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Electronics CEO Gary Shapiro Says Broadband Should Not Be Regulated as a Utility

in FCC by

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2014 – The head of the leading trade association for the electronics industry on Wednesday weighed in against classifying broadband as a utility and subjecting it to extensive government regulation.

Instead, regulators should follow a “minimal harm first” principle, said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, in a speech at the Brookings Institution here.

Seeking to regulate telecom providers under Title II of the Communications Act would punish success. Communications giants like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon Communications should instead be encouraged to invest as much as possible in the U.S. infrastructure, because “we need their broadband.”

“I’m very fearful of suddenly sending those companies into a new area of regulation – like utilities –where you used to regulate every connection and every device,” he said. “It took 100 years from the invention of the telephone to get to the point of competition and it was unhealthy. But I do want what I have today, which is the ability to get anything I want on the internet, so I like things the way they are.”

The condescending treatment of telecom giants has fostered a lack of trust, he continued. Every time government goes after them, it’s “catnip” for Europeans who wish to encourage American tech companies to move overseas.

“Good intentions scare me,” Shapiro said. “I think [we] should be challenging the industry to come up with what they view as the best practice and let industries and bodies like this one (the Brookings Institution) come up with principles, and if the principles are violated, then act.”

Shapiro also criticized recent Europe Union court decisions for its efforts to balkanize and “blockade the internet.”

“The worst thing I can envision is where there are borders around every country and we cannot communicate and share information,” he said. The internet, he said, ” is our gift to the world.” It is “one of the best things that I think history will prove that the U.S. has done.”

New CEA Group Seeks to Set Standards to Reduce Distracted Driving

in Mobile Broadband/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 – The Consumer Electronics Association announced the formation of a group that will work to establish industry standards for designing devices in ways that will minimize distraction while operating vehicles earlier this week.

The group, created by the CEA’s Portable Handheld and In-Vehicle Electronics Committee, will work to suggest standards for handheld and other consumer electronics products used in both private and commercial vehicles, including boats and aircraft as well as automobiles. Recommendations will be based on the same fundamental principles behind the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Phase I Guidelines that were issued to automakers in order to reduce distracted driving.

“A driver’s highest priority should be safe and control of the vehicle at all times,” said Gary Shapiro, President of CEA.

Shapiro also said that designing devices that allow drivers to focus on the road such as GPS navigation systems and Bluetooth is superior to attempting to impose regulations on every potential distraction. A number of CEA member companies already make products to increase driver safety such as lane-drifting alarms and apps that restrict device usage.

CEA is currently looking for participants in the groups from technology companies and other interested parties.

Industry Reactions to Tom Wheeler’s Nomination to Be FCC Chairman: CCIA, NCTA, CTIA, NTCA, CEA and MPAA

in FCC by

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2013 - The following are reactions from President Barack Obama’s Announcement that Tom Wheeler would be Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission from several of the leading major telecommunications, media and technology industry trade groups.

Ed Black, President and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association: 

“President Obama has nominated the right leader for the right job at the right time.

“I have known and respected Tom Wheeler for many years, and believe his exceptional understanding of much of the industry, combined with his demonstrated commitment to protecting the public interest, makes him uniquely qualified to lead this important agency facing many complicated and critical decisions.

“Tom’s knowledge of the telecom, cable and Internet industries and his experience representing the wireless and cable industries when they were the newest disruptive innovators makes him an excellent choice. A frequent impediment to US innovation is that incumbents too often protect their legacy business models rather than allowing the market to evolve in ways that help consumers. Wheeler’s career backing start ups and promoting disruptive innovators in the wireless and cable industries is an important perspective to have in a Chairman.

“The choice of Wheeler reinforces our belief that President Obama understands the Internet’s role as both a communications tool and as a key for growing the digital economy. We need an FCC Chairman to chart the right course that will boost Internet openness, promote robust competition, innovation and affordable high speed Internet access.”

Michael Powell, President and CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association:

“We congratulate Tom Wheeler on his nomination as Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. With his significant experience in both the private and public sector, Tom is an exceptional choice to lead the Commission during a time when the telecommunications marketplace is experiencing significant innovation and incredible change. We welcome the pending appointment of Mignon Clyburn as interim chairman as she is a distinguished and able public servant. We will continue working closely with the entire Commission as they tackle important issues facing America’s dynamic media, technology and telecommunications landscape.”

Steve Largent, President and CEO of CTIA – The Wireless Association:

“On behalf of the wireless industry, we congratulate Tom on today’s announcement. Tom has a deep understanding of communications issues, a passion for hard work and creative thinking, a diverse background that spans the realm of the Internet world and a keen understanding of how mobile wireless broadband can drive our economy and innovation. His leadership of the FCC’s Technological Advisory Council, combined with his private sector experience means he will hit the ground running. We look forward to working with Tom, once he completes the Senate confirmation process, on the breadth of spectrum and other wireless telecom matters which are pending at the Commission and critical to the maintenance of our position as global leader in mobile communications.”

Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of the NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association:

“NTCA congratulates Mr. Wheeler upon his nomination to serve as the next chairman of the FCC. Small rural carriers have worked diligently to deliver on the President’s vision of universal broadband access, and we know that Mr. Wheeler appreciates the need for a stable, well-defined regulatory climate to facilitate investment in and upgrade of broadband-capable, IP-enabled networks. This is particularly important in the hard-to-serve areas in which NTCA members operate, and we look forward to working with Mr. Wheeler to fulfill the promise of high-quality, affordable and sustainable broadband access for all Americans.”

Gary Shapiro, President and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association:

“President Obama has made an excellent choice in nominating Tom Wheeler. As the former president of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) and the former CEO of CTIA – The Wireless Association, he understands the impact of government actions on innovation and competitiveness.

“As the chairman of the U.S. State Department Advisory Committee on International Communications Policy and Information Policy, Wheeler helped develop the unprecedented unified position of the U.S. government, Congress and industry opposing the International Telecommunication Union’s effort to encourage countries to wall off their citizens’ Internet access. Wheeler also helped coordinate the U.S. response to the Haiti disaster which quickly restored basic telecommunications service to Haiti and put into place a strategy for future responses to areas hit by a telecommunications breakdown.

“The FCC plays a vital role in the lives of all Americans. CEA and its 2,000 technology industry member companies look forward to working with Wheelerand his colleagues to help the FCC advance technology innovation through spectrum reallocation and other groundbreaking issues. Wheeler is experienced, qualified and certain to make a difference as FCC chairman.”

Chris Dodd, Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America:

“I’d like to congratulate Tom Wheeler on his nomination today by President Obama to be FCC Chairman. Tom has demonstrated strong leadership skills at a time of major change in the telecommunications, cable, and wireless industries.  I look forward to working with Tom, an entrepreneur and experienced policy expert,  to ensure the smooth delivery of American content over a variety of devices and networks, both here and abroad.”font

FCC Chairman Genachowski Touts ‘Incentive Auction’ as Big Win from Broadcasting to Wireless Broadband

in Broadband's Impact/CES2013/Congress/FCC/Mobile Broadband/Spectrum/Wireless by

LAS VEGAS, January 9, 2013 – When President Obama came to office nearly four years ago, the transition to digital television hadn’t yet been completed.

Now, airwaves once used by broadcasters have been cleared for use by wireless companies. And the Federal Communications Commission is going forward on the next stage of this transition. The agency is pushing broadcasters into a narrower and narrower portion of electromagnetic spectrum.

In other words, broadcasters will no longer rule the air with exclusive access to the mother-lode of spectrum they once controlled.

The man most responsible for this transition is Obama’s FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who came to the Consumer Electronics Show here Wednesday and received the accolade as the “spectrum chairman” by Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro.

Genachowski, sitting down in a question-and-answer with Shapiro here, said the agency was able to accomplish one-two punch against television broadcasters’ extensive spectrum holdings by building an “incentive auction” into the National Broadband Plan.

More broadly, Genachowski said, “we did a broadband plan that treated wired and wireless broadband as [both] really important.”

Coming into the National Broadband Plan in 2009 and 2010, “everyone assumed that a broadband plan was a wired broadband plan,” he said. “A lot of the future is about wireless broadband.”

The FCC issued the National Broadband Plan in March 2010 as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, legislation passed within one month of Obama’s taking office. The National Broadband Plan’s elevation of the concept of an incentive auction took a once-fanciful notion into the political mainstream.

The basic notion of the incentive auction — which the FCC plans to conduct  by 2014 — is that television broadcasters put the airwaves they currently use into a pool from which wireless broadband companies will bid.

The agency has a mandate from Congress to raise at least $24 billion from this incentive auction. Under that mandate, about $7 billion will be used to pay for a public safety wireless network, and about $3 billion to pay broadcasters to vacate their airwaves. The remainder will help raise money for the federal treasury.

Managing such an incentive auction, which has never been done before, is likely to consume considerable attention and energy on the part of the agency.

The push for the incentive auction has been amplified by a mounting spectrum crunch for wireless devices, said Genachowski. Looking back four years, Apple’s iPad hadn’t even been introduced. Tablets were not the mass-market phenomenon that they are today, with sales this year set to exceed computers. Also, smart phones were just taking off when Genachowski became agency chairman in 2009.

One significant by-product of the push to pack the broadcasters into a narrower and narrower space on the radio-frequency dial has been to focus the agency’s attention on licensed spectrum more than on unlicensed wireless uses.

Genachowski came to the show here with some news of his own: the agency will soon kick-off a government-wide effort to increase speeds and alleviate Wi-Fi congestion at major hubs, such as airports, convention centers and large conference gatherings. The initiative will free up unlicensed spectrum in the 5 Gigahertz band. Genachowski said this would enable Wi-Fi speed increases by up to 35 percent.

