Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC releases new batch of net neutrality comments

THE LEDE: The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday released a bulk file of more than 2.5 million public comments regarding its proposed net neutrality rules — its second and final batch.  

The commission is encouraging outside analysts and journalists to build visualizations of the raw data to help “the FCC and the public” more fully understand the content of replies, it said. The Sunlight Foundation told The Hill it already plans on analyzing the new data, similar to a massive undertaking conducted after the first round of comments were released in August.

{mosads}More than 3.9 million comments were submitted in total during the FCC comment period on proposed rules that would bar Internet service providers from blocking or slowing service to some websites, but could allow for companies to negotiate deals for faster service, dubbed “fast lanes.” The majority of initial comments were opposed to the current plan.

The 3.9 million total more than doubled the previous record set in 2004 for comments about Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” during the Super Bowl that year. The comment period ended last month.

The Sunlight Foundation found that 60 percent of the first batch of comments released in August were from form letters. While that seems high, the foundation pointed out form letters on net neutrality rules comprised a smaller percentage than most other high-profile regulations.

The analysis also found nearly two-thirds of people were opposed to “fast lanes” — formally known as paid prioritization deals — and a nearly equal amount argued for the commission to reclassify broadband Internet as a telecommunications service, which many argue is the only way to prevent fast lane deals. About 5 percent expressed opposition to regulations, while only 1 percent expressed clear opposition to the concept of net neutrality.

FTC brings $9 million phone scam settlement: The Federal Trade Commission is forcing a series of little-known companies to pay more than $9 million for spamming phone customers with texts. The plan was allegedly meant to gain customer contact information and led to “crammed” phone bills and illegal robocalls. The latest announcement is part of a larger crackdown by the agency, including a settlement announced earlier this month in which AT&T will pay $105 million for illegally billing customers.

Three companies and a number of individuals faced a settlement of $7.8 million. Two other companies and two individuals settled for $1.4 million. Another two companies settled on similar charges, but the $8 million ruling was suspended because they did not have the funds to pay. The companies were required to surrender other assets.

“The operators of this scam bombarded consumers for months with deceptive text messages offering ‘free’ items, but the costs to consumers were very real – including the misuse of their personal information to cram unwanted charges on their phone bills,” FTC consumer protection bureau head Jessica Rich said in a statement. “I am pleased that these scammers will be forced to turn over millions of the dollars they took from consumers and banned from repeating these actions in the future.”

New Google inbox: Google is rolling out a new email service called “inbox” that will help users more easily find relevant information. The company said the new system was designed with the increasing reliance on smartphones in mind and looks similar to a social media stream. The new service will expand the categories in which users can bundle their emails, and inbox will begin to sort emails based on past history. It will also highlight relevant portions of emails and search for additional information from the Web. Users will also be able to set reminders through the new system. It is rolling out invitations in phases, with the first going out Wednesday. People can request an invitation from inbox@google.com.

USA Today backs USA Freedom Act: USA Today’s editorial board is putting its weight behind the Senate’s effort to rein in the National Security Agency. Sen. Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vt.) USA Freedom Act “goes a long way toward an overdue rebalancing of security and liberty,” the newspaper said in a Wednesday editorial. The bill would end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ records and require the agency to get the information from companies only with a court order.

Despite its support for the bill, the newspaper did not appear convinced that Congress could get the job done this year. “With only a lame-duck session left after the Nov. 4 elections, time is not on the side of change,” the editorial board said. “Nor is the threat from ISIL,” referring to the Islamic State and Iraq and Syria.

Online gambling backers shame ‘poker jokers’: The Poker Players Alliance launched a new website Wednesday to note which lawmakers up for reelection this year have backed restrictions on online poker in the past. The “Poker Jokers” site is the online gambling advocacy group’s version of a congressional ratings guide, and also gives information for people to contact the lawmakers’ offices.

Zuckerberg speaks Chinese: Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg showed off his foreign language skills in a 30-minute question and answer session — entirely in Mandarin — at Beijing’s Tsinghua University on Wednesday. “We discussed connecting the world, Internet.org, innovation and the early days of Facebook,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post

Media Matters hits Time Warner Cable over N.C. Senate race: Time Warner Cable orchestrated a “phony scandal” to boost North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) this week, Media Matters for America said on Wednesday. The liberal group criticized the cable company for using an empty chair to symbolize Sen. Kay Hagan’s (D-N.C.) absence during a debate that she had previously said she would not be attending.

CDT president named to Data Quality Campaign board: Center for Democracy and Technology President Nuala O’Connor was named to the Data Quality Campaign’s board of directors on Wednesday. In a statement, O’Connor said it was “an honor” to join the education data advocacy organization. “There is no personal information more important to protect than data about our children and their education,” she said.

Tech-minded political group hands out endorsements: A new organization trying to bring Silicon Valley’s lessons to Washington unleashed its list of endorsements for this November. America Innovates is putting its support behind Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) as well as Rep. Scott Peters (D-Calif.) and House Democratic hopefuls Seth Moulton in Massachusetts and Christina Gagnier in California.



At 9:30, George Washington Law School will host a conference on “Net Neutrality and Global Internet Freedom” with individuals from Microsoft and Verizon.

At noon, the Cato Institute will hold a discussion about “Cops on Camera: Tech Solutions to Police Militarization and Misconduct.”



The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee wants to charge Edward Snowden with murder.

The Federal Communications Commission has pressed pause on its “shot clock” for both of the major media mergers it is overseeing.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) outlined her preference for the Federal Communications Commission to reclassify broadband Internet as a telecommunications service.

A federal privacy watchdog will get together next month to talk about what privacy means in terms of government counterterrorism programs.

Five things to know about ‘Truthy’


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

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @jmhattem

Tags Federal Communications Commission Federal Trade Commission Kay Hagan Mark Udall Net neutrality Network neutrality Patrick Leahy
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