Tech Brief: Activists Set to Hold Net Neutrality Day of Action Today in Support of CRA Resolution

Top Stories

  • Activists are holding a net neutrality day of action today to push for one more Republican senator to support a Congressional Review Act resolution that would vacate the Federal Communications Commission’s vote to repeal Obama-era regulations at the end of last year. Supporters are targeting the offices of Republican lawmakers they believe can be swayed to support the effort, such as Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Rob Portman (Ohio) and Dean Heller (Nev.), although the bill faces difficult odds in the GOP-controlled House if it passes the Senate. (The Hill)
  • FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defended the agency’s net neutrality repeal at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, saying that lighter regulations will amount to “targeted enforcement.” Pai, who spearheaded the agency’s controversial net neutrality rollback push, reportedly skipped an appearance at the Consumer Electronics Show in January because of death threats that he received from the repeal efforts. (USA Today)
  • The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a national security panel with the ability to stop mergers harmful to U.S. security, has begun looking at Singapore-based chipmaker Broadcom Ltd.’s planned effort to take over rival Qualcomm Inc., according to sources familiar with the matter. CFIUS has reportedly been in touch with at least one of the companies in the proposed merger, and previously met last month to discuss a potential merger of the two large semiconductor companies. (Reuters)
  • The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments today in a privacy rights fight between internet giant Microsoft Corp. and the Justice Department over whether a company can be compelled to turn over customers’ emails stored on overseas servers. Privacy rights advocates say a victory for the government would allow any country to seek data stored anywhere in the world, while the Justice Department argues that a win for Microsoft would potentially create inaccessible data havens for criminals. (NBC News)

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

NAB state leadership conference 7 a.m.
APTS Public Media Summit 7:30 a.m.
Davis Wright Tremaine digital tech conference 8 a.m.
Mobile World Congress 2018 9 a.m.
ITIF event on risks to open government data 9 a.m.
Senate HELP Committee hearing on the role of tech and data in combatting opioid addiction 10 a.m.
APTS Public Media Summit 7:30 a.m.
Axios event on 5G and transportation 8 a.m.
FTC PrivacyCon 2018 8:15 a.m.
Mobile World Congress 2018 9 a.m.
FCC Disability Advisory Committee meeting 9 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee executive session on FTC nominees 10 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee hearing on positive train control 10:30 a.m.
FCC Incentive Auction Task Force and Media Bureau webinar on recently released channel study 1 p.m.
Mobile World Congress 2018 9:30 a.m.
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on cybersecurity of nation’s energy infrastructure 10 a.m.
DOT Automated Vehicle Policy Summit 1 p.m.
FCC World Radiocommunication Conference Advisory Committee meeting 12 p.m.
Colorado Regional Planning committees meeting 1 p.m.

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How Softbank, World’s Biggest Tech Investor, Throws Around Its Cash
Phred Dvorak and Mayumi Negishi, The Wall Street Journal

Tech magnate Masayoshi Son often befuddles people in his industry with the large sums he is willing to pay for stakes in companies. That includes his directors.

After 2016 rocket explosion, Elon Musk’s SpaceX looked seriously at sabotage
Christian Davenport, The Washington Post

His rocket had blown up into a spectacular fireball. The Cape Canaveral launchpad that SpaceX had essentially built from scratch was now in ashes.

Coinbase: We will send data on 13,000 users to IRS
Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica

After over a year of legal wrangling, Coinbase has now formally notified its customers that it will be complying with a court order and handing over the user data for about 13,000 of its customers to the Internal Revenue Service. The company, which is one of the world’s largest Bitcoin exchanges, sent out an email to the affected users on Friday, February 23.

Stocks Fall With Bonds; Dollar Steady Before Powell: Market Wrap
Eddie Van Der Walt, Bloomberg

European stocks and bonds slipped as investors await the first public comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday. Treasuries steadied and the dollar was little changed.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Secretive U.S. security panel discussing Broadcom’s Qualcomm bid – sources
Diane Bartz, Reuters

A national security panel that can stop mergers that could harm U.S. security has begun looking at Singapore-based chipmaker Broadcom Ltd’s plan to take over rival Qualcomm Inc, according to three sources familiar with the matter. CFIUS, an opaque inter-agency panel, has been in touch with at least one of the companies in the proposed merger, one source said, and met last month to discuss the potential merger of the two big semiconductor companies, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Government battles Microsoft in email privacy case before Supreme Court
Pete Williams, NBC News

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday takes up a battle between the federal government and the internet giant Microsoft over the privacy of its customers’ data. The issue is straightforward: Can the company be compelled to turn over emails stored on overseas servers?

