The Politics of Telecom, Media and Technology

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From the New America Foundation’s Event on Broadband Stimulus

January 16th, 2009 · No Comments

I live-Twittered from the New America Foundation’s event on broadband stimulus. Here are some of my posting. You can also see the stream by going to http://twitter.com/drewclark.

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Kevin Martin Resigns From FCC Effective Inauguration Day

January 15th, 2009 · 2 Comments

I just posted this piece on BroadbandCensus.com….

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin Resigns, Expresses Regret About Public Safety Communications

WASHINGTON, January 15, 2009 - Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin on Thursday resigned from his position, effective Inauguration Day, and expressed the regret about the lack of interoperable communications networks for public safety officials. read more

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The Last Meeting of Chairman Martin

January 15th, 2009 · No Comments


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Broadband Stimulus and Broadband Data

January 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

I just posted a piece about the role of states in the broadband stimulus package at BroadbandCensus.com

Broadband Stimulus Package Should Include Funding for State Data, Says Massachusetts


By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, January 2, 2009 – Congress and the incoming administration of President Obama should include broadband-related investment in the pending legislation designed to promote economic stimulus, and the federal government needs to begin with better data about broadband availability, said a top Massachusetts government official.


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From IP-Watch, US IP Attachés Take Hard-Line Position On Overseas IP Enforcement

December 26th, 2008 · No Comments

My piece about the U.S. Chamber of Commerce event last Friday on U.S. intellectual property attachés giving a report, and taking a hard line, on the enforcement of U.S. intellectual property, overseas, is now live on ip-watch.org.

Here’s the first couple of paragraphs:

WASHINGTON, DC - Nations ranging from Brazil to Brunei to Russia are failing to properly protect the intellectual property assets of US companies and others, and international organisations are not doing enough to stop it, seven IP attachés to the US Foreign and Commercial Service lamented recently.

Meanwhile, an industry group issued detailed recommendations for the incoming Obama administration’s changes to the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The problems in other nations extend from Brazil’s failure to issue patents for commercially significant inventions by US inventors, to an almost-complete piracy-based economy in Brunei, to an only-modest drop in the rate of Russian piracy from 65 percent to 58 percent.

The attachés, speaking at an event organised by the US Chamber of Commerce and its recently beefed-up Global Intellectual Property Center (GIPC), blasted the record of familiar intellectual property trouble zones like Brunei, Thailand and Russia.

But the problems extend to the attitudes and omissions of major trading partners like Brazil, India and even well-developed European nations, said the attachés.

[more at http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/index.php?p=1387….]

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With US Patent Overhaul Dead, Agencies Ponder Changes As Industry Debates Role Of ‘Trolls’

December 8th, 2008 · No Comments

URL: http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/index.php?p=1352

By Drew Clark for Intellectual Property Watch

WASHINGTON, DC - With major legislative changes to the United States patent system unfinished as the 110th Congress prepares to dissolve, Executive- and Judicial-branch agencies on Friday jostled for authority over future patent policy.

Speaking at a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hearing on “The Evolving Intellectual Property Marketplace,” FTC Chairman William Kovacic set the stage for what he said would be the “first in a series of events” to revisit the agency’s work five years ago on the impact patents have on competition policy.

Kovacic said that “coming up with good solutions to IP policy requires a genuinely multidisciplinary” approach, and that the FTC is well-suited to the task because of its ability to educate, convene and take appropriate enforcement actions.

Later in the day, the chief judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over all patent appeals, said that neither Congress nor the executive branch should be actively involved in overhauling intellectual property.

Rather, said Chief Judge Paul R Michel, “We will probably make more progress in the courts through case law” than by asking the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or Congress to wade deep into intellectual property conflicts.

“Everyone should make their own choice about who is the right actor to make fine balancing decisions,” continued Michel, adding that “this is what courts do all the time, probably way better than Congress.”

[more at http://www.ip-watch.org/weblog/index.php?p=1352]

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At George Mason University, Hear a U.K. Perspective on Spectrum

November 11th, 2008 · No Comments

Over at TechLiberation, I ask the question: What’s the right way to allocate the airwaves? For years and years and years, the governing policy of federal communications was that the electro-magnetic spectrum was too “scarce” to be left to the devices of the marketplace. This kind of reasoning has always lacked substance.

