Hillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars

Hillicon Valley: Judge approves T-Mobile, Sprint merger | FTC to review past Big Tech deals | State officials ask for more cybersecurity help | House nears draft bill on self-driving cars
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Welcome! Follow the cyber team, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and the tech team, Emily Birnbaum (@birnbaum_e) and Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills).



MERGER APPROVED: A district judge on Tuesday approved the $26.5 billion merger between T-Mobile and Sprint, clearing the final hurdle for two of the largest telecom companies in the U.S. to combine despite a challenge from a group of state attorneys general.

The lawsuit from the coalition of 15 attorneys general was the last obstacle standing in the way of the lucrative deal, which has already received the green light from federal regulators.

Judge Victor Marrero of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, a Clinton appointee, wrote that the proposed merger between two of the four major telecom companies in the U.S. is not "reasonably likely to substantially lessen competition," striking down the states' central argument.

The states had argued that the merger could harm competition in the telecom marketplace and potentially raise prices for the new company's hundreds of millions of subscribers.

Marrero said he didn't see evidence leading him to block the merger in "this particularly dynamic and changing industry."

Read more here.



TAKE IT BACK NOW Y'ALL: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Tuesday announced that it is reviewing a decade's worth of acquisitions by the country's largest technology firms, allowing the agency to home in on whether companies like Facebook and Google harmed competition as they gobbled up hundreds of smaller rivals.

The agency is requesting a slew of documents from Facebook, Google, Google's parent company Alphabet, Microsoft and Amazon as it works to learn more about the "terms, scope, structure, and purpose" of the many acquisitions the companies have made since 2010. The review process will allow the FTC to probe the litany of smaller acquisitions that enabled the Big Tech firms to become global powerhouses over the past decade.

"Digital technology companies are a big part of the economy and our daily lives," FTC Chairman Joe Simons said in a statement. "This initiative will enable the Commission to take a closer look at acquisitions in this important sector, and also to evaluate whether the federal agencies are getting adequate notice of transactions that might harm competition." 

"This will help us continue to keep tech markets open and competitive, for the benefit of consumers," he said. 

Tech-focused consumer advocates for years have pressed the FTC to issue these document requests, called 6(b) orders, in an effort to force the companies to turn over information about how they amassed enormous power and influence, sometimes at the disadvantage of smaller players. The orders are compulsory and function like subpoenas.

Read more here.


MORE HELP, PLEASE: Top federal and state officials pressed a Senate committee on Tuesday to provide more resources and authorities to fight cyberattacks, an issue of increasing concern in the wake of debilitating attacks on governments entities this past year.

Senior cybersecurity and tech leaders from Michigan and Texas noted during their testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee that efforts to fight against cyberattacks have been hampered by a lack of federal resources, particularly from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

"We see the intent everyday of DHS trying to get everywhere across the state, particularly in the run-up to the elections, and I think it's just a matter of they need more boots on the ground, and they need a specific state representative to get more familiar with that state," Christopher DeRusha, the chief security officer within Michigan's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Office, told lawmakers.

Christopher Krebs, the director of DHS's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), testified alongside the state officials, and agreed that Congress should boost federal support for states.

"We have to get more resources out in the field," Krebs said. "I cannot be effective if I am sitting here in Washington, D.C., I need more dedicated state and local resources."

Tuesday's hearing follows months of escalating attacks against government entities across the nation, with most involving ransomware attacks, in which attackers lock down a system and demand payment to give the user access again.

Read more here.



NEARING THE FINISH LINE: House lawmakers on Tuesday touted progress toward bipartisan legislation on self-driving cars, with plans to release draft language soon.

The development comes as pressure grows on Congress to quickly provide a regulatory framework for the fast-developing industry.

Rep. Jan SchakowskyJanice (Jan) Danoff SchakowskyFreshman GOP lawmaker apologizes for Hitler quote Newly sworn-in Republican lawmaker condemned by Holocaust Museum after Hitler quote 150 House Democrats support Biden push to reenter Iran nuclear deal MORE (D-Ill.), the chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection, told reporters that draft sections would be released "very soon."

A Schakowsky aide told reporters there will be a minimum of five new sections addressing self-driving cars to complement six draft sections released last year.

Those were seen as a breakthrough for Congress, coming years after lawmakers first began debating rules for self-driving cars. A spokesperson for Republicans on the committee confirmed to The Hill that the last drafts are set to be released this week.

Schakowsky's comments came shortly after her committee held a hearing with a number of high-profile stakeholders on autonomous vehicles as Congress grapples with a number of complicated issues and different approaches to the emerging technology.


Read more here.


