Tech Brief: FCC Votes to Start Net Neutrality Repeal

Washington Brief

  • The Federal Communications Commission voted 2-1 Thursday to begin the rollback of net neutrality rules put in place in 2015. There will be a period for public comment before the proposal moves forward. (The Hill)
  • The global “WannaCry” ransomware attack has inspired the introduction of a bipartisan bill in the House. The PATCH Act would create an interagency review board chaired by the Department of Homeland Security to ensure consistent disclosures of software vulnerability policy. (Bank Info Security)
  • Members of the House Science Committee wrote a letter to President Donald Trump Thursday urging him to appoint a director for the Office of Science and Technology Policy. The letter comes after Politico reported that the president was duped by an internet hoax regarding climate change, and amid concerns about the prevalence of fake news on the internet. (Nextgov)

Business Brief

  • The European Union fined Facebook Inc. $122 million for giving misleading statements related to the company’s 2014 acquisition of WhatsApp. Facebook had told the European Commission the company wouldn’t have access to WhatsApp’s data, but announced data sharing last August. (The New York Times)
  • T-Mobile US Inc. CFO Braxton Carter said merger talks with Sprint Corp. will happen. Combined, the two could leverage Sprint’s spectrum to give bigger companies some competition. (Fierce Wireless)
  • Seeking a competitive edge in cloud computing, Microsoft Corp. will open two data centers in South Africa. Previously, the market relied on data centers in Europe. (Bloomberg News)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

The U.S. Chamber holds an event with Rep. Marsha Blackburn on broadband infrastructure 8:30 a.m.
Senate Broadband Caucus event on telehealth 10:30 a.m.
FCC’s Consumer Advisory Committee meeting on robocalls 11 a.m.



FCC votes to advance net neutrality repeal
Ali Breland and Harper Neidig, The Hill

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to roll back net neutrality rules took its first step forward on Thursday. The commission voted 2-1 along party lines to advance Pai’s Restoring Internet Freedom proposal, which would repeal current net neutrality protections.

Lawmakers to Trump: Without a Science Adviser, You’ll Keep Falling for Fake News
Mohana Ravindranath, Nextgov

Congressional Democrats are concerned President Donald Trump is vulnerable to fake news, especially regarding science. Members of the House Science Committee penned a letter to the president, urging him to fill a top White House science position and to avoid pseudoscience.

Microsoft to Open Africa Data Centers to Seek Edge in Cloud Push
Loni Prinsloo, Bloomberg News

Microsoft Corp. will offer cloud-computing services from data centers in Africa for the first time, seeking an edge over rivals in targeting local customers. The software maker said Thursday it plans to open two data centers in Johannesburg and Cape Town as part of an expansion that stretches across 40 regions globally.

Tencent pushes into news feed and search in challenge to Baidu
Yuan Yang, Financial Times

Tencent has pushed into news feed and search functions in a direct challenge to Chinese search engine Baidu, as the country’s biggest internet group ramps up the competition to keep users within its walls to access the internet. The 770m people who use WeChat, the dominant social messaging app owned by Tencent, received an update on Wednesday night placing the two new functions prominently on the user interface.

China’s Strength and Its Shopping Lift Alibaba’s Results
Paul Mozur, The New York Times

China’s vast ranks of consumers are finding ways to spend more money online — and that’s good news for Alibaba. The Alibaba Group, the Chinese e-commerce giant that a few years ago led the biggest share listing in the history of the American stock market, on Thursday posted strong profit growth and better-than-expected sales growth for the three months that ended in March.

Stocks Steady After Volatile Week; Crude Rises: Markets Wrap
Benjamin Purvis et al., Bloomberg News

Global equities showed signs of stabilizing at the end of a turbulent week in which investors confronted political crises in Washington and Brazil. Oil headed for a second weekly gain as OPEC members supported Saudi Arabian and Russian pledges to extend supply cuts.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

E.U. Fines Facebook $122 Million Over Disclosures in WhatsApp Deal
Mark Scott, The New York Times

Europe’s love affair with Facebook may be coming to an end.On Thursday, the European Union’s powerful antitrust chief fined the social network 110 million euros, or about $122 million, for giving misleading statements during the company’s $19 billion acquisition of the internet messaging service WhatsApp in 2014.

T-Mobile’s Carter: ‘Of course’ talks with Sprint will happen
Colin Gibbs, Fierce Wireless

The M&A passions grew more heated this morning as T-Mobile executives spoke openly about the benefits of a tie-up with Sprint. But T-Mobile made clear that it would consider an open relationship as well.

Sinclair deal puts heat on FCC
Harper Neidig, The Hill

The proposed acquisition by Sinclair Broadcasting Group of Tribune Media Company is inflaming criticism of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which helped pave the way for the deal by relaxing media ownership restrictions. Sinclair announced earlier this month that it had reached an agreement to buy Tribune for $3.9 billion.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

AT&T’s 911 outage ‘result of mistakes made by AT&T,’ FCC’s Pai says
Colin Gibbs, Fierce Wireless

The FCC said AT&T itself was to blame for an outage of its VoLTE 911 network in March. But the agency said the problems that caused the outage have been addressed. AT&T users who tried to call 911 emergency dispatchers late on March 8 were unable to get through for a time, instead hearing fast-busy signals, endless ringing or nothing at all, the FCC said.

