Coverage of how Internet service is deployed, used and regulated.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin is ‘looking closely’ at online sales taxes

The Trump administration is weighing whether to support online sales taxes that could give state governments greater flexibility in their budgets. Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee July 25, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the White House “is looking very closely at this issue” and that it intends to “come out with a position shortly.”

Sec Mnuchin said that the policy could be an important way for states to fund infrastructure — an issue that President donald Trump has touted as a key part of his agenda with a $1 trillion spending plan. Some analysts have questioned the feasibility of that plan because it would cut federal investments in infrastructure by tens of billions of dollars. But allowing states to require companies to collect and remit taxes on online sales could help make up some of the shortfall.

Reps Pallone and Doyle Ask House Commerce Committee GOP to Invite Additional Witnesses To September Network Neutrality Hearing

After House Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) announce that he had invited the CEOs of both Internet-based companies and broadband internet access service providers to a September hearing on network neutrality, the committee’s Democratic leadership wrote to him saying, “In your announcement of the hearing, you said the Chief Executive Officers from eight of the largest corporations in the world with a combined market capitalization of nearly $2.5 trillion had been invited to testify. Although you stated the hearing was an inquiry into the ‘internet ecosystem,’ you once again failed to recognize how important the internet is for consumers, small businesses, entrepreneurs, political organizers, public interest groups, and people looking for work. We therefore ask that you make sure that any hearing has sufficient witnesses to represent the diversity of real people who will be affected by the FCC’s efforts to roll back net neutrality,”

A Day of Reflection after the Day of Action

First, AT&T joined the Day of Action because we too support an open internet. We are and have always been against blocking, censorship and discriminatory throttling. We support transparency in internet practices. The activists were confounded. I’ll be honest, I don’t get the confusion.

AT&T has for years consistently supported the core tenets of an open internet in our advocacy, in our business practices and even in sworn testimony before Congress. But that didn’t matter. Far from embracing our support for internet freedom, the Fight for the Future crowd declared our support a deliberate effort to mislead the public, all because we share a common goal but do not embrace common means. FFF went as far as to mean-girl us by proclaiming that we couldn’t even sit at the open internet table. Is it ironic to pursue an agenda of openness through exclusionary tactics, or is it just me? If the Day of Action proved anything, it’s that there is broad consensus that the internet in America should always be a place for free expression of ideas and an open exchange of information free from censorship and blocking. The disagreement is really quite narrow.

Repealing Net Neutrality is Easy. Replacing it Will Be Hard

The Federal Communications Commission is well on its way towards repealing its existing network neutrality rules, which ban internet service providers from blocking legal content, slowing down specific connections, or charging tolls for so-called "fast lanes" on the internet. But the "replace" half will fall to Congress. And that's going to be much harder.

Earlier in July Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR), a longtime net neutrality advocate, said that he would only support a net neutrality bill that provided the same level of consumer protection that the FCC's current regulations do. He also dismissed the idea that the Federal Trade Commission could enforce such rules. "This is not their beat, their beat is not communications," Sen Wyden said, echoing similar concerns from activists. Republicans could pass a bill without support from Democrats, but only if they can draft a bill that they all support. But just like replacing Obamacare, that's not as easy as it sounds.

Facebook, Google and others are in a lose-lose position with an upcoming congressional network neutrality hearing

A coming Congressional hearing on network neutrality has left the likes of Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix in a tough position: They can either subject their chief executives to a potential grilling — or sit it out and take plenty of political heat.

If they sit out the hearing, they might send a poor political signal — to supporters and opponents alike — at a time when the Trump administration is preparing to scrap the US government’s current net neutrality rules. For the moment, tech giants don’t have much to say about their plans. Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix declined to say if they would dispatch their chief executives to Congress. They have until July 31 to contact the committee about their participation. Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, haven’t yet heard from those companies, either. But the House Commerce Committee did offer an early warning: “It is our expectation that the invited individuals will attend. These CEOs are in a unique position to provide important perspectives on issues they have long been publicly vocal on,” said a spokesman for House Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR).

Tech giants that decline to attend the hearing — or try to send a lower-level executive — could incur the wrath of federal lawmakers, who are known to blast companies that don’t testify. Then again, appearing before Congress could subject the likes of Amazon’s Bezos or Netflix’s Hastings to tough, unwelcome questions — on issues that might not have to do with net neutrality at all.

