Overnight Tech: Five tech takeaways from Commerce pick's hearing | Groups accuse Facebook of 'censorship' | Wireless auction moves ahead | Pokemon Go at Davos

Overnight Tech: Five tech takeaways from Commerce pick's hearing | Groups accuse Facebook of 'censorship' | Wireless auction moves ahead | Pokemon Go at Davos

TECH TAKEAWAYS FROM COMMERCE HEARING: President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' MORE's nominee for secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, fielded questions at his first confirmation hearing on Wednesday and revealed his positions on a number of tech issues he is expected to face.

It had not been clear until now where Ross stood on many tech issues since he has never held elected or public office.

Unlike many other confirmation hearings for Trump administration nominees, Wednesday's meeting was friendly and largely without fireworks, as both Democrats and Republicans pitched easy questions to Ross, and with senators generally finding agreement with his answers.

Along the way, Ross addressed a number of the pet tech issues that lawmakers on the Senate Commerce Committee have been passionate about.

Here are five takeaways from Ross's testimony.

On wireless spectrum: "We need more spectrum in the private sector. And I will try my best to convince government agencies who have spectrum and don't really need it to permit it to be commercialized," he said. "And that may very well be a help towards extending broadband to some of the more rural communities and other segments that are underserved right now."

On broadband as infrastructure: "I think broadband is an essential part [of infrastructure]," said Ross. "Broadband is to a very large degree a path to the future, and I think therefore it's a very essential component of economic policy altogether, including the infrastructure component."

On the U.S.-EU Privacy Shield agreement: "The agreements that exist obviously exist, but I think going forward there will be a tension between privacy on the one hand and problems of the localization of data and the implications that they have for the internet as we go forward. So I think that's going to be a very tricky balancing act but I look forward to consulting with you on it."

On working with Silicon Valley: "Well I think all aspects of internet need encouragement. There are issues, technical issues, privacy issues and such as that come up. So it's not a simple subject, but when President-elect Trump convened the meeting of the high tech CEO's some weeks ago, he was kind enough to have me very much involved with that. I was impressed with how willing the high tech people were to work with the new administration to try to deal with these kinds of issues, even though as it happened during the campaign, we were not necessarily the recipient of much support from them. So I think that was a very good thing, and some of those leaders have followed up with me subsequently with more specific suggestions."


On the internet transition: "As such a big market and really as the inventors of the internet I'm a little surprised that we seem to be essentially voiceless in the governance of that activity. That strikes me as an intellectually incorrect solution, but I'm not aware of what it is that we actually can do right now to deal with that," said Ross. Outside of the tech issues, Ross also discussed his preference for bilateral trade deals, talked about the role of tarrifs, and came under fire for unknowingly hiring an undocumented worker.

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.

FACEBOOK 'CENSORSHIP' CONTROVERSY:  Almost 80 groups penned a letter on Wednesday accusing Facebook of "racially biased censorship," reports Reuters. In their letter, the coalition called for Facebook to be more transparent in its cooperation with law enforcement and regarding its removal policies. The letter was sent as in response to Senior Vice President Joel Kaplan's December letter that said that Facebook was working to address concerns of the advocacy groups.

NEXT STAGE OF WIRELESS AUCTION: Outgoing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the bidding has fulfilled the requirements of the incentive auction's Final Stage Rule meaning the auction will move ahead to the final Stage Four phase. Bidders will vie for the spectrum.

"The world's first spectrum incentive auction has delivered on its ambitious promise. Reaching the Final Stage Rule means the benefits of the auction are indisputable," Wheeler said.

"The auction will provide $10.05 billion to broadcast television licensees who participated and billions towards deficit reduction. There is still a long road ahead to successfully implement the post-auction transition of broadcast stations to their new channels and bring the new wireless and unlicensed spectrum to market. This will be an extremely important task for my successor and the new Commission; I wish them well," Wheeler added.

ONE MAN'S TRASH: Google is acquiring Fabric, Twitter's mobile platform developer and Crashlytics, its crash reporting system. Twitter is cutting non-essential divisions as it tries to improve itself financially. Fabric currently reaches 2.5 billion users and is used by over 580,000 developers. The company has faced investor criticism for stalled growth and its future has been questioned by many in Silicon Valley. Twitter will still hold onto other developer apps like Publisher Platform, Twitter Kit, Gnip, TweetDeck, plus its Public APIs and Ads APIs which are reportedly essential to its core business.

FACEBOOK IN COURT: Mark Zuckerberg testified in court Wednesday in a lawsuit regarding Oculus, Facebook's virtual reality (VR) subsidiary. Virtual reality company ZeniMax alleges that Oculus stole crucial elements of its technology. Should they lose the suit, Facebook could lose as much as $2 billion reports the New York Times. In the hearing, Zuckerberg said that he thinks VR is 5 to 10 years off from "where we all want to go." The company expects to invest $3 billion in VR over the next decade.

A BILL IN THE BILLIONS: A new study from libertarian think tank the Cato Institute, found that repealing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, would come with a $60 billion price tag for American taxpayers. "American workers are benefiting from DACA recipients' work and education, and recipients are generating revenue that helps our economy," said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. "President-elect Trump should see that DACA is a good deal for the American worker."

During his attorney general confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary committee last week, Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsSessions: DOJ concerned about suppression of free speech on college campuses Faith communities are mobilizing against Trump’s family separation policy Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe lands book deal MORE (R-Ala.) said that while he still needed to do his homework, he believed that DACA was unconstitutional. Sessions is expected to be confirmed.



The Center for Democracy and Technology will hold an event on digital rights at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday.



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