Sprint to differentiate SD-WAN offering with hybrid approach, diverse broadband offerings
Sean Buckley, Fierce Telecom

Sprint finally launched its SD-WAN service this week and the company says it will stand out from the pack by offering customers the ability to not only bring their own broadband to the table, but also offer a migratory path. Following an initial trial with business customers late last year, Sprint can now leverage and extend the broadband and Ethernet partner capabilities it has developed to provide connectivity.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

U.K.’s May Opens Door to Facebook Tax in Push for Safer Web
Rebecca Penty and Nate Lanxon, Bloomberg News

Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc. may face a new tax in the U.K. should Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservatives get re-elected as polls suggest on June 8. The Tories promised Thursday to introduce a law that would allow the government to impose a levy on social-media companies and communication service providers, to fund measures aimed at making the internet safer for young people.

Facebook strikes deal to livestream 20 MLB baseball games
Hannah Kuchler, Financial Times

Facebook will broadcast 20 live baseball games on Friday nights this season, in a deal with Major League Baseball that is the most significant step yet towards competing with TV. The first game – Rockies at Reds – will broadcast tomorrow night on the MLB official Facebook page, using Facebook Live.

Facebook wins dismissal of U.S. lawsuits linked to terrorism
Jonathan Stempel, Reuters

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed two lawsuits seeking to hold Facebook Inc liable for supporting terrorist groups by letting them use its social media platform to further their goals, including violence against Jews. U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis in Brooklyn dismissed a $3 billion damages lawsuit by relatives of American victims of Hamas attacks, saying the federal Communications Decency Act regulating internet content immunizes Facebook from liability.

Uber for trucks is here. Here’s how it will work.
Johana Bhuiyan, Recode

Uber, known for its on-demand transportation services, today launched its newest app: A trucking dispatch service called Uber Freight. It works pretty much the same as Uber for everyday riders and drivers, in this case matching commercial shippers with truck drivers looking for a job.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

‘PATCH Act’ Aims to Help Prevent Cyberattacks
Jeremy Kirk, Bank Info Security

New legislation calls for an overhaul of the federal government’s software vulnerability disclosure policies following the ransomware outbreak that was fueled by the leak of a stolen National Security Agency cyberweapon. Under the bill, called Protecting our Ability To Counter Hacking Act, or the PATCH Act, the Department of Homeland Security would chair an interagency review board that would create a more consistent policy on software vulnerability disclosures by government agencies.

Acting U.S. CIO touts 2015 cyber sprint as agencies go unaffected by WannaCry
Billy Mitchell, FedScoop

Had it not been for the 2015 federal cybersecurity sprint, it’s very possible federal agencies would have been hit by the WannaCryransomware, the acting head of U.S. federal IT said Wednesday. Acting U.S. CIO Margie Graves said the cyber sprint the federal government undertook after the Office of Personnel Management breaches two years ago emphasized agencies’ abilities to “scan your environment almost immediately and report back within 24 hours … to know that vulnerability existed in advance.”

Bitcoin’s murkier rivals line up to displace it as cybercriminals’ favorite
Jemima Kelly, Reuters

Bitcoin is well-entrenched as the preferred payment for cybercriminals like the WannaCry hackers who have hit more than 300,000 computers over the past week, but cryptocurrencies offering more anonymity are threatening to displace it. A key reason for bitcoin’s dominance in the nefarious online underworld, say technologists and cybercrime experts, is its size – the total value of all bitcoins in circulation is more than twice that of the nearest of hundreds of rivals.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Debit and credit cards make it far more convenient to buy the things you need and love, yet the Durbin amendment has put red tape on these purchases. Check out EPC’s new video to find out how this impacts you.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Don’t Trust Antitrust Tactics: Why America Must Push for Parity in Europe
Gary Shapiro, Morning Consult

Friday’s congressional subcommittee hearing on international antitrust enforcement could not come at a better time. While the French election of Emmanuel Macron is good news for the future stability of the European Union, there’s room for improvement when it comes to the EU’s overreaching and anti-competitive antitrust enforcement against U.S. companies.

Hey Startups, it’s your duty to fight for Net Neutrality
Sam Altman, Wired

Today entrepreneurs can use the internet and focus first and foremost on building something people want. But if Federal Communications Commission chair Ajit Pai undermines net neutrality, entrepreneurs and consumers will be constrained by what big cable companies want.

Editor’s Corner—Telecom’s move to software and virtualization hounded by the same old problems
Mike Dano, Fierce Wireless

For years, carriers and vendors have been touting the wonders of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). These technologies, the argument goes, will enable network operators to replace expensive, proprietary hardware with software-powered, virtualized services running on cheap, off-the-shelf hardware.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Do you know how the Durbin amendment affects you? Customers haven’t seen lower prices as promised by big box retailers-but that’s not all. The Electronic Payments Coalition has a new video to explain this failed policy. Watch it now.

Research Reports

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the technologies and devices that sense information and communicate it to the Internet or other networks and, in some cases, act on that information. These “smart” devices are increasingly being used to communicate and process quantities and types of information that have never been captured before and respond automatically to improve industrial processes, public services, and the well-being of individual consumers.