OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC bickers over public release of Web rules

THE LEDE: Final edits to the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality regulations have so far prevented the public from seeing the full plan that was approved last week.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler predicted the text could be released as early as this week, but in the meantime commissioners have been bickering over the holdup.

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On Monday, FCC general counsel John Sallet published a blog post noting that the agency must collect and address any comments and dissents from each commissioner before it publicly releases the full text "or risk [the regulations] being overturned in court for failing to address the issue." Other minor "clean up" edits are also needed, he wrote.

Sallet's post was more nuanced than Wheeler's comments to The New York Times, in which he claimed the release was out of his hands until "we have the Republican commissioners' dissent." Both GOP commissioners, Michael O'Rielly and Ajit Pai, took issue with that assertion, noting that Wheeler has been "refusing to share this document for three weeks." Pai's office said both Republicans have now submitted their dissents.

Past precedent dictates that the commission does not publicly release regulations until they are approved and finalized, with Wheeler's office comparing the process to the private deliberations of an appeals court panel. But many critics of the rules have been calling for an early release for weeks, due to the importance and interest surrounding them. Wheeler's office has so far shared the broad details of the proposal but declined an early release of the full text.

OBAMA SAYS CHINA MUST CHANGE ON TECH RULES: President Obama is criticizing draft legislation in China that would, in his words, force foreign companies "to turn over to the Chinese government [the] mechanism where they can snoop and keep track of all of the users of those services." During an interview with Reuters, Obama said he had spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping about it and "made it very clear to them that this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States."

The Chinese rules would require foreign firms to share code so authorities can detect possible cyber threats.

OBAMA MEETS TECH CEOS: President Obama and a number of technology CEOs discussed support for "fast track" trade authority, comprehensive immigration reform and concerns about cybersecurity during a Monday meeting, according to the White House. The meeting with members of the Technology CEO Council included chief executives of Xerox, Dell, Qualcomm, IBM, EMC and Micron Technology.

WHEN EXACTLY DID WHEELER DECIDE ON TITLE II? FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler might have some explaining to do. Wheeler has repeatedly told reporters that he decided to reclassify broadband Internet in order to issue tough net neutrality rules last summer. But in an interview with C-SPAN's "The Communicators" over the weekend, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said that the FCC chief had been giving him another message.

"I'm having trouble believing that, because of conversations I had with the chairman this fall, where he was still [leaning towards] 'light touch' [rules]" said Walden, who heads the House Communications subcommittee. "If he did [make the decision over the summer], that's not what I was led to believe in November when I met with him, and December." Expect the issue to come up during Wheeler's appearance in Walden's subcommittee in two weeks.

SILICON VALLEY 'BRINGING THIS ON THEMSELVES': Silicon Valley companies might not see the FCC's new Internet rules as harmful until they are hit with the next round of regulations, Walden said during a talk at the American Enterprise Institute. "The day that the app community recognizes they are not far off from having to get permission is the day that maybe Silicon Valley will say 'Whoa, whoa wait a minute,'" he said. "And the day that Google and Yahoo and others realize that throttling and prioritization and all that is to be regulated as a common carrier issue under Title II --  how do they get away with throttling, paid prioritization and blocking? And they do, they do. They are the off-ramps. And so in an information sharing age, they are bringing this on themselves."  

EFF CO-FOUNDER BREAKS FROM GROUP ON NET NEUTRALITY: John Perry Barlow may have co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, but he has a decidedly different view than the group when it comes to net neutrality. While EFF has been a vocal supporter of strong rules under Title II of the Communications Act, Barlow on Monday said that there is "singular arrogance in thinking the United States government or any government has the right to regulate something which spans the globe and has all the cultures of the planet trying to gather inside its enormous social condition." Barlow is among the many cyber libertarians and early Web innovators who have been more skeptical of the FCC's rules than many of their Silicon Valley colleagues.

JUDGE HALTS MISSISSIPPI GOOGLE PROBE: A federal judge has blocked an attempt by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood (D) to investigate Google's practices for taking down illegal and pirated content. District Judge Henry Wingate blocked Hood's subpoena on Monday and agreed with Google's arguments that the inquiry would have violated Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects companies that serve as a platform for users' content. Hood reportedly pledged to appeal the decision, but the injunction is nonetheless a victory for Google as well as its supporters who had worried that the attorney general was staging a covert attempt to censor the Internet, invoking fears of a renewed Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA).

SOFTWARE FIRMS MAKE HILL VISIT: Lawyers with Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, Salesforce and others are flying to Washington this week to lobby members of Congress on patent reform, trade and email privacy. Those companies -- all members of BSA | The Software Alliance -- are slated to meet with leaders of the Judiciary committees in both chambers.

PILE-ON BUILDS FOR OBAMA PRIVACY PLAN: The White House's consumer privacy legislation isn't making many new friends. After its release on Friday, skepticism among privacy advocates on Capitol Hill is only building. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said on Monday that he has concerns that the plan "lacks the necessary teeth to hold companies accountable for their privacy policies and to ensure robust protections for consumers' information." "It takes control away from consumers and puts it back in the hands of companies," he added.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) similarly remained reserved. "Like with most first drafts, after reviewing this summary I do have questions," he said in a statement. "If the administration is serious about trying to legislate privacy protections, I will try to work with them in a bipartisan fashion."

BUSINESSES GIVE 'URGENT' PLEA FOR CYBER BILL: Dozens of businesses are making an impassioned plea for new legislation that allows companies and the government to share information about possible cyber threats back and forth. "There is an urgent need for action to help bolster our country's cybersecurity defenses," companies including Microsoft, Cisco, Xerox and Hewlett-Packard wrote to leaders of Congress. The firms said that "a collaborative approach" between government and industry is necessary to better protect U.S. networks.

WORLD'S RICHEST TECH EXECS: A slew of U.S. tech executives ranked as some of the richest people in the world, including Microsoft's Bill Gates who took the top spot for the 16th time in 21 years, according to Forbes. Gates's net worth ranked at $79.2 billion. Others in the top 20 included Oracle's Larry Ellison, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

SNL MOCKS HOW NO ONE KNOWS WHAT NET NEUTRALITY IS: Most of Washington may have been focused on a "Saturday Night Live" sketch about the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria this weekend, but there was another skit that may be more appealing to tech policy circles. The sketch comedy program featured a fake Bloomberg show in which a panel of four people argued in vain about what net neutrality even means. The joke even featured a fake Vint Cerf -- the Web pioneer who is now the chief Internet evangelist at Google -- slapping people in the face.

 

ON TAP:

An Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hold a hearing on cybersecurity and data breaches at 2 p.m.

At that same time, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker will testify in the House Appropriations Committee about her department's budget.

At 3:45 p.m., after meeting the software industry's fly-in, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will talk about his plans for patent reform, privacy and other issues alongside Microsoft's Brad Smith, Salesforce.com's Burke Norton and Victoria Espinel, the head of BSA | The Software Alliance.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Net neutrality supporters won a major victory this week when regulators issued the toughest Internet rules the country has ever seen, but their battle is still far from over.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) on Monday asked the White House to turn off Democrats' "shock collars" and let members negotiate a legislative deal on net neutrality.  

Lawmakers in Congress will be on the hook if they allow a spying program to expire, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned on Monday.  

President Obama has gone straight to Chinese President Xi Jinping with concerns over upcoming Chinese cybersecurity rules that would require foreign tech firms to submit code for inspection.  

The tough regulations for net neutrality are a wild card when it comes to the $45 billion merger of the nation's two biggest cable companies, industry observers say.

 

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