Tech Brief: Trump Nominates Delrahim to Lead DOJ’s Antitrust Division

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump nominated Makan Delrahim to be the Justice Department’s next antitrust chief. The former corporate lawyer has said AT&T Inc.’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Inc. doesn’t pose a “major antitrust problem.” (Recode)
  • The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could upend almost 30 years of law governing patent lawsuits. Tech groups say current statutes have lead so-called patent trolls to sue in friendly courts, giving them the upper hand over companies such as Apple Inc. and Google Inc. (Reuters)
  • The House is scheduled to vote today on a resolution that would undo the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules. If the measure is signed into law, a group called Fight for the Future says it will put up billboards in Washington and select districts attacking lawmakers who voted in favor of the resolution. (The Hill)

Business Brief

  • Uber Technologies Inc. resumed self-driving car operations in San Francisco and testing of autonomous vehicles in Tempe, Ariz., and Pittsburgh following a crash involving one of their cars. (CNN)
  • Idaho became the second state, after Virginia, to pass a law permitting unmanned, ground-based delivery robots to travel on sidewalks. The law takes effect on July 1. (Recode)
  • Facebook Inc. rolled out tools that allow users to identify their local, state and federal representatives and then call them. (The Washington Post)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Tuesday
Rep. Blackburn addresses NTCA conference 8 a.m.
House Homeland Security Committee hearing on improving cybersecurity for federal networks 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on self-driving cars 10 a.m.
House Oversight Committee hearing on federal IT acquisition 2 p.m.
FBI’s Baker speaks at GWU event on countering extremism online 4:20 p.m.
Wednesday
Sen. Capito, FCC’s O’Rielly speak at American Cable Association conference 8:30 a.m.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce event on emerging technologies 9 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on next-generation 911 10 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the technical skills gap 10 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee confirmation hearing for Deputy Transportation Secretary nominee Jeffrey Rosen 2:30 p.m.
Thursday
Former FTC Commissioner Brill discusses internet policy, antitrust issues at CCIA event 12:15 p.m.
Sens. Booker, Gardner discuss the Internet of Things at AEI event 3 p.m.
Friday
EU Commissioner Jourová discusses Privacy Shield at CSIS event 11 a.m.

 

General

The holiday is over: Amazon will collect sales taxes nationwide on April 1
Darla Mercado, CNBC

Amazon, the online merchandise juggernaut, will collect sales taxes from all states with a sales tax starting April 1. Tax-free shopping will be over as of next month in Hawaii, Idaho, Maine and New Mexico, the four remaining holdouts.

Amazon’s store of the future is delayed. Insert ‘Told ya so’ from skeptical retail execs.
Jason Del Rey, Recode

When I asked Target’s chief information and digital officer about Amazon’s new store of the future in January, he smiled. “I’m kind of skeptical,” the executive, Mike McNamara, said in an interview at an industry trade show that day.

Elon Musk Launches Neuralink to Connect Brains With Computers
Rolfe Winkler, The Wall Street Journal

Building a mass-market electric vehicle and colonizing Mars aren’t ambitious enough for Elon Musk. The billionaire entrepreneur now wants to merge computers with human brains to help people keep up with machines.

Donald Trump, Palantir, And the Crazy Battle To Clean Up A MultiBillion- Dollar Military Procurement Swap
Steven Brill, Fortune

While Donald Trump was promising last year to drain the swamp in Washington, a long, quiet battle to drain an especially entrenched, money-wasting corner of that morass was reaching a surprising turning point in a courthouse that sits a few hundred feet from the White House.

Stocks, Crude Advance as Calm Returns; Rand Slumps: Markets Wrap
Will Davies and V. Ramakrishnan, Bloomberg News

Futures on the S&P 500 rose 0.1 percent. The underlying gauge dropped 0.1 percent Monday, paring a loss of as much as 0.9 percent.

