Because every American
should have access
to broadband Internet.

The Internet Innovation Alliance is a broad-based coalition of business and non-profit organizations that aim to ensure every American, regardless of race, income or geography, has access to the critical tool that is broadband Internet. The IIA seeks to promote public policies that support equal opportunity for universal broadband availability and adoption so that everyone, everywhere can seize the benefits of the Internet - from education to health care, employment to community building, civic engagement and beyond.

The Podium

Blog posts tagged with 'Government'

Thursday, October 17

Back to Work

By Brad

Now that the federal government is up and running again, things are expected to heat up on the tech policy front. Case in point, as Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports:

The Senate could confirm President Obama’s nominees to the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission as early as Wednesday night.

Tom Wheeler, President Obama’s pick for FCC chairman, and Michael O’Rielly, a nominee for a Republican commission seat, have been placed on a fast track for Senate approval, according to a document circulated on Capitol Hill Wednesday.

Terrell McSweeny, a Democratic FTC nominee, and Kathryn Sullivan, nominated to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, could also be approved.

With hot issues like spectrum auctions and the transition to advanced networks on the table, it’s good to see the government back to work, and that the FCC could finally have a new Chairman ASAP.

Wednesday, September 04

Tweeting Constituents

By Brad

As the war drums are being played in Washington D.C., Pete Kasperowicz of The Hill reports that Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is turning to social media to gauge public opinion on taking action in Syria:

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) on Tuesday asked residents of his home state for input on how he should vote on a resolution authorizing military action against Syria.

“As I begin attending intelligence briefings and hearings concerning the ongoing situation in Syria, I want to hear from West Virginians on what, if any, military action should be taken,” Manchin said on his website. “Your feedback is invaluable as Congress begins debate on this critical national security issue.”

Manchin asked West Virginia residents to send advice either by email, Twitter or via Facebook.

Friday, December 14

Good News For Internet Freedom

By Brad

Yesterday at the International Telecoms Union (ITU) conference in Dubai, a victory was chalked up for freedom as a draft treaty that would give government greater control over the Internet was shot down. As Charles Arthur of The Guardian reports:

The US was first to declare its opposition to the draft treaty. “It is with a heavy heart and a sense of missed opportunities that I have to announce that the United States must communicate that it is unable to sign the agreement in its current form,” Terry Kramer, head of the US delegation, told the conference, after what had looked like a final draft was approved.

“The internet has given the world unimaginable economic and social benefit during these past 24 years. All without UN regulation. We candidly cannot support an ITU Treaty that is inconsistent with the multi-stakeholder model of internet governance.”

The US was joined in its opposition by the UK, Canada, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Kenya, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Qatar and Sweden. All said they would not sign the proposed final text, meaning that although a number of other countries will sign it, the treaty cannot be effectively implemented.

Wednesday, December 12

Hopeful Signs

By Brad

Matt Smith and Joseph Menn of Reuters report on some positive signs for Internet freedom out of the ITU conference in Dubai:

Hopes rose on Tuesday for a compromise agreement that would keep intrusive government regulation of the Internet from being enshrined in a global treaty.

As a 12-day conference of the International Telecommunication Union drew near its Friday closing, the chairman of the gathering in Dubai circulated a draft that sidelined proposals from Russia, China and other countries that have been seeking the right to know where each piece of Internet traffic comes from.

The United States believes it is the basis for any further progress toward reaching an agreement at this conference,” said U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer, who had led Western opposition to the earlier proposals.

The United States has been strongly against giving government more oversight of the Internet — so much so that even both Democrats and Republicans have agreed.

Friday, November 30

Cutting of Syria

By Brad

Yesterday, all of Syria plunged into Internet darkness as rebels continue to clash with the government. Today, Bassem Mroue of the Associated Press reports the blackout continues:

The Internet outage, confirmed by two U.S.-based companies that monitor online connectivity, is unprecedented in Syria’s uprising against Assad, which activists say has killed more than 40,000 people since the revolt began in March 2011.

