OVERNIGHT TECH: Dems warn of FCC 'funding cliff'

THE LEDE: Democrats are complaining the Federal Communications Commission budget could be the source of the next funding cliff.

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have circulated draft legislation to reauthorize the agency for the first time in two decades. The timing comes weeks after the agency approved controversial net neutrality rules, and Democrats fear the budget could get caught up in a partisan fight similar to the one over Department of Homeland Security funding.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I've yet to hear a convincing explanation for why this legislation is a good idea," the committee's Ranking Democrat Frank Pallone (N.J.) said during a hearing Thursday. "Given what we just went through with the Department of Homeland Security, I doubt our constituents are clamoring for us to create another funding cliff."

Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley: Biden calls for revoking tech legal shield | DHS chief 'fully expects' Russia to try to interfere in 2020 | Smaller companies testify against Big Tech 'monopoly power' Lawmakers call for FTC probe into top financial data aggregator Overnight 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 MORE (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Communications subcommittee, similarly said the reauthorization seemed intended to "squeeze" an already understaffed agency. She said the committee "shouldn't be horsing around" with the measure.

Among other things, the GOP draft would freeze appropriations at the current level for the next four years. It would set a cap on the Universal Service Fund and tie it to the appropriations process. The fund provides access to rural and low-income people by using fees taken from service providers. The GOP draft bill would also change the structure of the FCC inspector general, taking the power away from the chairman to hire and fire the agency watchdog.

PALLONE PUSHES AIRWAVE RULE CHANGES: Pallone on Thursday also introduced legislation to update the FCC's rules for small businesses participating in its spectrum auctions. The new Small Business Access to Spectrum Act comes after repeated fears that Dish Network gamed the agency's current rules to gain $3 billion in federal subsidies during the recent AWS-3 airwave auction. Pallone's legislation would order the FCC to write new rules within 90 days after the bill is passed.

That's music to the ears of T-Mobile, which said it would increase competition ahead of next year's airwave selloff. The bill is "an aggressive step... toward increasing competition in the wireless market by expanding access to spectrum in next year's broadcast incentive auction," it said. 

NEW PAYMENT TECH CAUCUS: A group of four House members founded the Congressional Payments Technology Caucus on Thursday, attempting to enlighten their colleagues about "new and innovative technologies in the payments industry, as well as answer questions about data security, [and] unbanked users' access to electronic payments." The four members are Reps. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), David Scott (D-Ga.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).

TRADE GROUPS COULD LEAD LAWSUITS: Reuters reported that it appears telecom trade groups will be the ones leading the charge against the FCC's new net neutrality rules, rather than individual companies like Verizon, which led the lawsuit that resulted in the death of the last set of rules.

TAKANO MARKS UP RUBIO ESSAY: Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) unleashed his red pen on Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) op-ed opposing the FCC's new net neutrality rules. Takano, a former teacher, has used the tactic before to criticize opponents before, by posting a series of edits on social media. Takano called Rubio's recent op-ed "intentionally misleading," "poorly researched," and "too long." As a kicker, he advised the potential 2016 candidate not to "draft essays on your return flight from Iowa."

SOME IN THE FTC WANTED TO SUE GOOGLE: In a timely post during Sunshine Week, the Wall Street Journal reports on the internal deliberations of the Federal Trade Commission's former antitrust investigation of Google, using documents the commission inadvertently handed over in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The Google case was eventually settled, but the Journal reports that one agency bureau recommended a lawsuit over the search giant's conduct.

ITI GIVES SOME APPLAUSE: The Information Technology Industry Council has named the four people it is honoring with its legislator of the year award for 2104. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are taking home the honors this year.

EX-DINGELL, FAZIO AIDE HEADS TO T-MOBILE: Brendan Kelsay is the new director of federal affairs at T-Mobile, the company announced on Thursday. Kelsay had formerly led iHeartMedia's government affairs shop, after working in the House for former Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Vic Fazio (D-Calif.).

MICROSOFT LOBBYING UPDATE: Microsoft has hired McBee Strategic Consulting for help on "general business issues," the company said in a vague new lobbying disclosure document.

1776 EYES MAY FOR CHALLENGE FEST: Washington startup hub 1776 is going to hold its annual Challenge Festival from May 11 to 16. The annual session is a culmination of its international startup competition and will also play host to a series of roundtables, panel discussions and talks.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

The FCC lacks oversight of so-called StingRay surveillance devices once they are in the hands of law enforcement, Commissioner Tom Wheeler said Thursday.

One House Republican hinted at legislation that would specifically prevent the FCC from limiting the amount providers can charge for Internet service.

When Americans interact with their government online, it's usually for taxes or to check the weather.

The former top engineer at Facebook is taking over as the White House's first-ever director of information technology, the Obama administration announced Thursday.

Nearly nine in 10 U.S. voters want "the right to be forgotten" on the Internet, according to a new poll.   

 

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

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem