What’s Hot List 2/12/16

White House Proposes New Cybersecurity Plan (Wall Street Journal 2/9)

White House officials plan to enact a range of initiatives this year that they believe will strengthen computer networks against cyberattacks, but part of the proposal—a big increase in federal spending—could hit a wall because it relies on congressional approval.

Obama administration officials are instituting what they call a cybersecurity national action plan, which would create a federal chief information security officer, establish a new commission that looks for ways to protect computer networks, and increase coordination between federal officials who focus on privacy issues.


FBI Steps Up Pursuit of Terror Threats on Social Media (Wall Street Journal 2/7)

As the U.S. government tries to root out homegrown jihadists, the FBI’s campaign to identify budding terrorists via the Internet before they can carry out violence is playing an increasingly prominent role.

Counterterrorism experts say the approach—which relies on informants, as well as undercover agents who monitor chat rooms and target suspects—is often the best chance at disrupting terrorism before it is too late.


Justice Department Probing Breach of Its Computer System (Wall Street Journal 2/8)

The Justice Department said Monday it is investigating how someone was able to sneak into one of the agency’s computer systems and take thousands of federal workers’ names, phone numbers, and email addresses and make them public this weekend.

The computer breach appears to have occurred in the Justice Department’s Civil Division, where hackers apparently were able to trick an employee into providing enough information to enter the nonclassified computer network for that part of the department, according to officials familiar with the matter.
AT&T and FCC chairman square off in set-top box fight (ARS Technica 2/9)

The Federal Communications Commission chairman dismissed concerns from AT&T and other pay-TV providers about new set-top box rules, saying that the companies shouldn’t fear a little competition.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal would force pay-TV providers to make video programming available to the makers of third-party devices and software, saying he wants customers to have more alternatives to set-top boxes rented from cable companies. A vote is scheduled for next week, and TV providers are furious.


Oral Argument Set in Challenge to FCC JSA Decision (Multichannel 2/9)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has set oral argument in broadcasters’ challenge to the FCC’s decision to make most TV joint sales agreements attributable as ownership interests. (The case is Howard Stirk Holdings LLC v. FCC, et al).

Net Neutrality Again Puts F.C.C. General Counsel at Center Stage (New York Times 2/7)

Every day for one month last fall, Jonathan Sallet, the general counsel at the Federal Communications Commission, sneaked into a small, windowless office at the agency, its location undisclosed except to senior staff.

From 6 a.m. until early evening, with Bach streaming in the background, he worked mostly alone, marking up stacks of law books and standing in front of a lectern. His job: Defend in court the F.C.C.’s most contentious policy — rules to classify broadband Internet providers as utilities, widely called net neutrality.

Wolverton: Comcast tests FCC’s resolve, rules on net neutrality (Silicon Beat 2/8)

With the Federal Communications Commission’s strong new net neutrality rules under attack in the courts and by particular business plans, it should come as little surprise that one of the main companies at the center of the ongoing struggle is Comcast.

The broadband giant has played a key role in the net neutrality debate over the last decade, serving as both an obstacle to the FCC’s efforts to require an open Internet and a symbol of the dangers of a world without one. And now that those rules are in place, Comcast is offering perhaps the most important test of their limits with a streaming video service called Stream TV.

Twitter says it’s shut down more than 125,000 accounts promoting ISIS since mid-2015 (Washington Post- The Switch Blog 2/5)

Twitter has suspended more than 125,000 accounts for promoting terrorism related to ISIS since the middle of 2015, the social media firm announced Friday.

The news comes as Obama administration officials have appealed to tech companies such as Twitter to help counter violent extremism online. The company has also been under pressure from groups that track jihadi activity on the Internet to do more to remove ISIS propaganda from its platforms.


Verizon Accused Of Net Neutrality Foul By Zero-Rating Its Go90 Mobile Video Service (Tech Crunch 2/9)

Verizon, the parent of TechCrunch’s parent AOL, is being accused of violating net neutrality principles by excluding its own mobile video streaming service, go90, from data charges — thereby creating an unequal playing field.

On Friday it emerged (via The Verge) that Verizon would not be charging its own customers for the data they consume over go90. An end of January update to the go90 Android app (v1.4.0) notes the service can now be used over LTE without it counting against Verizon customers’ data plans:

If you’re a Verizon wireless post-paid customer, stream go90 videos over LTE without using up your data.

The Sketchy Stat Behind The FCC’s ‘Unlock The Box’ Campaign (Forbes- Commentary from Hal Singer 2/5)

Imagine you wanted to launch a campaign to garner public support for a technology mandate that will steer profits to a politically favored class of companies. Publishing an eye-popping statistic that stokes the anger of the masses would be a very effective tactic.

According to a new Federal Communications Commission “Fact Sheet,” cable customers are experiencing runaway inflation in set-top boxes (STBs)—those anachronistic devices that are collecting dust in your cabinets—at a nominal clip of 185 percent since 1994. Even the Chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, joined the campaign, citing the magical figure in the third paragraph of his Re/Code op-ed.


Out of the (set-top) box and behind the curtain (The Hill 2/10)

At first glance, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) proposal to open the set-top box market to competition would seem a bold and beneficent nod to consumers and the public interest. But like many policy maneuvers in Washington, nothing is as it first seems, and there is more to this than meets the eye. At stake are billions of dollars in revenue, the reconfiguration of a market and a host of societal issues that go well beyond notions of consumer price or choice, including privacy, data protection, piracy and equal opportunity.

Although I recently served as chief of staff and senior legal adviser to a Democratic FCC commissioner, I admit to being confused by Chairman Tom Wheeler’s recent proposal, which appears to be regulatory redux of a well-settled matter in law and policy.