Overnight Tech: House gears up for ‘hackathon’

LEDE: House leaders are hosting a "hackathon" on Capitol Hill intended to find ways for technology to help congressional staffers with their jobs.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) are hosting the event Friday, which follows a similar gathering in late 2011 that was summarized in an 18-page report.


Tech company employees are scheduled to meet with congressional staff and other open government advocates to "brainstorm" ideas to modernize hearings, as well as ease legislative workflow, constituent services and outreach.

The Open Government Foundation recently estimated about 12 percent of the government's budget goes to tech spending, including IT staff, technical support, maintenance and software. Still many have criticized Congress, and the government in general, for being far behind the private sector in adopting new technology. 

CBC MEMBER CALLS FCC VOTE 'FIRST' STEP: Rep. Marcia FudgeMarcia Louise FudgeHonoring John Lewis's voting rights legacy Teacher-centric is good, but student-centric is better The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Teachers' union President Randi Weingarten calls Trump administration plan to reopen schools 'a train wreck'; US surpasses 3 million COVID-19 cases MORE (D-Ohio), the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said an FCC vote to cap inmate prison rates is a big first step. She and a group of other Black Caucus members though had pressed the agency to go farther to completely ban the huge payments that prisons charge phone companies for exclusive contracts, which have contributed to sky-high phone rates.

"I haven't looked at it, but let me just say this to you: Maybe that is the first big step, but obviously we really believe our request should be granted because what is happening is that states and government entities are making a small fortune off of the backs of people in prison," she told The Hill.

FCC ALSO VOTES ON SPECTRUM, BROADCAST ITEMS: At the FCC's open meeting, the commission voted to advance proposed rules that would regulate the use of unlicensed spectrum above the 24 GHz band, which was previously believed to be largely useless for mobile devices because of technological limitations. The commission hopes the spectrum will one day help in emerging 5G mobile technology. The commission also pushed forward foreign ownership rules for broadcast licenses. The rules say a foreign entity cannot own more than 25 percent of a company that holds U.S. broadcast licenses. Those seeking a larger foreign ownership stake will be reviewed by the commission on a case-by-case basis. 

'PRE-AUCTION SHENANIGANS': FCC Commissioner Tom Wheeler predicted a successful incentive auction next year, even as Sprint recently said it will choose not to participate and Verizon recently said it will participate but that the type of spectrum being auctioned is not its top priority. 

"This is all pre-auction shenanigans that one can expect happens in any kind of a marketplace. I am confident there will be multiple broadcast licensees putting up their spectrum for auction and there will be multiple forward auction bidders to use that spectrum for competitive wireless services," he said. 

WALDEN AND ESHOO PUSH 'DIG ONCE' BILL: House E&C Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced an expected "dig once" bill Thursday. It would require that the construction of any road receiving federal funds include the laying of fiber-optic cable if the area has a need for broadband within the next 15 years.

BENGHAZI COMMITTEE LIGHTS UP SOCIAL MEDIA: Twitter released statistics finding about 330,000 tweets were sent by mid-day in reference to the Benghazi Committee as presidential contender Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHarris favored as Biden edges closer to VP pick Ron Johnson subpoenas documents from FBI director as part of Russia origins probe Juan Williams: Older voters won't forgive Trump for COVID MORE testified before the panel. By 5 p.m., about 15,500 had tuned into the committee's live stream on YouTube. The hearing was also broadcast live on cable news.

MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT AMAZON'S WAREHOUSES: A HuffPost feature released this week relates the story behind the death of a worker in a Virginia Amazon fulfillment warehouse. Among the details in the story is this line, which is drawing some attention online: "In the event of a medical emergency, contact Security. Do Not Call 911!" 

TUESDAY HEARING ON NET NEUTRALITY GETS WITNESSES: House Energy and Commerce has posted the witness list for next week's hearing on the impact of net neutrality on investment. The Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will hear from NYU professor Nicholas Economides, the Progressive Policy Institute's Michael Mandel, Frank Louthan of Raymond James Financial and Sonecon's Robert Shapiro.

AND WEDNESDAY'S ON BROADBAND: Wednesday's "Breaking Down Barriers to Broadband Infrastructure Deployment" hearing will feature, among others, Scott Bergmann, VP for regulatory affairs at CTIA, and CenturyLink's Jeb Benedict.

GROUPS ASK EDUCATION DEPT. FOR HELP ON YIK YAK: Ars Technica highlights a letter sent this week from a cohort of civil rights groups to the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights asking them to formally cover message apps like Yik Yak, which often allow anonymous posting, in federal harassment guidelines. Activists say that the apps provide a venue for harassment, particularly against women and members of minority groups.


At 10 a.m. in the Capitol Visitor's Center, congressional leaders will host a "hackathon."


Pandora has reached a settlement with a group of record labels that will keep recordings from before 1972 in the streaming service's catalogue for more than a year.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says it is not worried about the threat of another legal battle as prison-calling companies promised a lawsuit to block new rate caps approved Thursday. 

The price inmates pay to call their friends and family is set to decrease after the Federal Communications Commission voted Tuesday to cap the rates.

Sheryl Sandberg, the Facebook executive who wrote the "Lean In" bestseller, is praising Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump slams 'rogue' Sasse after criticism of executive actions Wary GOP eyes Meadows shift from brick-thrower to dealmaker Budowsky: Why I back Kennedy, praise Markey MORE (R-Wis.) for making time with his family a condition of accepting the Speakership.

Bitcoin and other virtual currencies should not be taxed when they are exchanged, a European court ruled on Thursday.


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