OVERNIGHT TECH: Net neutrality comments pass 3 million

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THE LEDE: Comments from the public continued to flood the Federal Communications Commission on Monday, up until the midnight deadline for input on proposed new regulations on Internet service providers.

More than 3 million comments had been registered by Monday afternoon, double the previous record set by Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl appearance in 2004. That record was broken just last week, meaning many of the recent comments came in the final days of FCC’s comment period, amid a push from activists looking to ban “fast lanes” on websites.

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Critics of FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal reiterated their opposition to “paid prioritization” agreements that would allow companies like Comcast or Cox to cut deals with websites for faster service. Public Knowledge, for instance, said that an “unprecedented number” of people have weighed in to the FCC, many of them supporting its call to reclassify broadband Internet service so it can be more heavily regulated by the FCC. “Analysis of the large number of individual comments shows that Americans expect the regulation of the Internet to reflect our fundamental values — an expectation that will be honored best by reclassification,” the group wrote.

Cable firms pledge to fight reclassification: The FCC could be setting itself up for a major fight if it chooses to reclassify broadband Internet and call it a “telecommunications service” instead of an “information service,” the cable industry retorted in multiple filings. 

Reclassification would be “unlawful, unnecessary and profoundly unwise,” the National Cable and Telecommunications Association wrote in its filing. Noting the thousands of comments opposing reclassification, the trade group wrote that the move would “seriously threaten the foundation undergirding the Internet’s growth and development.

Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, reiterated the opposition to reclassifying broadband Internet service so the FCC could regulate it similar to traditional wired phone lines. “Rather, we oppose reclassification because it would harm future innovation and investment in broadband and because reclassification is not necessary to put in place strong and enforceable Open Internet protections,” Executive Vice President David Cohen wrote in a blog post. It is “simply indisputable” he added, that the billions of dollars invested in broadband infrastructure would be jeopardized by reclassifying the Internet. 

Cohen also raised the specter of a lawsuit against the FCC if it chose to reclassify broadband, a nearly certain proposition from cable groups and Republicans who have warned the agency not to act too broadly. “Reclassifying services that for over a decade have been lightly regulated as information services is also factually unsupported and likely legally invalid,” he wrote. 

Wireless industry warns against new rules: CTIA-The Wireless Association used its comments on Monday to warn the FCC against extending any net neutrality regulations to mobile companies like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. “There is no need to radically change the regulatory framework for mobile broadband to preserve an Open Internet,” the trade group said in its filing, using the FCC's formal name for net neutrality. “Mobile is different than fixed; mobile providers need more flexibility to manage their networks and continue to develop innovative product offerings. Application of the same rules to fixed and mobile platforms would only inhibit innovation and remove consumer choice from the mobile market,” it added. 

This summer, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler hinted at extending the rules to wireless service on people’s cellphones and tablets. If the commission did go that route, it would represent a change from the FCC’s previous 2010 rules, which did not apply the rules to wireless devices.

Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reportstold the commission to follow through with the move. “Consumers deserve strong net neutrality protections whether they access content online from a computer or from a mobile phone,” it said. 

Senate Judiciary unveils net neutrality witnesses: The Senate Judiciary Committee won’t have any current government officials testifying about net neutrality during its hearing later this week. Instead, the Wednesday panel will hear from Center for Democracy and Technology CEO Nuala O’Connor, former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, American Enterprise Institute scholar Jeffrey Eisenach, actress Ruth Livier and Brad Burnham, a managing partner at New York City-based venture capital firm Union Square Ventures.

Patriot Act author tells Senate to move on NSA reform: Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) — who authored both the Patriot Act and the House’s version of the USA Freedom Act, the bill to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) — told the Senate to follow in the lower chamber’s footsteps on Monday. Sensenbrenner sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidSteyer's impeachment solution is dead wrong The Hill's Morning Report - House Democrats clash over next steps at border Democrats look to demonize GOP leader MORE (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet GOP put on the back foot by Trump's race storm Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA —Biden unveils health care plan | Proposal pitches subsidies, public option | Biden vows if you like your health insurance, 'you can keep it' | Sanders protests planned Philadelphia hospital closure MORE (R-Ky.) calling the USA Freedom Act “a necessary response to NSA overreach” and urging the chamber to get moving.