Louisville’s Award-Winning Redlining Map Helps Drive Digital Inclusion Efforts

Louisville (KY) has garnered much praise for an award-winning data map that visualizes the modern day effects of redlining — a practice that dates back to the 1930s, and involves racial and socioeconomic discrimination in certain neighborhoods through the systematic denial of services or refusal to grant loans and insurance. This map, dubbed Redlining Louisville: The History of Race, Class and Real Estate, takes historic data about redlining found in the national archives in Washington (DC) in 2013, and combines it with a timeline of historic events, data about current poverty levels, neighborhood boundaries and racial demographic info. With a host of tools including buttons and sliders, users can clearly see the correlation between the deliberate injustices of the past and the plight of struggling neighborhoods today. For Louisville CIO Grace Simrall, the map is proving an asset in the city’s ongoing work to improve digital equity. City officials have also looked at the map as lens through which to examine digital inclusion, the effort to provide all residents with equal access to technology, as well as the related skills to benefit.

Nonprofit group sues President Trump over infrastructure council

A nonprofit group is challenging President Donald Trump over his infrastructure council, claiming that the panel has been operating in secrecy and that its co-chairs have potential conflicts of interest. In a lawsuit filed July 25 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Food & Water Watch claims that the administration violated federal public access requirements in establishing and running the new panel. In addition to President Trump, the lawsuit also lists the Transportation and Commerce departments as defendants. President Trump announced in January that he was putting billionaire real estate developers Richard LeFrak and Steven Roth in charge of the council, which is helping oversee his proposed $1 trillion rebuilding push and vetting transportation projects. But Trump only recently issued an executive order to formally establish the group. In its complaint, the nonprofit group alleges that the White House violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act, which requires advisory panels to publicly disclose meetings and members and requires membership to be fairly balanced in terms of the points of view represented.

How Smart Devices Could Violate Your Privacy

Where smart technologies are concerned, the expectation of privacy extends only from the consumer to machine. Once the machine communicates with an outside server – even where data is sent to a server controlled by the product's manufacturer – privacy is violated. Currently, law enforcement can obtain a search warrant compelling a third party to turn over data recorded by the smart device if the company can control or access the information.

The Supreme Court has yet to consider a case that specifically addresses whether, in an era of modern technology where we regularly choose to give personal data to third parties, a person should have an expectation of privacy in the information. As the law stands, once information is voluntarily disclosed to a third party, he does not. One case currently pending at the Supreme Court may tee up the issue of the Third Party Doctrine in the digital age, but until the Court takes on such a case, this premise holds true. It seems the one thing technologists and lawyers alike agree on is that the "right" to privacy could be overcome by technology very soon. The danger is that the new standard will become: You have the right to remain silent, but your smart home does not.

Twitter faces new criticism from Congress amid charges it briefly blocked net neutrality critics

Sens Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) sharply rebuked Twitter following reports that the website briefly blocked its users from posting links to a blog post that criticized the US government’s network neutrality rules. Twitter previously had described the mishap as a glitch, but Sens Johnson and Blunt still penned a letter that slammed the company’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, for an incident that appeared to lawmakers to be “an affront to free expression.”

The confusing saga began on July 12, the day that Twitter joined Facebook, Google and other tech giants for an online rally in defense of an open internet. But those who sought to share the company’s blog post could not do so on Twitter. For a time, the site marked the link as suspicious and blocked new tweets containing it. That immediately led to cries of censorship, given Twitter’s public participation in the day of action in support of net neutrality — and on the opposite side of the debate from AT&T. A Twitter spokesman at the time said the link was “erroneously caught in Twitter's anti-spam filters” and quickly remedied the mistake. But the fracas still managed to reach Capitol Hill, where Sens Johnson and Blunt on Tuesday described the incident in a letter to Dorsey as “disturbing.”

'Confused' Public Needs Help on Net Neutrality, Rep Brooks Says

Rep Susan Brooks (R-IN) told a packed room of small and mid-sized cable operators here that the government should back away from burdensome internet regulation, and called on the crowd to help explain to consumers how the current rules could hurt. “We have to provide a framework that offers a guardrail,” said Rep Brooks, who sits on the Commerce Committee and represents most of northern Indianapolis. “But we can’t be so restrictive that we are impeding all the innovation and all the advances in technology.”

Part of the problem with building momentum for the changes is public support, and the fact that the true definition of “net neutrality” has been hijacked by some groups to fit their own point of view — and business strategy, Rep Brooks said. “We do believe in an open internet,” she said, “and we don’t believe in throttling or blocking customers’ signals for any reason." But, she said, “There is no subject more confused in the mind of the pubic than net neutrality.” “We need to figure out a way to talk about this differently,” she said, with more simplicity. “We get thousands of calls and letters on this issue. People do not understand.”