Charter deal opponents split on FCC, DOJ proposals – Politico
6 months ago Comments Off on Charter deal opponents split on FCC, DOJ proposals – Politico
CHARTER DEAL OPPONENTS SPLIT ON FCC, DOJ PROPOSALS — Critics of Charter Communications’ $67 billion bid for Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks are painting different pictures of the conditions proposed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and the Department of Justice on Monday. Telco trade group INCOMPAS repeatedly shared its concerns with the FCC during the merger’s review, and the group on Monday called Wheeler’s requirement that Charter forgo charging online companies for interconnection over the next seven years — something the trade group lobbied for — a big win. “Americans want more broadband competition, not less. On the surface, the emergence of a larger cable company is counter to those desires, but by imposing a seven-year, settlement-free interconnection condition, one of the longest and strongest interconnection terms in recent history, Chairman Wheeler is keeping a critical bridge to competition open,” the association said.
Public interest group Free Press saw things differently, alleging that Charter will boost prices to pay off debt that it accrued to complete the purchase. “There’s nothing about this massive merger that serves the public interest. There’s nothing about it that helps make the market for cable-TV and Internet services more affordable and competitive for Americans,” Free Press CEO Craig Aaron said in a statement. Consumers Union and Public Knowledge took a more measured tone on the proposed conditions, but warned that their focus going forward will be on how effectively conditions are being upheld. “History has shown us how powerful companies look for every angle to avoid or weaken the conditions imposed on their mergers, so the government is going to have to have back up these tough conditions with tough enforcement,” Consumers Union’s George Slover said in a statement.
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— FEDS EYE ONLINE VIDEO IN CONDITIONS: In case you missed the flurry Monday afternoon, Alex has the rundown on what requirements regulators want to slap on Charter, and why. Read it here.
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BLUMENTHAL CHAMPIONS ROSENWORCEL ON THE FLOOR — Sen. Richard Blumenthal went to the floor Monday night to call on Republicans to bring the renomination of Democratic FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel up for a vote. Echoing a fiery floor statement from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid last week, Blumenthal pointed to a bipartisan deal in 2014 that had Democrats move Republican Commissioner Mike O’Rielly at the end of the year in exchange for the GOP agreeing to move Rosenworcel when the Senate reconvened under Republican control in 2015. With the December deadline to confirm her looming, Blumenthal called on his colleagues to vote on her “swiftly and overwhelmingly so that she can continue to do the vital and important work” at the FCC, pointing to her work on spectrum policy, first responder networks and emergency communications, among other issues. “She deserves — and the country needs for her — to serve as a commissioner,” he said.
FIRST IN MT: TECH COMPANIES, GROUPS PRESS HOUSE ON ECPA VOTE — A coalition of tech companies, tech groups and privacy groups are out with a new letter this morning urging House members to vote for the Email Privacy Act — the widely supported bill to reform the 1986 ECPA to require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing stored emails — which is headed to the floor on Wednesday. The letter’s signatories — including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter and the ACLU — called on lawmakers to pass the bill “without any amendments that would weaken the protections afforded by the bill.” They note that the bill as amended in the Judiciary Committee “does not achieve all of the reforms we had hoped for” but said they were pleased the measure headed to the floor does not include a long sought-after carveout for civil agencies, “which would have expanded government surveillance power and undermined the very purpose of the bill.” Read the letter here.
AND ITI SCORING EMAIL PRIVACY, TRADE SECRETS VOTES — The Information Technology Industry Council is out with two new letters from CEO Dean Garfield this morning, telling members that it will be scoring their votes on the Email Privacy Act and the Defend Trade Secrets Act. In the first letter, the groups says the Email Privacy Act “provides much needed reforms to the antiquated ECPA to reflect both the way we utilize email and the expectations of privacy we have in that email today.” In the letter on the trade secrets legislation — which would let companies go after trade secrets thieves in federal court — the group says the bill fills “problematic gaps” in state trade secrets laws “by making federal law more comprehensive and providing trade secrets owners with remedies all forms of intellectual property should be afforded.”
TODAY: GOODLATTE SPEAKS AT WORLD IP DAY EVENT — House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte will speak this morning at a World Intellectual Property Day event hosted by the Copyright Alliance. It was at a similar event three years ago that Goodlatte unveiled his committee’s long-running copyright law review — and since there hasn’t been much word lately from the Virginia Republican on that proceeding’s next steps, copyright policy wonks will be watching him closely today. Register of Copyrights Maria Pallante will host the event, which kicks off at the Library of Congress at noon.
BUCKLE UP FOR FCC PROCESS MARKUP — Senate Commerce Chairman John Thune predicts a partisan fight over the Republican FCC Process Reform Act set to be marked up by the committee on Wednesday. “That will probably be more of a party-line exercise,” Thune told MT. “There’s some good stuff in there, but they’re very defensive, I think, of the agency, so I’m not expecting a high level of Democrat votes on that.”
Thune also said he’s working through the 39 amendments that have been filed on his FCC reauthorization legislation, “some of which I hope we’ll be able to accept.” While he has said in the past that the bill could be seen as a vehicle to move all sorts of measures, he told MT on Monday that “most” of the amendments filed “have been pretty in line with the purpose of what we’re trying to do” with the bill. “We’re just trying to winnow down, through the negotiation process, the number of amendments that we might actually have to vote on,” he added.
AND ICYMI, SCOTUS LOOKS AT PATENT CHALLENGE PROCESS — The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in the case over whether the Patent and Trademark Office’s new process for challenging patents should be treated like an administrative process or like a federal court proceeding, and your MT-er has the details on the case being closely watched by those in the tech and life sciences industries. “The pharmaceutical and biotech industries and companies like Qualcomm say the USPTO review process — created under the 2011 America Invents Act — makes it too easy to nix legitimate patents,” Kate wrote. “Tech companies and retail firms, however, argue the reviews are a crucial tool for weeding out bad patents that often fall into the hands of ‘patent trolls,’ which exist simply to extract licensing fees from companies.” While Chief Justice John Roberts seemed sympathetic to the argument that the process should more closely resemble a court proceeding, others — including Justices Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer — repeatedly noted that Congress created the process to be different than federal court proceedings. Read Kate’s story here.
WSJ BOARD HITS FBI ON ENCRYPTION. The Wall Street Journal editorial board is criticizing the FBI for twice changing its tune about needing Apple’s help to unlock iPhones in the eleventh hour of high-profile court cases. Read it here: http://on.wsj.com/1VyV6bR
THE RACE TO ONE GIGABIT HEATS UP. Companies like Comcast and AT&T are rushing to beat Google to the punch when it comes to offering 1 gigabit broadband in new markets, Bloomberg reports: http://bloom.bg/1qLH1uB
CRUZ, KASICH APPS COME UNDER FIRE. Apps released by Ted Cruz’s and John Kasich’s campaigns may be leaking users’ data, per the AP: http://apne.ws/1TtPUT7
LIONSGATE, VALVE REACH DEAL ON DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION. Lionsgate has formed a partnership with Valve Corp. which will bring more than 100 films to Valve’s digital distribution platform, Variety reports: http://bit.ly/1SG5smA
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Charter deal opponents split on FCC, DOJ proposals – Politico