Nash

ZERO-RATING HEAT: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressed concerns on Wednesday about “zero-rating” services from AT&T and Verizon that “may harm consumers and competition.”

In a report issued Wednesday examining four different zero-rated services, the FCC’s Wireless Bureau found that AT&T’s Sponsored Data program and Verizon’s FreeBee Data 360 program may stifle competition by “potentially unreasonable discrimination in favor of their own affiliates.”

Zero-rating is the practice of giving consumers free data when they use certain apps or services. In these cases, Verizon and AT&T direct their users to their own services or those of an affiliate, which critics say is unfair to consumers and third parties.

Both companies were quick to push back on the report, saying their customers want options to conserve their data.

“It remains unclear why the Wireless Bureau continues to question the value of giving consumers the ability to watch video without incurring any data charges,” Joan Marsh, AT&T’s vice president of federal regulatory, said in a statement.

“This practice, which has been embraced by AT&T and other broadband providers, has enabled millions of consumers to enjoy the latest popular content and services – for free.  We hope the government continues to support a competitive marketplace that lowers costs and increases choice for consumers.”

“We don’t agree with their view on free data and we don’t think our customers do either,” added Will Johnson. “Hopefully the next FCC will take into account the views of our customers who greatly benefit from watching professional football, soccer, basketball and other great content on go90 free of data charges.”

FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, one of the two Republicans on the panel, also issued a statement echoing the arguments from the two companies. Pai, who some consider to be a leading candidate to chair the commission in the Trump administration, said he was “disappointed” in the report and how it was released.

Read more here.

Please send your tips, comments and stray observations  to Ali Breland (abreland@thehill.com) and Harper Neidig (hneidig@thehill.com) and follow us on Twitter: @alibreland, @hneidig  and @HilliconValley.

TELEGRAM PUSHES BACK ON UNCONFIRMED INTEL REPORT: An uncorroborated report alleging ties between President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Dems playing destructive 'con game' with Kavanaugh Several Yale Law classmates who backed Kavanaugh call for misconduct investigation Freedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign MORE and Russian intelligence made headlines on Tuesday and Wednesday, with Trump blasting it as “fake news.” Also included in the report was an allegation that the messaging service Telegram had been compromised by Russian hackers.

Telegram told The Hill that the report was likely fake, and even if it’s not, may be conflating the alleged hacking of two accounts last year with a breach of the company itself, which Telegram denies took place.

“As for the report, bear in mind that Journalists from the Guardian, the Financial Times, and other reputable papers have had it since June 2016 and to this day they are unable to confirm a single statement from it,” Telegram told The Hill.

BUYING THE STORY: Instagram announced that it will now sell ads in the Snapchat clone portion of their app, stories. According to the company, over 150 million users use the feature daily and engage with stories from businesses. Snapchat has already launched a similar product in the stories portion of its app, laying ads in between users’ friends’ stories. Instagram will also launch an insights product to provide analytics to business to business who advertise on stories.

GOOGLE NIXES DRONES: Google parent company, Alphabet, is shutting down its high-altitude drone program reports 9to5 Google. The company bought Titan Aerospace — maker of high altitude, solar-powered drone aircraft —  in 2014. Titan had said that its drones could collect high-resolution photos of the earth in real time. At the time of purchase Google optimistically noted “It’s still early days, but atmospheric satellites could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation.” The team will reportedly be dissolved into other parts of Alphabet.

MISSED A SPOT:  Mozilla’s Chief Business and Legal Officer Denelle Dixon slammed Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHillicon Valley: State officials share tech privacy concerns with Sessions | Senator says election security bill won't pass before midterms | Instagram co-founders leave Facebook | Google chief to meet GOP lawmakers over bias claims On The Money: US trade chief casts doubt on Canada joining new deal | House panel invites Watt accuser to testify | Brady defends GOP message on tax cuts State officials press Sessions on tech privacy worries MORE’s Attorney General Confirmation hearing for not addressing ‘everyday citizens’ cybersecurity.’ The hearing did cover cybersecurity in regard to government and state sponsored entities but the conversation didn’t touch on issues like encryption for individual members of the public. "Mozilla is disappointed that cybersecurity — and the stances from appointees who will need to work on it regularly — was not a priority at the Senate hearings. We need a government that openly discusses — and values — a more secure Internet for all users," Dixon wrote.

"It would have been helpful if the Senate asked Sessions to clarify his position, and even better if they asked him to clarify that privacy and security are important for all Americans and a healthy Internet.


The FTC will hold its second PrivacyCon at 9:00 a.m.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is hosting a conference titled “Artificial Intelligence and U.S.-Japan Alliance Engagement” on Thursday at noon.

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) will testify at the Senate Intelligence Confirmation hearing for CIA director


Here’s what you missed if you were too absorbed in the confirmation hearings and Trump’s press conference:

Facebook announced its new “Journalism Project” to establish stronger ties with the news industry.

A top Samsung executive was summoned for questioning by authorities in South Korea on Wednesday as part of a bribery investigation surrounding the country’s impeached president.

The House passed a bill on Tuesday to reimburse federal employees for rides from services like Uber and Lyft.

The House also voted in favor of a bill to make it easier for startups to get funding from “angel investors.”

Trump said at his first press conference since the election that he thinks Russia was behind the hacks of top Democrats.