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Overnight Tech: Senate to kick off broadband review

LEDE: Wednesday marks the start of a series of hearings on wireless broadband by the Senate Commerce Committee.

The biggest-name on the witness list is Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel. The rest of the panel is comprised of experts and CTIA chief Meredith Attwell Baker.

The committee said that the witnesses will be asked to discuss "how federal spectrum policy may need to change to meet national challenges and what role Congress should play in establishing a successful spectrum strategy over the next few decades."

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"Consumer demand will only grow for high-speed wireless Internet access, 4G LTE, and other services that require wireless spectrum," said committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneNRSC chair says he'll back GOP incumbents against Trump primary challengers Biden steps into debt fight on Capitol Hill McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE (R-S.D.). "The hearing on Wednesday will be the first in a series on U.S. wireless spectrum policy, designed to address the growing demand for wireless broadband and to gather input for a long-term legislative solution."

In her testimony, Rosenworcel will call for the incentive auction model to be explored for the spectrum held by the federal government: "The future of spectrum policy requires incentives," she will say. "We need a federal spectrum policy that is based on carrots, not sticks. If we want a robust and reliable spectrum pipeline, we need to make sure that federal authorities see gain--and not just loss--when their airwaves are reallocated for new mobile broadband use."

Baker will pledge industry's efforts to accommodate increased data usage by consumers, but will say lawmakers and industry must address a possible shortage of spectrum together.

"America needs a renewed discussion about where the next bands of airwaves will come from to ensure our future connected life is realized," she is expected to say. "Because after next year's broadcast incentive auction, we don't know what's next."

FACEBOOK RELEASES DIVERSITY TRAINING: Facebook has posted its internal training on unconscious bias to the web. It's part of an effort by the social network to improve its track record on diversity. They've made little progress on hiring since last year, when they released demographic numbers for the first time: The number of racial minorities in technical jobs changed by only 2 percentage points since last summer.

RAND PROBABLY NOT GOING TO GET PETER THIEL'S CAMPAIGN CASH: Politico reports that it is unlikely that Peter Thiel, the libertarian venture capitalist who founded PayPal, will back Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Senate confirms Biden's intel chief, giving him first Cabinet official McConnell faces conservative backlash over Trump criticism MORE's (R-Ky.) presidential campaign. Thiel was a major financial support of his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), when he ran for president.

FCC RELEASES AT&T MERGER ORDER: The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday released its opinion and order approving of AT&T's merger with DirecTV, coming in at 241 pages. The document contains descriptions of the merger, an analysis of the benefits and harms, and a series of conditions or "remedies" that the agency required, including requirements on fiber deployment, low-income subscriber rates, interconnection oversight, and the creation of a compliance officer. 

DEMS SAY PROGRAMMING ACCESS RIPE FOR REVIEW: Democratic FCC commissioners, in statements approving the AT&T-DirecTV merger, called for the commission to take a fresh look at television carriage and access rules. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn asked Chairman Tom Wheeler to begin a notice of inquiry to help provide an "even playing field for smaller operators to remain competitive." Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the issue of independent programming and access to video distribution is "ripe for examination, and [I] hope that the commission can find another forum for discussion on this important topic."

PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE STUDIES ZERO-RATING: Public Knowledge released a case study of the use of zero-rating Internet plans in five countries -- Chile, India, the Netherlands, Brazil and Colombia. In the report, the group concluded that the potential for abuse of the business model outweighs any benefits. Zero-rating is the process by which a service provider like T-Mobile does not count certain data use against its cap. For example, if Facebook was zero rated, customers could use the social media network on their phones without the worry of draining their allotted data for the month. Some say the zero-rating is a violation of the spirit of net neutrality, but the FCC declined to weigh in on the debate in its latest rules. 

CONSERVATIVE GROUPS PUSH FOR E-COMMUNICATIONS REFORM: Tech Freedom and more than a dozen other conservative groups are slated to fire off a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary committees on Wednesday, pressing them to take up reform of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. The reform, which would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before searching through old emails, has massive support in the House and Senate. The groups urges passage "without... unnecessary and troubling" exceptions pushed by some regulators and law enforcement. 

ON TAP:

At 9 a.m., the American Enterprise Institute will hold a talk on the Dotcom Act, with Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

At 10 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the Internet of Things. 

Also at 10:00 a.m., the Senate Commerce Committee will probe the future of spectrum policy and wireless broadband. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: 

The Senate's annual intelligence policy bill is hitting a speedbump thanks to Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate Democrats file ethics complaint against Hawley, Cruz over Capitol attack With a new president and a new Congress, it's time for Medicare drug price negotiation The Hill's Morning Report - President Biden, Vice President Harris begin work today MORE (D-Ore.).

Some members of Congress might be inappropriately robocalling their constituents' mobile phones.  

Republican appropriators "really screwed" the Federal Communications Commission in the appropriations process, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said during an oversight hearing Tuesday. 

Amazon, which says it hopes to one day deliver packages using small drones, has issued a proposal for a new way to govern the airspace used by the unmanned crafts.

Secretary of Labor Tom Perez has decried what he calls a "false choice" between worker protections and innovation during a conversation about the burgeoning "on-demand economy."

 

Please send tips and comments to David McCabe, dmccabe@thehill.com and Mario Trujillo, mtrujillo@thehill.com Follow us on Twitter: @HilliconValley, @dmccabe