Intellectual Property and Antitrust

Trump’s new antitrust nominee has said he doesn’t see major problems with the AT&T-Time Warner merger
Tony Romm, Recode

President Donald Trump has nominated a former corporate lawyer — who previously said that AT&T’s bid for Time Warner doesn’t pose a “major antitrust problem” — as the U.S. Justice Department’s next competition chief. The White House announced today that it had selected Makan Delrahim, who is already aiding the Trump administration, as its pick to be the assistant attorney general for antitrust, a key government position with the power to approve or deny mergers and investigate companies for potential competition threats.

U.S. top court considers changing where patent cases may be filed
Andrew Chung, Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struggled over whether to upend nearly 30 years of law governing patent lawsuits that critics say allows often-baseless litigants to sue in friendly courts, giving them the upper hand over high-technology companies such as Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google. The justices heard an hour of arguments in an appeal by beverage flavoring company TC Heartland LLC to have a patent infringement suit brought against it by food and beverage company Kraft Heinz Co moved from federal court in Delaware, where it was filed, to Heartland’s home base in Indiana.

Telecom, Wireless and TV

Group promises billboards attacking lawmakers voting to repeal internet privacy rules
Harper Neidig, The Hill

An internet rights group is promising to put up billboards attacking lawmakers who vote in favor of a bill that would dismantle privacy protections for internet users. If the bill is signed into law as is widely expected, the Fight for the Future campaign will put up billboards in Washington, DC and select districts that list the lawmakers who voted for the measure.

Comcast to expand streaming service amid cord-cutting trend
Anjali Athavaley and Jessica Toonkel, Reuters

Comcast Corp is planning to rebrand and expand a streaming video option for broadband subscribers who do not want to pay for a traditional cable package, sources told Reuters on Monday. The service, dubbed Xfinity Instant TV, will be priced as low as $15 a month to roughly $40 a month, sources said. It will include major broadcast networks as well as add-on options for sports channels like ESPN and Spanish language channels such as Telemundo and Univision.

Possible Tribune Suitor Sinclair Woos FCC’s Pai on Regulations
Todd Shields, Bloomberg News

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., a broadcaster eager for freedom from U.S. rules limiting mergers, lined up a Republican regulator for a company conference in Baltimore’s Four Seasons hotel days after the Nov. 8 election. Ajit Pai’s trip from nearby Washington turned out to be a coup when Donald Trump’s surprise election win put Republicans in charge of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Mobile Technology and Social Media

Uber’s self-driving cars are back on the road after an accident
Selena Larson, CNN

Uber’s self-driving cars are back on the road, following a weekend crash in Tempe, Ariz. that grounded test cars in Pittsburgh and Arizona. Tempe police confirmed to CNNTech the self-driving Uber vehicle involved in the rollover accident Friday night was not at fault, and there were no life-threatening injuries.

Idaho is the second state to allow unmanned robots to deliver to your front door
April Glaser, Recode

Idaho has become the second U.S. state to pass legislation to permit unmanned, ground-based delivery robots to rove around on sidewalks across the state. Earlier this month, Virginia made robotics history as the first state to pass a law specifically addressing the use of autonomous terrestrial delivery robots.

You can now call your congressman through Facebook
Brian Fung, The Washington Post

Since the election in November, U.S. lawmakers have received a deluge of phone calls from Americans weighing in on the GOP’s congressional agenda. Now, those floodwaters may rise even higher as Facebook rolls out new tools making it easier for users to contact their representatives.

Uber to end services in Denmark after three years
Nikolaj Skydsgaard, Reuters

Ride-hailing group Uber Technologies will withdraw services in Denmark next month due to a taxi law that sets out new requirements for drivers such as mandatory fare meters, the company said on Tuesday. Uber has faced headwinds since its app went online in Denmark in 2014 as local taxi driver unions, companies and politicians complained that Uber posed unfair competition by not meeting legal standards required for established taxi firms.

