Overnight Technology

Overnight Tech: Trump team eyes FCC overhaul | AT&T chief says no plans to spin off CNN in merger | Commerce pick heads to hearing


TRUMP MEETS WITH FCC REPUBLICAN: President-elect Donald Trump met with Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai this weekend as many wonder what direction his administration will take the agency in.

Pai is widely expected to take over as chairman of the FCC — at least in the interim — once the current chairman, Tom Wheeler, steps down at the end of the week.


Trump also has a GOP slot and Democratic spot to fill on the panel. The panel will have a 2-to-1 Republican majority after Wheeler vacates his seat and a 3-2 GOP edge after two new commissioners.

It’s unclear who else is in the running for chairman or the vacant GOP seat, but Trump’s picks will be closely watched for signs on how he will approach net neutrality and other issues before the agency.

The Trump-Pai meeting came a day after Multichannel News reported that the president-elect had signed off on a proposal to restructure the FCC, shifting many functions involving competition and consumer protection to the Federal Trade Commission.

The proposal largely aligns with the philosophies of Pai and Michael O’Rielly, the other GOP member of the commission.


Please send your tips, comments and stray observations  to Ali Breland (abreland@thehill.com) and Harper Neidig (hneidig@thehill.com) and follow us on Twitter: @alibreland@hneidig  and @HilliconValley.


NEXT UP – TRUMP’S COMMERCE PICK: After a delay, Wilbur Ross — Trump’s pick to replace Penny Pritzker as Commerce secretary — will finally get the chance to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday. Tech issues could get some attention in the investor and former banker’s hearing tomorrow.

Commerce is responsible for the Patent Office, the National Telecom and Information Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Ross could face questions about the U.S.’s privacy-shield agreement with the European Union, as Trump’s take on surveillance has worried some privacy advocates that fear he could undermine the deal’s safeguards. The hearing may also shed light on Ross’s tech policies which are still largely unknown.


THE FEELING WHEN YOUR ALLOWANCE GETS CUT: Facebook will stop paying content providers to make live videos for its website, Recode reports. Facebook will instead focus its efforts on expanding premium video content as part of larger efforts by executive Ricky Van Veen of Collegehumor.com fame. The company is reportedly interested in paying creators of TV-style videos similar to the Netflix model. The company for now is staying mum on the subject and not commenting to media on their plans.


ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, REAL JOBS: IBM CEO Ginni Rometty released a set of principles on Tuesday regarding responsible deployment of artificial intelligence (AI). Rometty noted that transparency, purpose and skills were critical to the development and public reception of AI moving forward. She spoke on the subject today at the ongoing World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where she noted that AI would not be a job killer contrary to the predictions of some critics.


A LAW TECH LOVES: The Supreme Court decided earlier this month to defer to lower courts over a controversial law shielding tech companies from the content users posted on their websites.

The justices declined to take up an appeal from women suing online classifieds website Backpage.com, who alleged they had been forced into sex work as minors.

The controversy brought new attention on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has kept internet companies like Twitter and Facebook out of trouble for criminal content posted by their users. They say it protects them from content that they can’t always police. But critics say the law encourages companies to be slow to address problematic posts on their site. Terrorists have used Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for recruitment and users have dealt with serious harassment problems. The Ringer looks at why companies have been silent on mitigating these problems, until recently.


TRUMP CONSIDERING UTAH AG FOR FTC CHAIR: Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes is in the running to head up the Federal Trade Commission under the Trump administration, Politico reports.

Reyes joined with other attorneys general last year to call on the FTC to reopen its antitrust investigation into Google. But he has also been on the receiving end of campaign contributions from companies like Facebook and Microsoft.


WE THINK WE’RE GONNA KEEP IT: AT&T Chairman Randall Stephenson says he doesn’t think a combined AT&T-Time Warner will need to spin off CNN for their merger proposal to get approved.

“I don’t know why we’d even talk about that,” Stephenson told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday, reports The Hill’s Joe Concha.

“It doesn’t seem relevant to approving a deal like this,” he added. “What would be the competitive issue that you’re remedying with spinning off CNN? There are not competitive issues with owning CNN.” Joe has more on Stephenson’s comments here.



Wilbur Ross, Trump’s pick for Commerce secretary will testify before the Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m.

R Street will be holding an event on Congress’s tech preparedness on Wednesday at noon.

The American Enterprise Institute will hold an event on Patent Reform Wednesday at 12:30 p.m.



Divisional playoff games and Aaron Rodgers blowing through NFC defenses distract you over the long weekend? Here’s what happened in tech and politics:

FCC’s Wheeler will be joining the Aspen Institute after he steps down

Politico reported that Peter Thiel is considering a run for governor in California

Tech workers plan to protest Palantir

SpaceX launches first rocket since September explosion

Decline in two families of malware has researchers stumped

Trump, House GOP could clash over ‘Buy America’

Tech titans make pilgrimage to Trump Tower

Mega-mergers poised to get green light under Trump

Tags Donald Trump Penny Pritzker

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