The Switchboard: House passes amendment to limit NSA funding


Radomes of the former monitoring base of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) in Bad Aibling, southern Germany are pictured on June 6, 2014. AFP PHOTO/CHRISTOF STACHECHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images

Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech policy stories you need to read.

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In surprise vote, House backs NSA limits: "A proposal to block intelligence agencies from conducting warrantless and “backdoor” searches of U.S. communications passed in the House late Thursday night," reports The Hill's Cristina Marcos. "[The] amendment to the 2015 Defense appropriations bill would prohibit the search of government databases for information on U.S. citizens without a warrant. It would further cut off funding for the CIA and National Security Agency to build security vulnerabilities, or 'backdoors,' into domestic tech products or services for surveillance purposes."

Sprint closer to $40 billion-plus T-Mobile deal financing: Citing "people familiar with the matter," Reuters reporters Soyoung Kim, Sophie Sassard and Michelle Sierra report that, "Sprint Corp has lined up eight banks to finance its proposed acquisition of T-Mobile US Inc, edging closer to a deal that would merge the third- and fourth-biggest U.S. mobile operators." According to the unnamed sources, "The debt package exceeds $40 billion and includes a bridge loan of roughly $20 billion from Japan's Softbank Corp to Sprint, as well as some $20 billion refinancing of T-Mobile's existing debt."

Most Americans oppose Comcast merger with Time Warner Cable:"Most consumers in the United States oppose the proposed merger of the country’s biggest cable TV and broadband Internet providers, according to a new survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center," Consumer Reports writes. "Respondents said they were also worried that the deal will be a blow to net neutrality, the principle that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. With fewer, bigger gatekeepers in place, 81 percent of people surveyed were at least somewhat concerned that the combined company will play favorites with video content."

Google buys two tech start-ups in fresh deals surge: "The Mountain View, California-based company purchased video-advertising provider MDialog Corp. as well as wireless startup Alpental Technologies Inc., Google said today on its website and in an e-mailed statement," reports Bloomberg's Brian Womack. Terms of the deals were not disclosed. Alpental "is developing next-generation wireless technology," the report notes -- something that could boost Google's efforts to expand Internet access across the globe.

The Supreme Court has unanimously struck down a terrible patent: "The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that you can't get a software patent on a general business method just by claiming you've figured out how to do it on a computer," writes The Switch's Brian Fung. "This outcome was largely expected; experts watching the case generally agree that the patent held by Australian company Alice Corp. was a bad patent and should be invalidated. But the bigger question is what this case means for software patents more generally."

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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Hayley Tsukayama | June 19