During another session here on Wednesday, a panel including Nebraska Republican Rep. Lee Terry, a wireless provider, a broadcast industry representative, and other attorneys and analysts, it became clear that sorting out the issues behind an incentive auction won’t be easy.

Rep. Terry said that “the reality is that young people don’t want wires. It is all about mobility.” Terry said that our society can’t enable to use of these wireless devices without more access to spectrum.

Many expect that the 2014 date for the incentive auction is overly ambitious. But on another panel here on Wednesday, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said that “yes, [the schedule] is aggressive, but there are a lot of motivated bodies” to get the auction done by 2014.

Follow Broadband Breakfast’s coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show at http://twitter.com/broadbandcensus. Our goals for #CES2013 are to promote the upcoming series of Broadband Breakfast Club events; to get the latest information on how broadband is driving digital technologies in 2013; and to test ideas for a book on technology, broadband, and digital media that Broadband Breakfast’s Publisher Drew Clark plan to write in 2013. He is on Google+ and Twitter.

Consumer Electronics Industry’s Gary Shapiro Offers Kinder Words to Hollywood at CES Show Opener

in CES2013/Intellectual Property/The Innovation Economy by

LAS VEGAS, January 8, 2013 – One year after Consumer Electronics Association President Gary Shapiro opened his technology trade show with a war cry against the entertainment industry, Shapiro this morning touted “two industries working together to solve problems” of sharing digital content.

In his welcoming remarks at the launch of the Consumer Electronics Show here, Shapiro welcomed five motion picture industry executives to tout the movie-sharing service UltraViolet.

This olive branch came just minutes after excoriating Hollywood for the entertainment industry’s aborted efforts to pass the Stop Online Privacy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). The two bills in Congress advancing copyright interests stalled after Google, Wikipedia and a range of technology companies mounted a successful effort press legislators to abandon the bills.

“Some 40 members of Congress withdrew their names from that legislation, and it died,” said Shapiro, referring to the fall-out when Wikipedia and other sites went dark on January 18, 2012.

“There will never be SOPA or PIPA legislation with that name again,” Shapiro said. “It [would be] like calling your kid Adolph” after the wake of German dictator Adolph Hitler.

After that remark, Shapiro attempted to emphasize the positives of innovation-led collaboration in Washington. He sited his recent book, Ninja Innovation, and its efforts to highlight “collaboration, solving problems, [and not] always going to the government.”

Shapiro then touted UltraViolet as just such a collaboration. The free service is designed to let consumers share their movies in the broadband “cloud,” meaning that consumers are able to access content from a television, a computer, a mobile device or a game console.

Warner Brothers President Ron Sanders called the alliance a “great cross-promotion for the industry” and one that allowed consumers to “unlock the value” of their existing video libraries.

Joined on stage and executives from Sony Pictures, Universal Studios, 20th Century Fox and Lionsgate, Warner Brothers’ Sanders thanked Shapiro for his help in promoting alliance, which includes significant consumer electronics companies LG, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and Vizio.

Such broadband cloud-based services enabling content sharing have proven difficult in an electronics ecosystem populated by multiple companies. Within a single company, Apple’s iCloud service is among the most successful service enabling smartphone-to-tablet-to-computer-to-television sharing. Apple employs digital rights management technologies to ensure entertainment-industry buy-in to the company’s cloud technology.

Shapiro also highlighted other priorities of the Consumer Electronics Association, which hosts the annual CES: fighting to stop “patent trolls,” or entities that assert patent rights against technology companies, and promoting small business growth through “strategic immigration.”

He also urged trade groups to join CEA in supporting federal budget-cutting initiatives, such as those put forward by the Simpson-Bowles Commission.

Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected from its original version.

Follow Broadband Breakfast’s coverage of the Consumer Electronics Show at http://twitter.com/broadbandcensus. Our goals for #CES2013 are to promote the upcoming series of Broadband Breakfast Club events; to get the latest information on how broadband is driving digital technologies in 2013; and to test ideas for a book on technology, broadband, and digital media that Broadband Breakfast’s Publisher Drew Clark plan to write in 2013. He is on Google+ and Twitter.

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‘The Wired Home and Wireless Policy’ Breakfast – Convergence Legislation and Consumer Adoption

in Broadband and Democratization/Broadband TV/Broadband Updates/FCC/FCC Comments/Mobile Broadband/Spectrum/The Innovation Economy/Wireless by

WASHINGTON January 17, 2012 – BroadbandBreakfast.com kicked off a new year of the Broadband Breakfast Club fresh off the heals of the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas with a Breakfast on “The Wired Home and Wired Policy” featuring the Presidents of four major technology and telecommunications trade associations and the Wireless Telecommunication Bureau Chief of the Federal Communications Commission, Rick Kaplan.

