Overnight Technology

Overnight Tech: Top Dem flooded with net neutrality calls

LEDE: Outside tech advocates have their base flooding top lawmakers with calls to keep any net neutrality policy riders out of a final spending deal. 

Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.), ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been a key target of the campaign. Her office did not reveal any details of negotiations Wednesday but pointed back to Mikulski’s previous opposition to attempts to blunt the rules. 

{mosads}On the House side, Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on Appropriations, would not talk about individual policy riders after Democrats rejected a package by Republicans earlier in the day and prepared a counter-offer. “We offered — we have a whole package, so I don’t want to deal with individual ones,” she said when asked about net neutrality.

‘CYNICAL MOVE’: Net neutrality supporters though are not letting up on the pressure. The group Demand Progress blasted Mikulski for not drawing a public line in the sand against a net neutrality rider: “Sen. Mikulski’s consideration of these harmful riders, which are being pushed by the telecom industry and its lobbyists, in a secretive process and out of the view of the public is a cynical political move and an incredible affront to the years-long process that led to the FCC’s historic Title II ruling, as well as the millions of people who have spoken out in favor of net neutrality.”

The statement is part of a weeks-long advocacy campaign supported by groups like Free Press, MoveOn, DailyKos and ColorOfChange — all of which contributed to the millions of pro-net neutrality statements sent to the FCC last year. 

UNLIKELY?: Last month, Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of leadership, said it was “unlikely” a net neutrality rider would make it into a final spending bill because of the controversy surrounding it and the threat of a veto. 

While Thune is not at the center of the appropriations process, an aide said, “Sen. Thune remains focused on his efforts with Ranking Member [Bill] Nelson to find a legislative framework as an alternative to the FCC’s order. He has not taken positions for or against targeted FCC amendments in the appropriations process.”

BLACK CAUCUS ANNOUNCES NEW TECH DIVERSITY PLANS: The Congressional Black Caucus plans to take another step to highlight diversity in tech by holding an event meant to dispute the idea that tech companies should be entirely focused on the “pipeline” for talent. Instead, the group believes, the talent already exists — but “Unfortunately, tech companies have focused too much on the discussion about the lack of an African American talent pipeline,” said Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).

Though not exhaustive, a series of groups will commit to specific steps they can take to diversify their workforces. That could include professional development opportunities for workers who have technical backgrounds and steps to publicize the names of African-Americans who would be well-suited to serving on tech company boards.

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS STILL TAKING HEAT FOR LAGGING TECH: The Government Accountability Office published a report finding the Library of Congress has not fully adopted the 31 recommendations it offered in March after detailing a number of weaknesses in its information technology management. The GAO found that the library had taken some steps, like hiring a chief technology officer. The March report was particularly critical of the Copyright Office’s electronic system. It said the office had so far drafted a strategic plan. 

PROFESSOR DEFENDS CLIMATE CHANGE VIDEO GAME AGAINST RAND PAUL ATTACK: University of South Florida associate professor Glenn Smith on Wednesday defended a $450,000 federal grant his project received in order to use a video game to help teach students about climate change. The grant is from 2013, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) highlighted it this week in his periodic “waste report.” Smith said this is not his “first rodeo” in defending the grant.  

“Computer games embedded in a novel to teach climate change?” he asked rhetorically. “Climate change science is complex, interdisciplinary and hard to learn. For any science content that is hard to learn, such as chemistry, biology, quantum physics, etc., it makes sense to explore new and novel ways to teach it.  It also makes sense to investigate new approaches scientifically to see whether they work or not and in what areas. It is only the ideological, non-scientific stance of the Republicans against climate change science that makes our project provocative.”

TECH GROUP TAKES ON ROBOCALL RULES: The Internet Association filed an amicus brief with an appeals court asking it to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s recent decision to strengthen its robocalling and robotexting rules. The lobbying group, which represents major Internet companies, said the new rules have the potential to sweep up legitimate business calls. Lyft, a member of the trade group, recently changed some of its texting policies after the FCC raised concerns. 

HOW LGBT-FRIENDLY IS TECH?: The Wall Street Journal reports that though tech companies are scored high on a major survey for how friendly workplaces are to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers, activists say the reality is more complicated. Notably, there are still very few openly LGBT executives at the top ranks of tech firms. Internal data on sexuality and gender identity at the companies is also sparse.


At 10 a.m., the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus will hold a press conference to announce “new efforts” to increase diversity in tech.

At 10:15 a.m., the Energy and Commerce will finish up a hearing on broadcast ownership. 


A Senate bill intended to curb trade secret theft wouldn’t directly address the rampant overseas digital espionage that is hurting American businesses, lawmakers and witnesses said at a Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.) on Wednesday introduced new legislation to stall or preempt reforms to U.S. intelligence agencies, days after the National Security Agency (NSA) ended a controversial program.

A House subcommittee signed off on legislation Wednesday meant to expand access to mobile and broadband Internet.

Millennials are not overly impressed with the thought of a world with driverless cars, personal space travel, drone delivery or virtual reality. 

An influential privacy activist is pressing European Union officials to halt Facebook’s data flows from Europe to the United States. 


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

Tags Appropriations Barbara Mikulski G.K. Butterfield John Thune Net neutrality Rand Paul Tom Cotton
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