I highlight the speech by William Webb, Head of Research and Development and Senior Technologist, OFCOM, the telecommunications regulator in the United Kingdom, that is taking place at the Information Economy Project at George Mason University School of Law - tomorrow, Wednesday, November 12. Click here to register.

And, for an up-to-the-hour perspective on some of the reasoning behind the FCC’s recent actions on white spaces, see my piece at BroadbandCensus.com on “Kevin Martin’s Incredible Silicon Valley Wi-Fi Adventure,” which I posted on Friday.

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Net Neutrality and White Spaces Remain in the Limelight at Association Conference

November 7th, 2008 · No Comments

I appreciate all the great traffic I’ve received in recent days for my posts about the white spaces issue. This morning I posted two news articles on BroadbandCensus.com coming out of the Wireless Communications Association’s conference in San Jose. Follow the links to read the pieces.

Net Neutrality Advocates: Wireless Carriers’ Network Management Must be ‘Reasonable’

SAN JOSE, November 7 – Emboldened by their summertime victory against Comcast, advocates of network neutrality said Thursday that the next front in battle for the principle would be against wireless carriers who make “unreasonable” network management decisions. read more

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s Incredible Silicon Valley Wi-Fi Adventure

SAN JOSE, November 6 – It was Kevin Martin’s day to suck up praise from Silicon Valley. The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission – for about two more months – came to the Wireless Communications Association’s annual conference here on Thursday to be feted by many Googlers, including company co-founder Larry Page. read more

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The Benefits of Tweeting

November 4th, 2008 · No Comments

I just finished Twittering the FCC open meeting. I didn’t even go to the FCC. (I didn’t have time to sit around for 5 hours and wait for the meeting to start.) And I got a nice plug from the Silicon Alley Insider.

However, now is the moment in which I miss out: the crowd is scampering around FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. Now, a press conference, on the FCC webcast.

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The Real White Spaces Debate: To Create or Abolish a Market in the Airwaves

November 4th, 2008 · 9 Comments

By Drew Clark

WASHINGTON, November 4 - I’ve been following the “white spaces” for as long as it has been happening - four, maybe five years - and I must admit that I am surprised by FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s sudden fondness for them.

Until the last days of his chairmanship, Martin never cared for this somewhat radical notion: allowing techies and community activists to spew electromagnetic frequencies in zones currently occupied (at least ostensibly) by the broadcasters.

In fact, at Martin’s first press conference in the spring of 2006, more than a year after he assumed his position in March 2005, I couldn’t even get Martin or his top aide to comment about the subject on the record. I’ll have to wait for the open meeting later today to get some sense of his motivation for doing so now, as he prepares to depart the commission.

Meanwhile, the white spaces debate has been changed somewhat by the reality of the digital television transition, which is set to occur on February 17, 2009. As companies involved in the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) get cleared out a large section of radio-frequencies, the next big question remaining is: can they be forced, or enticed, entirely out of the airwaves. With more than 88 percent of individuals receiving television from cable or satellite systems, this isn’t just idle speculation.

In July 2007, I posed this question:

Are white spaces a good idea? In pure Washington fashion, the answer depends on how you see the NAB’s future strength. White spaces makes the most sense if you still believe that broadcasters treat the airwaves the way Texans treat the Alamo. But for those who believe that the NAB is amenable to reason, and economic incentives, here’s the next puzzle: what will it take to entice broadcasters to sell, give up or vacate the remaining airwaves? There are plenty of telcos, techies, and community activists that believe they can do better with them. All they need now is a game plan to help the broadcasters out of their paper bag.

The entire debate between broadcasters and techies is, in reality, a false choice. Everyone knows that an airwave allocation established in 1952 is obsolete. There is no need to allow huge “white spaces” to remain between TV channels. But given this fact, does it make sense to preserve a system of allocation that keeps broadcasters and wireless devices forever mixed together in the airwaves? Wouldn’t it make more sense to undertake a bolder reconfiguration by dividing the airwaves up into large swaths of 42 Megahertz a piece (seven such slices would be available by squeezing broadcasters out of their zones), and either auctioning or designating those segments for public wireless use?

Yesterday, in Ars Technica, my friend and colleague Tom Hazlett lays out the digital television transition to yesterday. And he argues that the FCC’s push to santify the “white spaces” is about to make things worse. For another view on the subject, see Ars’ Matthew Lasar.

