Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Net neutrality lawsuits represent industry who’s who

THE LEDE: The four trade groups fighting net neutrality rules in court represent a who’s who of the cable and mobile industries.

While AT&T is the only company so far to file a standalone lawsuit, nearly every major telecommunications company is a member of at least one of the lobbying organizations that are challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) new rules to reclassify Internet service.

Five suits alone have been filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. since the rules were published in the Federal Register on Monday.

{mosads}CTIA-The Wireless Association represents major mobile carriers like AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile, among others. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association represents fixed broadband companies like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Charter Communications. U.S. Telecom represents many of the same firms.

The American Cable Association, which also filed suit Tuesday, represents smaller and independent cable companies, covering about 7 million subscribers.

PARTISAN SPLIT LOOMING ON DATA BREACH BILL: House legislation aiming to protect companies against hackers could be on a path to partisanship. While the Data Security and Breach Notification Act was introduced by Reps. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), many Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee seem unwilling to hop onboard.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) — the committee’s ranking member — said on Tuesday that the bill “weakens existing consumer protections” rather than reducing data breaches. Expected amendments that will come up during the committee’s markup of the bill on Wednesday “make substantive changes but do not address the fundamental problems with the bill,” he added in an opening statement late on Tuesday afternoon.

“The limited protections in this bill would be inadequate from the moment it is enacted,” echoed Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). “The bill is a step backward.”

Panel Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), meanwhile, said that it “is closer than we have come in a long time to addressing a problem that has only worsened over the past decade.”

Welch also implored his fellow Democrats to hop onboard, taking on those who feared that the bill preempts state law. Welch is “normally against preemption,” he said, “but this is a situation where preemption is maybe necessary in order to protect consumers.” 

GROUP RANKS WORST TECH BILLS: The group NetChoice offered up its view on the year’s worst proposed technology legislation at the state and the federal level. At the top of the group’s list was legislation introduced in more than half a dozen states that would allow a trustee to access someone’s online information after they died. The group characterized the legislation as allowing an estate manager to have access to everything “even if you didn’t give permission beforehand.”

LEE WANTS NATIONAL REGULATION ON DEMAND LETTERS: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director Michelle Lee called for national regulation on patent demand letters. A single national approach could cut down inefficiencies from the patchwork of more than a dozen states laws across the country, she said during a House hearing on a broad patent litigation bill. A separate hearing is scheduled Thursday on a bill that deals specifically with demand letters.

“If you have to go in to 50 states and reach out to potential licensees in 50 states — but before you do that you need to consult the regulation of each of the 50 states to make sure that your letter reaching out to that business complies with that state’s laws — that’s rather inefficient,” Lee said.  

BILL WOULD GIVE INVENTORS ‘GRACE PERIOD’: New legislation introduced by a bipartisan team of lawmakers in both chambers would restore a one-year “grace period” for inventors to publicly disclose their new ideas before filing a patent application. The Grace Period Restoration Act from Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and David Vitter (R-La.) would restore the protection, which lawmakers said was unfortunately obfuscated in the 2011 America Invents Act.

NEW ADDS TO COMPTEL BOARD: The COMPTEL industry group got more than a dozen new companies to serve on its board of directors. Deb Ward, the head of Tennessee-based telecom carrier TSI, was reelected as the board’s chairwoman, and EarthLink executive Chris Murray was elected as vice chairman. Representatives from Google, Sprint and YourTel were also elected to the board for its new term, running from 2015 to 2017.

COMCAST GETS K STREET HELP: Comcast has picked up Cove Strategies to lobby on its behalf on “general communications issues,” according to a new disclosure report, including “cable programming issues.”

SYMANTEC GRABS LUGAR HELLMANN: Symantec has hired the Lugar Hellmann Group to help it out on cybersecurity and data security issues.

CYRRUS ANALYTICS GETS WORK: Cyrrus Analytics, a new consulting firm aiming to work with government contractors, has been hired to lobby on behalf of Amazon’s cloud computing arm, the National Telecommunications Institute and government IT group Meritalk.

BROADCASTERS EXPAND LOBBYING NET: Rounding out the day’s lobbying group hires, the National Association of Broadcasters has hired Epplin Strategic Planning for work on “telecom reform issues.”


At 10 a.m., the House Energy and Commerce Committee will finish its markup of a data breach notification bill.

Officials from Verizon, the U.S. Secret Service and PCI Security Standards Council will talk about data beaches during a Capitol Hill luncheon at 11:45 a.m.

At noon ET, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will speak at the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas.

Also at noon, a number of inventors will meet on Capitol Hill to warn against overbroad patent reform.

At 12:15, top executives from AT&T, Cisco, Visa and others will talk about innovation and American competitiveness at 1776.

At 3:15 p.m., Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will hold a roundtable with tech executives to talk about a range of tech issues.

The Consumer Electronics Association is holding its CES on the Hill showcase at 6 p.m.


Major trade groups representing the telecommunications and wireless industries are rushing to file lawsuits to kill the new net neutrality rules approved by the Federal Communications Commission.

European regulators are planning to accuse Google of violating antitrust law and illegally using its own size to push out competition, according to multiple reports.

One section of the House’s patent reform bill has the potential to limit investment in start-ups, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Michelle Lee told lawmakers on Tuesday.

Broadcasters aren’t pulling any punches in their legal fight against FCC regulations meant to stop them from colluding on advertising sales.

When it comes to Internet speeds, the first state appears to be best.


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

Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley@jmhattem

Tags AT&T David Vitter Federal Communications Commission Jim Sensenbrenner Marsha Blackburn Net neutrality Network neutrality Orrin Hatch Peter Welch Tammy Baldwin
See all Hill.TV See all Video