Overnight Tech: FCC chief talks up spectrum auction 'extravaganza'

LEDE: Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is predicting a major success for the agency's planned March spectrum auction. "84 days from today, there will be the world's largest spectrum auction that has ever taken place," he said, to light applause, at CES, the tech industry's trade show. "I think it is safe to say that you are going to see a spectrum extravaganza -- ok? -- that you are going to see lots of interest in selling the spectrum and lots of interest in buying the spectrum, and that that is going to be transformational."

But he was hesitant to make a prediction about how much cash the auction would bring in. "I am more interested in the spectrum that transfers at the end of the day then the dollars that transfer," he said.


We'll find out soon enough if Wheeler's prediction is accurate. The auction is scheduled to begin at the end of March, and the deadline is approaching for broadcasters to declare whether they want to participate in the sale.

What's the worst thing that can happen? "Oh, that it all blows up and we were wrong," he said. "But I'll go to the bookies here in Vegas and put my money down against that."

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS: Wheeler's comments came during a conversation with Consumer Technology Association head Gary Shapiro, part of the mammoth trade show the group is currently holding in Las Vegas. His session was followed by one featuring Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.

RAMIREZ SETS TIMEFRAME FOR ON-DEMAND ECONOMY, PATENT REPORTS...: Ramirez says she hopes the FTC's report about the on-demand economy will come out in the spring. She set the same timeframe for a long-running study on so-called patent trolls. That study, first announced back in 2013, is probing the business model of companies that do not make anything, but instead gather most of their money by using their patents to try and obtain licensing fees from others.

...AS THE AGENCY DROPS DATA REPORT: Ramirez's appearance at CES comes on the same day the agency released a report on the use of big data and the potential for an adverse impact on underserved or disadvantaged populations. "The Commission encourages companies to apply big data analytics in ways that provide benefits and opportunities to consumers, while avoiding pitfalls that may violate consumer protection or equal opportunity laws, or detract from core values of inclusion and fairness," the agency wrote in the report. In the paper, the agency suggests that users of big data should consider four questions, including whether their model accounts for biases and whether the usage of big data practices raise ethical concerns. You can read the full report here.

WHY YOU WON'T SEE RAMIREZ WEARING A FITBIT: During her conversation with Shapiro, the FTC chair said that she used a standard pedometer to track her steps without worrying about the ramifications for her personal data.

WHERE CAN'T YOU WATCH NETFLIX?: China, North Korea, Syria and Crimea are among the few places that will not see Netflix service with the streaming company's announcement Wednesday that it is going global. The U.S. government has restrictions on U.S. companies operating in Crimea, North Korea and Syria. Netflix said it "continues to explore options for providing the service" in China. But the country has strict censorship restrictions over the Internet.

181,000 RECREATIONAL DRONES REGISTERED: During a speech at the CES tech conference in Las Vegas, the head of the Federal Aviation Administration, Michael Huerta, said 181,000 recreational drones have already been registered under a program unveiled about a month ago. Huerta said final rules on the use of commercial drones should be finished by late spring, but the agency has already approved 3,000 commercial operators on a case-by-case basis.

UBER SETTLES WITH NY AG OVER 'GOD VIEW': Uber has settled with the office of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in an investigation into the company's data security practices, BuzzFeed News reports. The settlement reportedly includes Uber removing identifying information from its rider tracking system and comes after some at the company used the system to track individuals, including a BuzzFeed reporter.

THERE'S ALWAYS A 2016 ANGLE, HOVERBOARD EDITION: The hoverboard craze has reached the Clinton campaign's Brooklyn headquarters, according to Chairman John Podesta. Tweets are good, but we await the Vine.



The Iowa Democratic and Republican parties will hold a 2 p.m. ET conference call Thursday to discuss new technology being implemented in the state's first-in-the-nation presidential caucus.



The chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday that negotiators are "well on our way" to reaching a new agreement governing how American companies can store data belonging to Europeans.

Dozens of Internet rights groups are pressing Facebook to clean up its "unfounded and divisive" advocacy in India around Free Basics, the social media company's program to offer limited Internet access for free.

As the technology industry descends on Las Vegas for the annual CES conference, one net neutrality opponent is running a full-page ad in a local newspaper comparing the head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to Chinese Internet regulators.

A federal judge has ruled that Sprint customers can pursue a class-action lawsuit against Yahoo over automated text messages that they believe violated the law.

A company that sells software to dental practices will pay $250,000 to settle federal charges it misled customers about the level of encryption used to secure patient data.


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