OVERNIGHT TECH: GOP looks to make final net neutrality arguments

THE LEDE: Congressional Republicans are gearing up for a final show of criticism before the Federal Communications Commission votes to institute tough net neutrality rules on Thursday.

Two separate House panels will hold hearings on the new rules Wednesday, which will likely serve as forums for tongue-lashing of the FCC's leadership. The agency's action to reclassify broadband as a "telecommunications" service "injects a great deal of uncertainty into the future of the Internet," majority staffers on the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Technology wrote in a memo ahead of the morning hearing. The session is billed as an opportunity to examine the "uncertain future of the Internet" due to the regulations.

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Lawmakers in the House Oversight Committee will aim their fire at concerns about undue coordination between the FCC and the White House. That session follows an effort by Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah) to get hold of unredacted emails sent between the agency and the president's office and heightened scrutiny into pressure the administration may have applied.

Without representatives from the FCC, however, the arguments will likely be somewhat one-sided. Chairman Tom Wheeler declined to testify before the Oversight Committee earlier this week, saying that he would be glad to appear but needed more notice. The panel had still not announced witnesses as of Tuesday evening.

The Commerce subcommittee will hear from four outside witnesses, only one of whom -- Public Knowledge head Gene Kimmelman -- supports the looming FCC rules. Former Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), industry analyst and Georgetown professor Larry Downes and Information Technology and Innovation Foundation founder Robert Atkinson will all offer warnings against the FCC imposing Title II rules on broadband networks.

Democrats seem primed to accuse the GOP leaders of pushing a losing narrative. "What are we really here to discuss?" Commerce subcommittee ranking member Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooOvernight Health Care: Health insurers urge Supreme Court to take ObamaCare case | Lawmakers press Trump officials to change marijuana rules | Bloomberg vows to ban flavored e-cigs if elected Lawmakers press Trump officials to change federal marijuana rules Overnight Health Care: Big Pharma looks to stem losses after trade deal defeat | House panel to examine federal marijuana policies | House GOP reopens investigation into opioid manufacturers MORE (D-Calif.) will say, according to an excerpt of her prepared remarks. "If the majority were transparent about its own intentions, it would put forth a legislative proposal to effectively prevent broadband providers from blocking legal content, engaging in paid prioritization and throttling legal content... What's clear is the majority doesn't want any regulation, even when doing so would protect the constituents they represent."

LEAHY, BLLUMENTHAL COME OUT SWINGING: Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) published an op-ed in Slate on Tuesday cheering the FCC's vote and dismissing a legislative net neutrality effort led by congressional Republicans. "As outlined, Chairman Wheeler's plan represents meaningful action to ensure that the Internet remains a dynamic engine of economic growth, democracy, and free speech for years to come," the two lawmakers wrote. 

STINGRAY ANSWERS DEMANDED FROM FCC: The ranking Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee is questioning the FCC on its certification of a device used by law enforcement to trick cellphones into relaying their signals to it, by simulating a cell tower. A report in the Washington Post prompted Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) to send a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler requesting information about the FCC's certification process and restrictions placed on the sale of the device, called a StingRay.

TECH STILL PRESSING FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: A new tweak to immigration policy for high-skilled workers highlights the dysfunction of the current immigration system and the need for broad reform, a number of technology coalitions said Tuesday. They applauded the move making it easier for the spouses of foreign-born high-skilled workers to get U.S. jobs. But TechNet said the president and Congress must "renew the reform effort" while Engine said "we still await congressional action." FWD.us said it "just one fix to one visa category" and "the tech community still needs immigration reform."

ITIF WARNS ABOUT DATA PROTECTIONISM: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation has a new report out warning about limits on cross-border data flows that it calls a new form of protectionism. "Only by creating multilateral trade agreements and global pacts on these issues can countries encourage economic development in both information and traditional industries, as well as hold each other accountable in the future," the think tank concluded.

HOUSE MEMBERS ECHO PROTECTIONISM WARNINGS: Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) are pressing to make sure a bill to give the Obama administration Trade Promotion Authority stands up "firmly in support of an open, vibrant Internet." In their letter to leaders of the relevant Senate and House committees, they warned other countries are engaging in "digital protectionism" meant to keep foreign competition away.

RETURN OF THE FCC JUMBOTRON: Net neutrality activists are heading to the FCC a day early on Wednesday. A coalition of dozens of organization will park a large Jumbotron outside the agency's Southwest Washington headquarters from 10 a.m. to 3:30 on Wednesday, urging support for strong rules.

NOKIA EXEC HEADS TO WILEY REIN: The former head of Nokia's government and industry affairs is heading to Wiley Rein. Leo Fitzsimon is joining the law firm's communications practice as a consulting counsel, the firm said.

 

ON TAP:

At 10 a.m., The Senate Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the government's transition away from oversight of the system governing Internet addresses.

At 10:30, the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hold a hearing on the "uncertain future of the Internet."

Federal Trade Commissioner Joshua Wright is giving the keynote at a Federalist Society event on the future of media that starts at noon.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation is holding a panel discussion on net neutrality at 1 p.m.

At 2 p.m., the House Oversight Committee will hold a hearing "examining the relationship between the FCC and the White House"

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

A Democrat on the FCC wants to narrow the scope of new net neutrality rules that are set for a vote on Thursday.

The administration finalized rules that will allow some husbands and wives of high-skilled foreign workers to get jobs in the United States.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) on Tuesday suggested that terrorist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) should be barred from using social media sites like Twitter to spread their message.

A group of tech alumni from President Obama's 2012 campaign have launched a company this week allowing retailers to easily create an app that lets customers make purchases through their mobile devices.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is endorsing the FCC's plan for tough net neutrality regulations. 

 

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