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Week ahead in tech: Trump FTC nominees face the Senate

Week ahead in tech: Trump FTC nominees face the Senate
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The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday to hear from President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Arpaio files libel suit against New York Times IMF's Christine Lagarde delays trip to Middle East MORE's four nominees to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

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Last month, Trump tapped Joseph Simons, an antitrust lawyer; Noah Phillips, chief counsel for Senate Majority Whip John CornynJohn CornynFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's debate showdown Live coverage: Cruz faces O'Rourke in Texas debate showdown Trump, Feinstein feud intensifies over appeals court nominees MORE (R-Texas); and Delta Air Lines executive Christine Wilson to fill open three open Republican slots on the commission. Simons was nominated to be chairman.

Trump also nominated Rohit Chopra, a former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official, for the open Democratic seat.

The nominations would finally fill out the agency, which has been operating with only two commissioners since last year: Democrat Terrell McSweeney and acting Republican Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen.

The FTC can still take enforcement action, but that requires its single Republican commissioner and single Democratic commissioner to agree.

Generally, some of the commissioners at agencies stay on even after the White House flips parties. McSweeney hasn't announced her plans yet; however, she is expected to leave since Simons is being nominated to her seat. Ohlhausen is set to depart for the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

Those changes will give Trump the change to broadly revamp the agency and push it in what Republicans hope will be a more business friendly direction.

Simons has given some hints on his priorities if confirmed as chairman. In a questionnaire for the committee, Simons criticized the agency for not doing more to keep consumer prices down after mergers.

Simons also cautioned that rapid advancements in technology could make it harder for the agency "to fulfill its consumer protection mission."

The tech industry will be watching the hearing closely, especially amid growing talk in Washington about using monopoly law to crack down on Silicon Valley giants.

Telecom firms will also be listening in for any hints on how the agency intends to regulate them.

Companies like AT&T and Verizon are currently regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC); however, the agency is ceding its regulatory authority over them under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's rollback of the net neutrality rules.

The FTC won't be the only agency in the spotlight in the coming week.

On Friday at 9 a.m., all five FCC commissioners will testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee for technology in a budget oversight hearing.

The coming week will be dominated by the release of President Trump's fiscal 2019 budget on Monday and by a debate in the Senate on immigration reform.

But there are a number of tech-focused hearings in both the House and Senate.

Cryptocurrencies will be high on the agenda.

On Thursday at 9:30 a.m., the Senate Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and cryptocurrency. Lawmakers will hear from CFTC Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo.

The hearing comes days after Giancarlo and Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton testified before the Senate Banking Committee and called for greater cooperation among regulators on addressing cryptocurrencies.

Wild swings in the trading market have regulators saying they want tighter oversight over the currencies.

On Wednesday at 10 a.m., the House Space, Science and Technology Committee will examine "emerging applications for blockchain," the technology that allows cryptocurrencies to be traded.

Also in the coming week, on Tuesday, the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on "worldwide threats" at 9:30 a.m. While the focus will be on national security, lawmakers have also raised questions about foreign governments manipulating social media platforms to intervene in U.S. politics.

On Wednesday, the House Financial Services Committee will hold a hearing on data breach regulations at 10 a.m.

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee Subcommittee on Research and Technology will hold a hearing on STEM training, or science, technology, engineering and math training, on Thursday at 10 a.m.

Also on Thursday at 10 a.m, the House Small Business Committee holds a hearing on agricultural technology.

The House Transportation Committee subcommittee on railroads holds a hearing on Thursday at 10 a.m. on the implementation of technologies to prevent train accidents.

 

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