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    Federal officials are discussing an end to the Federal Trade Commission's legal prohibition on regulating Internet providers and telecom companies — a move that could give Washington wider authority to police perceived abuses and consumer harms in an increasingly important part of the economy.If the idea moves forward, it could mean that both the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission would have the power to go after misbehaving carriers. It could also mean greater cooperation between the two agencies as the lines between telecommunications, business and entertainment continue to merge on broadband networks.Here's why the issue is so important: When the FCC last month decided to start regulating Internet providers more closely under net neutrality, it turned them into what the agency calls "common carriers." But the FTC's congressional charter carries an exemption for common carriers — a provision that effectively prevents the FTC from taking enforcement actions against such firms and reserves that right for the FCC.Senior FTC officials have complained that the FCC's new rules would put Internet providers out of their reach — and rob the FTC of the ability to protect consumers."If an entity is a common carrier providing common carrier services, we can't bring actions against them," said Republican FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen in September.The common carrier exemption has become a source of friction between the two agencies. And whether consumers are better off when Internet providers are policed by clear rules laid out by the FCC, or overseen on a case-by-case basis by the FTC, has been a core part of the wider net neutrality debate.Top officials from the FTC and FCC on Wednesday endorsed ending the "common carrier exemption" in the FTC's congressional charter. Asked by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) in a House Judiciary Committee hearing whether they would support congressional efforts to end the ban, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler — both Democrats — said they would."That idea is definitely worthy of review," Wheeler said. "We should work in tandem with the FTC. It's a great one-two punch.""There are slightly different tools in the FCC toolbox and in the FTC toolbox," McSweeny said, "which is why I support repealing the common carrier exemption in the Federal Trade Commission Act."Wheeler has also had separate conversations with McSweeny and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez on the issue, he said Thursday."I actually called [Ramirez] yesterday," Wheeler said. "She was in Berlin, and as I had also talked to Commissioner McSweeny to say, this is a topic that clearly is going to require congressional approval to get any changes."The FCC and FTC are currently working on how to cooperate more. In recent months, the two agencies have announced a number of enforcement actions together.This isn't the first time officials have considered ending the FTC ban on regulating common carriers. In 2003, then-FTC Chairman Timothy Muris told lawmakers that the exemption "dates from a period when telecommunications services were provided by government-authorized, highly regulated monopolies."But Republicans are warning that letting the FCC regulate the industry with rules on one hand and the FTC with antitrust lawsuits on the other could unnecessarily complicate things."What the [FCC's net neutrality] order does is take conduct the antitrust law generally presumes is pro-competitive," said FTC Commissioner Joshua Wright during the hearing, "and declares them illegal and anticompetitive in all circumstances."




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    Federal officials are discussing an end to the Federal Trade Commission's legal prohibition on regulating Internet providers and telecom companies — a move that could give Washington wider authority to police perceived abuses and consumer harms in an increasingly important part of the economy.If the idea moves forward, it could mean that both the FTC and the Federal Communications Commission would have the power to go after misbehaving carriers. It could also mean greater cooperation between the two agencies as the lines between telecommunications, business and entertainment continue to merge on broadband networks.Here's why the issue is so important: When the FCC last month decided to start regulating Internet providers more closely under net neutrality, it turned them into what the agency calls "common carriers." But the FTC's congressional charter carries an exemption for common carriers — a provision that effectively prevents the FTC from taking enforcement actions against such firms and reserves that right for the FCC.Senior FTC officials have complained that the FCC's new rules would put Internet providers out of their reach — and rob the FTC of the ability to protect consumers."If an entity is a common carrier providing common carrier services, we can't bring actions against them," said Republican FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen in September.The common carrier exemption has become a source of friction between the two agencies. And whether consumers are better off when Internet providers are policed by clear rules laid out by the FCC, or overseen on a case-by-case basis by the FTC, has been a core part of the wider net neutrality debate.Top officials from the FTC and FCC on Wednesday endorsed ending the "common carrier exemption" in the FTC's congressional charter. Asked by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) whether they would support congressional efforts to end the ban, FTC Commissioner Terrell McSweeny and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler — both Democrats — said they would."That idea is definitely worthy of review," Wheeler said. "We should work in tandem with the FTC. It's a great one-two punch.""There are slightly different tools in the FCC toolbox and in the FTC toolbox," McSweeny said, "which is why I support repealing the common carrier exemption in the Federal Trade Commission Act."Wheeler has also had separate conversations with McSweeny and FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez on the issue, he said Thursday."I actually called [Ramirez] yesterday," Wheeler said. "She was in Berlin, and as I had also talked to Commissioner McSweeny to say, this is a topic that clearly is going to require congressional approval to get any changes."This isn't the first time officials have considered ending the FTC ban on regulating common carriers. In 2003, then-FTC Chairman Timothy Muris told lawmakers that the exemption "dates from a period when telecommunications services were provided by government-authorized, highly regulated monopolies."




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    Wireless venture LightSquared on Thursday concluded three years of litigation with creditors, securing U.S. Bankruptcy Court approval of a plan to end its Chapter 11 case and repay in full its largest creditor, Dish Network Corp Chairman Charles Ergen.

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    Salesforce.com Inc. Chief Executive Marc Benioff tweeted Thursday the cloud computing company is canceling "all programs that require our customers/employees to travel Indiana" in response to a bill signed into law earlier Thursday by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on religious objections. There has been concern the law would allow business owners to refuse services to gays.

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    Social networks are attracting more digital advertising dollars at the expense of search engines, according to the latest estimates from digital analytics firm eMarketer. In 2015, eMarketer forecasts that Facebook's (FB) digital display ad revenue will total $6.82 billion, around one-quarter of the total U.S. market. Must Read: Google's Dominance in Search Being Challenged by Mobile Apps.