IF YOU FAIL, TRY AGAIN: Senate Republicans blocked an effort by Democrats to unanimously pass three election security-related bills Tuesday, marking the latest attempt to clear legislation ahead of the November elections

Democrats tried to get consent to pass two bills that require campaigns to alert the FBI and Federal Election Commission (FEC) about foreign offers of assistance, as well as legislation to provide more election funding and ban voting machines from being connected to the internet.

But Sen. Marsha BlackburnMarsha BlackburnColbert asks Republicans 'have you had enough?' in live show after Capitol violence Congress rejects challenge to Arizona's presidential vote LIVE COVERAGE: Congress certifies Biden win after Pennsylvania, Arizona challenges fail MORE (R-Tenn.) opposed each of the requests. Under the Senate's rules, any one senator can ask for unanimous consent to pass a bill, but any one senator can object and block their requests.

Blackburn accused Democrats of trying to move the bills knowing that GOP lawmakers would block them and giving them fodder for fundraising efforts.

"They are attempting to bypass this body's Rules Committee on behalf of various bills that will seize control over elections from the states and take it from the states and where do they want to put it? They want it to rest in the hands of Washington, D.C., bureaucrats," she said.


Read more here.


TAKING ON CENSUS MISINFO: Twitter on Tuesday unveiled its plan to minimize the spread of misinformation about the 2020 census.

"We've partnered with the US Census Bureau to launch a new tool so when someone searches for certain keywords associated with the Census, a prompt will direct individuals to the official Census site: https://2020Census.gov," the company said in a blog post.

Twitter said the importance of the census necessitated a dedicated plan for it, pointing out that the decennial count is "used to determine the number of seats each state holds in the U.S. House of Representatives and inform how state, local, and federal lawmakers will allocate billions of dollars in funds to local communities each year for the next decade."

In the U.S., the initiative will be available on all of the site's platforms, including Android and iOS.

Read more here.


NEW BIPARTISAN CYBER BILL: A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Monday introduced a bill that would establish a $400 million grant program at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to help state and local governments combat cyber threats and potential vulnerabilities. 

Under the legislation -- led by Reps. Cedric RichmondCedric RichmondAn attack on America that's divided Congress — and a nation Pelosi to seat Iowa Republican as Democratic challenger contests election results Louisiana Rep.-elect Luke Letlow dies of COVID-19 MORE (D-La.), John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoRep. John Katko: Why I became the first Republican lawmaker to support impeachment NY Republican says cybersecurity will be a high priority for Homeland Security panel Upton becomes first member of Congress to vote to impeach two presidents MORE (R-N.Y.), Derek KilmerDerek Christian KilmerCongress must reclaim its Article I powers in order to earn back public trust Hillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats | House approves bill to send cyber resources to state, local governments House approves legislation to send cybersecurity resources to state, local governments MORE (D-Wash.), Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulBiden urged to reverse Pompeo-Trump move on Houthis Kremlin critic Navalny detained in Moscow upon return to Russia Impeachment trial tests Trump's grip on Senate GOP MORE (R-Texas), Dutch RuppersbergerCharles (Dutch) Albert RuppersbergerHillicon Valley: House panel says Intelligence Community not equipped to address Chinese threats | House approves bill to send cyber resources to state, local governments House approves legislation to send cybersecurity resources to state, local governments Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations MORE (D-Md.), Bennie ThompsonBennie Gordon ThompsonNew coalition aims to combat growing wave of ransomware attacks Acting DHS chief Chad Wolf stepping down Security boosted for lawmakers' travel around inauguration: report MORE (D-Miss.) and Mike RogersMichael (Mike) Dennis RogersOvernight Defense: Trump impeached for second time | National Guard at Capitol now armed, swelling to 20K troops for inauguration | Alabama chosen for Space Command home Top Republican congressional aide resigns, rips GOP lawmakers who objected to Biden win READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE (R-Ala.) -- DHS's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) would be required to develop a plan to improve localities' cybersecurity and would create a State and Local Cybersecurity Resiliency Committee to help inform CISA on what jurisdictions need to help protect themselves from breaches. 

The group noted that state and local governments have become targets for hackers, having seen an uptick in attacks in recent years. 


Read more here.


A LIGHTER CLICK: How to coexist


AN OP-ED TO CHEW ON: What happens if President Warren breaks up 'Big Tech'? 



Amazon spurs growth of trademarked brands (The New York Times / John Herrman) 

Louisiana hacking incident highlights nightmare election interference scenario (Bloomberg / Kartikay Mehrotra)

Coronavirus is having a serious impact on supply chains for Big Tech companies (Quartz / Amrita Khalid)  

The Defense Department's cyber budget is flat in new request (Fifth Domain / Mark Pomerleau)