Tech Brief: FCC Seeks Silicon Valley’s Thoughts on Net Neutrality

Washington Brief

  • Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai met with executives at Facebook Inc., Oracle Corp., Intel Corp. and other Silicon Valley companies this week to solicit “thoughts on online protections” as he mulls a replacement for the agency’s 2015 net neutrality rules. (The New York Times)
  • Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants the Senate to require a “basic cybersecurity practice,” including two-factor identification, to protect digital information. (The Hill)
  • Federal prosecutors are investigating whether to bring criminal charges against members of WikiLeaks over the recent publication of sensitive CIA cybertools as well as the 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents. (The Washington Post)

Business Brief

  • Verizon Communications Inc. posted its first-ever quarterly net loss of wireless subscribers during the first three months of the year, reflecting the damage caused by its mobile competitors. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Uber Technologies Inc. could see an increase in operator license fees in London as the city’s transportation authority proposes changes to the fee structure for private hire operators. (Reuters)
  • The European Union’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said she will be “closely” watching a potential feature Google Inc. has said it is considering that would block ads on its internet browser, Chrome, and its impact. (Financial Times)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

FCC Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee hosts meeting 10 a.m.



Tesla voluntarily recalls around 53K 2016 Model S and Model X vehicles
Darrell Etherington, TechCrunch

Tesla is issuing a voluntary recall for Model S and Model X vehicles made between February 2016 and October 2016, for a potential manufacturing issue in which the parking brake, once engaged, might experience a fractured internal gear that results in it being stuck in the ‘on’ position.

Elon Musk Lays Out Plans to Meld Brains and Computers
Rolfe Winkler, The Wall Street Journal

Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk on Thursday confirmed plans for his newest company, called Neuralink Corp., revealing he will be the chief executive of a startup that aims to merge computers with brains so humans could one day engage in “consensual telepathy.” Speaking to writer Tim Urban on the explainer website Wait But Why, Mr. Musk confirmed a Wall Street Journal report last month that Neuralink aims to implant tiny brain electrodes that first would be used to fight brain conditions but later help humanity avoid subjugation at the hands of intelligent machines.

Bonds Rise as Stocks Languish Before French Vote: Markets Wrap
V. Ramakrishnan, Bloomberg News

Futures on the S&P 500 rose 0.1 percent as of 6:20 a.m. in New York. The underlying gauge rose 0.8 percent Thursday, with American Express surging nearly 6 percent to pace gains in the financial group after its results topped estimates.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

EU antitrust official to monitor Google plans for ad-blocker
Jessica Dye, Financial Times

The EU’s competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, said on Thursday she will be keeping an eye on a potential feature Google has said it is considering that would block ads on Chrome, its widely used internet browser. Ms Vestager said on Twitter: “We will follow this new feature and its effects closely”.

Spotify ensures independent artists are on board with fresh deal
Helena Soderpalm and Sophie Sassard, Reuters

Music streaming service Spotify said on Thursday it has renewed a nine-year-old licensing deal with independent digital agency Merlin that has proven essential to its enduring appeal to dedicated music fans even as it has become more mainstream. Merlin represents 20,000 independent record labels in 51 countries – around 12 percent of the digital recorded music market – making it Spotify’s fourth largest partner after major labels Sony, Universal and Warner Music, the company said.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

F.C.C. Leader Seeks Tech Companies’ Views on Net Neutrality
Cecilia Kang, The New York Times

Ajit Pai, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, met with Facebook and other tech companies this week to seek feedback on his intention to unwind aspects of net neutrality, the rules that require broadband providers to make all internet content equally accessible for consumers. Mr. Pai said on Thursday that his visits with executives at Facebook, Cisco, Oracle and Intel were constructive and that he believed the companies wanted to find “common ground.”

Verizon, for First Time, Loses Core Wireless Customers
Ryan Knutson and Joshua Jamerson, The Wall Street Journal

Verizon Communications Inc., once the untouchable leader of the U.S. wireless industry, is struggling to hold on to customers and getting them to pay a premium for its service. The carrier posted its first ever quarterly net loss of wireless subscribers during the first three months of 2017, showing the extent of the damage resurgent rivals T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corp. have inflicted on the nation’s largest carrier by subscribers.

