The Circuit: Dems against merger, Murdoch’s D.C. lobbyist, White House cutting back data centers

LEADING THE DAY: Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on antitrust, came out against the proposed merger between AT&T and T-Mobile on Wednesday, The Washington Post reported. Kohl said in a letter to the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission a merger harm consumers and violate antitrust law.

Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) wrote in a joint letter the DOJ and FCC that the merger would be a “troubling backward step in federal public policy” and create a duopoly, though they did not explicitly call for the deal to be blocked.

AT&T and T-Mobile both responded with statements to Kohl’s letter, reiterating that both companies are confident that the proposed deal complies with antitrust law.

“While we have a great deal of respect for Sen. Kohl, we strongly disagree with his analysis of this transaction, which will bring significant benefits to American consumers,” T-Mobile said in a statement.

Merger opponents including Sprint and consumer advocacy groups such as Public Knowledge applauded Kohl’s statement

Murdoch’s man in Washington: As furor over alleged misconduct at the U.K. newspaper News of the World continues to heat up, News Corp.’s D.C. lobbying firm has kicked into overdrive under the eye of head lobbyist Michael Regan, The Washington Post reported. Regan, a former Hill staffer with deep knowledge of telecommunications issues, is responsible for “99 percent” of the company’s lobbying efforts in D.C., said an unnamed senior official at News Corp.

Government cutting back on data centers:The White House announced that it is cutting back on duplicative data centers, in an effort to cut back on waste, the Office of Management and Budget announced Wednesday. President Obama has said he would like to cut 800 data centers by 2015. The government will shut down 373 data centers by the end of 2012, putting the initiative ahead of schedule.

Data bill passes subcommittee: The SAFE Data Act, a bill that would establish national standards for data breach notifications and data security, passed the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on manufacturing and trade Thursday.

Subpanel chairman Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) introduced the bill, following hearings the panel held on the high-profile security breaches at Sony and Epsilon.

Public safety bill: Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) released a statement Thursday saying that their proposal to create a national public safety network would reduce the deficit by $9.5 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Lawmakers invited first respondents from the Sept. 11 attacks to a press conference advocating for the bill, which would allocate the D block of spectrum for the nationwide network. Opponents of the measure argue that the government would be able to raise billions by auctioning off the the spectrum, and could then use that money to fund a new network.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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