Politico: Cracks in Democrat wall on net neutrality?

July 14, 2017
In The News

CRACKS IN DEMOCRAT WALL ON NET NEUTRALITY? — Key tech industry leaders are expressing openness to having Congress step in to legislate net neutrality — putting pressure on Democrats who've been adamantly opposed to such a move, Ashley and Steven report. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg said this week they’re willing to work with lawmakers on the issue, and Reddit’s Alexis Ohanian expressed a similar view. That flies in the face of the resistance many Democrats and activists have shown to working with Republicans on enshrining open internet protections into law. Democrats have been focused on stopping the GOP-led FCC from rolling back the current net neutrality rules, and fear their Republican colleagues want to pass weaker standards than what the FCC has already put in place.

FCC COMMENT WATCH — Wednesday’s pro-net neutrality “day of action” generated some 2 million comments to the FCC, according to Fight for the Future Campaign Director Evan Greer, who added that figure doesn’t include comments submitted via the Internet Association’s page, which was promoted by a host of tech companies. The comments are still being entered into the FCC’s docket, which at last check had more than 7 million filings.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the sheer number of comments won't dictate the outcome of the proceeding. “The raw number is not as important as the substantive comments that are in the record,” Pai said at his post-meeting press conference Thursday. “We want to weigh all comments and make sure that we take a full view of the record and again make the appropriate judgment based on those facts and the law as it applies.” But Commissioner Mignon Clyburn cautioned against discounting comments simply because they aren’t written like legal briefs. “To ignore the voices of individuals who take the time in their own way to express their feelings about something that is so critical as an open internet … that’s short-sighted,” Clyburn said. “There is a reason why people have a low opinion of government and government employees, because they think they ignore what they say.”

CARR’S TRIP TO THE SENATE — Brendan Carr, Trump’s nominee for the open Republican commissioner seat at the FCC, is making the round on the Hill ahead of his July 19 confirmation hearing. He met met with Senate Commerce Committee member Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), and the two talked about closing the digital divide, according to a Capito tweet.

TRAVEL BAN EXPANSION? — “President Donald Trump's travel ban may soon extend to many more countries under new visa procedures described in a State Department cable to consulates,” Nahal Toosi and Ted Hesson report. “The new consular guidance, which the State Department sent out Wednesday, follows through on Trump's March 6 executive order, which called for a worldwide review of visa security measures by the Department of Homeland Security.”

EMAIL PRIVACY AMENDMENT ADDED TO APPROPRIATIONS BILL — The House Appropriations Committee unanimously adopted an amendment proposed by Rep. Kevin Yoder to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2018 that incorporates the substance of the Email Privacy Act. “Americans have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their emails and text messages, and if the Senate and SEC refuse to recognize that, Republicans and Democrats in the House will work together to force their hand by adding this language to our must-pass spending bill,” said Yoder, in a statement.

FROM E-COMMERCE TO CHAMBER OF COMMERCE — The Chamber of Commerce plans to announce this morning that it has plucked Julie Stitzel from Etsy’s public affairs shop to serve as the managing director of the Chamber Technology Engagement Center. Known as C_TEC, the division promotes the role of technology in the economy and policies that foster innovation. That leads to a broad portfolio of issues that includes privacy, cross-border data flows, self-driving cars, high-skilled immigration, and fintech, among other topics. Stitzel will now represent the group before Congress and the White House.

FTC CHEERS FANDUEL-DRAFTKINGS BREAKUP — The agency welcomed the decision from daily fantasy sports firms FanDuel and DraftKings to nix their merger following a challenge by the FTC. “The parties’ decision to abandon this transaction is a clear win for American consumers,” said Markus Meier, acting director of the agency’s bureau of competition. “[C]onsumers benefitted from the intense rivalry between the two leading players in this space. If this merger had been allowed to go through, those benefits would likely have been lost.”