Event Highlights

 

Complete Program

As Kaplan stated right out off the bat, we “can’t escape the impact of mobile broadband on mobile technology.”  The US, Kaplan said, is the leader in world mobile, but, “we should not be satisfied with being today’s leader in mobile, this sector is moving so fast we must be equipped with an aggressive and forward- looking game plan to maintain our world leadership.”

Kaplan noted that the three elements of any plan to keep the US at the forefront of the mobile revolution include 1) maintaining a strong infrastructure for continued deployment, 2) ensuring healthy competition in the marketplace and 3) achieving universal broadband adoption.

Kaplan decided to focus on the first element of spectrum infrastructure.  He noted that spectrum incentive auctions have the potential to free up 120MHz of the 500MHz that will be needed over the next 10 years.  The question is, whether Congress will pass the legislation giving the FCC authority to free up this spectrum:

“In Congress there are two sticking points holding up the legislation, the first is whether some spectrum cleared will be earmarked for licensed as well as unlicensed use and second, whether Congress should take this opportunity to circumscribe the FCC’s authority to foster competition in the market place through auctions,” stated Kaplan.

While the wireless bureau does not have authority over unlicensed spectrum, Kaplan noted, it is clear that the value of unlicensed use is huge. He continued by adding that the FCC recognizes every wireless provider is going to need more spectrum.  Stripping the FCC of authority to manage spectrum and allowing one or two companies to own all the most valuable spectrum would be the demise of our mobile leadership.

Kaplan closed out his comments by stating that incentive auctions are only part of the plan to get us to 500MHz of new spectrum and added that there are three other areas, as important as incentive auctions, that will get us to our mobile goals.

“First we must identify and lock up the last few quick and lasting spectrum wins available,” Kaplan pointed to the 1755-170MHz band as well as the 2GHz band.  Reassessing band plans and shifting bands will be essential to unlocking additional previously undervalued spectrum.

Second, Kaplan said that we need to be open to new models for opening up spectrum. “A shift in mindset must be made to accept the notion that spectrum bands can and must be shared between and among commercial and federal users.”

Third, Kaplan suggested that we need to tackle those legacy systems not making the most of the spectrum in use.

Kaplan then joined the panel of trade association presidents including Fred Campbell, President & CEO of Wireless Communications Association International (WCAI), Walter McCormick, President & CEO, USTelecom, Grant Seiffert, President, Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), and Gary Shapiro, President & CEO, Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).  Drew Clark, Chairman and Publisher of Broadbandbreakfast.com moderated the discussion.

Clark began the discussion by asking Shapiro about his impressions of the Consumer Electronics Show.  Shapiro noted that there were an overwhelming number of new devices and technologies that used spectrum and assumed the availability of mobile broadband.  Smart phones use 25 times the data stream that regular cell phones use and tablets use 120 times as much.  Of the 20,000 new products at CES, stated Shapiro, “half of them assumed there will be sufficient spectrum to work in the future and that assumption seems to be increasingly flawed.”

Clark asked the panelists to comment on the integrated aspect of the world we live in where wireless towers are fed by wires. McCormick from USTelecom pointed out that in order “to get capacity for all of the new devices in the wired home we need to get wired info out as close to the end user as possible.  Over 99% of all wireless communications connect with wired infrastructure.  We know wireless communications are slated to grow 26 fold over the next 5 years.  The only way to have the needed robustness in the wireless world is to have continued investment in fiber based wired infrastructure.”

Seiffert from TIA expressed concerns about uncertainty in the marketplace that will lead to volatility regarding investment in his companies’ equipment and services if the spectrum issues are not resolved.  He stressed the need for Congress to get the ball rolling on passing legislation that would give the FCC authority to hold the incentive auctions.

Campbell followed up on uncertainty.  “Uncertainty is being driven by uncertainty in the way we expect people to use networks.” Campbell added, ‘it is changing very rapidly. As an example, Campbell noted that while enterprises have been using the cloud for a long time, it is becoming a bigger deal because consumers are finally beginning to adopt it for personal use. “Consumers start to adopt new usage styles and patterns that are driving demand more than anything else. Consumer adoption is going to force the industry to adapt to what they want to do.”

Clark then asked the panelists to discuss the issue of usage caps and whether people are driving their usage back to the wired home because of it.

Kaplan was blunt in saying that data caps were going to grow if more spectrum is not freed up, ‘those are the parade of horribles we are worried about.”

McCormick made an interesting point in challenging the business models that we use support our increasing need for mobile broadband.  He said that ISPs have historically depended upon a model where the end user pays.  “The questions going forward,” said McCormick, “is if more capacity is required, do you keep ratcheting up what the end user pays for the service?”

