OVERNIGHT TECH: All set for final net neutrality roundtable

THE LEDE: The Federal Communications Commission is holding its final roundtable on net neutrality on Tuesday.

The event is scheduled to focus on the laws behind potential new regulations on Internet service providers, and brings one chapter of the agency’s work on the issue to a close, following the 3.7 million comments it received on its proposal earlier this year. Tuesday is the last of six roundtables. Previous events in recent weeks touched on policy approaches, effective enforcement and technological aspects of new rules.

ADVERTISEMENT

Two separate panels are scheduled, starting with a discussion on the different legal authorities for new rules under the 1996 Telecommunications Act. That first session will feature Center for Democracy and Technology President Nuala O’Connor, Tim Wu — the Columbia University law professor who coined the phrase “net neutrality” — and others. O’Connor will largely reiterate her testimony from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the issue last month, a spokesman said, which called for strict rules to clearly ban discrimination and blocking of online websites. The advocacy group chief has also offered a “hybrid” solution that uses both rules for “telecommunication” and “information” services, not unlike a plan that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) unveiled last week.

Later in the morning, the roundtable will focus on "construction of legally sustainable rules” including possible constitutional questions and the nature of rules for “telecommunications services,” which some have argued the FCC should extend to broadband Internet. On tap for that session are American Library Association counsel John Windhausen, New America Foundation fellow Marvin Ammori and other legal and industry experts. Center for Boundless Innovation in Technology Director Fred Campbell is preparing to warn the FCC that reclassifying broadband Internet as a “telecommunications” service would draw a legal challenge that it likely could not win, he told The Hill.

The final roundtable will close one chapter of the FCC’s public consideration of new rules, but won’t be the last. Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, has scheduled a forum for Oct. 21 at Texas A&M University.

FCC pledges to step in on phone fights: The FCC is prepared to step in to disputes over connecting phone calls via Internet lines, Chairman Tom Wheeler pledged on Monday. If companies don’t work out reasonable interconnection deals of their own, the FCC will get involved, he promised. “We will be watching very, very closely, and if industry does not step up, we will step in,” he said at the Comptel association’s autumn convention.

“If voluntary efforts cannot resolve the issues and the public interest is not being served, then let there be no mistake:  the FCC will act,” Wheeler added.

Wheeler repeatedly evoked the theme of competition and said that companies’ transition from old, copper phone wires to new Internet protocol (IP)-based networks should not lead to a change in how the market operates. “Let there be no mistake: there has been competition before the transition, and there will be competition after the transition,” Wheeler promised.

Silicon Valley Dems prepare faceoff: Silicon Valley Democrat Rep. Mike Honda and his challenger, Ro Khanna, face off in their one and only debate Monday night. The race between the two Democrats has exposed a rift in the party. While President Obama and many establishment Democrats have backed Honda, Khanna has won the overwhelming support of tech executives including Yahoo head Marissa Mayer, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

The two will respond to questions from journalists as well as students and academics at San Jose State University. Issues affecting the tech sector are sure to be on the docket, though Honda is also likely to respond to a recent controversy about his staffers seeming to discuss campaign business on official time.

Cybersecurity roundtable underway in Estonia: Officials from the United States and a group of eight other Nordic and Baltic countries are in the capital of Estonia on Monday and Tuesday for a cybersecurity roundtable. Representatives from the State Department, Commerce Department and FBI are attending. President Obama met with the Estonian prime minister during a September trip to the country. The two countries signed the U.S.-Estonia Cyber Partnership Statement in 2013, affirming a commitment to an open and secure Internet.

 

ON TAP:

Honda and Khanna square off Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. local, 9:30 p.m. on the East Coast.

The FCC’s net neutrality roundtable gets underway at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Starting at 6:30 p.m., the National Constitution Center is putting on a debate focused on the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ phone records. The event takes place in Philadelphia but will be streamed online.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

GOP opposition research firm America Rising on Monday vowed to appeal a Wikipedia ruling that blocked an employee's account after the researcher edited articles about Democratic Senate candidates. 

Facebook’s head of Washington policy, Joel Kaplan, is getting bumped up to vice president of global policy, tasked with managing the social media giant’s policy efforts with government and major organizations around the globe.

The head of the FCC is promising that his personal opposition to the Washington Redskins name won’t influence whether or not radio and TV stations will be able to repeatedly say the word.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) urged the Departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security to coordinate a response to cyberattacks on healthcare networks.

Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announced a new cyber insurance package that he said should make it easier for companies to safeguard their networks and their bottom lines.

 

Please send tips and comments to Julian Hattem, jhattem@thehill.com and Mario Trujillo, mtrujillo@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @jmhattem