Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Congress signals for better Wi-Fi

THE LEDE: Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress introduced legislation on Monday to give Americans’ Wi-Fi a boost.

{mosads}The Wi-Fi Innovation Act would free up more spectrum for Wi-Fi access across the country by eyeing more of the nation’s airwaves for unlicensed use. “America’s policies must adapt to the colossal technological advancements that are defining the 21st century and transforming the very nature of the American economy,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who introduced the Senate bill along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). “The Wi-Fi Innovation Act would bolster innovation, spur economic development, and increase connectivity by providing more spectrum to the public.” The House version of the bill was introduced by Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Bob Latta (R-Ohio).

The legislation would direct the FCC to move quickly to explore opening up the 5 GHz spectrum band for shared and unlicensed use, where Wi-Fi operates. It would also commission a study to explore barriers to Wi-Fi deployment in low-income communities.

Trade groups representing the cable, broadcast and wireless industries all came out with support for the bill, which they said would have a dramatic impact in unleashing the potential of people’s devices. Consumer Electronics Association head Gary Shapiro “enthusiastically” cheered the bill and its prospects for shaping the increasingly mobile nature of new gadgets on the so-called Internet of Things. Advocacy groups such as Public Knowledge also gave the bill a round of applause, noting how it could help more struggling families benefit from new technology.

Booker and Rubio first introduced the Wi-Fi Innovation Act last June, but it failed to move in the chamber. Its companion met a similar fate in the House, after being introduced in July. 

Opposition from automakers: The trade group for “smart” cars, ITS America, has expressed some reservations about moving forward too quickly with legislation to create unlicensed airwaves in spaces currently reserved for its vehicles by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The current industry-led process to see how Wi-Fi devices and vehicle communication systems can share the same spectrum band “should continue without Congressionally-imposed deadlines, restrictive parameters or political pressure” said trade group interim head Thomas Kern. The bill, he hinted, could create “regulatory uncertainty and could delay bringing these life-saving crash prevention technologies to consumers.”

Auto groups including ITS America, alongside AAA, the Association of Global Automakers and the American Society of Civil Engineers sent members of Congress a letter on Monday evening urging them to oppose the bill. 

FCC’s Pai ambushed by protesters: GOP FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai’s press conference aiming to criticize the agency’s net neutrality plan was interrupted by a pair of protesters on Tuesday morning. The two jumped to their feet, started to shout and began unfurling a banner claiming that 85 percent of Republican voters supported net neutrality — as determined by a November University of Delaware poll — when they were rushed by security. The protesters fell to the ground and continued to yell as they were helped up and pushed out of the room.

“Americans want net neutrality,” yelled one protester. “Stop representing telecoms,” yelled another. “You’re for the public interest, not the corporate interest.”

Lost cause for GOP?: Pai also did little to alter the impression that the FCC’s two Republicans are largely throwing in the white flag on net neutrality — at least for now. Citing the “exogenous political influences” on the process and his long belief that the commission’s Democrats have ignored Republicans, Pai declined to offer ways that he would push for Wheeler to reform the net neutrality rules before a Feb. 26 vote. 

O’Rielly alleges ‘fauxbearance’: The new net neutrality rules do not adequately avoid — or forbear from — many of the strong common carrier regulations that come with reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service, Republican FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly said in a statement: “The promised forbearance amounts to fauxbearance. The FCC fact sheet clearly states that the item leaves in place more than a dozen provisions that are central to common carrier regulation.” 

Blackburn wants FCC to push pause: Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) is adding her voice to the GOP chorus calling for the FCC to hold off on its Feb. 26 vote for net neutrality rules. In a statement Tuesday, she accused Wheeler of using a “tainted process” to devise the rules with extra aid from the White House. “There is much at stake, as Title II regulations will lead to billions of dollars in new fees and taxes,” she said, referring to the portion of the Communications Act that will be invoked for new rules. “The seriousness of these allegations require Chairman Wheeler’s attention beyond a mere statement or press release in order to assure the public that the FCC was not unduly influenced by the White House.”

The TurboTax of Immigration docs: An online software company that bills itself as a sort of TurboTax for immigration paperwork is preparing for the new surge of documents resulting from President Obama’s executive action last year. Obama’s move expanded a program to offer deportation relief for more immigrants living in the country illegally. The company, FileRight, has been selling software for the past few years that allows people to fill out their paperwork online in an “easy to understand way.” The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service will expand the deferral program on Feb. 18 and the company said the software, which costs $99, will be available soon after. The agency currently does not accept electronic documents. So customers of FileRight fill out their forms online, print them, and manually file them. The company notes its service is “not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.”

Twitter CFO’s mishap: The chief financial officer of Twitter had his account get away from him Tuesday. The account of CFO Anthony Noto began spamming followers with messages like “OMG when did you do this?” or “This is too funny of you” while linking to a website. Twitter locked the account and deleted the tweets, but told news outlets no account information was breached. Tuesday is not the first time Noto’s Twitter account has made news. 

Google lobbying on cybersecurity: Google is getting some lobbying help on cybersecurity issues from S-3 Group (FKA Shockey Scofield Solutions), according to disclosure forms. Pandora hired Forbes-Tate to lobby on music publishing rights, copyright legislation and digital music licensing. And PCIA – The Wireless Infrastructure Association hired Capitol Tax Partners to lobby on taxation and investment in telecommunications property. 


House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, FCC Commission Ajit Pai and Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) are speaking at a TechAmerica event on Capitol Hill starting at 8:30.

The Technology Policy Institute will hold an event on the implications for patent reform starting at 8:30 a.m. Speakers will include Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Michelle Lee, Obama’s pick to lead the U.S Patent and Trademark Office. 

At 9:45 a.m., The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing exploring the Internet of Things. 

At noon, the Brennan Center for Justice is holding a lunchtime discussion on big data.

At 12:15 p.m., Public Knowledge and the R Street Institute will hold a copyright policy lunch, where Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) will speak. 

Lincoln Labs’ conference on rebooting Congress gets started at 5 p.m. with keynote remarks from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)


Bipartisan leaders in the Senate are pushing for a long-term ban on state and local taxation of Internet access. 

The government is giving itself more power to regulate the Internet than it is letting on, according to one member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) is pushing legislation aimed at forcing the Federal Communications Commission to release regulations before they are brought up for a vote, among other process reforms. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee could send President Obama’s nominee to lead the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to the full chamber as soon as Thursday. 

A California-based company is trying to give American homeowners a way to protect their privacy from drones ahead of flight regulations from the federal government. 


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

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Tags Anna Eshoo Bob Latta Cory Booker Marco Rubio Wi-Fi Wi-Fi Innovation Act

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