Microchip Technology Nears Deal to Buy Microsemi
Dana Cimilluca and Dana Mattioli, The Wall Street Journal

Microchip Technology Inc. is in advanced talks to buy Microsemi Corp., according to people familiar with the matter, in what would be the latest in a wave of deals sweeping the semiconductor industry. The chip makers are nearing a deal that would value Microsemi roughly in the mid-$60s a share, according to one of the people—not much above the company’s current stock price, which ran up on reports of a possible sale.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Net neutrality activists rally to overturn FCC repeal
Harper Neidig, The Hill

Net neutrality activists are stepping up their pressure on lawmakers this week to support a bill that would vacate the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to repeal its net neutrality rules. On Tuesday, supporters are holding a net neutrality day of action to push for one more Republican senator to support the bill and become the tie-breaking vote needed to send it to the House.

FCC Chair Ajit Pai defends net neutrality repeal to doubters at Mobile World Congress
Edward C. Baig, USA Today

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai defended his agency’s repeal of net neutrality regulations at the mobile industry’s annual conference here, saying the lighter rules set to replace them will amount to “targeted enforcement.” “Our order restoring Internet freedom merely restored the same basic framework that governed the Internet for most of its existence,” said Pai, who had skipped an appearance at the large tech gathering CES in January, reportedly due to death threats.

Comcast Moves to Hijack Fox’s Sky Deal With $31 Billion Offer
Stu Woo and Ben Dummett, The Wall Street Journal

Cable giant Comcast Corp. and Walt Disney Co. have brought their chess game over 21st Century Fox Inc. to Europe. Comcast early Tuesday said it was planning a £22.1 billion ($30.9 billion) offer for Sky, topping a rival bid from Fox to consolidate ownership of the U.K. broadcaster—and moving to peel away one of the most attractive overseas assets that Walt Disney Co. has separately agreed to buy from Fox.

Pai Signals FCC to Start New Spectrum Auctions This Year
John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

FCC chair Ajit Pai said the FCC will be holding two spectrum auctions in short order, which means next November and soon thereafter. That will depend on a congressional fix related to the auction process, but Pai appeared confident that can be resolved.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Alphabet details how Larry Page and Sundar Pichai split duties
Jillian D’Onfro, CNBC

Just-published correspondence between Google parent company Alphabet and the Securities and Exchange Commission breaks down how the company makes decisions regarding its dozen different businesses. Since Google blew up its corporate structure to form Alphabet in late 2015, it now separates its financials between Google, which it divides between advertising and everything else (like cloud computing and hardware), and its “Other Bets,” which currently includes 11 different companies, like self-driving car unit Waymo and healthcare arm Verily.

Netflix spends more on content than anyone else on the internet — and many TV networks, too
Rani Molla, Recode

Not only does Netflix spend more money on non-sports content than any streaming provider, it also spends more than many traditional TV media companies. In 2017, Netflix spent $6.3 billion on original and acquired programming, according to data from MoffettNathanson.

Apple shares on verge of record high after Buffett comments
Noel Randewich, Reuters

Shares of Apple rose 2 percent on Monday and were on the verge of a record high after billionaire Warren Buffett talked up his company’s stake in the iPhone maker. Apple’s stock was at $179.04, just short of its $179.26 record closing price on Jan. 18 and shaking off a slide of more than 10 percent earlier this month following a lackluster quarterly report.

Facebook apologizes for promoting a VR shooting game at CPAC
Adi Robertson, The Verge

Facebook has apologized for showing a demo of Oculus Rift shooter Bullet Train at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a week after 17 students were killed in a Florida school shooting. In a statement, Facebook VP of virtual reality Hugo Barra said that the demo was part of “a standard set of experiences” that Oculus featured at public events.

