OVERNIGHT TECH: Obama raises stakes on net neutrality

THE LEDE: President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaJill Biden campaigns for McAuliffe in Virginia Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by ExxonMobil — Biden administration breaks down climate finance roadmap Pelosi hilariously scolds media for not 'selling' .5T spending bill: 'Do a better job' MORE’s call for the strongest possible rules on Internet service providers breathed new life into a debate that had been roiling for months.

Lawmakers, companies and advocacy groups on all sides weighed in with responses to Obama’s call for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify broadband Internet service so that it could regulate it as a utility under its rules for “common carrier” services, such as traditional phone lines. For liberals, consumer advocates and other supporters of tough regulations, the president’s call was a critical boost that legitimized their views. Republicans and many Internet service providers, however, feared that the rules would handicap the Internet with burdensome regulations and promised opposition on Capitol Hill and in the courts. 

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Service providers uniformly blasted the plan as a non-starter that would not withstand a legal challenge. Verizon called the president’s plan “gratuitous,” and said that the FCC had all the authority it needed to protect consumers without reclassifying the Web. 

“The Internet has not just appeared by accident or gift — it has been built by companies like ours investing and building networks and infrastructure,” added Comcast executive vice president David Cohen. “The policy the White House is encouraging would jeopardize this engine for job creation and investment as well as the innovation cycle that the Internet has generated.”

AT&T delivered the clearest legal threat to the proposal, warning the Obama administration that it “would expect to participate in a legal challenge” if the FCC followed through with the president’s plan. 

Many top websites were more accepting. The Internet Association — whose members include Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and others — had previously remained largely mum on whether or not the FCC should embrace common carrier rules under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. On Monday, however, it was in full support of the president’s plan. "Using Title II authority, along with the right set of enforceable rules, the president's plan would establish the strong net neutrality protections Internet users require,” chief executive Michael Beckerman said. “We welcome the President's leadership.”

Netflix, meanwhile, tweeted in agreement with the White House that “consumers should pick winners and losers on the Internet, not broadband gatekeepers.” The White House’s Twitter account, for its part, retweeted Netflix’s message. 

Congressional Republicans gave some of the most virulent opposition, setting the stage for a tough battle on the issue that will extend into 2015. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) pledged that his chamber would seek to "stop misguided schemes to regulate the Internet.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, said the FCC “would be wise to reject” Obama’s proposal. 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a likely presidential candidate in 2016, called net neutrality “ObamaCare for the Internet,” in perhaps the most widely shared criticism of the president’s plan. “It puts the government in charge of determining Internet pricing, terms of service, and what types of products and services can be delivered, leading to fewer choices, fewer opportunities, and higher prices for consumers,” he said. “The Internet should not operate at the speed of government."

Republican leaders of the House and Senate Commerce Committees, who are the ones with jurisdiction in the area, issued similarly scathing statements warning about the potential action. "Reclassification under Title II threatens our thriving Internet economy and the American jobs it creates,” House Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-Ohio) warned in a joint statement. “The Internet isn’t a utility, so we shouldn’t treat it as one.”

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the likely future chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, accused Obama of “stale thinking” that “would invite legal and marketplace uncertainty and perpetuate what has needlessly become a politically corrosive policy debate."

Capitol Hill Democrats, many of whom had already backed strong Web rules, gave support to Obama’s proposal. “Today is a great day for the Internet,” said Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “The President has called on the FCC to adopt the three cornerstones of a free and open Internet: no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization."

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged the FCC to “act swiftly to create clear and enforceable net neutrality standards so the Internet can continue to foster freedom and prosperity here in the United States and around the world."

AT&T ends plans for Wi-Fi on planes: AT&T is scrapping its plans to build a network to provide in-flight Wi-Fi to passengers on commercial airlines. It said it will focus instead on international investments after reviewing its portfolio. In April, the company announced it would built an "air-to-ground" network that could be rolled out in late 2015 as an alternative to current in-flight Wi-Fi. At the time, it highlighted data that found nearly all users have been frustrated by current Internet connections on airplanes, citing slow or inconsistent speeds. 

The company said it has focused on expanding its international presence. “At the same time, and after a thorough review of our investment portfolio, the company decided to no longer pursue entry into the Inflight Connectivity industry," the company said Monday in a statement. "We are focusing our capital on transformative investments, such as international and video.”

‘Ask Me Anything’ about net neutrality: President Obama and his team have been working for months to define his proposal on net neutrality, a White House adviser said Monday. David Edelman, a senior advisor for Internet, innovation and privacy, held an AMA on Reddit explaining Obama's call for the FCC to regulate broadband Internet under rules governing traditional phone service. Edelman called the FCC commissioner "deeply knowledgeable," noting it is an independent agency. However, he said it is the White House’s job to lay out the president's vision. 

House investigating Patent telework: The House will hold a hearing next week investigating the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office 's telework program. After coming under criticism earlier this year for inefficiencies, House Republicans will explore reports that officials allegedly removed damaging information from some internal reports. The joint hearing by the Judiciary and Oversight committees will be held next Tuesday.

Surveillance, patent suits on Senate Judiciary’s agenda: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) — the likely next chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee — indicated that surveillance reform and patent “abuses” are two of his top issues for the panel next Congress.

“There’s a lot of work for our committee to do,” he said in a statement on Monday. On the list is legislation that “curbs abuses to our civil justice system,” he said, a seeming reference to reining in patent “trolls,” as well as an effort that “adapts our criminal laws to rapidly advancing technology.”

TechNet names Northwest leader: TechNet has a new head for its Washington state and Pacific Northwest region. Megan Schrader is the new head of the industry group’s Seattle office, after a career as a political consultant in the region and co-owning a small export management company.  

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

President Obama is urging the FCC to treat broadband Internet as a public utility to protect net neutrality, a move that would ban companies from cutting deals for faster service.

For his first battle against a Republican-controlled Congress, President Obama has chosen the Internet.

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House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) is launching a formal inquiry into the taxpayer-funded "Truthy" study of Twitter that critics say targets conservatives on social media. 

The aerospace industry can now begin exporting commercial satellites

 

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