McCormick pointed to the broadcasters; he said that in our country some of the most successful businesses have been free and built on advertising models. “We talk about search engines being available for free but they are not really free they are ad supported.  The biggest challenge going forward is to come up with the right kind of business models to continue to provide the levels of capital necessary for this extraordinary deployment.”

Telecommunications companies have invested 600 billion in the past 10 years to build out their infrastructure according to McCormick.  Last year the industry spent 65 billion. This investment from the private sector, said McCormick, dwarfs the amount the government has spent on prior major infrastructure projects that have been the hallmarks of our countries development.  Another reason to think about the shape of business plans going forward, is whether they are going to result in providing consumers with the value that they want, without loading every single cost onto the end user.

Campbell also made an interesting point about partnerships and future integration between wired and wireless networks.  He said, that consumers want multiple screens and they want them all to connect.  Consumers are asking how big a screen do I need, what do I need to do with that screen and how mobile do I need it to be.  The fact that the screens themselves are becoming so interchangeable, noted Campbell, means that there has to be a lot more integration between the wired and the wireless networks that support the different screens.

Moderator Drew Clark returned to the topic of the spectrum auctions and legislation in congress.

Kaplan reiterated that there is a bipartisan bill currently in the Senate that seeks to preserve the flexibility that the FCC has had for years.  He reiterated his point from earlier that not all spectrum is created equal and that unlicensed spectrum use has been extremely valuable in fueling innovation and assisting in the convergence between wired and wireless.

Campbell added some thoughts on the topic of unlicensed vs. licensed uses; he believes that white spaces in the DTV spectrum would be different than other unlicensed uses that tend to be shared, or in bands with some other primary service, and that were typically viewed as a short range consumer type of service.  “White spaces in the DTV band can play a longer-range roll,” he said, mentioning hotspot 2.0 as an example. Campbell thinks that whitespaces in these bands can be extremely valuable.  He pointed out that the FCC does not look at unlicensed potential when it does an aggregated spectrum analysis.

When asked about restricting entities from participating in an auction, Kaplan explained that everyone needs spectrum.  The FCC needs to find a way to free up as much spectrum as possible so that every company can get access.  He added that the FCC would make sure that no one would be locked out of an auction, the flipside concern however is that there will be no constraint on the amount of spectrum any one company can obtain.  That, he said, is a question for public debate.  Without FCC authority to monitor auctions we might end up with a result that nobody wants, it is the competitive aspect of the marketplace today that has led to the incredible innovation that exists.

Regarding progress in getting the government to reallocate spectrum bands for more efficient use, Kaplan applauded the NTIA for doing a very good job having been assigned an incredibly difficult task.  Kaplan heeded that the “reality is that we are not going to be able to keep clearing swaths of spectrum for mobile broadband use.”  We must figure out a way to share spectrum and that is where the next focus should be.

Clark posed another question to the speakers about the wired home. “Consumers aren’t using the high bandwidth applications that fiber is capable of yet they are using their wireless devices to the nth degree and running into capacity issues, with regard to the home what are you hearing about the applications people want to use in the home?”

“Downloading a movie to watch on your iPad takes a while,” said Shapiro.  He believes that consumers do not really think about the underlying issues, they just want what works the best.  Shapiro suggested that many wireless solutions do not have a great history of success with audio and video for example, he added that they might not always work the way people expect them to work.

Shapiro also explained the switch from internet protocol 4 to internet protocol 6, “what this allows is a lot of machine to machine communication.”  These communications can tackle issues of home safety, medical monitoring and energy efficiency.  Those devises do require greater bandwidth that is flowing all the time.

McCormick agreed that the type of Apps needed for medicine are larger and can only be supported through fiber.

When asked about policy issues that will support greater fiber and broadband investment, McCormick said that competition drives investment. “It is important that those that invest in broadband are free to offer over broadband everything that they can offer…the government should look at their interest in competition as being aligned with what government policies best support investment.”

 

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Domain Name Blocking Bill Aimed At Curbing Online Piracy

in Copyright by

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt

WASHINGTON, November 19, 2010 – The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously approved legislation that would provide the U.S. Justice Department with enhanced powers to quickly block the domain names and third party enablers of web sites that it deems are dedicated to the piracy of intellectual property.

The House has yet to introduce companion legislation, but the passage of the bill on Tuesday by the committee in the senate signals relatively strong support for this particular approach to battling online piracy.

It’s always a possibility, however, that the members of the commerce committees in either chamber could raise concerns about the impact such legislation could have on internet commerce.

The Commerce and Judiciary Committees have historically jockeyed for jurisdiction over important pieces of legislation.

The bill would enable Justice to use court orders to order enabling third parties, such as internet service providers, payment processors and online ad networks to temporarily suspend support for the targeted web sites on an expedited basis.

The list of blocked sites would be posted online by the White House intellectual property czar, and the blockage could be appealed by the web site operators.