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    Published every weekday, the Switchboard is your morning helping of hand-picked stories from the Switch team.Over the next few weeks, we’ll be switching things up with a new Switchboard feature we’re calling "On Our Radar.” If you hate it, tell us.Congress wants to open up vast troves of federal airwaves for your cell phone. The Post reports: “New legislation would offer federal agencies money in exchange for their wireless spectrum.”FTC denies report that agency ignored staff recommendation on Google (GOOG). "Three Federal Trade Commission members denied media reports that the agency essentially ignored a staff recommendation to sue Google (GOOG) during its 2012 investigation of the search giant’s practices,” Re/code reports.Congressman to FCC: 'You're playing God with the Internet' The Post writes: "It was a fairly sleepy congressional hearing, the last in a two-week marathon of appearances by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler before lawmakers to defend his agency's net neutrality rules. But then Louie Gohmert chimed in.”EU: Don’t use Facebook (FB) if you want to keep the NSA away from your data. "The European Commission admitted that the U.S.-E.U. Safe Harbor framework for transatlantic data transfers does not adequately protect EU citizens' data from US spying,” Ars Technica reports.FTC rules against Napster co-founder in Jerk.com case. "The site, jerk.com, said users could pay a $30 membership fee to have negative comments beneath their profiles altered or removed, but seldom made those changes even after the fee was paid."On Our Radar:DOWNLOAD: Twitter's version of Meerkat, Periscope. TRACK: A new, non-binding resolution proposed by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) on net neutrality and obtained by National Journal. Want more? Follow @TheSwitch and our reporters -- @kansasalps, @b_fung and @htsuka -- for the latest tech news throughout the day.




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     . Amazon (AMZN) is making its cloud storage services available to everyone, not just Amazon Prime members. Last year, Amazon (AMZN) launched free unlimited photo storage for Prime members on Cloud Drive. Must Read: Warren Buffett's Top 10 Stock Buys. The Unlimited Everything Plan includes photos, videos, movies, music, and documents.

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    Verizon Communications Inc may rely largely on advertising for revenue from its upcoming online video service, Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said in an interview. This could set the No. 1 U.S. wireless carrier apart from rival online video services such as Dish Network Corp's Sling TV and Sony Corp's PlayStation Vue, which offer traditional TV content with ads and collect subscription fees.

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    The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to drop Neustar Inc (NSR) in favor of Ericsson subsidiary Telcordia Technologies as a contractor that helps telephone carriers route calls and text messages. The exclusive government contract, which expires on June 30, accounts for about half of Neustar's (NSR) revenues.

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    Red Hat (RHT) shares hit a new 52-week-high on Thursday following the software company's better-than-expected quarterly results, despite foreign exchange troubles. Red Hat (RHT), of Raleigh, N.C., provides open source software to enterprise customers around the world. Must Read: Jim Cramer -- 19 Companies That Could Get Acquired in 2015. Revenue rose 16% from last year to $464 million.

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    * German automakers seek more domestic road tests. * Fear Google racing ahead. * Complex softwear tests prolong process. By Edward Taylor. In the race to build a self-driving car, German automakers are hitting a road block in their efforts to test vehicles so complex they need more than 10 times the amount of software found in a fighter jet.

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    Bankrupt LightSquared, after three years of litigation with creditors, on Thursday will seek U.S. court approval of a mostly consensual plan to end its bankruptcy and repay in full its largest creditor, Dish Network Corp Chairman Charles Ergen. LightSquared's bankruptcy is being closely watched because its main asset, wireless spectrum, is considered very valuable.

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    Every time you send a text or receive a mobile phone call, you're using wireless spectrum — invisible airwaves that transport all those bits and bytes from local cell towers to people like you and me. As more Americans become data-hungry consumers, that'll put an incredible load on the nation's cellular networks, which is why carriers such as AT&T (T) have lately spent billions on additional spectrum to upgrade their service.Now, Congress wants to open up even more spectrum to meet that demand, by looking to the vast swaths of radio frequencies controlled by the federal government. A bill from Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.) will seek to do just that on Thursday. In the Senate, Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) are introducing an identical bill Thursday. The resulting auction of government airwaves could be a boon for industry, consumers and federal coffers."This legislation would create the first-ever incentive auction for federal agencies and — for once — offer revenue to federal spectrum users," said Matsui in a statement. "It is a game-changer."The legislation, which was previously considered in the last Congress and has backing from key committee lawmakers such as Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), directs the Federal Communications Commission to set up a sale of federal spectrum. And there's a lot of it: Agencies such as NASA use spectrum to talk to space probes. Same with NOAA, which uses spectrum for weather satellites. The Pentagon uses spectrum for secure radio communications and intelligence gathering."Spectrum is the oxygen of the wireless ecosystem, but the surging growth in today’s data-intensive devices and applications is leaving our mobile economy gasping for air," said Markey in a statement. "As demand for wireless devices and services increases, so does the need for additional spectrum for commercial use."Under the new "incentive auction," these agencies would be encouraged to put their spectrum on the table. Wireless carriers would then be able to bid on those airwaves, competing for the right to incorporate them into their networks and expanding the bandwidth available for carrying voice and data. And to entice agencies into coming forward, the bill offers them a small cut — roughly one percent — of the proceeds.Wireless carriers have shown tremendous willingness to pay for access to new spectrum, particularly the highly prized low-frequency waves that can carry communications through walls and over long distances. In January, the government closed a historic auction with carriers altogether bidding more than $41 billion to secure rights to new airwaves.Wireless lobbyists applauded the bill, calling it a forward-thinking proposal. "When federal spectrum isn’t being used or used efficiently, it makes sense to incent federal users to give it up so it can be repurposed for commercial use," said Jot Carpenter, vice president of government affairs for CTIA.