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ICYMI- The FCC Will Allow (Some) Online Discrimination and Patent-Troll Hunters Head to the White House

The National Journal
The FCC Will Allow (Some) Online Discrimination and Patent-Troll Hunters Head to the White House
Posted February 20, 2014 17:22

The FCC plans to write new net-neutrality rules—but a senior agency official told NJ that the new rules will allow for at least some online discrimination. That means the agency will likely allow a “two-sided” market to develop, where Internet providers charge both users and websites. But the agency has yet to write the new rules, and there will likely still be discrimination restrictions in place aimed at promoting competition. Expect Chairman Tom Wheeler to face questions about the new rules following Thursday’s open commission meeting at 10:30 a.m. The agency will also vote on proposals to improve quality of closed captioning and ensure accuracy of wireless calls to 911.

But the FCC isn’t the only agency making tech news—as part of an all-day summit with with patent-reform stakeholders, the White House will discuss the administration’s progress on certain patent litigation initiatives at 3:30 p.m. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling, and others will talk publicly.

PATENT REFORM SUMMIT AT WHITE HOUSE TO INCLUDE PRIOR ART INITIATIVE: The administration is underscoring an afternoon progress report on existing policies to curb patent-troll abuses, but less advertised is a 9 a.m. morning session where White House IP counsel Colleen Chien and patent-holding companies will discuss a joint initiative to make prior art holdings more transparent and accessible for officials at the Patent and Trademark Office. Proponents say greater access to prior art would improve overall patent quality by reducing the number of patents granted, thereby limiting potential for abusive patent litigation.

A public announcement of this initiative, and, possibly, other new anti-troll measures, is expected during the open afternoon session. After the policy update, about 25 associations (including the Innovation Alliance, BSA, the Internet Association and representatives from the universities) will sit down for a roundtable with Michelle Lee, the PTO’s deputy director. Invitees expect the discussion to mirror briefings with Senate Judiciary staffers held over the past month and a half, and highlight some of the same controversial topics, such as customer stay and fee shifting.

UTAH COURT SHUTS DOWN AEREO: The District Court of Utah delivered broadcasters their first major victory over Aereo. Judge Dale A. Kimball told Aereo to temporarily stop its broadcasting services in Utah and Colorado because of copyright infringement. The court denied Aereo’s request to transfer the case to a New York court that is hearing three other cases involving Aereo, but granted the company’s request to stay the case until Supreme Court’s ruling. Riding on the confidence of two major legal victories in Boston and New York courts, Aereo challenged broadcasters to take their case to the Supreme Court. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 22.

TRACKING WORKSHOP YIELDS LITTLE CONSENSUS: The FTC’s first of three privacy seminars on emerging technologies did little to soothe the concerns of privacy advocates worried about tracking shoppers via their mobile phones could lead to intrusive spying. “There’s not much sensitivity in a momentary observation [like] ‘oh, this person went to a store’, but long-term, habitual observations are much more troubling,” said Seth Schoen, a staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, during the Wednesday workshop. Schoen reiterated that he views an opt-out standard, like the website rolled out this week by the Future of Privacy Forum, wouldn’t suffice, and that retailers needed to first acquire consent before tracking.

But retail and big data interests attempted to ease concerns. ‘It’s important to keep in mind what’s theoretically possible and practically applicable,” argued James Riesenbach, CEO of iInside, a digital analytics firm. “The worse-case scenarios won’t come to be because the customer won’t allow it.”

WIRELESS COMPETITION HEARING: The Senate Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee will hold a hearing next Wednesday on competition in the wireless industry, an aide confirmed to NJ.

LAWSUITS MAY MAKE NSA SAVE DATA: The lawsuits against the NSA may actually cause the agency to expand its controversial phone database. The agency is considering whether to retain the records for longer than intended in order to preserve evidence for the suits.