Overnight Tech: Dems vow to fight for net neutrality | FCC chief defends changes to internet program | Uber sues Seattle

Overnight Tech: Dems vow to fight for net neutrality | FCC chief defends changes to internet program | Uber sues Seattle

DEMS DRAW THE LINE ON NET NEUTRALITY: Democrats on Tuesday vowed to stand firm against any efforts by Republicans to roll back the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) net neutrality rules.

"The big broadband barons and their Republican allies want to turn back the clock and make big cable and big cellphone companies the gatekeepers for internet access," Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said at a press conference in the Capitol.

"They have a new FCC chairman in Ajit Pai who will do their bidding."

Supporters of the internet rules, which require broadband providers to treat all traffic the same, are worried net neutrality could be on the chopping block under a GOP-controlled Congress and FCC.

Pai has said he wants to revisit the rules, and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) said congressional Republicans are prepared to try again at a legislative fix that could pare back the rules. Thune has said he would like to work with Democrats on addressing concerns about net neutrality.


Democrats on Tuesday said they would reject any efforts to undercut the rules.

"I will oppose any legislative efforts to weaken the net neutrality order," Markey added.

Markey didn't say if he would be willing to work with Republicans on a compromise. And he added that he was not aware of details on a potential offer from Republicans.

But some Democrats may be willing to work with Republicans on changes to the rules.

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), who sits on the Commerce Committee along with Markey, told The Hill in late January that he would be open to a deal on net neutrality.

"The Commerce Committee and the FCC have been islands of nonpartisanship over the years and only recently have there been so many party-line votes," Schatz said. "So perhaps Chairman Pai can get back to a place where the FCC does the work of trying to arrive at compromises."

Schatz at the time also warned that if Republicans attempt to change the rules on their own, Dems would "dig in" and "fight accordingly."

When questioned further today, Schaatz was less optimistic about the potential for a compromise.

"I just don't think that there's a willingness to do something that would enshrine net neutrality in the statute," Schaatz told The Hill. "I don't think there's any appetite right now among Republicans to codify net neutrality as a matter of law. If there were, we could talk, but they haven't shown any willingness to do that." Read more here.


THUNE'S RESPONSE: Asked to respond to the Democrats' press conference, a spokeswoman for Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate nearing deal on defense bill after setback Congress's goal in December: Avoid shutdown and default No deal in sight as Congress nears debt limit deadline MORE (R-S.D.) pointed to a speech he made last month calling for "clear and reasonable rules" governing the internet, which he says is best achieved through bipartisan legislation.

"I have worked with my colleagues over the last two years to find a legislative solution, and while we haven't gotten there yet, I remain committed to the cause," Thune said at the State of the Net Conference in January. "Who knows, the reality of a Republican FCC may help inspire some of my Democrat colleagues to embrace the idea that a bipartisan, legislative solution is the best possible outcome."

Read more here.


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FCC CHIEF ON THE DEFENSIVE: FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defended his agency's move to remove nine companies from the Lifeline program, which provides subsidies to low-income households for internet access.

"Hyperbolic headlines always attract more attention than mundane truths," Pai wrote in a blog post on Medium. "For example, a story detailing how the FCC was undertaking further review of the eligibility of 1% of Lifeline providers wouldn't generate too many clicks." Pai's decision sparked fierce criticism from Democrats.


EVEN MORE REFORMS: If you love FCC transparency reforms, it's a great time to be alive. Chairman Ajit Pai announced two more today. Pai has already promised to allow the release of Notice of Proposed Rulemaking items and other documents prior to open FCC meetings. And on Tueday, Pai announced that in addition to the text of agenda items he ill release a one page fact sheet summarizing the items. That was at the suggestion of Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Additionally, at the suggestion of Republican Commissioner Mike O'Rielly substantial edits made to items between their release and open meetings will have to be made by commissioners, not staff.


GRASSLEY ON EMAIL PRIVACY ACT: "We'll certainly take a look at the bill again at some point, but it's a tough road in the Senate," Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGraham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks Iowa Democrat drops bid to challenge Grassley after death of nephew Bipartisan senators press FBI, inspector general for changes following Nassar case MORE said in a statement to The Hill.

His comments come after the House passed a bill Monday that would require law enforcement to get warrants for searches of emails and other electronic communications. It's an effort to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act [ECPA], which dates to 1986. The House also passed the bill in the last Congress, but it failed to make it through the Senate. Conservatives have concerns that the law could handicap law enforcement.

"Everyone agrees ECPA needs to be updated. But there was broad, bipartisan interest on our committee to modernize the law to also address law enforcement and national security equities in ways the House bill omits," Grassley added.

He also cited a court case over whether the U.S. can compel companies to hand over data on overseas server's with just a domestic warrant.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals found that the Justice Department could not force Microsoft to hand over data on servers in Ireland and must go through Irish courts. But another federal court on Monday ordered Google in a similar but separate case to turn over data requested by a domestic warrant.

"The Second Circuit's decision last summer to deny law enforcement the ability to use an ECPA warrant to obtain data that technology companies choose to store outside the United States has raised the stakes as well," said Grassley. "The previous administration didn't support the House bill, but I'll be interested to hear the position of this administration."


TWITTER LOSES MORE EXECS: Human resources chief Renee Atwood just left, and Jeffrey Siminoff who was brought on to head up the company's diversity efforts will be leaving at the end of the month, reports Axios. It's still not known who will replace them. Atwood and Siminoff are only the latest executives to depart from the company in recent months.


UBER SUES SEATTLE: Uber filed a lawsuit against the city of Seattle late last month over a new law enacted by the city allowing the company's drivers to unionize, The Verge reported on Monday.

"The City must follow a lawful rulemaking process and adopt rules which properly consider the facts and circumstances of drivers and the industry, and labor law precedent," Uber's lawyers argued in the lawsuit.



Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySenate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo Lawmakers call on Olympic committee to press China on human rights abuses Senate Democrats call on Biden to push for COVID-19 vaccine patent waivers at WTO MORE (D-Ore.) and Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) will speak at a Brookings event on financial technology at 9 a.m.

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) will speak at a Digital Liberty panel on the Communications Act at 3:30 p.m.



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FCC removes nine companies from Lifeline program

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Dems come out swinging on net neutrality

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