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Twittering Tomorrow From the Federal Communications Commission

November 3rd, 2008 · 2 Comments

While the FCC Commissioners play tit for tat over the deletion of the Universal Service Fund item from tomorrow’s — yes, on Election Day — open meeting of the commission, the other key issues ostensibly remain on the agenda: “white spaces,” the Sprint-Clearwire merger, and the Verizon-Alltel merger.

The meeting isn’t scheduled to start until 11 a.m., which means it is everyone’s guess, but I’ll plan on being there and live-Twittering from the FCC.

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Twittering from the National Press Club on CompTIA Debate

October 30th, 2008 · No Comments

WASHINGTON, October 30 - At the National Press Club, Larry Irving and Grover Norquist are debating technology and the presidential candidates. Check the side of this page, or at http://twitter.com/drewclark, for my live Twitters!

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Broadcast Networks Seek ‘Time Out’ on FCC Push for White Spaces

October 23rd, 2008 · 7 Comments

By Drew Clark

WASHINGTON, October 23 – The top executives of the four major broadcast networks on Thursday urged the head of the Federal Communications Commission to delay a vote on a politically simmering issue that pits broadcasters against Google and high-tech executives.

In the letter, the CEOs of CBS Corp., NBC Universal and Walt Disney, and the chief operating officer of News Corp., urge that the FCC exercise caution before taking irreparable action with regard to the vacant television channels known as “white spaces.”

Google and the other technology executives, including Microsoft, Motorola, Philips and others, want the FCC to authorize electronic devices that capable of transmitting internet signals over vacant television bands.

The network executives – CBS’s Leslie Moonves, Disney’s Robert Iger, NBC’s Jeffrey Zucker and Peter Chernin of News Corp. – want a time out.

They join their local broadcasting colleagues, as well as manufacturers and users of wireless microphones, like the National Football League and Broadway theater owners, who have been actively lobbying the issue.

The broadcasters want the FCC to delay a pending report and subject the technically-laden document to peer review by engineers.

“It would be unprecedented to let the FCC take action of something of this importance, which could potentially introduce considerable interference into the television band, without allowing the public to comment,” said Dennis Wharton, executive vice president at the National Association of Broadcasters.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin is scheduled to release the white spaces report at a commission meeting on Tuesday, November 4, which is also Election Day.

Both advocates and critics of the white spaces proposal expect that the report by the agency’s Office of Engineering and Technology could pave the wave for widespread use of devices transmitting in the white spaces.

Traditionally, advocates of white spaces have been politically out-gunned. Non-profit communications enthusiasts, including officials at the New America Foundation and the Media Access Project, have been promoting the concept for years. But until recently, broadcasters have held sway among FCC commissioners.

Fears of Interference

Broadcasters’ fears of interference have kept stations far, far, apart on the television dial.

That’s why even today, if you live in Washington, DC, no more than four of the 21 channels between 30 and 50 are occupied: 32, 45, 47 and 50. That leaves 17 available as white spaces. The FCC’s allocation of TV channels was set in 1952.

The channel numbers vary from city to city, and will likely change with the transition to digital television (DTV) on February 17, 2009. Still, a lot of unused real estate is and will remain vacant in the sky.

Google’s solution: the FCC should give the industry permission to build smart electronic devices that will automatically “sense” their own geographic location, and then offer connections to the internet only when such transmissions would not interfere with television broadcasts.

In the Thursday letter, the network executives don’t extensively rehash the arguments against interference.

Indeed, they say that their companies “have worked with [broadcasters] and other interested parties toward a final plan to utilize white spaces in the television band because we recognize that better utilization of spectrum could mean improved broadband deployment, especially in rural areas, and economic growth nationally.”

Rather, they highlight their concern about potential irreparable consequences.

“The FCC has to get this matter right the first time,” said the executives. “If millions of unlicensed devices flood the market in the next few years, and it turns out the sensing still does not work, … and the result is massive disruption to Americans’ #1 news, leisure and entertainment option, how will that damage be undone?”

The executives are fighting a rear-guard battle against stepped-up advocacy on the part of the tech companies, including Google co-founder Larry Page. Page appeared at a September 24 pro-white space rally on Capitol Hill.

