OVERNIGHT TECH: NSA spying docs to be released

THE LEDE: The Justice Department is expected to release hundreds of pages of documents related to National Security Agency surveillance on Tuesday.

The government plans to release the documents in response to Freedom of Information Act lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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The documents will include classified Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions related to the NSA's controversial phone record collection program. Under the program, the NSA collects dataincluding phone numbers, call times and call durations on virtually all U.S. phone calls. The records do not include the contents of the conversations.

The NSA claims the program is authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the agency to collected business records "relevant" to a terrorism investigation. But lawmakers and civil liberties groups have accused the agency of distorting the purpose of the law.

Battle lines drawn over Eshoo TV bill: Rep. Anna Eshoo's (D-Calif.) draft bill aimed at preventing broadcast TV blackouts is receiving praise from the cable industry and scorn from broadcasters. 

The Video CHOICE Act would give the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) the authority to allow cable providers to carry broadcast stations on an interim basis during retransmission disputes. It would also allow consumers to drop broadcast stations from their cable packages and would prohibit media companies from requiring providers to carry their cable channels along with their broadcast stations.

The American Television Alliance, which represents TV providers and consumer groups, called Eshoo's proposal a "step in the right direction," saying it would help "address the myriad problems with our retransmission consent system."

The American Cable Association, which represents small cable companies, applauded Eshoo for proposing a "set of common sense reforms," and the Parents Television Council, an anti-indecency group, said the bill would "help pave the way for more options in the marketplace."

"The stranglehold that programmers have over distributers and, more importantly, the stranglehold they have over consumers, urgently needs to be broken," the group said.

But National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith said he was surprised Eshoo would propose a bill with such a "pro-pay TV slant," and warned the proposal could "embolden pay-TV giants to continue to game the system rather than negotiate in the free market for programming most valuable to viewers."

"Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and DISH are spending millions in Washington manufacturing a crisis over retransmission consent, when in fact it is these three companies responsible for nine out of 10 disruptions of service," Smith said. 

Cable promises open Internet: The FCC had a rough day in federal court on Monday, but the cable industry is promising to protect the "open Internet" even if the agency's net-neutrality rules get thrown out.

"Even if the FCC loses today’s case and its rules are overturned, one thing that will not change is consumers’ access to an open, growing and vibrant Internet," the National Cable and Telecommunications Association wrote in a blog post.

The lobbying group explained that "broadband providers would retain a strong incentive to ensure that consumers have the high-speed connections they need to access [applications, content and services]."   

"And if instances of anticompetitive conduct do occur, agencies like the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice have the necessary authority to police it," the group wrote.

The three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit appeared poised to strike down the FCC's anti-discrimination rules, although the anti-blocking rule seemed to be on safer ground.

Helgi Walker, Verizon's attorney, said the company will consider charging websites for faster service if the rules are overturned.

"I'm authorized to state by my client today that but for these rules we would be exploring those commercial arrangements," she said. 

House set to scrap FCC reports: The House is expected to approve legislation on Monday evening that would reduce the number of reports that the FCC is required to submit to Congress. 

“This bill is another step in the process of streamlining government so that businesses can focus their time and resources on growing our economy and creating jobs, instead of complying with outdated and burdensome mandates from the federal government,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), the bill's author, said on the floor.

In a news release, the House Energy and Commerce Committee said the bill would eliminate four outdated reports, including one on the telegraph industry. Hillicon Valley asked the FCC for a copy of its latest telegraph industry report (expecting a fascinating read), but an FCC official said the agency hasn't actually produced a telegraph report in decades. 


ON TAP

The House Judiciary subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet will hold a Tuesday morning hearing on whether to re-authorize a satellite television law that is set to expire at the end of next year.

The House panel will hear testimony from witnesses representing CenturyLink, Dish Network, Nielsen Co., Major League Baseball, the American Cable Association and the National Association of Broadcasters. Preston Padden, a former executive with Disney, will testify on his own behalf.

AT&T's Jim Cicconi will speak at a Media Institute event at noon. 


IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

Facebook and Yahoo joined Google and Microsoft in a legal fight with the Obama administration for the right to disclose more information about how often the National Security Agency spies on their users.

The car-for-hire app company Uber has joined the Internet Association, a fast-growing advocacy group in Washington. 

A federal court appears ready to side with Verizon and strike down at least part of the FCC's net-neutrality regulations.


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

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