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Tech Brief: AT&T Joins Net Neutrality ‘Day of Action’

Washington Brief

  • AT&T Inc. announced that it will participate in today’s internet-wide Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality, despite supporting Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s proposal to roll back the 2015 Open Internet Order. An AT&T executive wrote a blog post saying that the wireless provider wanted to show its support for “preserving and advancing an open internet.” (Recode)
  • A free-speech group is suing President Donald Trump for blocking Twitter users from viewing his account, claiming that the move violates the First Amendment because the president frequently uses the platform to make what the White House has deemed to be “official statements.” The lawsuit is being brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, as well as seven Twitter users who have been blocked by the president for replying to his tweets with criticism or disagreement. (Reuters)
  • The General Services Administration removed Kaspersky Lab from an approved list of vendors for two government purchasing contracts following reports that the Russian cybersecurity firm has closer ties with the Russian government than previously known. Other federal agencies can still purchase Kaspersky software separate from the GSA contract, but the move is seen as an effort by the Trump administration to discourage the use of the company’s products. (Politico)

Business Brief

  • Google Inc. has financed hundreds of research papers over the past decade that have helped to sway opinion and public policy on a variety of regulatory issues important to the tech behemoth, according to an in-depth investigation. While researchers did pitch papers to the company, Google officials in Washington reportedly also compiled wish lists of research papers — including working titles, abstracts and budgets — and would then search for willing academics to write the papers. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • A Pew Research Center survey found that 41 percent of U.S. adults reported experiencing some form of online harassment on social media and other digital platforms, including name-calling and sexual harassment. The survey also found that 66 percent of respondents reported witnessing someone else being harassed online. (The Associated Press)
  • Apple Inc. has opened its first data center in China to comply with new digital security rules requiring companies to store Chinese users’ information in the country. The regulations were approved last month, and Apple’s approach to following through on the new law will likely set the tone for other foreign companies that operate in China. (The New York Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Wednesday
Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy event on net neutrality 10:30 a.m.
Thursday
Senate subcommittee hearing on public-private partnerships in space exploration 10 a.m.
FCC monthly commissioner meeting 10:30 a.m.
Friday
No events scheduled.

 

General

Paying Professors: Inside Google’s Academic Influence Campaign
Brody Mullins and Jack Nicas, The Wall Street Journal

Google operates a little-known program to harness the brain power of university researchers to help sway opinion and public policy, cultivating financial relationships with professors at campuses from Harvard University to the University of California, Berkeley. Over the past decade, Google has helped finance hundreds of research papers to defend against regulatory challenges of its market dominance, paying stipends of $5,000 to $400,000, The Wall Street Journal found.

Trump administration restricts popular Russian security software
Eric Geller, Politico

The Trump administration has discouraged government agencies from using a leading Russian cybersecurity firm’s software amid fears that the firm’s products could serve as a Trojan horse for the Kremlin’s hackers. The General Services Administration said Tuesday that it had removed Kaspersky Lab from the approved list of vendors for two government-wide purchasing contracts that agencies use to acquire technology services.

No systemic risk from cryptocurrency speculation: BlackRock strategist
Trevor Hunnicutt, Reuters

BlackRock Inc’s (BLK.N) global chief investment strategist on Tuesday suggested that loose monetary policy may have aided speculation in digital currencies like bitcoin, but he said the risk to the broader financial system appears limited. The strategist, Richard Turnill, said it might be possible to view price movements in blockchain-based cryptocurrencies as influenced by the ultra-easy monetary policies put in place by central banks after the 2007-2009 global financial crisis.

Stocks Rebound as Dollar Dips on Trump Revelations: Markets Wrap
Cecile Gutscher, Bloomberg

European equities rebounded with oil while the dollar slipped as a fresh bout of political uncertainty in Washington damped optimism about rebounding global growth. A gauge of the U.S. dollar was lower for a third day while Treasuries rose before a testimony by Janet Yellen that may provide clues about her plans to scale back the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Senators Press Trump on White House Contacts Over AT&T-Time Warner Merger
Ted Johnson, Variety

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and three other Senate Democrats are pressing President Trump on whether the White House is attempting to influence the Justice Department’s review of the proposed AT&T-Time Warner merger, following reports that administration officials saw the potential for using the pending transaction as leverage over CNN.“The AT&T-Time Warner merger should be judged solely on its impact on competition, innovation and consumers, now as ‘leverage’ for political gain,” the senators wrote.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

AT&T is joining a pro net neutrality rally even as it fights to kill current net neutrality rules
Tony Romm, Recode

When Amazon, Facebook, Google and a chorus of startups and activists commence a massive online protest Wednesday to defend net neutrality, they’ll be joined by a company they don’t exactly believe is on their side: AT&T. The wireless giant says it’s participating in the tech industry’s so-called “day of action,” stressing in a blog post that it believes in “preserving and advancing an open internet” — even though AT&T long has disagreed with staunch net neutrality advocates over how to enforce it.