“It would be a critical mistake not to take advantage of this coalition,” he wrote, noting the support from both parties, tech companies, privacy advocates and intelligence leaders. “The House has already passed the USA Freedom Act. I urge the Senate to follow suit. It is past time to secure the constitutional rights of American citizens and restore the country’s faith in its intelligence community.”

Comcast denies rules against Tor: Comcast on Monday refuted a weekend report that it has a policy prohibiting subscribers from using Tor, the anonymous Web browser. “Comcast is not asking customers to stop using Tor, or any other browser for that matter,” Vice President Jason Livingood wrote in a blog post, while noting that he himself had used the browser. “We have no policy against Tor, or any other browser or software. Customers are free to use their Xfinity Internet service to visit any website, use any app, and so forth.” 

The denial came after a report on Deep.Dot.Web that the company had “declared war” on the browser. The outlet reported that some people using Tor had been warned that their service would be cut off if they did not stop using the privacy software. 

Tech, advocacy groups lined up for copyright hearing: Wednesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on copyright law will feature testimony from ACT The App Association, the American Foundation for the Blind, the Entertainment Software Association and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the panel announced. 

Public TV stations want spectrum auction change: The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and the Association of Public Television Stations are asking the FCC to make a change to its rules for next year’s airwave auction. In its current rules, the agency “reverses” a “well-settled policy” to reserve some chunks of spectrum for noncommercial educational purposes, they claim. The organizations want educational stations to be able to give up their spectrum licenses and be resold to wireless companies only if there is at least one other station in their community.

“This balanced approach would continue the commission’s long-established reserved spectrum policy, while also enabling the success of the incentive auction,” the organizations in their petition.

FCC commissioners won’t be alone in Sacramento: FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel will be joined at next Wednesday’s net neutrality forum in Sacramento, Calif., by California Public Utilities Commissioner Catherine Sandoval as well as a screenwriter and officials from the tech sector, a local TV station and the Sacramento Public Library. The session — which is being held by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) — will take place in the State Capitol building.

FCC commissioner pens op-ed to sack blackout rule: FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai wrote an op-ed in USA Today on Sunday urging the commission to kill off its sports blackout rule at this month’s meeting. Pai refuted the common warning from the National Football League that games could move to cable or satellite-only TV channels without the rules. “One of the reasons why professional football is, by far, America’s most popular sport is because it is the only major sport that makes available most games on free, over-the-air television,” he wrote. 

Verizon grabs FCC aide: A former aide to FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly is joining Verizon. Courtney Reinhard, who served as O’Rielly’s chief of staff and also previously on Capitol Hill, will focus on Congress and public policy.  

 

ON TAP:

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and NSA Director Vice Adm. Michael Rogers will deliver remarks at Billington’s cybersecurity summit starting at 8 a.m.

The FCC is holding roundtables on net neutrality rules at 8:30 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.

At 2 p.m., the Senate Aging Committee is holding a hearing on telehealth.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Broadcasters who previously seemed ready to fight a Senate TV bill appear to have dropped their opposition, which could pave the way for easy passage. 

Liberal groups, transparency advocates and the whistleblower behind the Pentagon Papers are coming out strongly against a Senate bill to reform the NSA, arguing the reforms it contains are inadequate. 

The FBI has initiated a tool to identify and search for people’s faces, it announced on Monday. 

The health-tracking device company Fitbit has hired lobbying muscle as it faces questions from Capitol Hill about its privacy protections. 

Los Angeles Dodgers fans may get to watch the final week of the team’s regular season, but Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) is already worried about next year.

 

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