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House Dems fight back on measure to hamstring Internet oversight shift

A group of House Democrats are pushing back on a Republican amendment mean to limit the administration’s ability to move ahead with its plans to relinquish oversight of key technical Internet functions.

In a letter to Democratic members, Reps Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) urged members to vote against an amendment from Rep Sean Duffy (R-WI) to the Commerce Department’s appropriations bill that would limit the ways the agency can use its funding.

“We strongly urge you to oppose the Duffy Amendment and stand up for a global Internet free from government control,” the lawmakers wrote. The amendment would “greatly increase the likelihood of authoritarian control of the Internet, exactly the opposite outcome its author seeks and that we share as a nation,” they said.

Sinclair Proposes Surrendering Three Licenses to Gain Allbritton Deal Approval

Broadcasting giant Sinclair is taking some of its local stations in Alabama and South Carolina off the air after the Federal Communications Commission actions in 2014 to keep broadcasters from sharing resources.

In a recent filing with the FCC, Sinclair told the agency that it couldn’t find buyers for two stations in Birmingham (AL) and one station in Charleston (NC). Sinclair was supposed to sell those local broadcast stations as part of its nearly $1-billion deal to purchase stations from competitor Allbritton Communications.

Sinclair outlined its plans for various moves so that no joint sales agreements or sharing agreements or financial ties would be involved in its purchase of the Allbritton stations, which has a closing deadline of July or either party can terminate the deal.

Tech industry pushes lawmakers to fund Internet oversight shift

Two groups representing tech industry giants are asking lawmakers to give the administration funding to carry out its controversial plan to relinquish oversight of key technical Internet functions.

That administration move is a “critical transition” that needs full funding to be carried out successfully, the Internet Association and the Information Technology Industry Council said. The Internet Association includes Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Amazon. The Information Technology Industry Council includes Google, Apple, Microsoft and IBM.

The groups ask House members to oppose a provision in the Commerce Department’s authorization bill that would reduce funding for the agency. That bill is being considered on the House floor soon.

Lawmakers to unveil bill for pre-1972 recordings

Reps George Holding (R-NC) and John Conyers (D-MI) are set to introduce a bill that would require Internet radio services like Pandora and Sirius XM to pay to play songs that were recorded before 1972.

The bill from Reps Holding and Conyers -- the Respecting Senior Performers as Essential Cultural Treasures, or RESPECT, Act -- would require Internet radio services to pay federal performance royalty fees for the older recordings.

The call for performance royalty fees for pre-1972 recordings is supported by industry groups and musicians, some of whom -- including Martha Reeves, Dickey Betts and Al Jardine -- are set to appear at the bill’s unveiling.

House lawmakers want answers from eBay

A bipartisan duo of House lawmakers has questions for eBay about its recent data breach. Reps Joe Barton (R-TX) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) told eBay chief John Donahoe that they share “some concerns regarding the data security practices of personal information at eBay.”

The lawmakers, who are both members of the Bipartisan Privacy Caucus, want to know if the company is still gathering details about the full scope of the hack and how users have been affected. They also asked whether or not eBay is looking to overhaul its security standards in light of the hack and if it had noticed a decrease in security breaches in recent years.

Norquist: Don’t tax the Net

Americans for Tax Reform head Grover Norquist wants House lawmakers to permanently ban any tax on companies providing Internet service. In a letter to leaders of the House Judiciary Committee, Norquist said that a current bill in Congress would prevent “punitive and discriminatory” taxes from limiting the power of the Web.

“Excessive taxes will hinder continued growth in the digital space,” he wrote. “Allowing the Internet access tax moratorium to lapse would certainly lead to higher tax rates on consumers and reduce the rate of adoption and innovation. The Internet is our greatest gateway to innovation and education, higher taxes on Internet access undermines American economic competiveness and growth.”

The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act would ban state and local governments from enacting taxes on Internet service. Unless it is passed this year, a 1998 law temporarily prohibiting the taxes would lapse, clearing the way for governments who might be eyeing taxes on Internet service companies as a way to fill their coffers.

Deadline set for Senate action on cybersecurity

The Senate needs to pass a major cybersecurity bill by August, or else the effort could be lost for the year, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) warned.

“If we don’t have something moving by August, I think it gets lost in the haze, and it will be a very long time until we actually get a bill passed that will actually have an impact,” he said.

The Senate has struggled to pass a companion measure to his Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which passed the House more than a year ago. Since then, revelations from Edward Snowden about programs at the National Security Agency have derailed the effort and heightened concerns about government snooping. The bill would allow companies to share information about possible cyber threats with each other and the government.

Rep Rogers said he was “cautiously optimistic that we can find some agreement within the next 30 days to try to get something moving.”

Senate panel to examine ‘stalking apps’

Sen Al Franken (D-MN) will hold a hearing on “stalking apps,” which can secretly track people through their smartphones.

“I believe that Americans have the right to control who can collect that information, and whether or not it can be given to third parties,” said Sen Franken, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on privacy. “But right now, companies -- some legitimate, some not -- are collecting your location and giving it to whomever they want.”

The bill also has a provision to end specific “stalking” apps that can be used by one person to secretly track another person. “My commonsense bill helps a whole range of people, and would finally put an end to GPS stalking apps that allow abusers to secretly track their victims,” Sen Franken said.

That bill will be the subject of the subcommittee’s June 4 hearing, which will include testimony from representatives of the Federal Trade Commission, the Department of Justice, the Government Accountability Office and local law enforcement, as well as the National Consumers League and the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Chamber of Commerce defends US Internet oversight shift

The Chamber of Commerce is encouraging lawmakers to let the Commerce Department go forward with its controversial plans to relinquish its oversight role of technical Internet functions.

In a letter to lawmakers, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Bruce Josten asked that the House not use the Commerce Department’s funding to constrain the administration’s Internet governance plans. The agency “should be allowed to take any needed steps to achieve the cautiousness and transparency that we agree is essential for a safe and smooth transition,” Josten wrote.

School groups 'cannot wait any longer' for FCC

More than a dozen school and library groups want the Federal Communications Commission to update its program to hook public educational facilities up to the Internet.

In a letter, the groups pushed for changes to the FCC's E-Rate program, also called ConnectED, including more money.

"We cannot wait any longer to increase E-Rate support. The time is now to permanently raise the E-Rate’s annual funding cap," groups including the American Library Association, American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association wrote. According to the groups, demand to access the fund is often twice the current cap of $2.4 billion, yet it "has received no meaningful funding increase since 1998."

Additionally, most of the money is tied up for connecting schools and libraries to the Web, which makes it difficult to ensure that every classroom and computer within the building is connected. That is leading to "major roadblocks to students, educators and library patrons having enough bandwidth to perform online research, participate in digital professional learning classes and apply online for jobs or government services and benefits."