Tech Brief: Week in Review & What's Ahead

Week In Review

AT&T-Time Warner merger

The pending merger between AT&T Inc. and Time Warner Inc. came under increasing scrutiny. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said his panel will open a “robust review” into how the merger would impact consumers, while the Antitrust Subcommittee said it will hold a Dec. 7 hearing on the proposed $85 billion takeover. Chief executives from both companies are expected to testify.

Sen Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called on the Justice Department to block the merger, saying the “gross concentration of power” in the media sphere could stifle competition and decrease diversity of content.

Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said regulators should sign off on the planned merger, with both Republicans arguing that vertical integrations of this nature are typically approved and that the deal could enhance competition.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler would not speculate on questions about the agency’s potential role in approving or denying the merger. Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly also declined to discuss the matter in detail.

FCC actions

The FCC passed new privacy rules pertaining to internet service providers, mandating that companies receive explicit consent from consumers before using web browsing or app usage history for marketing purposes.

An industry-led task force to combat robocalls unveiled an education campaign aimed at giving Americans information on how to protect themselves from fraudulent and harassing phone calls.

Distributed denial of service attack

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the Oct. 21 distributed denial of service attack that targeted large swaths of the internet across the United States does not appear to have been orchestrated by a foreign government. Dyn, the internet infrastructure company targeted by the attack, said the cyberattack was directed by the “Mirai” botnet, which hijacked approximately 100,000 “Internet of Things” devices, sending overwhelming amounts of traffic to Dyn’s managed domain name service platform.

Chinese electronics firm Hangzhou Xiongmai issued a recall for its webcams that were hijacked as part of the attack. The devices’ easy-to-guess default passwords made them particularly vulnerable to the Mirai botnet.

What’s Ahead

Congress is out of session until the week of Nov. 14.

The pending merger between AT&T and Time Warner is expected to face continued scrutiny, but it’s unclear whether Time Warner possesses any licenses that fall under the FCC’s purview. If so, the agency will likely play a role in reviewing the proposed merger. Unlike the Justice Department — which is focused on possible anti-competitive effects stemming from the acquisition — the FCC must determine whether the deal is beneficial to consumers.

The FCC plans to vote on business data services regulations on Nov. 17. The rules would place new price caps on older technology used to facilitate ATM and retail transactions, while taking a “light-touch” regulatory approach to newer, Ethernet-based BDS technology.

Mark Your Calendars (All Eastern Times)

Morning Consult Tech Top Reads

1) Top spy: Friday internet outage likely not caused by foreign power
Julian Hattem, The Hill

2) Russian charged by US in connection with cyber attacks
Kara Scannell, Financial Times

3) FCC passes privacy rules that could cloud AT&T’s Time Warner deal
Margaret Harding McGill and Alex Byers, Politico

4) Tech privacy ally Feingold leads in Wisconsin Senate race
Dustin Volz, Reuters

5) Key GOP chairman calls for ‘robust review’ of AT&T-Time Warner deal
David McCabe, The Hill

6) Webcams used to attack Reddit and Twitter recalled
BBC News

7) AT&T/Time Warner seems headed for FCC review, whether AT&T likes it or not
Jon Brodkin, Ars Technica

8) Uber Outlines Vision for Flying Cars
Eric Newcomer, Bloomberg News

9) Warren wing wants Clinton to crack down on Apple, Google and Amazon
Tony Romm, Politico

10) Hackers Used New Weapons to Disrupt Major Websites Across U.S.
Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times