By Li Zhou | 05/18/2017 10:23 AM EDT
With help from Margaret Harding McGill, Steven Overly, Ashley Gold and Nancy Scola
DRIVING THE DAY: NET NEUTRALITY VOTE - The FCC is poised to take the first formal step toward dismantling Obama-era net neutrality rules, kicking off what's likely to be a bitter and months-long lobbying battle over the future of internet regulation, Margaret reports . The commission is expected to vote along party lines to begin the process of rolling back the rules, which require internet service providers like Verizon and Comcast to treat all web traffic equally. This move would kick off the steps needed to undo the Title II reclassification of ISPs, the regulatory underpinning for the net neutrality rules. The commission will also continue to seek comment on the bright-line rules that prohibit blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of internet traffic. Among the other items on deck for the meeting today: a report on AT&T's March 8 911 outage and a vote to jumpstart a review of regulations for broadcasters, cable companies and satellite providers.
- Not so fast: Activist groups including Free Press, Popular Resistance and Demand Progress are expected to stake out the meeting and protest the agency's actions (we're tracking any Rickrolling reprises). Staunch net neutrality supporter Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) is slated to make an appearance at the rally. ... Consumer rights organization Public Knowledge also has plans to release a video highlighting renowned film director Francis Ford Coppola's opposition to rolling back the rules. "Net neutrality is immensely important for the arts community," Coppola says in an open letter to Pai. "Strong Open Internet rules enable filmmakers, writers, graphics designers, YouTube vloggers, game developers and more to explore new ideas, raise funding for cutting edge projects and share their work with the public." Watch it here.
- Democratic lawmakers hit the Senate floor - and Twitter - on Wednesday, ahead of the FCC meeting, to make a last-ditch case against Pai's proposal. The push included remarks from Sens. Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Al Franken (Minn.) and Ed Markey (Mass.). Franken's refrain is that net neutrality is the free speech debate of our time, and Markey said Americans must stand up to "big broadband barons." Schatz jabbed at one of President Donald Trump's favorite words in a tweet: "The total number of comments so far for net neutrality is 1.6 million. I imagine that number is going to go up bigly. Power to the people."
- Broadband investment has become a central issue at the heart of the net neutrality debate, following Pai's argument that the rules deter corporate investment. As Margaret reported, organizations including the Internet Association and Free Press have compiled their own reports contradicting findings from industry trade groups on whether investment has slowed in the wake of the rules. Catch up on the back and forth, here.
"UNLOCK THE VAN" LAUNCHES, AIMED AT OPENING DEMS' DATA - A small collection of tech upstarts, led by the nonpartisan Los Angeles-based NationBuilder, is kicking off a campaign to get the Democratic National Committee, as part of a "repairing process" helmed by new chair Tom Perez, to decouple the tech and data sides of the party's VoteBuilder tool. "All we want is competition," says NationBuilder CEO Jim Gilliam, who, post-2016 election, caused agita in progressive circles for celebrating the use of his company's open platform by "outsiders" like then-President-Elect Donald J. Trump. (The goal of companies like NationBuilder, Aristotle, Organizer and others here is to unleash the use of third-party front-ends on party held data, a bit like the way you might use Mint to manage your financial data held by Bank of America.)
The early read, though, is that the DNC isn't biting. "We are in the business of electing Democrats and not bending over for consultants who want to make a buck," said DNC communications director Xochitl Hinojosa in a statement emailed to POLITICO. Nancy has the full story.
GOOD THURSDAY MORNING and welcome to Morning Tech, where we're keeping our eyes peeled for oversized mugs today. Send your tech and telecom tips to firstname.lastname@example.org and @liszhou. Catch the rest of the team's contact info after Quick Downloads.
MOULTON: EVEN BILL GATES ISN'T SURE ABOUT HIS ROBOT TAX - The impact of automation on American jobs is "a huge issue we have to tackle as a country, and hardly anyone in Congress is even talking about it," Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said at Wednesday's Lincoln Network event in D.C. One wrinkle? "The solutions are hard," said the second-term congressman, who told a Bill Gates story to illustrate.
The Massachusetts Democrat was sitting across from the "incredibly thoughtful" Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist at a dinner a couple months back. Gates has floated the idea of taxing robot workers at the same rate as the human they've replaced. The notion has its critics; Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, for one, called it "profoundly misguided." But said Moulton, "you don't expect Bill Gates to throw out an idea like that without having real evidence to back it up." So Moulton was, he said, eager to hear Gates' defense: "And I tell you, his reaction was, basically, 'Oh God, I don't even know. I'm just trying to throw out some idea, so we can start the discussion.'"
BILLS, BILLS, BILLS -
- Bicameral legislation introduced Wednesday aims to protect consumers from online booking scams. The Stop Online Booking Scams Act "protects consumers from illegitimate third-party websites that trick consumers into thinking they are making reservations directly with hotels," according to a release from the office of Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.).
-The Modernizing Government Technology Act passed the House on Wednesday by voice vote. The bill authorizes government agencies to establish an IT modernization working capital fund. "Government may never be like Silicon Valley, but it should not be stuck in the age of Mad Men. That's not only costly, it's dangerous," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on the House floor before the bill's passage.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS - The Senate Judiciary Committee has scheduled a confirmation hearing on May 24, for Vishal Amin, who's been nominated as the White House's Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. ... It's also rescheduled its hearing on law enforcement access to data beyond U.S. borders for that same day.