Dem lawmaker: FCC now stands for ‘Forgetting Choice and Competition’
Ali Breland, The Hill

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) blasted the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday for a new order easing regulations on special data lines that critics say will reduce competition and increase prices. Institutions like hospitals, small businesses and schools rely on special high-speed internet connections, often called business data services, that they use for devices like ATMs and credit card readers.

Canada Censures Quebecor in Net Neutrality Split With U.S.
Gerrit De Vynck, Bloomberg News

Canada is strengthening regulations to protect the principle of net neutrality just as the U.S. is preparing to gut Obama-era internet rules. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission said Thursday that Montreal-based wireless carrier Quebecor Inc.’s practice of not charging users for data they used for music-streaming services like Spotify violated fairness rules.

FCC moves ahead with measure to ease small-cell deployments
Colin Gibbs, FierceWireless

As expected, the FCC moved forward with plans to make it easier for wireless carriers and their partners to deploy small cells in municipalities across the country. The Commission approved “an examination of the regulatory impediments (PDF)” at the state and local levels that can slow the rollout of small cells and other transmitters in an effort to streamline zoning, permitting and siting challenges.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Uber could face higher license fees in London under new proposals
Estelle Shirbon, Reuters

Taxi app Uber could face an increase in operator license fees in London under proposed changes by the city’s transport authority, the latest in a series of moves by regulators to rein in a firm that has disrupted the traditional taxi industry. Transport for London (TfL) launched a consultation on Thursday on plans to change the fee structure for private hire operators so that firms pay fees that reflect the increased costs of regulating the sector.

Uber is extending its internal investigation into sexual harassment claims
Kara Swisher, Recode

Uber has extended its internal investigation into sexual harassment claims at the company, according to sources. The investigation, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, was sparked by charges of sexual harassment by a former female engineer as well as charges of a wider cultural problem across Uber. Holder has asked the board for more time to complete his inquiry, the sources say.

Why It’s So Hard For Riders To Sue Uber
Leticia Miranda, BuzzFeed News

Uber users who sign up for the app and agree to its terms of service have been given sufficient notice that they have given up their right to sue the company, Uber said in a Massachusetts appeals court Monday. A group of Massachusetts riders who sued the company for charging them an $8.75 airport ride fee, were “expressly and conspicuously informed” of Uber’s terms and conditions once they clicked the “done” button to enter their payment information, Uber said.

Poll: People Are Not Concerned About Samsung’s Fiery Past
Laura Nichols, Morning Consult

As Samsung coaxes users to “unbox your phone” ahead of its Galaxy S8 launch Friday, people appear to have moved on from the company’s scandal involving the last model, which risked catching on fire. Three-quarters of Americans surveyed said they have a favorable view of Samsung, an even match with Google and beating Apple by 5 percentage points, according to a recent Morning Consult poll.

Facebook is looking to hire a head of news products to combat fake news
Kurt Wagner, Recode

Facebook is looking to hire someone to head up its news products, a significant new role charged with helping to combat the proliferation of so-called fake news on its service. Facebook is talking to veterans of both the tech and media industries, according to multiple sources, but is having trouble finding someone with both the news and technology chops necessary to fill the role.

Confide gets slapped with a lawsuit that says it’s not as secure as it claims
Hayley Tsukayama, The Washington Post

A new lawsuit claims that Confide, a privacy-focused messaging app reportedly used by several politicians including those in the Trump administration in February, may not be as secure as it has advertised. Filings from a proposed class-action lawsuit in New York say that Confide’s contention that it does not allow its users to take screenshots of their messages isn’t true.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

Wyden pushing to mandate ‘basic cybersecurity’ for Senate
Joe Uchill, The Hill

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is pushing Senate Committee on Rules and Administration’s leadership to require a “basic cybersecurity practice” to protect Senate email and digital networks. “As you know, the cybersecurity and foreign intelligence threats directed at Congress are significant.