KLAIN TO HELP REBUILD DEMS’ CAMPAIGN TECH — Ron Klain, onetime chief of staff to vice presidents Gore and Biden and now a fierce Trump administration critic, has been named chairman of the advisory board of Higher Ground Labs. The group, launched by Obamaworld vets and others in May, will pour money and expertise into companies "building the next generation of progressive political technology that can help win campaigns." Obama 2012 digital organizing director Betsy Hoover and former deputy U.S. CTO Andrew McLaughlin are among the group’s partners, and well-known names already on the board include Jeremy Bird, Jon Favreau, and Ann Mei Chang. McLaughlin previously explained the group’s reason for being, writing that "in 2016, it became clear that we’ve lost our edge." HGL is emerging as a gathering point for those on the left eager to get it back.

— Klain knows a few things about the transformative power of tech. He worked closely with Gore on policy changes needed to bring much of America online, and since 2005 has been a top executive at Revolution, former AOL CEO Steve Case's D.C.-based venture capital firm.

GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM — SpaceX is focused on taking astronauts on its spacecraft next year, according to Tim Hughes, the company’s senior vice president of global business and government affairs. “SpaceX is routinely supporting cargo resupply missions to and from the International Space Station,” he said at a Senate space subcommittee hearing Thursday. “We are laser-focused on safely and reliably launching astronauts onboard our Falcon 9 and Dragon 2 capsule, with this launch to occur next year. This will restore America’s human spaceflight capability for the first time since the shuttle retired in 2011.”

VR CAUCUS EXPLORES PAYSCOUT — The Congressional Caucus on Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality Technologies is huddling this week with VR payments platform Payscout, which enables users to shop in virtual reality and have items delivered directly to their door. The offices of Reps. Ted Lieu, Yvette Clarke, Suzan DelBene, Darrell Issa and Bill Flores are taking part in the sessions.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS — The Senate Commerce telecom subcommittee is getting an update on FirstNet, the broadband network for first responders, on July 20. FirstNet CEO Michael Poth and AT&T senior vice president Chris Sambar will testify.


— Uber CEO search update: Recode looks at some of the names that have been tossed into the mix and notes that Sheryl Sandberg, Susan Wojcicki, and Arianna Huffington are among those that can be crossed off. “‘It’s both a great opportunity and an awful task for whoever gets it,’ [said one person close to the situation].”

— Megyn Kelly takes on Silicon Valley: The NBC News host’s Sunday program will feature interviews with six female entrepreneurs about sexual harassment by venture capitalists in the tech industry this weekend, per an NBC press release.

— Sam Altman’s new campaign: The Y Combinator president has turned his attention to incubating a slate of statewide candidates to run for office in California, including governor and lieutenant governor, California Playbook reports.

TRANSITIONS — Rachel Décoste, a software engineer and STEM advocate, is the new Director for the Congressional App Challenge. Décoste joins the Internet Education Foundation, the CAC’s official coordinator.


Is a Roku IPO coming? “Roku, which makes streaming media devices and software, is preparing an initial public offering it expects to launch before year-end, according to people familiar with the company’s plans,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

Consumer groups on AT&T-Time-Warner: Public Knowledge, Consumer Action and Free Press are among the groups urging Attorney General Jeff Sessions to block the $85 billion AT&T-Time-Warner merger.

Cloud cover: “U.S. border officers aren't allowed to look at any data stored only in the "cloud" — including social media data — when they search U.S. travelers' phones,” according to a letter obtained Wednesday by NBC News.”

Former Hill staffer indicted on cyberstalking charges: “Two former employees of a sitting member of the US House of Representatives were indicted [Thursday] in a cyberstalking case, according to the Department of Justice,” The Verge reports. “Juan R. McCullum was indicted on two counts of cyberstalking after he allegedly distributed nude images and videos of his former boss, [Democratic Rep. Stacey Plaskett.]”

Hyperloop One prepping for test: “Hyperloop One, the Los-Angeles-based company developing the technology, is gearing up to send a 28-foot-long (8.5 meter-long) pod hurtling down a set of tracks in a test run in Nevada in the next few weeks,” Reuters reports.

Pics or it didn’t happen: Recode has the photos from the annual Allen & Co. Sun Valley retreat attended by techies like Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos, as well as Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.