The movie industry association and labor groups hailed the Judiciary Committee’s approval of S.3804, the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, while Public Knowledge, the digital public interest group, expressed disappointment.

Internet engineers have said that the approach could destabilize the internet. The Consumer Electronics Association, Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology, a group of library associations and the NetCoalition, representing Google, eBay and other internet companies, worry that the legal approach in the legislation isn’t fair.

The bill’s chief sponsor was Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, but it enjoyed bipartisan support from 17 other senators.

Intellectual Property Breakfast Club Today Likely to Focus on Bill Seizing Infringing Web Domains

in Broadband Calendar/Copyright/Intellectual Property by

WASHINGTON, October 12, 2010 – The Intellectual Property Breakfast Club on Tuesday, focusing on “Finding Solutions to the Problems of Copyright Infringement,” may well focus on S. 3804, the “Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act” (COICA), introduced late last month by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

The legislation would enable the Justice Department to seek a preliminary injunction against domain name registrars, which would have to suspend access to the domains hosting infringing material, or that are trafficking in infringing material. The legislation would require the attorney general to notify the federal intellectual property enforcement co-coordinator of the injunctions, and the coordinator would in turn be required to post the names of the suspended sites on a public web site.

One of the landmark aspects of the legislation is that it would give Justice the authority to order the shuttering of web sites hosted beyond U.S. borders, but which are using U.S.-based registrars.

This piece of legislation is the latest stab by federal authorities in the United States to address the phenomena of online piracy and counterfeiting. US officials have been locked in negotiations for the past several years with their counterparts in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia over the question of how best to combat online piracy and the international trafficking of counterfeit goods.

Hearings have not yet been held on the proposed legislation. Late last month, technology industry players began to voice concerns with the bill. In a letter signed by the Consumer Electronics Association, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, public interest groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge, and research libraries, these groups write (PDF):

The potential for blacklisting for “facilitating” infringement, as so broadly defined in this bill,can undermine U.S. secondary liability law as established in Sony v. Universal, and ignores theculpable intent requirement of MGM v. Grokster. For example, would the listing of a website onthe blacklist constitute constructive knowledge for contributory infringement purposes, if aservice provider did not discontinue providing service to a website after it was listed? Moregenerally, the new definitions and requirements also raise serious questions about the effect ofthis bill on existing copyright exceptions, limitations and defenses upon which a significant sector of the U.S. economy relies.

But supports of COICA — a long list of entities including the Association of American Publishers, the Business Software Alliance, the Copyright Alliance, the Entertainment Software Association, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, the Software and Information Industry Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce — disagree.

According the letter from the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), Directors Guild of America (DGA), Screen Actors Guilde and others (PDF):

This legislation will make it easier to shut down “rogue” websites, which are dedicated to stealing the films, television programs and music created by our members.

Also, the MPAA said:

These sites, whose content is hosted and whose operators are located throughout the world, take many forms. But they have in common the simple fact that they all materially contribute to, facilitate and/or induce the illegal distribution of copyrighted works, such as movies and television programs. These sites are increasingly sophisticated and take on many of the attributes of legitimate content delivery sites, often deceiving consumers into believing they are legitimate. They use credit card companies to facilitate payments, include advertising to earn money and provide so-called reward programs for frequent purchasers.

As reported in BroadbandBreakfast.com by Sarah Stirland, domain name seizures is a tactic being utilized in the fight against online piracy by both the United States and China. S. 3048 itself appears to model itself on the U.S. Customs Department’s successful take-down this June of nine pirate web sites.

Supporters of the legislation say that the legislation is necessary to avoid re-instatement of a web site that has the same basic name as, or is only trivially different from, a web site whose domain name has been seized by customs officials.

Editor’s Note: The preceeding story has been modified to include links and quotations from letters by supporters of COICA, and an explanation from supporters about the need for the legislation.

The White House Wants to Make Work Cool Again

in Broadband's Impact by

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2010 – Kicking off the first White House Conference on Workplace Flexibility yesterday, the First Lady told a her own story about trying to be a professional and a Mom at the same time.

While on maternity leave with Sasha, she got a call for an interview. “I had to scramble to look for babysitting, and couldn’t find one. So what did I do? I packed up that little infant, and I put her in the stroller, and I brought her with me. . . . it was fortunate for me that . . . she slept through the entire interview. And I was still breastfeeding—if that’s not too much information. (Big chuckles from the audience.) . . . I got the job.”

Michelle Obama went on to say that she’s discovered throughout her career that the more flexibility she gives her staff, the happier and less likely they were to leave.

Introduced as the Teleworker-In-Chief, President Obama described workplace flexibility as essential to the well-being of our families and the success of our businesses. “It affects the strength of our economy—whether we’ll create the workplaces and jobs of the future we need to compete in today’s global economy.”

The call for flexible employment opportunities couldn’t have been more clear.

