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MoveOn pressures FCC to drop Web ‘fast lanes’

Liberal group MoveOn.org is running a TV advertisement in Washington opposing a move to allow companies to create different Internet speeds for various websites.

The new ad comes ahead of the Federal Communications Commission’s meeting, where commissioners are scheduled to vote to move forward with the controversial "fast lanes" proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. The ad begins with a quote from President Obama, who in 2010 said he was a “big believer in net neutrality,” the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally. “Now the FCC might change the rules and let Verizon and Comcast pick winners and losers online,” a narrator says. “Tell the FCC to listen to President Obama.”

The ad is showing in Washington, via by a five-figure buy. The FCC’s contested potential rule would require that Internet service providers maintain a baseline level of service for all websites, but would allow companies to enter into deals to boost speeds for some users. That would make it possible for a company like Google to pay Comcast so that subscribers get quicker access to its sites, for example.

NSA director promises greater transparency

National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers said he wants to promote greater transparency within the agency tainted by releases of classified documents by Edward Snowden.

He said he intends to be more candid with the public about the NSA’s activities.

"The idea of accountability and responsibility is very important to me," he said. "We must ensure that we do not in any way abuse this capability.” He also defended the NSA’s metadata surveillance program, saying it needed better explanation but not necessarily an overhaul.

"It is by design that I have tried to start a series of engagements with a broader and perhaps more different groups than we have traditionally done," he added. “The dialogue to date that we have had for much of the last nine months or so from my perspective, I wish was a little bit broader, had a little more context to it, and was a little bit more balanced."

Senate Dems protest FCC plan for Internet ‘fast lanes’

A group of 10 senators are asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to abandon a proposal that would allow Internet providers to create online “fast lanes.”

The proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would “irrevocably change the Internet as we know it,” the senators wrote in a letter to Chairman Wheeler.

“Small businesses, content creators and Internet users must not be held hostage by an increasingly consolidated broadband industry.” The letter comes days before the FCC’s scheduled May 15 vote on Chairman Wheeler’s attempts to rewrite his agency’s network neutrality rules.

In their letter, the senators said Chairman Wheeler’s proposal “would eradicate net neutrality, not preserve it.” They told the FCC chairman that his plan goes against the agency’s commitment to an open Internet.

“The genius of the Internet is that it allows innovation without permission, not innovation only after cutting a deal with the [Internet provider] and receiving the FCC’s blessing for it,” the letter said. Instead of Chairman Wheeler’s current plans, the agency should consider reclassifying Internet providers to make them more like traditional phone companies, over which the agency has clear authority to regulate more broadly.

Rep Green: Sprint, T-Mobile rumored deal needs ‘critical look’

Rep Gene Green (D-TX) called on the federal government to carefully examine a yet-to-be-proposed merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. “Congress must take a careful and critical look at this deal if and when it is announced and stand up for what’s best for American consumers and American jobs,” Green said, speaking on the floor of the House.

Though the companies have not officially announced their plans to merge, officials from SoftBank -- which purchased Sprint in early 2013 -- have begun publicly touting the benefits the company could bring to the American wireless market if it had a bigger presence. Advocates for the merger say the two companies could better take on industry giants AT&T and Verizon if they combine.

NSA reform bill heads to House floor

The House Intelligence Committee approved legislation to make a number of reforms to the National Security Agency, sending the bill to the House floor. The Intelligence Committee’s approval of the USA Freedom Act by voice vote came just a day after the same bill sailed through the Judiciary Committee on a 32-0 vote and adds to the momentum for reining in the NSA nearly a year after leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shocked the world with details of the agency’s operations.

“Enhancing privacy and civil liberties while protecting the operational capability of a critical counterterrorism tool, not pride of authorship, has always been our first and last priority,” Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) said in a joint statement after the closed-door vote. “We are pleased the House Judiciary Committee reached a compromise that garnered strong, bipartisan support. We look forward to working with the Judiciary Committee, House and Senate leadership, and the White House to address outstanding operational concerns and enact the USA Freedom Act into law this year.”

