Friday, May 17
Google believes the future is in wearable computing, and that their innovative glasses Google Glass is going to lead the way. But as Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports, at least some members of Congress aren’t too keen on where Google is attempting to go:
Eight members of Congress raised privacy fears about Google’s wearable computer, Google Glass, expressing concern the device could allow users to identify people on the street and look up personal information about them.
The lawmakers, members of the congressional Privacy Caucus, said they are concerned users could access individuals’ addresses, marital status, work history and hobbies.
“As members of the Congressional Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus, we are curious whether this new technology could infringe on the privacy of the average American,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Google CEO Larry Page.
In response, Google has reassured the members of Congress that privacy concerns are very much on their radar:
“We are thinking very carefully about how we design Glass because new technology always raises new issues,” a Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Our Glass Explorer program, which reaches people from all walks of life, will ensure that our users become active participants in shaping the future of this technology — and we’re excited to hear the feedback.”
Wednesday, March 06
In response to a hearing held last week by the House subcommittee on communications and technology on broadband stimulus programs, our friends (and members) the National Grange argue that the private sector is being more effective than thee government when it comes to broadband deployment:
While this government program hasn’t been a runaway success for the more than 50 million rural residents in America by any measure, private sector investment has played (and should continue to play) a key role in achieving widespread broadband access. Lawmakers acknowledged this reality in Wednesday’s hearing. In fact, according to the U.S. Telecom Association, broadband providers have invested more than $1.2 trillion in their networks since 1996. CTIA—the Wireless Association—reports that wireless carriers have made $348 billion in network capital investments, including 4G LTE build-out. As a result, increasing numbers of Americans have access to high-speed broadband and are subscribing at home.
It is clear that the private sector is better at delivering options, choices, and services to more consumers while also minimizing costs and expanding broadband infrastructure.
The solution, according to the National Grange, is partnership:
Our policymakers promote policies that facilitate continued private sector investment in the next-generation of high-speed broadband networks. Government must work with the private sector to achieve rapid deployment of 21st century communications networks and to bring access to this vital resource to all Americans. Public-private collaboration will help quickly deploy modernized, enhanced broadband networks in a cost-effective manner.
Thursday, February 21
Here’s something cool. Via Pete Kasperowicz of The Hill:
The House next week is expected to pass a resolution establishing a nationwide technology contest for students, which would initially encourage contestants to develop new “apps” for smartphones and tablets.
The resolution from Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) is scheduled for consideration next week. It would create a contest run by the House of Representatives in which students from every congressional district would compete in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, the so-called STEM fields.
The last major revision of the Teleommunications Act occurred way back in 1996 (our Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher, who was chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet at the time, recently wrote about the Act for Roll Call). Given how radically things have changed since then, it’s a good thing the law included provisions, such as in Section 10, that allow the FCC to forebear. But as Paul Barbagallo of Bloomberg reports, at least one former FCC Chairman believes any changes to the Act will be minor:
Congress is likely to make small tweaks to the Communications Act, despite calls for a major rewrite of the statute, Richard Wiley, chairman of Wiley Rein LLP, said Feb. 19.
The last revision to the Communications Act, in 1996, took Congress nearly ten years to complete, and was itself the first major update to the law since 1934, Wiley noted during an event hosted by the Hudson Institute, a conservative policy and research group in Washington.
“I would like to see a big new statute,” Wiley said. “I think that would make sense for the country. But I’m not sure how soon that would happen.”
Monday, February 04
The Hill‘s Jennifer Martinez reports Congress is not about to let the United Nations have greater control over the Internet:
A joint committee hearing in the House on Tuesday will examine the lasting effects of a United Nations telecommunications treaty on the Internet and the legislative steps Congress can take to protect the current model used to govern the network.
The treaty is the product of a conference hosted by the U.N.‘s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) that wrapped up in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, in December. The United States, United Kingdom, Canada and other countries declined to sign the final version of the treaty because of concerns it included measures that would threaten Internet freedom and disrupt the multi-stakeholder model used to govern the Internet.
During the negotiations at the treaty conference, China, Russia and a handful of Middle Eastern countries pushed for governments to have greater control over key technical functions used to manage the Internet. The U.S. opposed such measures.
Part of the hearing, Martinez reports, will be possible legislation making clear the “U.S. policy is to promote Internet freedom and preserve the multi-stakeholder model used to govern the Internet.”
Wednesday, January 23
Over at Bloomberg BNA, Paul Barbagallo highlights renewed focus from President Obama and Congress to make more spectrum available for the ever-growing wireless industry:
For much of the last four years, federal policymakers have worked aggressively to find swaths of frequencies that could be made available to wireless carriers to help meet the ever-increasing consumer demand for smartphones and tablet computers, which require more radio spectrum to carry their data transmissions—significantly more than what is needed to carry cellular telephone calls.