Regime forces have suffered a string of tactical defeats in recent weeks, losing air bases and other strategic facilities. The government may be trying to blunt additional rebel offensives by hampering communications.

Wednesday, November 14

Rosenworcel on Auctions

By Brad

Speaking of incentive auctions, yesterday FCC Commission Jessica Rosenworcel spoke at a conference and laid out her vision for how the auctions should proceed. The National Journal‘s Juliana Gruenwald once again reports:

Rosenworcel, a Democrat who joined the five-member commission in May, outlined the proposal during a conference that examined spectrum policy over the next decade. She noted that meeting the nation’s spectrum needs will require a variety of approaches, including effective implementation of the incentive auction process by the FCC, technological solutions, and spectrum sharing.

She also echoed calls for federal agencies to give up more of their spectrum to commercial wireless providers. Noting that government agencies are understandably reluctant to surrender a network or communications system once it’s in place, she suggested giving agencies an incentive by offering them a share of the proceeds from the auction of the federal spectrum.

Wednesday, October 24

Skirting Censorship

By Brad

Over at the Washington Post, James Ball has penned an interesting look at the challenge of overwhelming demand for U.S. funded programs aimed at combating online censorship:

Activists and nonprofit groups say that their online circumvention tools, funded by the U.S. government, are being overwhelmed by demand and that there is not enough money to expand capacity. The result: online bottlenecks that have made the tools slow and often inaccessible to users in China, Iran and elsewhere, threatening to derail the Internet freedom agenda championed by the Obama administration.

“Every time we provide them with additional funding, those bottlenecks are alleviated for a time but again fill to capacity in a short period of time,” said André Mendes, director of the Office of Technology, Services and Innovation at the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which funds some of the initiatives. “One could reasonably state that more funding would translate into more traffic and, therefore, more accessibility from behind these firewalls.”

Monday, September 24

Falling Behind in Spectrum

By Brad

At the Daily Caller, Scott Cleland warns the U.S. is falling behind when it comes to allocating spectrum for wireless use:

[T]he federal government’s obsolete regulation-first-mindset has America falling quickly behind the world in auctioning government spectrum. The U.S. Government has an abundant supply of spectrum available to auction, if only they didn’t hoard, mismanage and waste it.

There is no way the Government can justify hoarding 85% of broadband-grade spectrum when the Government only uses 1% of the nation’s energy, 30% of the nation’s land, and 8% of the nation’s workforce, or when all government public safety personnel can get by with just 20 MHz — the equivalent of 1% of the government’s auction-able broadband spectrum hoard.

Cleland goes on to note that Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and Japan have each reformed their spectrum allocation.

Friday, July 13

Pressuring the Government for Spectrum

By Brad

Eliza Krigman of Politico reports that lawmakers in the House are increasingly applying pressure on the federal government to make more spectrum available for wireless use:

The Federal Spectrum Working Group, co-chaired by Reps. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Tuesday asking for detailed information about the activities of government spectrum users. And lawmakers focused on the issue at a Federal Communications Commission oversight hearing earlier Tuesday.

“Federal spectrum can help alleviate the spectrum crunch,” Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said. “We should conduct a spectrum inventory of the military and elsewhere to see how much they have to see what’s available that could help the private sector.

Tuesday, July 03

Twitter Transparency

By Brad

Via Russ Buettner of the New York Times comes an interesting twist in the online privacy debate — especially for those who often share their thoughts via social media:

A Criminal Court judge in Manhattan ruled on Monday that Twitter must turn over to prosecutors messages sent by a Brooklyn writer during the Occupy Wall Street protests last fall. In doing so, the judge, Matthew A. Sciarrino Jr., indicated that although private speech was protected, the same did not apply to public comments on Twitter.

“The Constitution gives you the right to post, but as numerous people have learned, there are still consequences for your public posts,” Judge Sciarrino wrote. “What you give to the public belongs to the public. What you keep to yourself belongs only to you.

On a related note, Twitter happened to release its “transparency report” today, and revealed that in the first half of 2012 they received more government requests for information on users than they received in all of 2011. Leading the charge when it comes to requests: the United States.