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MAR-A-LAGO OVERRUN WITH CYBERSECURITY VULNERABILITIES - ProPublica and Gizmodo spent some time examining the digital infrastructures and protections surrounding four of Trump's properties, including Mar-a-Lago and a Sterling, Va.-based golf club, and discovered that every single one was left vulnerable to cyberattacks. "Our inspections found weak and open Wi-Fi networks, wireless printers without passwords, servers with outdated and vulnerable software and unencrypted login pages to back-end databases containing sensitive information," they write. "Sophisticated attackers could take advantage of vulnerabilities in the Wi-Fi networks to take over devices like computers or smart phones and use them to record conversations involving anyone on the premises."
SILICON VALLEY MUST-READS -
- WOW, YOU WON'T BELIEVE WHAT FACEBOOK IS DOING NOW: Hate clickbait headlines like this one? So does Facebook. In fact, the company has been trying to eliminate them since 2014. The social network unveiled new plans Wednesday to identify headlines that deliberately exaggerate or omit key information about a story, and then give those posts less prominent display in users' News Feeds. A version of the software has been used since last year, but changes announced Wednesday will now allow Facebook to target individual posts and headlines written in languages other than English.
The technology essentially works like an email spam filter. Facebook employees categorized hundreds of thousands of headlines as clickbait, then used software to analyze them for common words and phrases. Headlines that the system flags will now appear lower in News Feeds, meaning publishers who frequently use clickbait headlines should see their traffic decline, the company said.
- The latest from Google I/O: A key announcement to come out of Google's annual developer conference: the tech company said it's replacing what The Verge calls its "emoji blobs" in its newest Android O operating system with a fully redesigned keyboard. Other updates of note include the debut of Google For Jobs, a platform to help people review job postings, and the release of the Android Instant Apps SDK for all developers to work on.
- Cisco to lay off more than 1,000 workers: The company is grappling with missed expectations for its latest quarterly earnings and intends to lay off around 1,100 employees as it responds to changes in the market, The Wall Street Journal reports. Cisco released a restructuring plan in August that included 5,500 job cuts, and this recent announcement is an expansion of that. Remember Cisco was one of the companies that participated in Trump's inaugural meeting with tech executives back in December.
REDL REACTIONS - David Redl is the telecom man of the hour, after the White House nominated him to head up NTIA on Tuesday. His nomination was cheered by Chairman Pai along with telecom industry groups including INCOMPAS, NCTA and Redl's former employer CTIA, which all called out his time working on broadband policy as a major plus for this role. "His extensive experience as chief counsel for communications and technology at the U.S. House of Representatives Energy & Commerce Committee makes him uniquely qualified to lead the agency charged with managing the spectrum held by the U.S. government," said Pai.
MEANWHILE, IN EUROPE -
- FACEBOOK SLAPPED FOR WHATSAPP VIOLATIONS: Hot on the heels of a fine from French authorities for failing to provide clear enough disclosures around advertising data collection, Facebook is expected to be hit with another fine from the EU related to its acquisition of WhatsApp, The Wall Street Journal reports. "The European Union's antitrust watchdog is poised to fine Facebook on Thursday for giving "incorrect or misleading information" to investigators who were probing its purchase of chat app WhatsApp in 2014, according to people familiar with the matter."
TRANSITIONS - Rachel Wolbers, previously of TwinLogic Strategies and Rep. Blake Farenthold's (R-Texas)'s office, joins Engine as a policy director.
AND THE AWARD GOES TO - CTIA honored House Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden with its "Wireless Champions Award" and FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn with its "Mobile Life Award" at a gala on Wednesday evening. ... ITI has selected Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Scott Peters (D-Calif.) as its tech legislators of the year. The organization's board is set to huddle with lawmakers and Trump administration officials on tech policy priorities.
REMEMBERING Burak Guvensoylar - Friends, colleagues and family will gather for a funeral service on Thursday at 7 pm at the Kay Spiritual Life Center on the campus of American University in Washington, DC to celebrate the life of Burak Guvensoylar. Burak passed away on Sunday after an 11-month battle with synovial sarcoma. Even with such a frustrating and complex diagnosis, Burak fought hard and lived every day to the fullest, doing what he loved with those he loved the most. Burak most recently worked on the House Judiciary Committee, where he advised members of Congress on an array of issues, including digital privacy and intellectual property. A tech policy enthusiast, Burak was co-founder of the Congressional Tech Staff Association, and served as an Executive Officer responsible for the professional development program. His prior experience in DC included time with Congressman Randy Forbes, TechAmerica, and CompTIA.
Laptop ban extension to EU still up for debate: U.S. and EU officials on Wednesday talked about a potential expansion of an existing laptop ban that affects passengers flying from 10 Middle Eastern locations, but have not arrived at a decision, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Travel Tech Association writes FTC with concerns about anti-Airbnb ad: The group is peeved about what it says is a misleading ad criticizing the home-sharing service. Read the letter, here.
D.C. revamps cab payment systems: Taxis will all have Square readers, so they can more effectively compete with new ride-sharing services, Bloomberg reports.
Colbert pokes fun at FCC: The FCC's review of a joke Stephen Colbert made on the CBS "Late Show" isn't stopping the late night host from making light of the situation. Colbert and CBS CEO Les Moonves joked about the review at the network's upfront presentation to advertisers Wednesday afternoon. "There is really only word to describe this president, and the FCC asked me not to use it anymore," Colbert joked during a monologue about Trump. "[Colbert's] show is up in every demo, including FCC investigators age 18-49," Moonves added later. "His show has been so successful this year, it has gained 3 million new viewers, and 3 new lawyers."
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