OVERNIGHT TECH: Sides gear up for net neutrality fight

THE LEDE: If there was any lingering doubt about where members of Congress and industry groups stand on tough net neutrality rules, they were shattered Wednesday.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler's announcement that he would push for aggressive rules under Title II of the Communications Act were a surprise to almost no one, but that didn't stop backers from declaring a major win. "Today is an extraordinary day for net neutrality -- frankly it's an extraordinary day for our democracy," cheered Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

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Sen. Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyMarkey challenges Democratic Senate campaign opponents to climate change debate Kennedy launches primary challenge against Markey Markey fundraises ahead of Kennedy primary challenge MORE (D-Mass.) said Wheeler's decision to unveil new rules turned Wednesday into "Internet Innovation and Freedom Day." "Today I say to Chairman Wheeler and the FCC: you are on the right side of history," he added.

Tech companies from Twitter to Etsy also applauded the move, as did advocacy groups such as the Center for Democracy and Technology and the Open Technology Institute. "This is a historic announcement by Chairman Wheeler, and a decision that consumers have been demanding for some time," said Chris Lewis, the vice president of government affairs at Public Knowledge. 

Republicans not so happy: Republicans, meanwhile, lambasted the FCC, and accused Wheeler of caving to President Obama's demands with his new rules. Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneThe Hill's Morning Report - Pompeo condemns Iran for 'act of war' while Trump moves with caution Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg to meet with lawmakers | Big tech defends efforts against online extremism | Trump attends secretive Silicon Valley fundraiser | Omar urges Twitter to take action against Trump tweet NRA says Trump administration memo a 'non-starter' MORE (R-S.D.), the Commerce Committee Chairman who has led the push to write new legislation ahead of the Feb. 26 vote, accused Wheeler of having "succumbed to the bully tactics" of both Web activists and President Obama.

Service providers reiterated their concern about the strict regulations. But they focused their statements on finding a congressional solution, rather than past threats of litigation over FCC rules. AT&T noted the rules would provide "years of legal uncertainty" but pushed lawmakers of "good faith to come together on a bipartisan basis." Verizon too pushed the GOP legislation and cautioned the new rules would limit investment by forcing the company to "consider FCC rules before launching new services."

The 'wiggle room' worry: Mozilla, an advocate for strong net neutrality rules, is not too concerned about a court challenge or a future commission overruling the open Internet framework unveiled Wednesday. Chris Riley, the company's head of public policy, said his biggest worry is that the rules could be vague enough to leave future "wiggle room." Riley, hours before details of the plan was unveiled, was confident the rules would stand up in court and would be ingrained by the time a new president is elected in 2016. The full regulations will not be released until after a vote later this month. 

"I think that is unlikely," he told a group of reporters about a future commission knocking them down. "Just because these would have been well established, and that would trigger the closest thing to boxing gloves. What I think is a much more significant worry is the possibility that the rules will be insufficiently clear, leave a lot of room for interpretation and then subsequent FCCs, whether under Republican or Democratic presidents, might not have the same appetite for enforcing these rules."

Consolidating FCC reports: The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology approved a bill meant to increase efficiency at the FCC. The FCC Consolidated Reporting Act would streamline eight different reports the FCC produces into one large review. The bill would also eliminate some reports. The House has passed the legislation the last two Congresses and Republican leaders of the committee expressed confidence it would make it to the president's desk. 

Patent troll bill coming: House Judiciary Chairman Bob GoodlatteRobert (Bob) William GoodlatteUSCIS chief Cuccinelli blames Paul Ryan for immigration inaction Immigrant advocacy groups shouldn't be opposing Trump's raids Top Republican releases full transcript of Bruce Ohr interview MORE (R-Va.) is slated to reintroduce the Innovation Act on Thursday, which is meant to rein in patent abuse. Last Congress, he pushed the bipartisan legislation through the House before reform stalled in the Senate. Both chambers are bullish about a reform bill making it to President Obama's desk now that the GOP controls the House and Senate. 

Apps Alliance joins patent reform push: The Application Developers Alliance is the latest member of United for Patent Reform, the new coalition that also includes companies from Facebook to JC Penny. Creation of the group "signals that patent reform is a top priority across diverse industries," group president Jon Potter said. 

DeLorean to take Congress back to the future: Americans for Tax Reform and its Digital Liberty arm are bringing a DeLorean to Capitol Hill on Thursday to push for an update to the 1996 Telecommunications Act. The car will start at the Capitol South Metro station shortly after 9 a.m., and then make its way around the Hill until 4 p.m.

 

ON TAP: 

At 9:30 a.m., President Obama's cybersecurity coordinator will conduct a question-and-answer session sponsored by Bloomberg Government. 

Goodlatte and others will unveil their patent reform bill at 10 a.m.

At 10 a.m., the Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on "getting it right on data breach and notification legislation"

At 10:30, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on a bill to update the Freedom of Information Act. 

At 11 a.m., Reps. Kevin YoderKevin Wayne YoderK Street giants scoop up coveted ex-lawmakers Kansas Senate race splits wide open without Pompeo Mike Pompeo to speak at Missouri-Kansas Forum amid Senate bid speculation MORE (R-Kan.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) will talk about efforts to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act during a Capitol Hill event hosted by the Digital 4th Coalition. 

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

A San Francisco man was convicted of creating and operating the shady online drug market Silk Road on Wednesday, and could spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Here are six key points from the net neutrality rules proposed Wednesday. 

The government's bulk collection of U.S. telephone records would end if portions of the Patriot Act are not extended, the top lawyer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said Wednesday. 

News that federal regulators intend to impose tough new net neutrality regulations isn't scaring off investors.

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers wants to require police to obtain a warrant to search people's emails, and they've already got more than half the House on their side.

 

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