Postmates has picked up an Obama administration alum as it eyes the policy fights to come
Tony Romm, Recode

Whether it counts on human couriers or someday replaces them entirely, the on-demand food-delivery service Postmates is beginning to recognize that it has plenty of policy battles on its hands. To that end, the startup has hired one of former President Barack Obama’s top aides on innovation and automation: Vikrum Aiyer, who is joining Postmates as its head of strategic communications and policy, he told me in an email.

Cybersecurity and Privacy

U.K.’s Rudd to Meet Social-Media Companies on Fighting Terrorism
Alex Morales and Eddie Buckle, Bloomberg News

U.K. Home Secretary Amber Rudd will meet social-media companies Thursday to ask for help in combating terrorism after calling on Facebook Inc. to open the encryption of its WhatsApp messaging system to security services. “We believe there is more the social-media companies can do to help with the fight against terrorism,” Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman, James Slack, told reporters in London Monday, announcing the planned meeting.

After the London terror attack, a top U.K. official says Facebook needs to open up WhatsApp
Peter Kafka, Recode

A top U.K. official is targeting WhatsApp, after reports that the terrorist who killed four people used the Facebook-owned messaging app before launching his attack in London this week. Home Secretary Amber Rudd complained that WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption system offered terrorists a safe way to communicate, and said government agencies need to be able to peer inside the messaging app.

Is Trump Still Tweeting From His Unsecured Android Phone?
Kaveh Waddell, The Atlantic

There are two personalities on display in Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. One Trump generally spells things correctly, tweets flattering news stories, and politely thanks visitors for meeting with him. The other Trump is easily provoked, capitalizes random words, and lashes out in real time at things that annoy him.

Former cyber czar looks to change info sharing
Sean D. Carberry, FCW

Founded in 2014 as a consortium of cybersecurity firms seeking to improve threat-information sharing and incident response, the Cyber Threat Alliance is now a formal non-profit with former White House cyber czar Michael Daniel as its president. After two weeks at the helm of CTA, Daniel told FCW that he believes the growing member association can drive a number of changes in the cybersecurity ecosystem.

IT Modernization Bill Could Be Reintroduced To Congress This Week
Frank Konkel, Nextgov

One of the tech-savviest congressmen is ready to reintroduce legislation to tackle one of the federal government’s greatest technology problems. Sources on Capitol Hill tell Nextgov Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, could introduce a tweaked version of the Modernizing Government Technology Act, which passed the House in September but stalled in the Senate during the lame-duck session.

House intelligence chairman reviewed surveillance documents at White House before briefing president
Karoun Demirjian et al., The Washington Post

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee went to the White House to review the classified documents that he later used to brief the White House on the possibility that President Trump and his associates might have been swept up in legal surveillance, his office acknowledged Monday.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Congress Is Trying to Take Away Your Online Privacy
Ernesto Falcon and Jeremy Gillula, Fortune

Back in 2014, 3.7 million Americans submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), stating loudly and clearly: We don’t want Internet service providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Comcast, or AT&T spying on or controlling how we use the Internet. Their voices convinced the FCC to update privacy rules that would prevent ISPs from spying on Americans or selling their data.

Innovation Can Fix Government, Sure. Either That or Break It
Emily Dreyfuss, Wired

You don’t need to be in government to know how slowly it moves. In business, that kind of inefficiency makes entrepreneurial mouths water.

Research Reports

Attacks, Crashes Underscore Need for New 911 Systems
Tim Henderson, The Pew Charitable Trusts

A recent rash of disruptions in antiquated 911 emergency-response systems points up the urgent need for new technology to save lives in the wireless age. But few states or localities have the financial means to pay for it on their own.

“Innovation Orchards”: Helping Tech Start-Ups Scale
Peter L. Singer and William B. Bonvillian, The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation

Federal support for R&D has fallen precipitously in recent years as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), and because of this, the United States risks slipping significantly as a global innovation competitor. More federal investment is needed to avoid falling behind.

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