Broadcast giant forms PAC

Broadcast industry giant Sinclair Broadcasting Group is forming a PAC, according to paperwork recently filed with Federal Election Commission.

Sinclair Senior Vice President of Policy and Strategy Rebecca Hanson, the company will use the PAC as it works on issues in front of Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“There are a lot of challenges facing our industry, and we believe that engaging in the process through the PAC is one of a variety of ways to further our goals,” Hanson said. On its website, Sinclair boasts being "one of the largest and most diversified television broadcasting companies in the country today," including FOX, ABC, NBC and CBS affiliates.

FCC plan for Internet 'fast lanes' in jeopardy

The network neutrality overhaul proposed by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler was thrown in doubt as the agency's two Democratic members expressed serious concerns with the proposal.

With the commission’s two Republican members expected to vote against the plan, Chairman Wheeler needs the votes of commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Cylburn to get it enacted.

Speaking at a public event, Commissioner Rosenworcel threw cold water on Chairman Wheeler's plans to rewrite the net neutrality rules to allow Internet “fast lanes” and called on him to delay consideration of his proposal, which is now scheduled for May 15.

In a blog post, Commissioner Clyburn pledged to take the negative feedback into account heading into the upcoming vote. "Over 100,000 Americans have spoken. ... I am listening to your voices as I approach this critical vote to preserve an ever-free and open Internet," she wrote. She also pointed to her pervious calls to have the agency prohibit "pay for priority arrangements all together."

SEC warns investors to be careful with bitcoin

The Securities and Exchange Commission warned investors to be wary of the virtual currency bitcoin.

The financial regulator cautioned that bitcoin has historically been volatile, subject to hackers, and a potential target for fraudulent schemes. While the regulator did not say people should steer clear of investing in bitcoin or other virtual currencies, it did note that there are several unique challenges to consider.

For example, since bitcoin transactions are not backed by any government or routed through traditional financial institutions, it could be difficult to trace money should something go awry, the SEC said. The SEC also said that since some early bitcoin investors have enjoyed a windfall as the virtual currency gained value compared to dollars, they could be ripe targets for people peddling fraudulent or high-risk schemes. Promoters could also lean on the personal interest many bitcoin investors have in the success of the currency to get them to invest poorly.

After Google win, NARAL targets Yahoo ads

Abortion rights advocates are asking Yahoo to take down “crisis pregnancy center” ads that they say discourage women from having abortions.

The petition from NARAL Pro-Choice America and the women’s rights group UltraViolet comes fresh off of a victory with Google, which NARAL said took down similarly “deceptive” ads in April.

“We hope that Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer will follow Google's example and remove deceptive crisis pregnancy center ads so that women can continue to trust Yahoo to provide the accurate resources we are seeking when we use their platform,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said. “No search engine should allow themselves to be complicit in such a manipulative campaign to lure women into ideologically driven facilities by masquerading as actual abortion service providers.”

Abortion rights advocates say that the pregnancy center ads violate search engines’ advertising policies by targeting people searching for abortions while, in fact, discouraging those services. “These ads use the search term ‘abortion clinic’ when they don't provide those services,” NARAL said in the online petition.

Tech industry cheers new immigration regulations

Leaders of top technology companies applauded the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for announcing new regulations that would allow the husbands and wives of foreign workers to get jobs in the United States.

The draft regulations would help the families of people who are working in the country on high-skilled visas, tech leaders said, and keep top talent in the US.

“By sensibly improving these rules, we can help ensure that the most talented foreign innovators conduct their break-through research right here at home,” said Bruce Mehlman, head of the Technology CEO Council, which represents leaders of Intel, IBM and other tech companies.

Currently, foreign scientists, engineers or computer programmers can come and work in the US on an H-1B visa. Their husbands and wives, however, are stuck with an H-4 visa, which allows them to stay in the US but prevents them from working.

“These factors cause America to lose valuable talent when a green card candidate -- many of whom were educated at American universities -- to abandon their quest for citizenship and seek employment in countries that compete with the United States,” said Linda Moore, president of the TechNet trade group, which counts Apple, Microsoft and AT&T among its members.