The Switchboard: Five tech policy stories you need to read today

September 13, 2013

Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass). wants to know how police gain information on cellphone users from service providers. Reuters/Brian Snyder

Internet tax ban introduced in House. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers introduced legislation on Thursday to permanently ban state and local taxes on Internet service," the Hill reports. "Congress passed the Internet Tax Freedom Act in 1998 to put a moratorium on Internet service taxes. The law has been extended three times, but it is scheduled to expire next year. The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act would extend the law indefinitely."

How patent trolls doomed themselves by targeting Main Street. "Until recently, most of the complaints about patent trolls came from large tech companies. That is changing," argues Jim Bessen at Ars Technica. "In 2005, about 800 patent lawsuits were filed by patent trolls against small firms, ones that earned less than $100 million in revenue per year. But in 2011, nearly 2,900 small firms were sued for patent infringement by trolls."

Markey expands probe into police access to cellphone data. Sen. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) is probing how often law enforcement agencies obtain location data about cellphone customers," according to the Hill. "On Thursday, Markey sent another round of letters to the cell carriers, asking for updated and more detailed information."

Mark Zuckerberg: Government ‘blew it’ with NSA response. "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Wednesday that the government 'blew it' when it came to initially communicating about its surveillance programs and did not help American Internet firms trying to do business globally," writes Politico. "Zuckerberg emphasized his belief that his company’s effort to push for more transparency 'has made a big difference.'"

FEC weighs approval of Bitcoin donations to political campaigns. The Federal Elections Commission "has until Oct. 28 to issue an advisory opinion on the matter after a conservative political action fund sought permission to accept and spend the virtual currency," writes the Hill. "Proponents of allowing bitcoin say they expect it be in wide use during the 2014 cycle and argue political campaigns should be able to tap into the currency’s growing popularity."

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Timothy B. Lee · September 12, 2013