Justice Dept. debating charges against WikiLeaks members in revelations of diplomatic, CIA materials
Matt Zapotosky and Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post

Federal prosecutors are weighing whether to bring criminal charges against members of the WikiLeaks organization, taking a second look at a 2010 leak of diplomatic cables and military documents and investigating whether the group bears criminal responsibility for the more recent revelation of sensitive CIA cyber-tools, according to people familiar with the case. The Justice Department under President Barack Obama had decided not to charge WikiLeaks for revealing some of the government’s most sensitive secrets — concluding that doing so would be akin to prosecuting a news organization for publishing classified information.

CIA, FBI launch manhunt for leaker who gave top-secret documents to WikiLeaks
Jeff Pegues, CBS News

CBS News has learned that a manhunt is underway for a traitor inside the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA and FBI are conducting a joint investigation into one of the worst security breaches in CIA history, which exposed thousands of top-secret documents that described CIA tools used to penetrate smartphones, smart televisions and computer systems.

In Obama’s final year, US secret court denied record number of surveillance requests
Zak Whittaker, ZDNet

A secret court that oversees the US government’s legal surveillance requests has rejected a record number of applications last year, according to new figures. Newly released data by the US Courts show that the Washington DC.-based Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rejected nine applications made during the final year of the Obama administration’s tenure.

Google is seeing more requests for user data worldwide, but it’s responding to fewer
Tess Townsend and Rani Molla, Recode

Google received the most government requests for user data it has received in any six-month period, according to the company’s latest transparency report. The requests were made in the second half of 2016.

Leaked NSA hacking tools are a hit on the dark web
Chris Bing, CyberScoop

Underground hackers are now sharing, promoting and working to adopt executable computer code evident in NSA documents that were published last week by the Shadow Brokers, private sector intelligence analysts tell CyberScoop. Tutorials on how to utilize some of the tools began appearing the same day the NSA documents were originally published, according to researchers at Israel-based dark web intelligence firm SenseCy.

Inside the Hunt for Russia’s Hackers
Sheera Frenkel, BuzzFeed News

Russia’s cyberwarfare operations are built on the back of their cybercriminal networks. Can the US and its allies take them down?

DOJ official leading Trump-Russia probe to step down
Eric Geller, Politico

The Justice Department official who is leading the government’s investigation into potential collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government will step down next month. Mary McCord, who has served as acting assistant attorney general for national security since October, informed DOJ employees this week that she will be leaving in mid-May, a spokesman confirmed to POLITICO.

DHS updates on data mining
Adam Mazmanian, FCW

The Department of Homeland Security uses software tools to extract insights from its vast troves of data. Under federal law, DHS must make an annual report to Congress on its use of data mining to allay concerns about possible privacy violations.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

How Trump can solve the shortage of high-tech workers
Brent Parton, Politico

This week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to curb abuse of the H-1B foreign worker visa program. While H-1B visas were designed to fill a shortage of specialized PhDs and engineers, employers, predominantly in the tech industry, have instead used them to fill entry-level programming and software development jobs.

The broadband privacy CRA: Much ado about…something
Tom Struble, The Topeka Capital-Journal

Recently, Congress and President Trump repealed an FCC order from October 2016 that included new privacy and data security rules for Internet service providers (ISPs). The FCC order is not the first Obama-era regulation to fall victim to the Congressional Review Act (CRA) — a 1996 law used only once prior to this year, but which has been used over 10 times by this administration — but it’s the first to generate significant backlash.

Yahoo’s Demise Is a Death Knell for Digital News Orgs
Adrienne LaFrance, The Atlantic

Yahoo filed its final quarterly report this week. And just like that, the once-mighty tech firm is exiting public trading. The company has been unraveling—slowly and spectacularly—for more than a decade now.

Research Reports

State of the App Economy
ACT – The App Association

In the decade since Apple released the first iPhone, smartphones went from being a cool toy to the most powerful and distributed computing platform in the world.

Be Compromise Ready: Go Back to the Basics

Cybersecurity carries a certain mystique. This comes from a combination of people not being “tech savvy,” sensationalized or incorrect headlines (“Guests Locked in Their Hotel Rooms by Ransomware”), superficial advice from so-called experts and technology-driven cure-alls.