Tech Brief: FCC Blames Cyberattack, Not John Oliver, for Website Crash

Washington Brief

  • Activists say John Oliver’s recent “Last Week Tonight” segment led to the Federal Communications Commission’s comment section crashing. The agency says it was actually a cyberattack attempting to block legitimate commenters. (The Washington Post)
  • The Sinclair Broadcast Group merger with Tribune Media Company reflects a relaxed regulatory environment in Washington. The FCC recently changed the way certain stations are counted, allowing Sinclair to acquire a huge swath of local TV stations. (Recode)
  • China’s new draft regulations regarding cloud-computing services have drawn ire from U.S. lawmakers and trade groups, prompting concerns about the loss of intellectual property. (The Wall Street Journal)

Business Brief

  • Verizon Communications Inc. is unfazed by the Comcast Corp.-Charter Communications Inc. deal. The Verizon CEO says they actually encouraged it. (Reuters)
  • Facebook Inc. gets some vindication for CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s assertion that allowing live streams of suicide attempts on the platform can save lives: A recent live-streamed suicide attempt was stopped by police. (The Associated Press)
  • Venture capitalists are investing $110 million in Grammarly Inc., a software company that uses artificial intelligence to improve grammar and written language. (Bloomberg News)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

NSA’s Rogers testifies before Senate Armed Services Committee 9:30 a.m.
Georgetown University event on broadband competition 12 p.m.
Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on cyber threats 10 a.m.
Senate Judiciary Committee holds nomination hearing for Delrahim to be head of DOJ antitrust division 10 a.m.
Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing on data stored abroad 2:30 p.m.
Voices for Internet Freedom forum with FCC’s Clyburn 7 p.m.
USTelecom holds event on broadband in unserved areas of the country 1 p.m.
R Street Institute, Center for Democracy and Technology bipartisan tech policy happy hour 5 p.m.
Duke Law School hosts a conference assessing the FCC’s process for auctioning spectrum 8:30 a.m.



The FCC says an attack — not John Oliver — hampered its website
Hayley Tsukayama, The Washington Post

The Federal Communications Commission said Monday that its website was the target of an attack designed to overwhelm it with traffic and keep people from commenting on its proposals. The attack prevented the FCC from responding to people attempting to submit comments since Sunday night, the agency said.

China Says Draft Rules on Cloud Computing Have Been Misunderstood
Liza Lin, The Wall Street Journal

China is defending new draft regulations on cloud-computing services that have come under fire from U.S. trade groups, saying it has no intention to jeopardize the intellectual property and technology of overseas companies that operate here. The proposals are still under review and some of them have been misunderstood, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said in a statement.

VCs Put $110 Million Into Grammar-Checking Software
Nico Grant, Bloomberg News

Venture capitalists want a piece of just about anything involving artificial intelligence, whether it’s computers learning to drive or helping people shop for clothing. The latest to get a sizable investment is a startup looking to use AI to improve people’s grammar.

Eric Schmidt said ATMs led to more jobs for bank tellers. It’s not that simple.
Tess Townsend, Recode

Eric Schmidt is calling himself a “job elimination denier” when it comes to automation, and on Friday, he shared a popular anecdote about ATMs to support his position. The problem is that the anecdote is not completely accurate.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Trump’s new rules will let Sinclair gobble up Tribune
Tony Romm, Recode

Sinclair Broadcast Group announced Monday it will acquire Tribune Media Company for $3.9 billion, the latest sign that media and telecom giants plan to take advantage of a relaxed regulatory environment under U.S. President Donald Trump. If the deal is consummated, it would combine two of the country’s largest owners of local TV stations: Sinclair could add 42 stations in 33 markets to its media empire, as well as the cable network WGN America and other assets.

Verizon does not feel pressure to do big deal: CEO
Anjali Athavaley, Reuters

Verizon Communications Inc does not see an urgent need to undertake a big strategic merger or acquisition, its chief executive said on Monday, as some Wall Street analysts have urged the wireless company to do. Some analysts believe Verizon needs a more transformative acquisition than its $4.48 billion deal for Yahoo Inc’s core business to diversify away from the slow-growth wireless industry as it battles smaller rivals in an oversaturated market for U.S. mobile phone service.