Tuesday, June 26

Teleconference Wrap-Up

By Brad

Earlier today, IIA hosted a teleconference on government regulations in the broadband ecosystem. Titled “The Role of Government in the Broadband Economy: Making Regulations Work,” the participants were Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute, Dr. Joseph P. Fuhr of the American Consumer Institute, and our own Co-Chair Bruce Mehlman.

You can download and listen to the conversation below. A full transcript is also available after the jump.

Download IIA Teleconference Audio (3.2 mb mp3).

there's more...

Tuesday, June 19

Simmons in Fierce Telecom

By Brad

In a piece today for Fierce Telecom, our Co-Chair Jamal Simmons argues that in order to keep pace with speed of technology, the government should mainly focus on policies that continue to encourage investment. Here’s a taste:

Driven by the hunger of consumers and the ambition of entrepreneurs, the technology industry is rapidly evolving, far faster than the speed of government. For the government to craft regulations that handicap some technologies and advantage others – or to pick corporate winners and losers – will stifle the private investment needed for the innovation that leads to the next big thing, making stars of also-rans like Apple and preventing the spark for companies that don’t exist today but could be household names in a handful of years. Until policy makers unearth a crystal ball, they should act with humility, taking care to foster an investment-friendly environment that will lead to a future brighter than we can imagine.

You can read the entire op-ed over at Fierce Telecom.

Monday, June 18

Government & Google

By Brad

Via Brendan Sasso of The Hill comes new data from Google on the number of government requests the company is receiving to censor online content worldwide:

The latest report shows that Google received more than 467 court orders to take down more than 7,000 items in the second half of last year. The company said it complied with about 65 percent of the court orders.

Google also received more than 561 informal requests, such as calls from police officers, to take down more than 4,979 items. It complied with 47 percent of the informal requests.

Tuesday, June 05

Sharing Isn’t Always Easy

By Brad

Speaking of spectrum, over at Fierce Wireless Philip Goldstein is encouraged by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s suggestion of sharing some of the government’s airwaves with wireless providers, but cautions it won’t be an easy move:

As with many things that get talked about in Washington though, spectrum sharing—specifically between government entities and commercial carriers—is more conjecture at this point than anything else. It will take years to make such sharing a reality, and the biggest hurdles will not be technical but more basic elements like how much spectrum government agencies—especially the Department of Defense—will be willing to give up. In order to get both sides on the same page to make spectrum sharing a reality, there is going to have to be significant and consistent socialization of both government spectrum administrators and the wireless industry.

Tuesday, May 01

Technology & the Beltway: How Things Have Changed

By Rick Boucher


Capitol Hill used to be a forest killer, a place where business was conducted via towers of paperwork, where the clack-clacking of typewriters echoed throughout the halls. Much of the work— especially for Congressional staffers — was inefficient, repetitive, boring.

Even at the dawn of the Internet era, many offices still relied on typewriters and all offices created reams of paper to function. The offices that embraced PCs early on often found that their primitive machines did little to increase efficiency or lessen the paper load.

Then — sometime around the mid-nineties — a revolution occurred: an upheaval powered by email and electronic document transfer. Suddenly, paper started to vanish. Typewriters gathered dust. Pens met paper only for signatures and correspondence with constituents.

By the time I entered my 14th term, my office was using electronic communications for just about everything. My Congressional operations were able to disperse — in fact, my Chief of Staff worked 350 miles away from Washington — and the immediacy of email allowed me to engage more rapidly with constituents. The emergence of the BlackBerrys and other smartphones only added to our efficiency.

Today, it’s nearly impossible to imagine a time when Washington dealt with paper instead of bits. But truth be told, the Beltway was slow to realize the benefits of digital culture — and unfortunately, the halls of Washington are still lagging behind the speed of innovation. While many Congressional leaders have embraced the rise of social media, only recently has attention turned to the underlining spectrum infrastructure that increasingly powers things like Twitter and Facebook.

