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Court neuters ‘net neutrality’ rules; Japanese company buys Beam; Probes ramp up after data hacks; Time Warner rejects buyout bid; Google acquires Nest for $3.2 billion

Regulators: Court neuters ‘net neutrality’ rulesThe age of the “free and open Internet” may be over, said Edward Wyatt in The New York Times. A federal appeals court this week shot down the Federal Communications Commission’s “net neutrality” rules, which aimed to prevent Internet service providers from allowing companies like Netflix or Amazon “to pay to stream their products to online viewers through a faster, express lane on the Web.” The FCC has prevented such deals, “saying they would give large, rich companies an unfair edge in reaching consumers.” But the court ruled that “the Internet is not considered a utility under federal law,” making such a regulatory approach inapplicable.

“For consumers, the ruling could usher in an era of tiered Internet service,” said Gautham Nagesh and Brent Kendall in The Wall Street Journal. Though Verizon, which brought the case, says it remains committed to “an open Internet,” consumer advocates have warned that users might face a system “in which they get some content at full speed while other websites appear slower because their owners chose not to pay up.” And some worry that content companies like Netflix could pass the cost along to subscribers, setting “higher fees to deliver Internet traffic faster.” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency may appeal.

Acquisitions: Japanese company buys Beam A Japanese whiskey and beer maker is about to buy an iconic U.S. brand, said Clementine Fletcher and Leslie Patton in Bloomberg.com. Suntory Holdings said this week that it would buy Beam Inc. for $16 billion, acquiring brands including Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam to “create the world’s third-largest premium spirits company.” The move is part of Suntory’s effort to “boost overseas growth” as Japan’s population shrinks and ages. The takeover is also “the largest overseas acquisition by a Japanese company” since telecom firm SoftBank bought Sprint for $21.6 billion in 2012.

Retail: Probes ramp up after data hacks“Officials, banks, and consumers all want a piece of Target and Neiman Marcus,” said Tiffany Hsu in the Los Angeles Times. The retailers have been slammed with lawsuits and investigations after hackers stole data related to more than 110 million Target customers and a still undisclosed number of Neiman Marcus shoppers. Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) this week demanded a briefing from Target’s security officials, and attorneys general from several states have announced probes.

Media: Time Warner rejects buyout bid Time Warner Cable won’t sell itself short, said Sam Gustin in Time.com. The nation’s second-largest cable company turned down a “blockbuster buyout offer” from Charter Communications, a smaller rival that offered $62.35 billion—or $132.50 per share—to take over TWC. Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus called the bid a “nonstarter” and said the company plans to hold out for an offer that pays investors $160 a share, or $75 billion.

Tech: Google acquires Nest for $3.2 billion Google may soon be running your household, said Alexei Oreskovic in Reuters.com. The Silicon Valley juggernaut this week announced an all-cash, $3.2 billion deal to buy Nest Labs, a “smart thermostat and smoke alarm maker.” While the deal won’t close for several months pending regulatory approval, the acquisition has sparked speculation over Google’s smart-home plans. “It’s not far-fetched to see Google expanding this technology,” said Shyam Patil, an analyst at Wedbush. “Home automation is one of the bigger opportunities when you talk about the Internet of everything and connecting everything.”

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