OVERNIGHT TECH: Lawmakers launch caucus on Internet's 'sharing economy'

THE LEDE: Reps. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellLive coverage: Schiff closes with speech highlighting claims of Trump's corruption The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Johnson & Johnson — Vindman defends witnesses from 'cowardly' attacks at third day of hearings Swalwell on flatulence allegation: Total exoneration MORE (D-Calif.) and Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaWhy the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy Elijah Cummings, native son of Baltimore, gets emotional send-off from Democratic luminaries Lawmakers come together to honor Cummings: 'One of the greats in our country's history' MORE (R-Calif.) said Tuesday they are launching the Sharing Economy Caucus, referring to companies like Uber and Airbnb.

"This Caucus will explore the opportunities made possible by the sharing model, and how Congress can foster innovation and address challenges posed by this emerging sector," Swalwell said in a statement. The group will launch on Wednesday with a briefing entitled "The Sharing Economy: What is it and what does it mean for our society?" featuring government affairs executives from Lyft and Airbnb, among other panelists.

This isn't the first time Washington has noticed the rapid growth of sharing economy companies. Republicans have hailed Uber, which reportedly has a multi-billion dollar valuation, as a symbol of free market success.

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"The issue is larger than Uber. How many companies, how many products, how many innovations have died prematurely because the government over-reached and interfered in the free market?" Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus asked in a statement to The Hill in August.

The Federal Trade Commission is also weighing the issues raised by the quick rise of sharing companies. It announced earlier this year that it would host a workshop on the sharing economy in June.

CBC PREPARES TECH PUSH: The Congressional Black Caucus said Tuesday it would begin an initiative "aimed at engaging the tech sector in increasing African American representation and inclusion in the industry." Dubbed CBC TECH 2020, the initiative will officially launch with a May 19 event.

61 SENATORS PRESS FCC ON UNIVERSAL SERVICE: Sixty-one senators sent a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler calling on him to make "careful, targeted" updates to the rules governing the Universal Service Fund, which helps provide subsidies for phone and Internet service around the country. Currently rural customers served by small telecom companies who want subsidies for Internet access must also purchase phone service. As more Americans move away from traditional phone service, the senators argue the FCC rules "have not kept pace with changing technology and shifting consumer preference."

VERIZON EXPECTS OVERSIGHT OF AOL DEAL FROM DOJ OR FTC: A spokesman for Verizon tells The Hill that they believe their deal to purchase AOL will require approval from either the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice. Both regulators declined to comment on the transaction. In their statement announcing the deal, Verizon and AOL said they expect the roughly $4.4 billion sale to be final by this summer.

The deal is relatively small in the context of other of recent tech transactions. Its value is much smaller than the Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal regulators at Justice and the Federal Communications Commission blew up last month, which clocked in at $45 billion. AT&T's pending merger with DirecTV is worth $49 billion.

SENATORS WARN FCC ON CABLE RULES: About a dozen Democratic senators are warning the FCC that a new agency proposal goes against Congress's intent and could lead to increased cable rates. The provision is tucked into a satellite TV reauthorization bill that was approved last year. The lawmakers, led by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), argued that a provision meant to provide relief for small, rural cable operators now could apply to nearly all cable companies, big and small.

LAWMAKERS TO EXPLORE '.SUCKS.': A pair of House committee's will explore the world of Internet domain names on Wednesday -- including the infamous ".sucks" address. The House Judiciary Committee and Energy and Commerce Committee will both hear testimony on the government's plan to hand off oversight and management of the Internet domain name system.

DOMAIN OPERATOR BRUSHES OFF 'HEAT': The Judiciary Committee will specifically dig into the ".sucks." domain name and its operator that has been criticized for alleged "predatory" behavior when selling the names. Vox Populi, the company that controls the domain, will not be attending. The company's chief executive John Barard told The Hill he does not believe his company was invited but said the criticism is unfounded. He said some congressional hearings "are often as much about heat as they are about light."

 

ON TAP:

At 9 a.m., the Atlantic Council will hold a talk on the Defense Department's outreach in Silicon Valley.

At 10:00 a.m., the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet will hold a hearing on ICANN accountability. It will focus on the ".sucks" domain.

The afternoon will bring more domain talk. A 2:00 p.m., the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on the consequences of the government relinquishing control of the Internet domain name system.

At 2:30, companies like Airbnb and Lyft will discuss the sharing economy in the Rayburn House office building, following the announcement of the Sharing Economy Caucus.

 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Kevin Martin, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is joining Facebook's policy team as vice president for mobile and global access policy.

Disagreements between FCC commissioners over the the net neutrality rules flared up on Tuesday at a Senate appropriations hearing.

A pair of senators is pushing legislation that would allow U.S. commercial drones to fly before federal regulations on them are finalized.

Verizon and Sprint have agreed to pay regulators a total of $158 million for allegedly overcharging customers for apps, games, music and other premium content they did not intend to purchase.  

The White House is putting its full weight behind legislation putting limits on U.S. surveillance and renewing key portions of the Patriot Act.

— This post was updated to reflect that the House Judiciary Committee will hold the 10 a.m. hearing. 

 

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