To be fair to my former colleagues, very few were able to anticipate the mobile broadband earthquake — or the spectrum shortage it has created. But with the FCC Chairman himself warning of a coming spectrum crunch within a few years, it’s critical for Washington to break out of its traditional slow-footing and act quickly to catch up with technology. The innovation and the billions in wireless network investment now needed to meet the ever growing demand for wireless services are far too critical for our country’s future to be slowed down by the molasses of regulations and process.

It took a while, but Washington eventually awoke to the opportunities of the Internet age. For America to continue to lead in this new mobile era, we can’t afford further delays. After all, who knows what’s coming next?

Monday, March 26

The Spectrum Gulf

By Brad

In a piece on technology and the economy for The American, Bret Swanson of Entropy Economics (he’s also an IIA Broadband Ambassador) highlights a startling fact that speaks directly to America’s current spectrum crunch:

Broadband, wireless, and data centers are the platform on which our entire digital—and increasingly non-digital—economy are built. U.S. broadband is healthy—we generate more data traffic per user than any nation but South Korea. And yet the innovation cycle craves ever more bandwidth.

However, the government owns 61 percent of the best airwaves, while mobile providers own just 10 percent. In February, Congress finally approved auctions of some underused spectrum and warned the Federal Communications Commission not to micromanage who can bid on spectrum, how much a bidder can buy, and what business models buyers can pursue. Economists Robert Shapiro and Kevin Hassett estimate that advances in mobile Internet technologies boosted U.S. employment by 400,000 per year between 2007 and 2011. In the best circumstances, auctions take years, so further FCC spectrum mischief could slow one of America’s fastest-growing industries.

Recent efforts by Congress and the FCC to free up more spectrum for mobile broadband are certainly encouraging. But the massive gulf between the amount of spectrum the government owns vs. the wireless industry clearly shows the government is not moving at the speed of technology — and that’s a recipe for disaster.

Thursday, February 24

The Power of YouTube

By Brad

With the civic unrest having spread from Egypt to Libya, Libyan authorities have cracked down on access to the Internet. But as GigaOm’s Janko Roettgers reports, captured video of violence against Libyan protesters is still making it to the rest of the world:

Many videos documenting the violence in Libya nonetheless find their way to YouTube. A Google spokesperson said on Tuesday that more than 9500 videos tagged “Libya” have been uploaded to the video site in the week since the beginning of the uprising.

Friday, February 18

Social Networks For Social Change

By Brad

At Nextgov, William Matthews has an interesting piece on the effect social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter are having on governments around the globe:

After being mistreated by a policewoman and ignored by municipal officials, Mohamed Bouazizi, 26, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire Dec. 17, 2010, in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid. He died Jan. 4.

Bouazizi’s act, which was videotaped and posted on Facebook, sparked the revolution that overthrew Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Alithe on Jan. 14.

The revolution would have been impossible without Facebook,” said Mohamed Al-Yahyai. The video of Bouazizi’s suicide ignited rage among Tunisia’s unemployed, oppressed and impoverished.

The full article is worth checking out.

Thursday, July 29

Giving More Power to G-Men

By Brad

The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration wants to ease restrictions so the FBI can force companies to hand over employee Internet activity without a court order:

The administration wants to add just four words—“electronic communication transactional records”—to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the “content” of e-mail or other Internet communication.

But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.

Thursday, July 01

Battling Piracy

By Brad

Last month, vice-president Joe Biden told reporters that online piracy was “no different than smashing a window at Tiffany’s,” and that the government would be expanding efforts to shut piracy sites down. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reports, the first shutdowns began:

In an ongoing fight against intellectual piracy, federal authorities seized the domain names of nine websites accused of letting users watch on-demand versions of first-run movies.

Referring to the sites as “among the most popular” websites for distributing illegal copies of movies, the government highlighted copies of films currently in theaters, such as “Toy Story 3” and “The A-Team,” for evidence to obtain the warrant.

The nine sites had registered their domain names via U.S.-based registration services, allowing authorities to take control of their site addresses. Some were run on computers based in the U.S.—in Colorado, Florida and Illinois. But others used computers based in Germany, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the Czech Republic.

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