Apple Plans Giant High-End iPhone, Lower-Priced Model
Mark Gurman and Debby Wu, Bloomberg

Apple Inc. is preparing to release a trio of new smartphones later this year: the largest iPhone ever, an upgraded handset the same size as the current iPhone X and a less expensive model with some of the flagship phone’s key features. With the new lineup, Apple wants to appeal to the growing number of consumers who crave the multitasking attributes of so-called phablets while also catering to those looking for a more affordable version of the iPhone X, according to people familiar with the products.

California OKs autonomous car testing without backup drivers
Christopher Weber, The Associated Press

Driverless cars will be tested in California for the first time without a person behind a steering wheel under new rules that state regulators approved Monday for the fast-developing technology. The regulations are a major step toward getting autonomous vehicles to dealerships and onto the streets of California, where companies such as Tesla and Waymo are leading the way on the technology.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

State Dept. launches $40M offensive against foreign propaganda
Morgan Chalfant, The Hill

The State Department is launching a $40 million initiative to crack down on foreign propaganda and disinformation amid widespread concerns about future Russian efforts to interfere in elections. The department announced Monday that it signed a deal with the Pentagon to transfer $40 million from the Defense Department’s coffers to bolster the Global Engagement Center, an office set up at State during the Obama years to expose and counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.

New EAC chairman will continue to focus on election security
Zaid Shoorbajee, CyberScoop

Thomas Hicks has been tapped to chair the Election Assistance Commission, an agency that is considered central to protecting the U.S. election infrastructure from cyberthreats, the commission announced on Friday. Reuters reported on Thursday that Republican House Speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan, decided not to recommend former chairman Matthew Masterson for a second term as one of the EAC’s four commissioners.

China’s web censors go into overdrive as President Xi Jinping consolidates power
Jon Russell, TechCrunch

A week that begins with the repeal of regulation that prevents dictatorship in China is likely to be a busy one for the country’s censorship people, and so it has proven to be. China’s web scrubbers have been busy banning a collection of terms and dropping the hammer on user accounts after the Xi Jinping, the country’s premier, got the all-clear to become ‘President For Life’ after the Communist Party moved to amend the constitution to remove an article that limits Presidential terms to two five-year terms.

Clock is ticking for Congress to move cyber legislation
Charlie Mitchell, Washington Examiner

Congress is in session for about 17 weeks before the August recess, and it will get more and more difficult to pass significant cyber legislation as the election-year calendar quickly slips away. That makes it critical to begin notching accomplishments in the four-week legislative stretch that begins Tuesday.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

To Protect Music, We Need to First Protect Songwriters
Paul Williams, Morning Consult

Whether we find ourselves in the shadow of tragedy or the glow of celebrating life’s achievements, we often turn to music to translate our emotions and create new memories. These moments are made richer thanks to a special community of songwriters living in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles and many other corners of the country who write the notes and lyrics to the songs we love.

Let’s not ground drones because of a few ‘close calls’
Christopher Koopman and Michael Kotrous, The Hill

Last week, the Air Line Pilots Association, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and Airlines for America issued a letter to Congress calling for tighter regulation on drones. Responding to a video captured by a drone illegally flying within feet of a jet landing at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, the letter calls on Congress to get aggressive with hobby and recreational drone use.

Can the United States Search Data Overseas?
Craig A. Newman, The New York Times

Should the United States government be able to conduct a search of your emails if they are stored on a server in another country, or does the government’s right to examine digital evidence stop at the border? That is a central question in United States v. Microsoft, a case scheduled to be argued on Tuesday before the Supreme Court.

FISA Abuses Are a Special Threat to Privacy and Due Process
David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, The Wall Street Journal

The House Democratic surveillance memo is out, and it should worry Americans who care about privacy and due process. The memo defends the conduct of the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation in obtaining a series of warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to wiretap former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

Research Reports

A Survey of Ride-Hailing Passengers in Metro Boston
Steven R. Gehrke et al., Barr Foundation and Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization

The ride-hailing industry, led by Uber and Lyft, has seen explosive growth in recent years. As more and more travelers choose these on-demand mobility services, they have the potential to transform regional travel patterns.