And on Tuesday, October 21, Google and New America Foundation hosted an event at the search giant’s California headquarters entitled “Pervasive Connectivity.”

At the Tuesday event, Michael Calabrese, director of the New America Foundation’s Wireless Future Program, urged: “take TV off the air” in a few years, according to the trade publication Communications Daily. Calabrese said that all of the TV spectrum should be for wireless broadband, replacing over-the-air broadcasters with cable, satellite and internet viewing, according to Comm Daily. (Also see this report from RBR.com.)

Who’s Right, Broadcasters or Techies?

Currently neglected in the current debate is a “Third Way.”

Instead of turning the white spaces into yet another political football between competing lobbyists, why doesn’t the government put these frequencies up for sale? It’s the kind of idea that you would think a warm-hearted capitalist company like Google would love.

That, at least, is the idea of Professor Thomas Hazlett of George Mason University School School of Law. (Disclosure: I serve as part-time Assistant Director of the Information Economy Project, where I work with Law & Economics Professor Thomas Hazlett, who directs the project.)

Hazlett favors taking a property rights approach to spectrum, and he elaborates on this idea in the October 3 edition of The Wall Street Journal (with Nobel Laureate in Economic Vernon Smith):

Allot all TV band frequencies to, say, seven national licenses, and auction them. (Competition could be ensured by a one-to-a-customer rule.) TV stations would be grandfathered, and continue to broadcast on current channels. But they would also be able to change channels or accept some interference with their broadcast signals. They would happily accept payments to make way for new wireless stuff. Band usage would be radically transformed.

This procedure greases the skids for efficiency, downloading politically arduous tasks to market specialists. Many wireless services, from PCS to Blackberry to MediaFlo, have been launched through such spectrum trades. Those deals only happen when owners can bargain. To free the airwaves, we must liberate them from the pre-World War II template in which they are now trapped.

I first heard about a variant of Hazlett’s proposal about 18 months ago, at the May 2007 Aspen Institute Roundtable on Spectrum Policy, in Queenstown, Maryland. A long-time critic of broadcasters, Hazlett proposed dividing up the remaining 294 Megahertz – this is the spectrum that will remain after the DTV transition – into about seven segments of about 42 Megahertz a piece. (I lay out the spectrum math in this sidebar.)

Each slice could be auctioned off, or, as an alternative, cleared for use by unlicensed Wi-Fi style devices. The nut of the proposal is that auction buyers – presumably Google and the other technology giants – must bargain with incumbent broadcasters to entice them to either exit their broadcasting business, or to keep from interfering with existing broadcasts.

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Building Momentum for the Broadband Breakfast Club with November 18 Event

October 22nd, 2008 · 2 Comments

By Drew Clark

Over at BroadbandCensus.com, I’ve just posted an entry about the Broadband Breakfast Club series. In it, I note that Stan Fendley, the director of legislative and regulatory policy for Corning, Inc., has joined the roster of speakers for BroadbandCensus.com’s next big event: the Tuesday, November 18 meeting of the Broadband Breakfast Club.

With the addition of Fendley, we’ll have a wonderful (and wonderfully diverse) collection of speakers to discuss and debate “Should Government Funding Be Part of a National Broadband Plan?” In addition to Fendley, confirmed speakers include Kyle McSlarrow, CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), and John Windhausen, Jr., president of Telepoly Consulting. I will moderate the discussion.

Two weeks after Election Day, this Broadband Breakfast Club meeting will consider one of the hottest topics in telecom: can and should funding for broadband work its way into a pending fiscal stimulus package?

Future meetings of the breakfast club (December 2008 through March 2009) will consider the role of broadband applications in harnessing demand, how the universal service fund will be changed by high-speed internet, the role of wireless in universal broadband, and the extent of competition in the marketplace.

The Broadband Breakfast Club meets monthly at the Old Ebbitt Grill, at 675 15th Street, NW, in Washington. (It’s right across the street from the Department of the Treasury.)

Beginning at 8 a.m., an American plus Continental breakfast is available downstairs in the Cabinet Room. This is followed by a discussion about the question at hand, which ends at 10 a.m. Except for holidays (like Veteran’s Day), we’ll meet on the second Tuesday of each month, until March 2009. The registration page for the event is http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

Because of the limited size of the venue, seated attendance will be reserved the first 45 individuals to register. There are no restrictions on who may register to attend. With the exception of speakers, there is a $45.00 charge (plus a modest Eventbrite fee) to attend. The events are on the record.