Telecommuting, though just one strategy in the workplace flexibility arsenal, played a central role in the event. The President spoke of providing opportunities for federal employees to telework on a regular basis. “It’s about attracting and retaining top talent in the federal workforce and empowering them to do their jobs, and judging their success by the results that they get—not by how many meetings they attend, or how much face-time they log, or how many hours are spent on airplanes. It’s about creating a culture where . . . work is what you do, not where you are.”

Noting that two-thirds of American families with kids are headed by two working parents or a single working parent, the President referred to them as juggler families. “. . .every day is a high wire act.  Everything is scheduled right down to the minute.  There’s no room for error.”

“. . . this disconnect between the needs of our families and the demands of our workplace also reflects a broader problem, that today, we as a society still see workplace flexibility policies as a special perk for women rather than a critical part of a workplace that can help all of us. There’s still this perception out there that an employee who needs some time to tend to an aging parent or attend to a parent-teacher’s conference isn’t fully committed to his or her job; or that if you make a workplace more flexible, it necessarily will be less profitable.”

The President urged those organizations already successful at making work flexible to share their stories. ”. . . if you’re doing this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because you’ve found that what’s good for your workers and is good for your families can be good for your bottom lines and your shareholders as well, then you need to spread the word.”
Dr. Christina Romer, head of the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), announced the release of, Work-Life Balance and the Economics of Workplace Flexibility (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/03/31/economics-workplace-flexibility). It offers an economic perspective on flexible workplace policies and practices. Job sharing, phased retirement of older workers, flexible hours, and provision of computers to facilitate telecommuting are some of the topics covered in the report.

John Berry, head of the Office of Personnel Management, spoke about how flex policies improve the government’s ability to hire and retain great people, “I want to make government (jobs) cool again.” He joked that “If flexibility can succeed in the federal government with the unrivaled complexity of our missions—as well as our red tape, quite frankly, it can succeed anywhere.” Berry also announced that 400 of his agency employees would be part of a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) pilot.

ROWE is a flexible work model created by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson while at retailing giant BestBuy. By allowing people to work where and when they want, BestBuy realized increased productivity, lower absenteeism, and increased employee loyalty, they said. Ressler and Thompson have since successfully deployed the model for other private and public employers.

Common themes of the conference included:

  • Increased productivity through flexible work;
  • The ability of flex policies to significantly reduce turnover and absenteeism;
  • The role of flexible work in allowing employees to pursue education;

“The increasing demand for analytical and interactive skills—those largely obtained through post-secondary education— means it is all the more important and common for individuals to pursue additional education while also working. These trends raise the value of flexibility in the workplace as it helps workers balance work and family responsibilities,” stated the new CEA study.

- The need for flex options at all job levels citing the fact that they are least available to those who need them the most.

Of course, without technology, remote work would not be possible. Addressing that and other challenges the President promised “where regulations are in the way, we’ll see what we can do to change them. Where new technology can help, we’ll find a secure, cost-effective way to install it. Where training is needed to help managers and workers embrace this approach, we’ll adopt the best practices from the private sector.” He joked, ”I do not want to see the government close because of snow again.”

Making federal jobs cool again— it’s clear this is not your grandmother’s government.

Congress, FCC See DTV Transition Progress; Low Power Broadcasters Say Left Behind

in Wireless by

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2009 – The transition to digital television since the passage of the DTV Delay Act has been a “major accomplishment,” Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Va., said Thursday at a hearing on the state of the DTV transition.

Boucher, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Technology, Communications and the Internet, said that while he was pleased at seeing “clear results” and positive progress, “much remains to be done,” Boucher said.

Ranking member Cliff Stearns, R-Fal., agreed that “the glass is 95 percent full,” on the country’s readiness. But he lamented the amount of money set aside for coupons, and suggested significant savings could be had by confining the program to households without cable or satellite television.

“Shepherding the transition” has been “priority number 1” since taking over the FCC, Acting Chairman Michael Copps said.

Even before his elevation from the position of commissioner, Copps said he believed “it was clear the country was not ready…for the February 17 cutoff.” Besides “rampant consumer confusion,” Copps said a major problem had been a lack of coordination between public and private stakeholders .

Copps thanked Congress for the Delay Act, but was careful to warn members that “we are nowhere out of the woods yet.” The transition may not be “seamless,” he said. “But there is time to make a real difference.”

The FCC, Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and private sector actors are focusing “day and night” on education and outreach, he said. Starting in April, public service announcements will begin to mention antenna and converter box rescanning issues, as well as publicizing walk-in help centers.

Cable and broadcast television providers have “really stepped up to the plate” in helping build a unified DTV help call center, said Copps.

In addition, the FCC is working with AmeriCorps and other groups to put “boots on the ground” to help people get set up who might not otherwise be able to install equipment.

Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro said the education program had been one of the most effective consumer campaigns he has ever seen. “I bet more people know about the transition…than could identify the Vice-President of the United States,” he said.

