What’s Hot List: 3/25/16

Government by Google (Wall Street Journal 3/21/16)

Anyone who doubts the miracle of market innovation should watch a movie on a computer tablet: Americans can queue up thousands of programs thanks to services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, and in recent years many have ripped out the clunky old cable box. In response to this nonproblem, the government is rolling out rules for television “competition” that would mainly help the paupers running Google.

FCC’s cable box rules won’t prohibit extra ads around TV channels (ARS Technica 3/22)

When the Federal Communications Commission voted for a plan to let consumers watch TV channels on more devices, pay-TV companies complained that makers of third-party set-top boxes might insert their own advertising into cable TV. As a result, the cable TV lobby claimed customers would have to watch the standard television commercials plus see extra advertising distributed by whichever company makes the device or software they’re using to watch TV.


FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler dismissed these concerns, and on the day of the vote he said that insertion of additional advertising would be prohibited. But the full text of the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), released after the vote on February 18, shows that there likely won’t be a new rule preventing insertion of additional advertising.

Overnight Tech: Internet privacy, subsidies on agenda for FCC oversight hearing (The Hill 3/21)

All five members of the Federal Communications Commission will testify Tuesday in the House amid a bevy of activity at the agency.

Look for Chairman Tom Wheeler and the two other Democratic commissioners to defend a pair of proposals slated for a vote next week — one to start creating Internet privacy rules and another to expand the federal Lifeline program so the government can begin offering Internet subsidies to the poor.

FCC Releases List of Bidders for Wireless Airwaves Auction (Wall Street Journal 3/18)

Comcast Corp., a Silicon Valley investor and other potential new wireless players have filed paperwork to bid in an upcoming government auction of airwaves that are expected to fetch tens of billions of dollars.

The Federal Communications Commission on Friday released a list of dozens of companies that have applied to bid in the auction, which is set to begin later this month. The FCC is buying airwaves from local TV stations and reselling the spectrum to companies that operate cellular networks.


Regulation is supposed to protect us, whether from changing climate or lead in our water or speculators who crash financial markets.

But the FCC has proposed a regulation that hands control of your TV to the country’s biggest monopolist, Google.

Verizon outlines net neutrality stance with statement against blocking, throttling (Fierce Wireless 3/21)

Verizon trumpeted its backing of some net neutrality principles, saying in a public statement that it backs policies banning service providers from blocking or throttling specific kinds of content and prohibiting them from charging content partners for faster delivery of their wares.

T-Mobile Deal With YouTube Might Mean The End Of Net Neutrality (Forbes 3/18)

It was a difficult struggle for the FCC ngIf: ticker to finally get a net neutrality framework in place that can withstand legal scrutiny. Unfortunately, implementing net neutrality and enforcing net neutrality seem to be two different things. The FCC’s approval—tacit or otherwise—of T-Mobile’s Binge On service indicates that net neutrality is all but meaningless in the real world, and adding YouTube as the latest trophy for T-Mobile might be a nail in the coffin of what net neutrality is supposed to be.

Supreme Court wades into Apple’s patent dispute with Samsung (The Hill 3/21)

The Supreme Court is wading into a years-long patent dispute between Apple and Samsung that could have broader implications for the tech industry.

On Monday, the high court agreed to hear the narrow appeal of a case in which Samsung was ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for copying a series of patents on the design of the iPhone.


U.S. Says ‘Outside Party’ Could Unlock Terrorist’s iPhone (Wall Street Journal 3/22)

A federal magistrate judge postponed a highly anticipated Tuesday hearing over the Justice Department’s request for Apple Inc. to help unlock a terrorist’s iPhone, after the government said it may have found another way to view the phone’s contents.


Apple Encryption Flaw Discovered by Johns Hopkins Researchers (Wall Street Journal 3/21)

Apple Inc. employs some of the best encryption engineers in the world, but they aren’t perfect.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University discovered a flaw in the encryption software used by the company’s iMessage program, which is used to send text messages between Apple devices. The bug could allow law-enforcement agents or hackers to decrypt photos or videos attached to these messages as they are transmitted over the Internet.

How Apple, Comcast, Google, Amazon Have Skin In FCC Set-Top Game (Investor’s Business Daily 3/23)

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler aims to throw open the set-top box market, a plan that has Comcast, AT&T (and other pay-TV providers steaming but could take years to play out.

The Federal Communications Commission plans to make it easier for consumers to switch from set-top boxes leased monthly from pay-TV companies to new devices sold at retail by consumer electronics or Internet companies.

As FCC considers new broadband privacy rules, report urges wider user data safeguards (Tech Crunch 3/23)

A new report from U.S. consumer rights and privacy advocacy group, the Center for Digital Democracy, has set out the case for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to tighten data protection rules around how ISPs and telcos collect and use consumer data.

The FCC is currently consulting on proposals to changes to the rules on how ISPs can gather and utilize customer data — with an internal vote due at the end of this month. If the commissioners vote for the rule changes (as expected), a wider U.S. public consultation would then take place ahead of any new regulations being forged.

The Future of Net Neutrality (Commentary by Robert Litan and Hal Singer 3/16)

For almost a decade, net neutrality, or the equal treatment of all websites by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), has been one of the most contentious technology policy issues in the United States. On one side, ISPs have argued that websites that want priority of service should be able to pay for it, much as first-class flyers or FedEx customers pay for better or quicker service. On the other side are most web-based content providers, which want to be treated equally.

Tom Wheeler Gets a Lesson in Politeness from Democratic Congresswoman (Tech Policy Corner 3/22)

Nobody interrupts members of Congress, dodges their questions, or burns their five blocks of speaking time at hearings like FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. If there were a medal for appointed bureaucrats showing contempt to elected members of Congress (in theory, their bosses), Tom Wheeler would have chestful of ’em.