That work will continue this year, starting at the FCC.
Later in the piece, our own Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman is quoted:
“I think we’re going to see bipartisan interest in both inventorying and transferring spectrum from federal government use to private-sector use,” Bruce Mehlman, co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance, a coalition of nonprofits and corporations, including telecom carriers and equipment makers, told BNA.
Mehlman, former assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy under George W. Bush, noted that for the last four years, Congress has placed much of its attention on passing legislation to authorize the FCC to hold incentive auctions.
“A lot of focus is now going to turn to federal spectrum holdings that could be repurposed,” he said.
This is still an important topic. Barbagallo’s full article is definitely worth checking out.
The vast majority of network upgrades and day-to-day operation of the Internet are overseen by private businesses, universities and organizations. Yet governments — domestic and international — continue to exert influence over the environment in which the Internet evolves. To provide the next generation of policy makers and leaders with the information they need to make informed decisions about Internet policy, IIA today released the “IIA 2013 Broadband Guide for the 113th Congress,” a 21-page handbook with six major sections complete with answers to common questions, definitions of technical terms and background on the importance of the Internet Protocol (IP) evolution. The Guide is being issued in conjunction with the 2013 State of the Net Conference,at which IIA founding Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman will speak today at 2:05pm ET.
“Few American innovations have changed the world more profoundly and positively than the Internet. Today more than 2.5 billion people are connected to the Internet and have access to information and opportunities that did not exist 20 years ago. It’s critical that policy makers be well-informed as they make decisions affecting the Internet in order to promote and encourage the expansion of Internet investment, access and adoption.”
— IIA Honorary Chairman Rick Boucher
The Guide also includes broadband-related data points such as:
• Over the past three years, American smartphone adoption has increased from 16.9 percent to 54.9 percent, according to Nielsen.
• One out of three American homes now relies on wireless-only technologies, according to the U.S. National Health Interview Survey (NHIS).
• The tech industry added nearly 100,000 jobs from January to June 2012, a 1.7 percent increase, according to TechAmerica Foundation’s Competitiveness Series.
• As of April 2012, 66 percent of American adults had a high-speed broadband connection at home versus 11 percent a decade earlier in March 2002, according to Pew Research.
• The app economy, which didn’t even exist five years ago, now employs more than 500,000 Americans, according to research by Economist Michael Mandel.
“Innovations in broadband technology are not exclusively relegated to the wired world. Today, mobile devices act as general-purpose computers, complete with nearly 1.5 million available apps. Massive amounts of data are necessary to operate these mobile devices, and the future of lightning-fast, mobile communications depends on migrating America’s communications networks away from outdated legacy phone line networks and toward IP-based infrastructure.”
— IIA Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman
The full Guide, including a downloadable version and embeddable infographics, is available here.
Thursday, September 13
The U.S. government is the single largest user of spectrum, and without its willingness to relinquish control over spectrum bands that are not being put to their highest and best use, our country will suffer from significant losses in economic gains and jobs.
Today the House Energy and Commerce Committee held the hearing “Creating Opportunities Through Improved Government Spectrum Efficiency.” Beyond the hearing’s focus on improving government spectrum efficiency, clearing spectrum for market use is the best strategy for creating new opportunities for entrepreneurship and innovation. Commercial spectrum users need certainty in order to invest and reliably serve their customers.
Innovation to improve the efficiency of the government’s use of spectrum and moving inefficient users off of spectrum bands, as pointed out by Representative Greg Walden, will mean that more American consumers can take advantage of mobile broadband to enhance their quality of life and more businesses can create new technologies that depend on next-generation wireless networks.
Wednesday, September 12
Via John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable, new legislation aimed at protecting privacy in the mobile space has been introduced in Congress:
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said Wednesday he has introduced mobile app legislation that would require app sellers to disclose the software being installed when an app is downloaded, and users to give their affirmative consent.
Some highlights from the bill include disclosure on monitoring by apps and other software, a focus on consumer consent before monitoring can proceed, and greater oversight from both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.
Friday, September 07
Speaking of spectrum, Broadcasting & Cable’s John Eggerton reports there’s more movement in Congress in an attempt to help address the country’s looming airwaves shortage:
The Energy & Commerce Committee’s Communications Subcommittee will hold a hearing Sept. 13, “Creating Opportunities through Improved Government Spectrum Efficiency,” on freeing up government spectrum.