“This great nation of ours can ill afford to delay the transition again,” Shapiro said in a statement released after the hearing. “To do so would put at risk the many benefits that will accrue from the switch to digital: phenomenal amount of beachfront-quality spectrum for new licensed and unlicensed services, including sorely needed improvement to Internet access; better communications platforms for law enforcement and public safety; and almost $20 billion in auction revenues for the U.S. Treasury.”

But Copps lamented that his calls for increased awareness of the analog “cliff” effect had gone ignored for the past two years.

However, the FCC has recently launched an online “map” that allows consumers to determine if they will be able to receive a signal post-transition. When Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., asked Copps if urban landscapes would pose reception problems post-transition, Copps said that there was “no question” in his mind that such problems exist. “We’ll have to deal with them…and we would be remiss if we did not study them further.”

The DTV coupon backlog is clear as of five days ago, said Acting Assistant Commerce Secretary Anna Gomez, currently the top-ranking official at the NTIA.

Mark Lloyd, vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights said many consumers have found the FCC’s new online map very useful.

But Lloyd noted his group has found DTV reception to be inconsistent not only within the same community, but within the same apartment building. Most important to a smooth transition, he said, is “the importance of being able to go in the homes” of populations in need and help them with rescanning, and other issues.

Idaho Public Television general manager Peter Morrill said his organization has identified six areas, primarily located in rugged terrain that will be affected by the “cliff effect.”

Morrill acknowledged the FCC’s efforts to address this need for digital television “fill-in” service, but said many stations lack the financial means to license and build these systems in time for the June 12, 2009 shutdown.

“Legislative encouragement and additional funding can help us ensure the smoothest transition possible,” said Morrill. But Weiner suggested a change in education was necessary to enable consumers to understand the importance of finding a solution. — “bad service means no service, in this case.”

Robert Prather, CEO of Gray Television summed up how to solve the cliff issue: “it all comes down to funding.”

Boucher was also troubled by numbers from CEA and NTIA that “did not match up” with regard to supply and demand for converter boxes. But Wal-Mart senior vice president Gary Severnson said there was close coordination between manufacturers, retailers, and NTIA to coordinate supply, and that he had “no concern” about a shortage. His biggest fear was that he would be left with a surplus of boxes post-transition.

Shapiro said the data flow from NTIA was very good, and at least four manufacturers were producing more than enough boxes to meet demand. But in the event of a shortage, Shapiro suggested that as a “safety valve,” coupons could be used to subsidize consumer access basic cable or allow them receive stripped-down DTV sets.

Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill, voiced some concerned over the possibility of an additional delay upon the wireless and electronics industry. He introduced into the record a letter from Qualcomm, a manufacturer of wireless broadband equipment to highlight the impact on the company that further delay would bring. Boucher said Shimkus’ fears were unfounded, as both he and Chairman Henry Waxman were in complete agreement: “We’re not going to postpone this transition again – we need to get it right.”

Also read into the record was a letter from Community Broadcasters Association president Kyle Reeves expressing anger over Congress’ failure to include Class A and Low Power television stations in the transition. Despite having its entire industry threatened by the transition, CBA was explicitly denied the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing, a spokesman for the association said.

If something is not done about the Low Power and Class A station problem, Reeves predicted a disaster: “Diversity of voices and career opportunities will suffer a real setback,” he said, citing a CBA-commissioned survey showing 43 percent of Class A and Low Power TV stations have significant minority ownership. Most are small businesses, and 62 percent are owner-operated, the survey said.

And 34 percent of CBA member stations broadcast in foreign languages, the survey noted. Without some kind of action, “a critical source of emergency information for foreign language speakers will be lost,” Reeves warned. “Foreign language speakers will end up watching imported cable and satellite channels that carry only foreign-produced programming, pay no taxes, employ no U.S. citizens, and provide no local content and no American perspective.”

The CBA testified before the subcommittee under then-chairman Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who told its president “Help is on the way.” But the CBA has not yet seen any real help, Reeves said.

Reeves suggested the FCC take an “active hand” in promoting a DTV transition for LPTV stations after [the FCC] “spent over a decade on full power TV, including devoting enormous resources to finding channels so that as many stations as possible could operate parallel analog and digital stations for several years.” Congress could fund a program to transition all stations to digital, or allow them to “leapfrog” broadcasting and move onto broadband, mobile television, or other emerging technologies.

In the alternative, Congress could allow LPTV stations to auction their spectrum and share in the proceeds for a “soft landing” as they shut down, Reeves said. “If that opportunity were offered, some would take it today, sadly perhaps; but it would be a lot better than losing everything: hopes, dreams, and investments.”

But in the current economy, Reeves suggested there was no valid reason to ignore his industry any longer: “The combined impacts of the decline of over-the-air viewing, the digital transition, and the recession have created the perfect storm. There is no more time to think about it.”

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