Overnight Tech: Groups push to undo FCC privacy rules | Verizon eyes new merger | WH tightens Trump’s Twitter security | New funds for rural broadband
GROUPS SEEK TO UNDO FCC PRIVACY RULES: Conservative groups are urging Congress to roll back the broadband privacy rules that were enacted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year.
In a letter to House and Senate leaders, the groups asked the lawmakers to use their Congressional Review Act authority to rescind the FCC’s Broadband Privacy Order. The letter’s signees include the telecom industry-aligned NetCompetition as well as free-market groups like Americans for Tax Reform and FreedomWorks.
“Congress is fully justified in rescinding these rules both because the Order lacks proper legal grounding and because of the need to ensure real consumer privacy across contexts of user experience,” the letter reads.
The regulations were passed in October and require internet service providers to obtain permission from customers before using their browsing and app usage data.
The FCC gained authority to regulate privacy under the net neutrality rules it implemented in 2015, which reclassified broadband providers as utilities. Conservatives have criticized the rules in part because they effectively eliminate the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to police privacy regulations.
Thursday’s letter questioned the legality of the net neutrality rules that provided the basis for the privacy regulation, even though it has survived a number of legal challenges.
Read the full story here.
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VERIZON EXPLORING MERGER WITH CHARTER: Verizon is reportedly taking a preliminary look at a merger with fellow telecom giant Charter. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam has approached officials close to Charter on a potential deal. Sources told the newspaper that Verizon is also consulting with advisers about what such a merger would involve. Charter’s interest in such a deal is unclear. Verizon and Charter both declined to comment on the report. If both companies agreed, such a deal would likely be met with significant regulatory scrutiny over potential antitrust and anticompetitive concerns, given the overlapping media and communications spaces the companies occupy. Charter is the nation’s second largest cable company after its merger with Time Warner Cable.
Read the full story here.
TRUMP FCC LANDING TEAM MEMBER ON THE MERGER TALK: “What I think will happen, because what I heard from Commissioner Pai is that the FCC will not be taking a position that this is good or this is bad, it will analyze it first, which is exactly what it should be doing,” Trump FCC landing team appointee Mark Jamison told The Hill. Jamison added that he hasn’t analyzed the AT&T-Time Warner merger and declined to offer his own opinion it.
TRUMP HEADHUNTER: Trump’s primary bridge to Silicon Valley, Peter Thiel, is leading the administration’s search for antitrust officials reports BuzzFeed News. Thiel is reportedly still hunting for a permanent Federal Trade Commission chair after naming Maureen Ohlhausen acting chairwoman on Wednesday. Reports state that former Commissioner Joshua Wright is still in the mix for the job along with Sean Reyes, Utah’s attorney general. Thiel is also looking for a new Justice Department antitrust chief.
SANDBERG 2020?: Mark Zuckerberg denied having plans to run for president this week, after making series of moves that sparked speculation that he was eyeing a bid. Real Clear Politics reports that presidential speculation is switching to Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg. Sources told RCP that it’s “common knowledge” in Democratic Party circles that Sandberg is mulling a run.
NEW FCC CHIEF’S FIRST ACT: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday voted to invest up to $170 million in broadband expansion in New York state. The move is the first official action that the FCC has taken under Chairman Ajit Pai, a Republican commissioner who moved into the new role on Monday. “Broadband is critical to economic opportunity and job creation,” Pai said in a statement. “This is a first step of many to fulfill my promise to empower Americans with online opportunities, no matter who they are and no matter where they live.”
Read the full story here.
HIGH HOPES: It might be Pai’s first action, but Republicans have high hopes for his tenure as FCC chief, with expectations he will usher in sweeping changes. Read our story on that here.
R Street is hosting a discussion on Airbnb and short term rentals on Friday at 8 a.m.
The Federal Communications Bar Association is holding a brown bag lunch on homeland security and emergency communications on Friday at 12:15 p.m.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Donald Trump’s @POTUS Twitter account was registered under a private Gmail account.
Elon Musk reportedly floated the idea of implementing a carbon tax to Donald Trump.
Conservatives do not like the FCC’s new privacy rules and are calling on Congress to rescind them.
Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) however does like the FCC’s broadband privacy rules and hammered groups that oppose them.
Civil liberties groups are suing for access to the report on Russian hacking.
Uber is now the #1 expensed item reports the Morning Consult.
Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook has a new head of virtual reality.
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