Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Senate panel passes pared-down TV bill

THE LEDE: Senators on Wednesday moved forward with a plan to reauthorize an expiring satellite television law, after removing many of their most ambitious reforms.

The Senate Commerce Committee passed by voice vote the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA), which would allow distant broadcast television channels such as CBS and ABC to be beamed to about 1.5 million rural satellite subscribers who would not be able to pick up local stations with an antenna. Previously, panel Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and ranking member Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) had attached a measure that would allow people around the country to pick and choose which broadcast stations they wanted included on their cable or satellite subscription.

{mosads}That plan was “too big and bold” to go forward in the current bill, the two said in a joint statement after the vote, yet they claimed to have started “a conversation” that could stretch into future years.

Shelving of the “a la carte” model for broadcast channels was a major victory for broadcasters, yet the handful of changes that did make it into the final package allowed reformers to also claim a win. The American Television Alliance — a coalition of cable and satellite companies as well as consumer organizations — called the bill “a clear and convincing victory” since it contained some reforms to the way broadcast channels are shown through cable and satellite subscriptions, a process known as “retransmission consent.” American Cable Association head Matthew Polka said the bill “makes big strides” in reforming those laws.

The final bill included a measure from Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) to allow people to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to get in-state signals carried on their satellite service, a measure he said would help people on the Minnesota border get local news and updates. “Constituents expressed their frustration with not getting Wisconsin news or Packers games,” he said in a statement. “This bill creates a process for them at the FCC and emphasizes the importance of station signals that originate in a viewer’s state of residence.”

E-Label moves, too: In its session on Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee also approved the E-Label Act, which would allow device manufacturers to use digital labels instead of physical ones. The bill passed the House last week.

Trade secrets bill clears a hurdle: The House Judiciary Committee passed the Trade Secrets Protection Act via voice vote, which supporters said would give American companies a leg up against thieves. The bipartisan bill would create a civil legal recourse for companies to go after competitors who steal their intellectual property and business plans.

“While current federal law protects other forms of intellectual property by providing access to federal courts for aggrieved parties to seek redress, there is no federal option to do so for trade secret theft,” committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Intellectual Property subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.), said in a statement after the vote. “The bipartisan Trade Secrets Protection Act seeks to change that by allowing companies to seek civil penalties in order to protect their businesses from those engaging in economic espionage.”

Software companies immediately heralded the vote. “Trade secrets embody the valuable know-how of American businesses and are a vital part of incentivizing innovation,” Software and Information Industry Association public policy head Mark MacCarthy said. “By creating a federal civil remedy to protect trade secrets, this bill improves the law in a thoughtful, meaningful and balanced way.”

Companies circulate email privacy letter: More than 70 businesses, trade groups and organizations wrote a letter to leaders of Congress on Wednesday pushing for an update to the 1986 law that allows police to search through old emails without a warrant. Updating the law “would respond to the deeply held concerns of Americans about their privacy” the companies wrote, noting the Wednesday anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

“On Constitution Day, there is no better time to pass [Electronic Communications Privacy Act] reform and confirm Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights online,” they wrote. AOL, Microsoft, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Chamber of Commerce were among the dozens of signers.

House panel votes to subpoena former U.S. CTO: Lawmakers want Todd Park on Capitol Hill. The House Science Committee’s Oversight subcommittee voted to issue a subpoena for the former U.S. chief technology officer — who is now working to recruit top tech talent in Silicon Valley — to talk about HealthCare.gov. Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) said that Park “has more knowledge about the website than either he or [the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy] has represented to Congress.”

Yelp criticized after FTC charges: Privacy advocates say that Wednesday’s announcement that Yelp would pay $450,000 to settle Federal Trade Commission allegations that it illegally collected data on children is a sign of new abuses on mobile devices. “This case shows that even large companies are rushing to make mobile apps without building in appropriate safeguards for children, required by COPPA [the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act],” Center for Digital Democracy legal director Hudson Kingston said in a statement. “Yelp not only collected information from children, it published their reviews to anyone who checked the site — potentially putting child users at further risk in terms of privacy and safety harms.” He added that the company’s “light fine” was “troubling,” given that COPPA calls for a $16,000 penalty per violation, yet “it is good to see that Yelp has gone to the point of deleting all of the affected accounts.”

Uber launches military push: Uber wants to get 50,000 veterans, military spouses and members of the armed forces to sign up as drivers over the next 18 months. The new UberMILITARY program was launched with the support of former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who signed of as the volunteer chairman of the effort’s advisor board, as well as the Chamber of Commerce. 

Web trade group releases Upton video: The Internet Association released a new video promoting times that House Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) spent talking about the Internet with Kalamazoo, Mich., businesses. Bell’s Brewer, a local food truck and other companies are featured in the clip. 

Study finds companies violating anti-spam act: About 10 percent of the word’s largest stores are violating an anti-spam law, a decade after it went into effect, according to new analysis from the Online Trust Alliance. The 2003 CAN-SPAM Act set rules for commercial email messages, but many companies aren’t following the law, the organization found. The report also showed that 70 percent of the top 200 online retailers are following many of the organization’s recommendations for good email practices.



At 9 a.m., Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) and White House advisor Cecilia Muñoz are talking about how Hispanic millennials can succeed in the tech industry at an event hosted by the Atlantic.

At the same time, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and others talk about piracy websites at an Information technology and Innovation Foundation panel discussion.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is speaking at the top of a Center for Data Innovation panel about government data on Capitol Hill starting at 11:30.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) talks about technology issues at the Hudson Institute at noon.

A House Judiciary subcommittee looks at the U.S. Copyright Office at 2 p.m.

At the same time, the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Transportation has a hearing on “safeguarding privacy and civil liberties while keeping our skies safe.”



Online review site Yelp will pay a $450,000 fine over allegations that it illegally collected information about children. 

Lawmakers in the Senate have abandoned plans to overhaul the way people choose which television stations are part of their cable or satellite subscriptions. 

The head of the FCC was quick to reassure lawmakers on Wednesday that his agency is seriously considering using the authority it has to regulate phone lines on Internet service providers. 

Ride-sharing company Lyft is hitting the gas on its lobbying activity.

One House Democrat is saying that Time Warner Cable’s treatment of Dodgers fans could negatively impact the outlook of its merger with Comcast. 


Please send tips and comments to Julian Hattem: jhattem@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem

— Updated on Sept. 18 to clarify that the Atlantic hosted but did not sponsor Thursday’s event.

Tags Adam Schiff Bob Goodlatte E-Label Act Jay Rockefeller John Thune Mark Warner Paul Broun Ron Johnson Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Trade secrets

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