Overnight Technology

OVERNIGHT TECH: Lobbying dips for tech groups

THE LEDE: Lobbying spending dropped off for many major tech and telecom trade groups during the first quarter of this year.

While many disclosure forms had not yet been filed as of press time — the deadline for the quarter’s filings is midnight — multiple groups reported a slight downtick in their lobbying expenses during the first few months of the new Congress, compared with the same time last year. 

{mosads}Even the well-heeled National Association of Broadcasters toned down its influence spending during the first quarter. The trade group spent $4.72 million over the first four months of the year, a $560,000 decrease from a year ago. That money paid for focus on a variety of issues, including communications policy, drone rules and copyright reform. 

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association — which often ranks in the top ten for annual lobbying — spent $3.78 million over the last four months, a $360,000 decrease compared to the same time last year. The lobbying covered a variety of issues, from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reform bills to surveillance measures to taxes. 

Facebook, with one of the largest lobbying operations among tech companies, spent $2,440,000 in the first quarter, about $300,000 less than this time last year. The social media company’s lobbying touched on nearly every issue from patent and NSA reform to trade and immigration. 

The trend was similar at the U.S. Telecom Association, which put down $1.18 million in the first quarter — $70,000 less than last year. IBM reported a slight decrease, down from $1.26 million in the first quarter of last year to $1 million this time. The Internet Association reported spending $360,000, a slight downtick from the $400,000 it spent over the first four month of last year. Much of that focus was on patent reform issues, though surveillance and trade measures were also high on the list. BSA | The Software Alliance spent $410,000, a $20,000 decrease from last year. 

CTIA-The Wireless Association appears to be one of the few exceptions to the rule, spending $50,000 more this quarter than the same time last year, for a total of $3.13 million. 

Netflix spent $330,000 on lobbying in the first quarter, a nearly 10 percent increase from the same period the year before. It lobbied Congress on intellectual property, privacy and net neutrality issues. Ebay spent just over $572,000, a $100,000 increase from this time last year. 

HOUSE TO START UNLICENSED SPECTRUM INQUIRY: Bipartisan leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are going to hold a series of meetings to explore how more people can use the nation’s unlicensed chunks of spectrum. In coming months, lawmakers will meet with officials from the Federal Communications Commission, Transportation Department and the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to see how they are responding to a 2012 law requiring the government to study the use of expanded spectrum. 

The inquiry is good news to some segments of the tech industry that have urged regulators to open up more space for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other signals. But some automotive companies have been more cautious, and urged lawmakers not to prioritize Wi-Fi at the expense of technology used by “smart” cars. The automobile industry has been using the 5.9 GHz band to develop more connected cars, and has skeptically eyed efforts to speed up sharing of that space. 

ITIF RUNS DOWN IMMIGRATION ‘MYTHS’: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation has a new report out aiming to refute ten “myths” about high-skilled immigration. The paper confronts a handful of economists who have disputed the need for more science and engineering workers by pointing to data showing a shortage of talent, claiming that companies need foreign workers to stay competitive and denying that they are a substitute for American engineers, among other arguments.

PUBLIC SKEPTICAL OF AI: More than seven in 10 people believe computers with artificial intelligence (AI) would hurt the economy and jobs in the country if they were ever developed. A Monmouth University poll released Monday found only 19 percent believe the creation of AI would help the economy. People of all ages are in agreement that the development would hurt the economy. Forty-two percent of people said AI would do more harm than good to society overall.

BLIND ACCUSE UBER OF DISCRIMINATION: A federal Judge in California is allowing a lawsuit to go forward that accuses Uber of discriminating against blind people, according to Reuters. The plaintiffs, including the advocacy group the National Federation of the Blind in California, allege more than 40 instances in which Uber drivers refused to carry service animals for blind people. The judge said the plaintiffs could proceed with their case that Uber is a travel service and is subject to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court rejected Uber’s argument that the plaintiffs lacked standing.  

NEUSTAR BROUGHT ON LOTT, BREAUX FOR LATE HELP: Neustar hired former Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and John Breaux (D-La.) to lobby on their behalf in the final hours before the FCC voted to kill its contract for a phone numbering system. A new federal disclosure form shows that the company hired the two lawmakers as well as others at lobbying mega-firm Squire Patton Boggs on Feb. 12, a month and a half before the FCC’s decision to hand over the role of the Local Number Portability Administrator (LNPA) to an Ericsson subsidy. 

Neustar had fought vigorously to maintain control of the lucrative technical system. In addition to Squire Patton Boggs, it had also hired former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff to oppose the FCC’s move. The technical system allowed people to retain their phone numbers when switching from one provider to another. 

FCC UPDATING WEBSITE: The Federal Communications Commission announced Monday that it would roll out a new website by Sept. 30, after six month of studying design and functionality. Before that, the agency will implement HTTPS by default and a new search function by the end of May. On Monday, it previewed what the design will look like once it is completed. 

EX-WHITE HOUSE ADVISOR TO FOCUS ON BITCOIN AT MIT: Brian Forde, a former White House senior advisor for mobile and data innovation, has joined the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to lead its work on bitcoin and other digital currency.  


The Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on telehealth technology at 10 a.m.

At noon, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) will give the opening remarks at a Center for Public Policy Innovation event on the “Internet of Everything.” 


New “fast-track” trade legislation goes too far to protect movies, images and other intellectual property online, critics say, without adequately protecting people who use those works legitimately.

Recycling might not be the first thing people think of when they hear about the National Security Agency, but the spy agency wants to change that.

former aide to Jeb Bush is trying to help people avoid becoming the next casualty of social media.

“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver on Sunday night put his backing behind a House bill aimed at thwarting so-called patent trolls. 

Sen. Al Franken appears optimistic that regulators could step in to block Comcast’s $45 billion proposed merger with Time Warner Cable.


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