Why Do Gas Station Prices Constantly Change? Blame the Algorithm
Sam Schechner, The Wall Street Journal

One recent afternoon at a Shell-branded station on the outskirts of this Dutch city, the price of a gallon of unleaded gas started ticking higher, rising more than 3½ cents by closing time. A little later, a competing station 3 miles down the road raised its price about the same amount.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Sinclair Broadcast to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion, giving it control over 215 local TV stations
Todd C. Frankel, The Washington Post

Sinclair Broadcast Group said today it will pay $3.9 billion to buy Tribune Media Company and its 42 local TV stations, beating out 21st Century Fox to land the deal. Sinclair already has 173 local news stations. The combined operations of the two companies will create the largest-single group of local TV stations.

Comcast launches new WiFi service as connected devices grow
Anjali Athavaley, Reuters

Comcast Corp launched a new cloud-based service on Monday that allows users to control and monitor their Wi-Fi usage as the largest cable provider in the U.S. looks for ways to boost consumer loyalty in its broadband business. The service, called XFi, allows users to set up their home Wi-Fi, shut off children’s devices at bedtime, and troubleshoot problems from an application on their mobile phones, website or television.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Suicide online: Facebook aims to save lives with new actions
Jeff Martin, The Associated Press

The alarming video on Facebook Live of a Georgia teenager livestreaming her own suicide attempt stayed up long enough to help sheriff’s deputies save her. It underscores Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s assertion that keeping such videos online can allow friends and others to intervene in real time – and save lives.

Facebook Fake News Fight Moves to U.K. Elections
Stu Woo and Jenny Gross, The Wall Street Journal

The fight over fake news is moving to Britain. Facebook Inc., criticized for not doing enough to curb misinformation during last year’s U.S. presidential race, is trying to show it is making a more-concerted effort in the U.K. ahead of next month’s general election.

Daily Report: Snap’s Bright Spot
Pui-wing Tam, The New York Times

Snap, the parent company of the messaging app Snapchat, went public in March. Ever since, it has been buffeted by competition from Facebook.

Austrian court rules Facebook must delete ‘hate postings’
Shadia Nasralla, Reuters

Facebook must remove postings deemed as hate speech, an Austrian court has ruled, in a legal victory for campaigners who want to force social media companies to combat online “trolling”. The case – brought by Austria’s Green party over insults to its leader – has international ramifications as the court ruled the postings must be deleted across the platform and not just in Austria, a point that had been left open in an initial ruling.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Your Password Is Terrible and Everyone Wants to Fix That
Nate Lanxon, Bloomberg News

Headlines about mass data breaches have become ominously routine, and yet password convenience still trumps security for most people. That’s why, year after year, the world’s most popular log-on remains “123456,” a password so obvious it accounted for 17 percent of the 10 million compromised passwords analyzed by Keeper Security, which sells a log-in management service.

California cop union opposes new bill that would thwart license plate readers
Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica

If the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a San Diego-based Republican state senator have their way, it will soon become legal for Californians to cover their license plates while parked as a way to thwart automated license plate readers. Those devices, now commonly in use by law enforcement nationwide, can capture license plate numbers at a very high rate of speed, as well as record the GPS location, date, and time that a particular plate is seen.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

The ‘Frightful Five’ Aren’t So Scary, as Long as They’re Competing
Jeremy G. Philips, The New York Times

There is a growing drumbeat that the five leading tech behemoths have turned into dangerous monopolies that stifle innovation and harm consumers. Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook — what the tech columnist Farhad Manjoo calls the Frightful Five — have a combined market capitalization of more than $2.7 trillion and are an increasing part of everyday life.

Research Reports

False alarmism: Technological Disruption and the U.S. Labor Market, 1850–2015
Rob Atkinson and John Wu, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Contrary to popular perceptions, the labor market is not experiencing unprecedented technological disruption. In fact, occupational churn in the United States is at a historic low. It is time stop worrying and start accelerating productivity with more technological innovation.