Online Protest Planned Over Rollback of Net Neutrality Rules
John D. McKinnon, The Wall Street Journal

Major internet companies are preparing to launch online protests Wednesday over Republican efforts to roll back Obama-era net neutrality rules, employing a tactic that has helped drive policy shifts in past years. The question is whether it will have the same impact this time.

NAB Lists Reasons Microsoft’s Vacant Channel Push Is Off Base
John Eggerton, Broadcasting and Cable

Broadcasters were ready to push back on Microsoft’s announced Rural Airband Initiative, in which it plans to team with telecommunications companies to extend broadband to 2 million more people by 2022. The computer company wants the FCC to set aside a broadcast channel in each market for unlicensed wireless, which it says it will need for the new rural broadband initiative, an issue close to the heart of FCC chairman Ajit Pai.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

U.S. free-speech group sues Trump for blocking Twitter users
Dustin Volz, Reuters

A free-speech group on Tuesday sued U.S. President Donald Trump for blocking Twitter users from his @realDonaldTrump account, arguing the practice violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit, brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in New York and joined by seven individual Twitter users, claims Trump blocked a number of accounts whose owners replied to his tweets with comments that criticized, mocked or disagreed with the president.

Survey: 4 in 10 US Adults Have Experienced Online Harassment
Barbara Ortutay, The Associated Press

A new survey says a whopping 41 percent of U.S. adults have experienced online harassment, ranging from offensive name-calling to stalking and sexual harassment. That’s up from 35 percent in 2014.

Snap stock is at an all-time low after its lead underwriter said it’s not innovating fast enough
Kurt Wagner, Recode

Snap stock is sinking thanks to a new analyst report from Morgan Stanley, which claims, among other things, that Snap is not innovating as quickly as expected. Morgan Stanley downgraded Snap to “equal-weight,” essentially a “hold rating,” putting the stock’s target price at $16, down from $28. That’s a tough blow considering Morgan Stanley was Snap’s lead underwriter for its recent IPO.

Anti-Social: Why Disagreements Turn Into Death Threats Online
Lauren Duca et al., NPR News

The Internet is not a safe space to express opinions. There is a very real danger that you’ll be attacked for making your beliefs public. Pervasive online harassment has led to calls for technology firms to be more accountable for the hostility that happens on their platforms.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Apple Opens Data Center in China to Comply With Cybersecurity Law
Paul Mozur, The New York Times

Apple has set up its first data center in China, setting the tone for how foreign companies will handle a strict new law requiring them to store Chinese users’ information in the country. The center in the southern province of Guizhou, part of a $1 billion investment there, will be operated with a local data management company, Apple said on Wednesday.

Your Guide to Russia’s Infrastructure Hacking Teams
Andy Greenberg, Wired

Since reports first surfaced that hackers targeted more than a dozen American energy utilities, including a Kansas nuclear power plant, the cybersecurity community has dug into the surrounding evidence to determine the culprits. Without knowing the perpetrators, the campaign lends itself to a broad range of possibilities: a profit-seeking cybercriminal scheme, espionage, or the first steps of hacker-induced blackouts like the ones that have twice afflicted Ukraine in the last two years.

Kaspersky under scrutiny after Bloomberg story claims close links to FSB
Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica

Shortly after Bloomberg Businessweek published an explosive story under the headline: “Kaspersky Lab Has Been Working With Russian Intelligence,” the security firm released a lengthy statement noting that the company does not have “inappropriate ties with any government.” The article, which was published in the early morning hours on Tuesday, says that the Moscow-based firm “has maintained a much closer working relationship with Russia’s main intelligence agency, the FSB, than it has publicly admitted.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Harnessing TV White Spaces in Rural America for the Public Good
Morgan Reed, Morning Consult

As Americans, we pride ourselves on our leadership in technology. Our homegrown companies created the social networking platforms, ride-sharing companies and online marketplaces that have revolutionized nearly every aspect of our lives. But in a world where American inventions have changed the habits, culture and values of internet users across the globe, more than 34 million Americans live without the basic resource that made these innovations possible.

The Trump Internet’s defense of Donald Trump Jr.’s tweets shows how quickly messaging falls into place
Abby Ohlheiser, The Washington Post

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted out a series of emails from the 2016 campaign Tuesday, showing that he agreed to a meeting with a “Russian government lawyer” who was said to have damaging information on Hillary Clinton. The offer was part of “Russia and its government’s support” for the Trump team, according to the emails.

Research Reports

Education: Digital technology’s role in enabling skills development for a connected world
Axelle Devaux et al., RAND Corporation

More and more day-to-day routine activities can be done with the support of digital technologies, including tablets, mobile phones, laptops and computers to access the Internet at home, and it is increasingly difficult to live in contemporary society without using these technologies. It follows, therefore, that those not able to access these technologies are at risk of being excluded from society.