We kicked off this series earlier this month with a well-attended breakfast on “10 Years Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act: Success or Failure?

I started the Broadband Breakfast Club for the same reason that I started BroadbandCensus.com earlier this year: I believe that American consumers, policy-makers and broadband providers need better information about the issues surrounding high-speed internet access.

Today, broadband is (or could) the driver of citizen engagement, commerce, democratic participation, education, entertainment, health care and potential environmental gains through wider telecommuting. And yet basic information about where particular broadband company offers service – and at what price and at what speed – is not conveniently available in a single, public source. The free web service BroadbandCensus.com aims to change that by going directly to individual internet users for their feedback.

Our Broadband Breakfast Club series is directed more at Washington policy-makers and influencers. But again, we are seeking to broaden the discussion by allowing all to participate. The goal of this breakfast series is to bring an informed consensus – or, failing that, an informed disagreement – around key broadband policy questions.

With the dawn of a new administration – and the prospect of a systematic approach to high-speed internet issues for the first time in nearly a decade – now is the time to undertake these discussions.

Further, the breakfast events that we’re hosting now will lead up to our Spring 2009 conference, “Broadband Census for America: The New Administration.” The Spring 2009 conference – bringing together federal, state and local officials, academic researchers and other interested parties around the issue of broadband data – is tentatively scheduled for Friday, March 27, 2009, here in Washington.

If you have questions or thoughts about upcoming events in the Broadband Breakfast Club series, or about the Spring 2009 conference, “Broadband Census for America: The New Administration,” or about BroadbandCensus.com in general, feel free to contact me: drew at broadbandcensus.com, or at 202-580-8196.

As with everything on BroadbandCensus.com, this blog post is under our Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License. That means you can copy, send, repost and redistribute it. Please do so! The URL for this post is http://broadbandcensus.com/blog/?p=923, and the URL for the registration page is http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

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BroadbandCensus.com Presents the Broadband Breakfast Club With Event on Digital Copyright

October 9th, 2008 · No Comments

October 14 Breakfast to Feature Representatives from Software, Electronics, and Recording Industries; plus Scholar Responsible for ‘Chilling Effects’

Press Releases

WASHINGTON, October 8 - BroadbandCensus.com announced the inaugural event of the Broadband Breakfast Club: a forum on Tuesday, October 14, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., about 10 years under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, at the Old Ebbitt Grill.

Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act on October 12, 1998, and it was signed by President Clinton on October 28, 1998. The new law, widely known as the DMCA, was designed to usher in a new phase of the United States’ copyright laws.

The DMCA did this through two key provisions. The anti-circumvention provision was designed to offer protection to copyright holders who encrypted their works by criminalizing the act of cracking those codes. The service provider liability provision was designed as a compromise between content owners and internet providers. It created today’s framework for “notice and takedown” currently at issue in a variety of current lawsuits, including Viacom v. YouTube.

Ten years later, how well has the DMCA worked? This event, the kick-off event in the monthly “Broadband Breakfast Club” hosted by BroadbandCensus.com, is designed to bring several key stakeholders together to share perspectives on this topic:

  • Drew Clark, Executive Director, BroadbandCensus.com (Moderator)
  • Mitch Glazier, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, Recording Industry Association of America
  • Michael Petricone, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Consumer Electronics Association
  • Wendy Seltzer, Practitioner in Residence, Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, American University Washington College of Law; and Berkman Center for Internet Society Fellow and instigator of “Chilling Effects” resource
  • Emery Simon, Counselor, Business Software Alliance

Breakfast for registrants will be available beginning at 8:00 a.m., and the forum itself will begin at around 8:30 a.m. It will conclude promptly at 10 a.m. Seated attendance is limited to the first 45 individuals to register for the event.

Future events in the Broadband Breakfast Club monthly series will feature other key topics involved in broadband technology and internet policy.

For more information about BroadbandCensus.com, or about the Broadband Breakfast Club at Old Ebbitt Grill at 675 15th Street NW, Washington, DC - on the second Tuesday of each month - please contact Drew Clark at 202-580-8196.

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