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The Circuit: Japanese tech companies may face delays; Kerry, Hutchinson introduce infrastructure bank; Franken to propose new net neutrality bill

LEADING THE DAY: Several tech companies face business difficulties following the quake and tsunami in Japan, and at least one market research firm predicts shortages and higher prices. Although some companies deal with damage to factories, for many, the problem might come not from damage to factories — much of the industry’s major manufacturing happens south of the affected area — but from power outages and disrupted access to transportation.

As VentureBeat reported, at least one market research firm said that companies that manufacture chips will have halted or slowed shipments that could cause shortages in late March or early April. Spot market prices are already on the rise. Mashable broke down which companies were the hardest hit by the tragedy — Toshiba, Sony, Texas Instruments and Hitachi — and predicted there might be supply trouble down the line for tablets, laptop batteries, televisions and video projectors.

Forbes reported that although Apple’s supply chain probably is sound, the company is sure to see a hit in sales, as Apple products are very popular in Japan.

Kerry, Hutchinson will propose infrastructure bank: Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.) will propose legislation Tuesday to create an infrastructure bank to finance public works and infrastructure projects. According to the Boston Globe, the legislation will give out loans and loan guarantees for infrastructure projects through an independent American Infrastructure Financing Authority. This entity would be initially financed by the federal government but would become self-sustaining.

Franken to introduce net neutrality legislation:Headlining at South by Southwest yesterday, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said that the creative minds at the festival must lobby their representatives in Congress to keep a free and open Internet. Franken said he will introduce legislation that makes net neutrality violations a crime. “I'm introducing a new bill that would call violations of net neutrality out for what they are — anti-competitive actions by powerful media conglomerates that represent violations of our antitrust laws,” he said.

Meanwhile, in the House, two Democrats — Dan Boren (D-Okla.) and Franken’s fellow Minnesotan Collin Peterson — added their names to a letter circulated by Energy and Commerce Republicans asking members to support a resolution to repeal the FCC regulations, the Hill reported.

Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, offer free calls to Japan: AT&T, Verizon and Sprint are all offering their customers free calls and texts to Japan for the next few weeks. Verizon and Sprint customers can make free calls to Japan until April 10; AT&T customers will be able to do so until March 31. AT&T customers will also be able to send texts to Japan for free.

All the companies, along with T-Mobile, will also waive text-messaging fees for SMS donations to the Red Cross and other nonprofits, which vary by company.

Etsy users upset after privacy change: Buyers and sellers on the Web site Etsy, a marketplace for handmade and secondhand goods, are upset with the company after a new feature intended to socialize the site revealed all users’ sales and purchases on the site. The company apparently did not notify customers of the change, except in one thread on the site’s forum. As Ars Technica reported, not only did the site automatically opt every user into the service, purchase histories began showing up in Google searches under users’ names, exposing some potentially embarrassing transactions. The histories are constructed through feedback left by buyers and sellers on the site.

Biz Stone joins AOL: Twitter co-founder Biz Stone is going to work for Arianna Huffington at AOL as a “social impact adviser.” Stone, who is taking on the AOL duties in addition to his day job at Twitter, will provide guidance to the new Huffington Post Media Group on all of its “social impact and cause-based initiatives,” Huffington wrote on Monday. In his own blog, Stone said, “the concept of doing good is not proprietary. To the extent that I am able, I'd like to help more companies follow this template toward a higher definition of success and more meaningful corporate metrics.”

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.


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