Monday, August 27
Over at Forbes, Larry Downes looks at recent actions from the FCC and calls them a “hat trick of errors on Internet regulations”:
With Congress in recess and Washington largely abandoned last week, the FCC issued three major orders. Comprising some four hundred pages of dense text, the rulings addressed widely different topics: reporting the progress of broadband deployment by private networks, price regulation over middle mile Internet (what the agency calls “special access”), and the proposed sale to Verizon of wireless spectrum currently being warehoused by a consortium of cable companies.
The timing was no coincidence. In its last major overhaul of the agency in 1996, Congress left the FCC with almost no authority over the Internet, whether content, transmission or the devices and software that consumers use to enjoy it. All three of last week’s orders pushed well beyond the FCC’s legal authority. Issuing them in rapid succession was the act of a petulant teenager, loudly defying a parent he knows has already left the room.
Wednesday, August 01
Mentioned in today’s Morning Tech email blast from Politico was Rep. Mary Bono Mack’s resolution aimed at preserving a multi-stakeholder Internet governance model, which is expected to reach the House floor today. When the resolution was first announced, we at IIA applauded it, stating:
It has never been more important for the U.S. to lead. Congress and the Administration must work to reject all top-down regulatory threats to the Internet, both foreign and domestic. As outlined by the Bono Mack resolution, the U.S. should commit to protecting the multi-stakeholder private sector model of Internet governance that paves the way for the Internet to reach its full potential and has led to economic and societal benefits beyond measure—its importance was understood by the Clinton Administration and must now be recognized by the current one.
The Bono Mack resolution has broad bi-partisan support, which is heartening to see. But if we’re going to ensure the Internet remains healthy — and a major force in the health of our economy — going forward, America also needs bipartisan support for keeping the Internet free from needless regulations here at home. That’s the only way private investment will continue to flow into what is arguably the greatest communication tool in history.
Thursday, July 26
With tech issues increasingly receiving attention in D.C., The Washington Post‘s Cecilia Kang reports on some major tech players joining forces on the lobbying front:
Google, eBay, Amazon and Facebook are launching a lobbying group, The Internet Association, to try to raise their voice in Washington as federal officials focus their sights on their largely unregulated tech industry.
Leading the group will be Michael Beckerman, former deputy staff director of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and longtime adviser to Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich).
Wednesday, July 25
Via Kent Hoover of The Business Journals, a bill that would allows states to start charging sales taxes on online purchases is gaining momentum:
Bricks-and-mortar retailers have long complained that the tax-free status of e-commerce gives Internet retailers an unfair price advantage. As more retail sales move toward the Internet, state and local governments are increasingly feeling the loss of sales tax revenue. Even many Republican governors who favor keeping taxes low now think the time has come to force Internet retailers to collect sales taxes.
One of those governors is Bill Haslam of Tennessee, who testified a today’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.
“Let me clear—I am a Republican governor that does not believe in increasing taxes,” Haslam said.
Monday, July 09
Tomorrow morning, all members of the FCC will be appearing before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Communications and Technology. At The Hill, Jennifer Martinez and Brendan Sasso have a preview:
Lawmakers could explore a wide range of topics, including broadband access, the FCC’s rule requiring television stations to post political ad data online, and the commission’s review of the $3.6 billion deal between Verizon and a coalition of cable companies.
Lawmakers might ask the commissioners to weigh in on whether Congress should modernize its rules regulating the distribution of video services.
The meeting will also be the first appearance before the subcommittee for Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai, the FCC’s two newest members.
Tuesday, July 03
Verizon is still seeking FCC approval for its proposed spectrum deal with cable companies, but that’s not stopping the wireless provider from continuing to fight the Commission’s net neutrality rules in court. As The Hill‘s Brendan Sasso reports:
In Monday’s filing, Verizon argued that instead of “proceeding with caution” in light of the Comcast ruling, the FCC adopted rules that “go even farther than its prior action and impose dramatic new restrictions on broadband Internet access service providers.”
“Here again, the FCC has acted without statutory authority to insert itself into this crucial segment of the American economy, while failing to show any factual need to do so,” Verizon wrote.
The company argued that Congress never authorized the FCC to regulate Internet access and that the agency acted without sufficient evidence to suggest the rules were necessary.
Verizon claimed that the rules violate its First Amendment free speech rights.
According to Sasso, the FCC’s legal response to the suit should arrive in September.
