OVERNIGHT TECH: Net neutrality wants a part in the 'vote-a-rama'

THE LEDE: Net neutrality is about to poke its head into the Senate's budget "vote-a-rama."

Sens. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate passes .5 billion border bill, setting up fight with House Senate GOP to defeat proposal requiring approval for Iran attack Senate GOP aims to jam House Democrats on border fight MORE (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) have a joint amendment they are planning for Thursday evening -- or Friday morning -- that would support efforts to "preserve and protect an open Internet in a manner that provides clear and certain rules" and protects competition, consumer safety and other issues. Thune, who heads the Commerce Committee, had initially planned a more critical measure that opposed the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) "public utility regulations," but changed the language on Thursday in order to win over Nelson's support.

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The amendment, like all amendments during the marathon budget session, is purely symbolic and non-binding. Still, it's the first bipartisan net neutrality effort since the FCC voted on its rules last month and may provide the faintest flickering of hope for those who want to see Democrats and Republicans come together on net neutrality legislation. There's no timing yet set for the vote on the measure, though the Senate is expected to go into early hours of the morning with the scores of votes.

For some personal commentary, Thune and Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are going to have a live, online conversation from the Capitol through Periscope, Twitter's new live-streaming app. The two will be talking about the net neutrality measure as well as the balanced budget resolution through the Twitter handle @CommerceGOP, starting on Thursday evening at 7 p.m.

At the same time, look out for Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate GOP to defeat proposal requiring approval for Iran attack Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't need exit strategy with Iran | McConnell open to vote on Iran war authorization | Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales Senate panel advances bill to restrict emergency arms sales MORE's (R-Utah) alternate net neutrality amendment that is meant to prevent the FCC from reclassifying Internet service providers as "common carriers" -- a move made by the commission last month that gives it increased authority to enforce net neutrality rules. Lee's office said it was "hoping to see" the proposal get a vote but did not have any information beyond that.

Among the hundreds of other symbolic amendments offered during the budget process were proposals dealing with other tech issues ranging from rural broadband expansion and high-skilled visas to the Commerce Department's plan to give up oversight of the Internet domain name system and another to permanently extend the ban on taxing Internet access.

HELP TO 'ORPHAN COUNTIES': The FCC on Thursday moved forward with draft regulations to help cut down on the phenomenon of "orphan counties" that aren't able to pick up local broadcast signals. The new rules would set up a process for reshaping the market of local broadcast stations for subscribers of satellite TV companies. That should help make sure that people in rural areas get the local news, weather and sports information that matters most to them. The new rules were called for by Congress's recent reauthorization of a key satellite TV licensing law, the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) Act.

FTC STOPS 'YELLOW PAGES' FRAUD: The Federal Trade Commission halted a pair of operations that allegedly fraudulently attempted to charge businesses for being included in an online business directory that resembled the Yellow Pages. The pair allegedly attempted to charge businesses after their information had already appeared. One Canada-based firm settled with the FTC. A court in Quebec halted the other operation of another at the request of the commission. They are accused of misrepresenting that businesses had agreed to buy a listing and owed money.

YAHOO REPORTS SURVEILLANCE DECLINE: The U.S. government asked for substantially less information from Yahoo during the last half 2014 than it did in previous months, according to the company's new transparency report. From June through December, the U.S. asked for information about more than 9,700 accounts -- a significant decline from the 12,500 about which it asked earlier in the year.

"At Yahoo, users always come first," general counsel Ron Bell wrote in a blog post. "We evaluate each government request with a focus on minimizing disclosure of user data and we publish a transparency report to promote accountability and transparency."

HIGH TECH FORUM HITS THE SWITCH: There's a new show in town aiming to teach policymakers about how technology works. Engineering pioneer Richard Bennett's new High Tech Forum is looking to make sure that people know what they're talking about when they talk about tech. "High Tech Forum will put the tech back into tech policy, and bring much-needed clarity to a discussion that needs a sound underpinning in how Internet infrastructure actually works," it promised in a release.

INTEL PUSHES CONGRESS ON HIGH-SKILLED VISAS: As the April 1 date nears for the U.S. government to begin accepting applications for high-skilled visas, Intel, like many other technology companies, is pressing Congress to raise the yearly cap. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service estimated the 65,000 cap -- excluding exemptions -- will be reached within five days this year. A bipartisan group of lawmakers have introduced a bill to increase the yearly cap, but it has run into resistance from members who argue there is no shortage of STEM workers in the states.

In a blog post, Intel's Lisa Malloy, who leads government relations, argued: "Increasing the H-1B visa cap will help America's high-tech companies recruit the talent they need to continue the relentless pace of innovation that sustains our national competitiveness, drives economic growth and creates jobs in the process."

EX-LAWMAKERS HOP ON APP BOARD: Former Reps. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.) have joined the board of advisors of Countable, a mobile application that aims to help people keep track of legislation.

 

ON TAP:

President Obama will meet with members of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) at 3:15 p.m.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

The chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus wants a legislative fix on net neutrality.

The top human rights body in the United Nations has voted to create a special watchdog dedicated to the right to privacy in the digital age.

The head of the FCC is urging the NFL to extend its temporary ban on blacked-out games.

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee is doubling down on his call for changes to the National Security Agency.

The FCC unanimously voted to switch control of a key technical system for phone numbers, over the concerns of outside groups. 

 

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