Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Federal Communications Commission

  • President Donald Trump held a closed-door meeting with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in the Oval Office on Monday. They did not discuss any pending agency proceedings, and did not discuss deals such as the proposed AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Inc. merger. The next day Pai was renominated by Trump for a five-year term at the agency.
  • All three FCC commissioners testified at a Senate Commerce Committee oversight hearing. Pai told lawmakers that even if the commission’s rule mandating strict privacy rules for internet service providers is undone, the FCC still has the authority to protect consumer privacy on a case-by-case basis.
  • Pai announced an investigation Wednesday into the nationwide outage of AT&T Inc.’s 911 emergency call service.

ISP privacy rule

  • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) introduced a resolution that would overturn the FCC’s privacy rule for internet service providers. The resolution, which would utilize the Congressional Review Act, has at least 23 cosponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, introduced the House version of a Congressional Review Act resolution that would overturn the FCC’s privacy rule. All 16 Republicans on her subcommittee are co-sponsors.
  • Because the FCC is set to block the implementation of the rule regardless, some analysts are questioning why congressional Republicans are working to repeal them through the CRA. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John Thune (R-S.D.) suggested it could be a way to push Democrats to negotiate on broader net neutrality legislation, a notion echoed by several tech policy analysts.


  • WikiLeaks released thousands of documents that purportedly detail software tools used by the Central Intelligence Agency to hack into smartphones, computers and internet-connected televisions.
  • Contractors likely breached security and provided documents detailing the CIA’s use of hacking tools to WikiLeaks, according to U.S. officials. Intelligence agencies have been aware of the breach since last year.
  • Google Inc. says its Android and Chrome products are now strong enough to defend some of the vulnerabilities the CIA may have exploited to carry out surveillance, as described in the documents published by WikiLeaks.
  • Industry leaders are reviewing an updated version of a delayed cybersecurity executive order. The White House’s decision to share the draft with stakeholders suggests the order is nearing completion, according to Center for Global Enterprise Chairman Samuel Palmisano.
  • Researchers have found several “critical” security vulnerabilities in Confide, an encrypted messaging app that’s said to be used by federal employees to communicate and leak information.

What’s Ahead

  • Republican lawmakers have 24 legislative days remaining to pass a Congressional Review Act resolution that would rescind the FCC’s ISP privacy rule before the 60 legislative-day timeline expires.
  • The Free State Foundation’s annual telecom policy conference this week will include remarks from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (R) and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly (R), Acting Federal Trade Commission Chair Maureen Ohlhausen (R), Sen Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Blackburn.
  • All 13 Democratic members of the Senate Commerce Committee requested FCC Chairman Ajit Pai respond by March 17 to questions regarding his views on the news media and his intentions to regulate them fairly and impartially. In a March 10 letter, the senators said they found it “unfortunate” that Pai refused to directly answer questions about Trump’s criticisms of the media.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

FCC Incentive Auction Task Force and Media Bureau workshop on post-auction broadcast transition 10 a.m.
FCBA Enforcement Committee meeting on FCC process reform 12:15 p.m.
Free State Foundation annual telecom policy conference 8:30 a.m.
Senate Commerce Committee hearing on integrating unmanned aircraft systems 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on advanced materials and production 10:15 a.m.
FCBA Wireless Committee meeting with FCC eighth-floor wireless aides 12:15 p.m.
FCC Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council meeting 1 p.m.
ITIF event on Chinese innovation 10 a.m.
House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on smart communities 10 a.m.
Open Technology Institute event on strong encryption 1:30 p.m.


Morning Consult Tech Top Reads

1) Republicans introduce resolution to kill FCC’s internet privacy rules
Jacob Kastrenakes, The Verge

2) Security holes found in chat app popular with White House staffers
Selena Larson, CNN

3) President Trump Meets With FCC Chairman Ajit Pai
Ted Johnson, Variety

4) WikiLeaks offers CIA hacking tools to tech companies: Assange
Dustin Volz and Joseph Menn, Reuters

5) Sprint Wins $139.8 Million in Time Warner Cable Patent Trial
Susan Decker, Bloomberg News

6) FCC cracks down on anonymous calls to Jewish centers amid bomb threats
Russell Brandom, The Verge

7) Government Isn’t Sharing Cyber Threats As Promised, Private Sector Says
Joseph Marks, Nextgov

8) CIA contractors likely source of latest WikiLeaks release: U.S. officials
John Walcott and Mark Hosenball, Reuters

9) These Are the 50 Most Promising Startups You’ve Never Heard Of
Ellen Huet, Bloomberg News

10) WikiLeaks Releases Trove of Alleged C.I.A. Hacking Documents
Scott Shane et al., The New York Times


Tech Brief: NIAC Warns of U.S. Vulnerability to Cyberattacks

The National Infrastructure Advisory Council warned that the United States is not ready to cope with catastrophic cyberattacks aimed at the U.S. power grid and other critical infrastructure, with one member warning that “we’re in a pre-9/11 moment.” The presidential advisory group, which includes former government officials and business executives, voted up a report recommending that the country establish separate communications networks for critical systems and work to rapidly declassify cybersecurity threats for infrastructure operators.

Tech Brief: NTSB Plans Vote on Cause of Tesla Autopilot Accident

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board plans to vote at a hearing next month on the probable cause of a May 2016 car crash that killed a man who was using the semi-autonomous driving system in his Tesla Model S sedan. The incident raised questions about the safety of semi-autonomous vehicle systems that allow car operators to drive for long stretches with little human-vehicle intervention.

Tech Brief: Lobbying Tech Groups Target NAFTA Renegotiations

According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the number of tech companies and trade associations registered to lobby U.S., Canadian and Mexican government officials has more than doubled in the last few months. Companies like Cisco Systems Inc. and Microsoft Corp. are looking to zero out tariffs for tech goods and remove restrictions on cloud storage as officials prepare to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Tech Brief: Intel CEO Leaves Trump’s Manufacturing Council

Brian Krzanich, Intel Corp.’s chief executive, joined the chief executives of Merck and Under Armour in announcing that he would leave Trump’s council on American manufacturing following the president’s response to violence during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Krzanich said he resigned “to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues.” 

Tech Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit will not block the Federal Communications Commission’s April decision to eliminate price caps for much of the business broadband market. The FCC’s business data services ruling deems certain local markets as competitive, even when there is only one broadband service provider.

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