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