Tuesday, June 05
In op-ed for Forbes, Bret Swanson of Entropy Economics (he’s also one of our Broadband Ambassadors) worries the “wireless juggernaut,” as he calls it, will soon hit a roadblock:
The U.S… seems sluggish (at best) in encouraging the next wave of growth. The government still owns around 60% of the best spectrum, leaving just around 10% for mobile operators. The U.S. lags many nations in current spectrum availability and lags almost every advanced economy in its “pipeline” of spectrum expected to become available in the near future.
Last winter Congress approved auctions to encourage over-the-air TV broadcasters to transfer underused spectrum to more valuable modern services, such as mobile data networks. But in the best of circumstances, these auctions will take years. And even assuming the auctions are successful, the U.S. pipeline will still lag.
If, on top of these shortcomings, you add an effective government halt to any secondary market spectrum transactions, you have real paralysis.
Swanson’s full op-ed is worth checking out.
Thursday, April 26
Via Katy Bachman of Ad Week, some members of Congress are stepping in to help alleviate the spectrum crunch. As Bachman writes:
Hoping to take up the slack, House Energy & Commerce members Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) today introduced a bill (the Efficient Use of Government Spectrum Act) that would require the FCC to run a bigger auction by bundling broadcast spectrum with spectrum from the federal government used by the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.
The legislation was introduced one day after Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, and ranking member Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) launched a bipartisan federal spectrum working group to examine how the federal government can use the nation’s airwaves more efficiently.
With wireless providers pointing out that the FCC’s current course for incentive auctions — welcome and necessary as they are — will be unable to keep up with demand, exploring ways to expand the pool of available spectrum is critical. This is a good first step.
Wednesday, April 25
Via The Hill‘s Brendan Sasso comes some startling new numbers from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) regarding security on the nation’s networks:
Cyber attacks on the federal government soared 680 percent in five years, an official from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) testified Tuesday.
Gregory Wilshusen, director of information issues for the GAO, said federal agencies reported 42,887 cybersecurity “incidents” in 2011, compared with just 5,503 in 2006.
The incidents included malicious code, denial of service attacks and unauthorized access to systems.
Later this week, the House of Representatives is set to vote on a few cybersecurity bills, including the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (or CISPA), which has already garnered close to 800,000 petition signatures against it due to privacy concerns. As Gerry Smith of the Huffington Post reports:
The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA, sponsored by Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), seeks to give businesses and the federal government legal protection to share cyber threats with each other in an effort to thwart hackers.
Currently, they do not share that data because the information is classified and companies fear violating anti-trust law.
But privacy and civil liberties groups say the bill’s definition of the consumer data that can be shared with the government is overly broad, and once the data is shared, the government could use that information for other purposes—such as investigating or prosecuting crimes—without needing to obtain a warrant. They also criticize the legislation for not requiring companies to make customer information anonymous before sharing it with the government.
Thursday, April 19
This Sunday is Earth Day, and as the national conversation turns to the topics of sustainability and environmental awareness — for a day, at least — it’s worth highlighting the important role broadband can play in preserving our environment – specifically, the growing importance of Mobile to Mobile, or M2M, communication.
In a nutshell, M2M can be described as machines talking to machines over the air. Think of a power meter sending a reading back to the power company, rather than driving a truck all around town. Or irrigation monitoring to ensure water is being put to its best use.
These and scores of other efficiencies created by M2M technology are very real, and they benefit not just the planet but the economy as a whole. After all, greater productivity means less energy needed per dollar of output… more bucks per BTU. It also means a small environmental footprint.
Fittingly, the driving force behind M2M technology is one of our planet’s greatest natural resources: spectrum, or the airwaves that enable all our wireless communication. With a finite amount of spectrum suitable for wireless use, however, it needs to be managed in a smart and efficient way. And right now, we could do better.
Recent efforts by Congress and the FCC to free up more spectrum for wireless use are encouraging. The FCC’s incentive auctions, which will mean billions for broadcasters through the sale of their unused spectrum, will go a long way toward easing what the Commission’s Chairman and others warn of as a coming spectrum crunch.
But incentive auctions alone will not keep the wireless economy humming. Our nation’s providers are watching data consumption explode on their networks, and they rightly warn that unless major steps are taken to provide the airwaves they need — and will gladly pay handsomely for — they risk being able to keep up with unprecedented demand.
Addressing depletion of this resource will take not just short-term thinking, but an overhaul of the way our spectrum resources are currently managed. Given the speed of Washington, especially compared to the speed of technology, time is of the essence. A lack of spectrum going forward could mean higher prices and diminished service for consumers. It could also slow the economic and environmental progress being made through M2M technology.
We can’t afford to let that happen. So as we mark Earth Day, let’s keep in mind just how much we’ve come to rely on spectrum, and work toward putting it to its highest and best use.