OVERNIGHT TECH: Endzone dance after NFL suspends blackouts

THE LEDE: Regulators are taking a victory lap after the NFL announced that it would abandon its powers to black out football games for the 2015 season.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "did great work in paving the way" for the NFL's announcement, agency Chairman Tom Wheeler tweeted. "Good riddance!" 

ADVERTISEMENT

Last autumn, the commission unanimously voted to kill its four-decades-old sports blackout rules, which banned cable and satellite providers from showing NFL and other sports games that had been blacked out on local broadcast television. But the NFL still had a policy of forcing local broadcast channels to black out games that don't sell out 72 hours before kickoff, opening the door to private negotiations between the league and individual television providers to black out the games. On Monday, the league announced that owners had voted to kill those rules for the year and evaluate the impact after the season.

"This is a big win for sports fans across the country, from Buffalo to San Diego," said Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who makes no secret of his allegiance to the Kansas City Chiefs. "Today's announcement by the NFL is a big step in the right direction."

In 2013, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) introduced the FANS Act, which would have eliminated the FCC's rules and required that leagues like the NFL make games available online. Blumenthal on Monday called the NFL's policy an "antiquated, anti-consumer rule" that "has for too long served only to protect the NFL's bottom line at the expense of sports fans."

CYBER IS BIGGEST ISSUE FOR WEB: Cybersecurity is the most important issue facing the Internet community today, according to 86 percent of respondents in a new survey from the Internet Society. The poll, which questioned over 800 people, also noted concerns about Internet governance. Three-quarters said that making the issue easier to understand is "extremely" or "very important." Just a smidgen fewer called for countries and communities to share their best practices for overseeing the Web. 

"What our community told us means that we are already on a good path when it comes to our approach to the many Internet governance meetings and discussions yet to take place in 2015," the global group said in a blog post. 

HOUSE MEMBERS PREPPING MORE UNLOCKING: Four House lawmakers are planning to introduce legislation on Tuesday to further roll back limits preventing people from "unlocking" their cellphone as they switch from one carrier to another. The Unlocking Technology Act would permanently allow people to unlock any of their mobile devices -- unlike a bill passed by Congress last year, which only applied to cellphones and instituted a temporary exemption. Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) are signing on as original co-sponsors.

BOOKER CHEERS WHITE HOUSE MOVE: Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) applauded the White House's move on Monday to try and eliminate bureaucratic barriers to expanding high-speed Internet service across the country. "Expanding the availability of broadband and enhancing Internet access will help to level the technology playing field and grow our economy," said Booker, who tied the effort to his legislation aiming to free up more space for Wi-Fi signals. "The administration and I share a commitment to expanding the availability of broadband in communities around the country, and the president's actions today are an important step forward."

DRONE RULE TWEAKS ON THE WAY? Reuters reported over the weekend that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is eyeing an opportunity to streamline the process for companies authorized to use drones as part of their business, despite the larger ban on most uses. According to the news service, the FAA will no longer require companies that have been granted an exemption from the ban to get a new certificate of authority for each new use of the machines. 

ALICIA KEYS TO JOIN GOODLATTE, NADLER IN GRAMMY HONORS: The Recording Academy will hand out its annual Grammys on the Hill awards to singer Alicia Keys and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) next month, the industry group announced. The annual event is going down on April 15. The next day, the group will send hundreds of industry staffers to Capitol Hill for its advocacy day.

SCHUMER, MCCARTHY GET INTERNET ASSOCIATION APPLAUSE: The Internet Association, meanwhile, is handing out its Congressional Internet Freedom Award to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). Rep, Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) is being awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work backing Internet policy. Those awards will be given out at a charity gala scheduled for April 14.

 

ON TAP:

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding a showcase on the "Internet of Things" from 9 to 11 a.m. Afterwards, the Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee will hold a hearing on the issue.

At 10 a.m., the Brookings Institution is hosting an event on updating communications for the mobile era.

At 11 a.m., FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Ajit Pai will testify in a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.

At 1 p.m., Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) will hold a Capitol Hill briefing on their legislation to completely repeal the Patriot Act.

The Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on drones at 2:30.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

A major industry organization is suing federal regulators over their tough new net neutrality rules. 

The White House is launching a new effort to speed up Americans' access to the Internet

The NFL is suspending a controversial policy that had allowed some football games to be blacked out for local TV viewers, apparently in response to a move by federal regulators.

Federal regulators are attempting to hit a Virginia television station with the maximum $325,000 fine for broadcasting "extremely graphic and explicit sexual material." 

The FTC is launching a new office to investigate the digital security of a broad range of technologies. 

 

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

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem