By ERIN MERSHON
With help from Alex Byers, Katy Bachman and Brooks Boliek
COMCAST: WE PROMISE, WE ABSOLUTELY ADORE NET NEUTRALITY — Congress may be on recess, but Comcast is still hard at work making the case for its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable. The cable giant wants regulators to know it really, really supports the Open Internet as it seeks approval for the TWC deal. “The truth about net neutrality,” the latest of a series of ads the company has run promoting the merger, debuted Tuesday in a prime spot in the Washington Post and other DC-area pubs. In a sort of manifesto, Comcast declares that it wouldn’t block access to any website or slow download speeds. Comcast has been stressing that it will abide by net neutrality rules, even as the FCC is working on rewriting its Open Internet order after a court threw out its old set of rules. Comcast has spared no expense on an its “Together is better” ad campaign inside the Beltway — touting the benefits of its merger with TWC — since it announced the deal early this year. The first comments on the transaction are due at the FCC August 25.
Story Continued Below
T-MO WANTS FCC TO SET ASIDE MORE SPECTRUM (FOR T-MO) — In a bit of a last-ditch effort, the fourth-largest wireless carrier is asking the FCC to reconsider its rules for next year's broadcast incentive auction — and to reserve more airwaves for smaller carriers like itself. The agency's current plans — finalized back in March — "fail to adequately prevent AT&T and Verizon from foreclosing competition during the auction," T-Mobile writes in its filing. It's a bit rare for the FCC to grant petitions for reconsideration like this one, but we're tracking. The FCC recently proposed barring nationwide wireless carriers from submitting joint bids at the auction — a move that appeared aimed at preventing Sprint and T-Mobile from mounting such an effort. And Sprint, which is owned by SoftBank, reportedly abandoned its pursuit of T-Mobile due to regulatory hurdles. The full T-Mobile petition
is here: http://bit.ly/1vEtKou
GOOD WEDNESDAY MORNING and welcome to Morning Tech, where we are giving two thumbs up to the spicy cashew dressing at Sweetgreen's test kitchen in Dupont — do not miss it before its no longer available! Let us know whose side you take in the battle between that chain and Chopt — and while you're at it, send tips and comments over to firstname.lastname@example.org and @ eemershon. And catch the rest of the team's info after speed read.
MICROSOFT ALONE AMONG BIG TECH CO'S IN PUSH FOR PRIVACY BILL — A long list of public comments filed with the NTIA about "Big Data" and consumer privacy legislation is finally live, after last week's deadline — and while privacy advocates and digital marketing folks made many of the same arguments they're used to making in D.C., there were a few tidbits worth noting. For one: Microsoft is pushing hard for the administration to make a comprehensive consumer privacy bill happen — and to do so fast. "[There's an] urgent need for privacy legislation that is suited to the big data era," Microsoft wrote. (That's here: http://1.usa.gov/1otxFAu.) The Internet Association and the Information Technology Industry Council, which count Google and Facebook and other tech co's as members, took much more middling views — encouraging another evaluation of existing regulatory frameworks and self-regulatory measures, and stopping far short of calling for comprehensive legislation. (See IA's comments: http://1.usa.gov/1oty9GI and ITIC's: http://1.usa.gov/1otycSZ.)
Another commenter worth reading: FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, who's always had a nuanced view on this issue. Unsurprisingly, the Republican regulator doesn't agree with every point privacy advocates make about their concerns with Big Data. But she doesn't think current laws and frameworks are sufficient to address all the potential concerns around the new technologies, either. "Where there are new issues, regulators need to work with innovators to understand the issues deeply and focus our enforcement actions on situations where improper use of consumer information causes substantial harm," she writes. (The rest is here: http://1.usa.gov/1otz1LG.) And check out the full list: http://1.usa.gov/1otz2PR
WHEELER: MUNI BROADBAND MOVE ‘NOT A MATTER TO BE UNDERTAKEN LIGHTLY’ — FCC boss Tom Wheeler is elaborating on his plans for municipal broadband — an issue that's become a lightning rod for Republican criticism. Wheeler has signaled he will move to preempt state laws that hold back community broadband projects, and in a letter to House and Senate Republicans that just became public, he laid out his legal thinking in a new level of detail. “When state laws come into direct conflict with critically important federal law and policy, it is a long-standing principle of Constitutional law that state laws can be subject to federal preemption in appropriate cases,” Wheeler wrote in response to a letter signed by dozens of House Republicans in June. Wheeler quoted directly from section 706 of the ‘96 Telecom Act in explaining his authority and outlining his rationale.
“Final commission decisions are typically subject to judicial review, but I do not believe that is a reason to shy away from making important decisions,” Wheeler wrote. The FCC, he said, will study all factual, policy, and legal issues before acting — including the possibility that public broadband networks are discouraging private-sector investment in new networks. The commission, you may recall, is currently accepting comments on petitions for intervention from municipal broadband projects in Tennessee and North Carolina. Catch the chairman's
letter to Republicans here: http://bit.ly/1sOrNjH
-- REPUBLICAN REAX: A spokesman for Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who led the House GOP letter, said Wheeler is wrong to cite section 706, “when in reality it’s the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and [a 19th century legal argument called] Dillon’s Rule.” Added Blackburn spokesman Mike Reynard: “Chairman Wheeler’s letter is further confirmation that he believes that Washington knows best and that state laws are nothing more than inconvenient truths for unelected bureaucrats to ignore.”
UBER AND LYFT ARE FIGHTING DIRTY — COULD THAT HURT THEIR EFFORTS TO WIN APPROVAL? It's become increasingly clear that Uber and Lyft aren't playing nice. In fact, each is accusing the other of sabotaging drivers with cancellation requests. The WSJ further reports that Uber offers its drivers extra referral bonuses if they poach Lyft's drivers (that's here: http://on.wsj.com/1pLOnJr). But as we've noted in the past, the two ridesharing companies are often on the same side in another war: one against taxicab commissions and state and municipal regulators across the country who are trying to put as many restrictions on the upstarts as they can. It's definitely possible that "they're hurting themselves and delaying improvement in the regulatory arena by not presenting a united front," Josh Schank, chief of the Eno Center for Transportation, tells MT. And while Uber and Lyft often take different approaches when they meet resistance in a new market, "it would definitely be more useful if they would work together," Schank said.
Another issue he points out: this week's news could make it hard for the two companies to paint themselves as the good guys, up against entrenched taxicab commissions. "The general public is like, look at this new service, these evil regulators are trying to shut them down. … They risk that good guy image if they mess around too much with this stuff." And, Schank says, its worth noting that the two firms can still work together on the policy front even as they compete — they wouldn't be the first companies to do so. Indeed, as the NYT notes, they could even end up merging: http://nyti.ms/1vEv0aY
PAI WANTS TO SPIKE THE SPORTS BLACKOUT RULE — The Republican FCC Commissioner slammed the sports blackout rule Tuesday, in a speech that could give some momentum to the effort to get rid of the legacy regulation. The rule prevents a cable or satellite provider from airing NFL games that get blacked out on local TV because of slow ticket sales. Wheeler has proposed dumping the rule as soon as this fall, Brooks reports — and Pai's support gives him "some bipartisan backing to move forward." More, from Brooks: "Blackouts have drawn increasing scrutiny from Washington policy makers amid concerns that high ticket prices put games out of reach of many consumers. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), have called for an end to the rule, saying it leaves fans in the dark. The sports blackout rule applies to all leagues, but it is more important to the NFL, which invokes it the most." The rest: http://politico.pro/1vErTA2
TODAY: NSA'S ROGERS TO TALK SHOP — The NSA director is on hand at an Intelligence and National Security Alliance dinner, to discuss his vision for the NSA and CYBERCOM, his background in cryptology, foreign partnerships and sustaining the NSA workforce. He'll take questions, too.
THE ETHICAL ISSUES BEHIND CRUNCHING BIG DATA. Tech companies are collecting troves of data about us that could shed new light on social and cultural issues — but the use of that data is raising quite a few new ethical quandaries, the NYT reports: http://nyti.ms/1uNbC7J
AMAZON MAY HAVE MARKET SHARE, BUT ITS NOT YET ABUSING IT. Antitrust regulators would be breaking new ground if they investigated Amazon over its recent negotiating tactics, Bloomberg writes. Probes, former officials say, are more about consumers than about business-to-business relations: http://bloom.bg/1uNb7uc
APPLE'S DIVERSITY REPORT: BETTER BUT NOT ENOUGH, COOK SAYS. Recode has the story: http://on.recode.net/1otBd5Q
A COMPLICATED REGULATORY PATH FOR APPLE'S HEALTHKIT. Apple's working hard to launch a developer kit for aggregating health and fitness info — but health privacy laws put the company in the middle of a tricky regulatory environment, Reuters writes: http://reut.rs/1otBwgZ
Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Alex Byers ( email@example.com, @ byersalex), Eric Nelson ( firstname.lastname@example.org), Eric Engleman ( email@example.com, @ ericengleman), Brooks Boliek ( firstname.lastname@example.org, @ technocowboy), Tony Romm ( email@example.com, @ tonyromm), Erin Mershon ( firstname.lastname@example.org, @ eemershon) and Katy Bachman ( email@example.com, @ KatyontheHill).
- Frail and disoriented, Cochran says he's not retiring
- This Is What Really Happens When Amazon Comes to Your Town
- Flake takes on Trump — and risks it all
- George W. Bush slams Trumpism, without mentioning president by name
- Trump keeps his focus on outrage
- Close Virginia governor polls set Democratic nerves on edge
- New Hampshire Republicans express early skepticism about Trump reelection
- The Cognitive Dissonance Presidency
- Trump administration appeals abortion ruling
- Trump: Russia uranium deal 'biggest story that Fake Media' ignores