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Speaking at Federal Trade Commission, Obama Urges Internet Privacy Legislation for Consumers and Students

in Cybersecurity/Net Neutrality/Privacy by

WASHINGTON, January 12, 2015 – President Barack Obama on Monday announced that his administration would push for two new pieces of federal internet privacy legislation, one pertaining to consumers and one pertaining to students. He also announced that the Department of Education would offer new tools to help students and teacher help protect their privacy.


Speaking at the Federal Trade Commission in the first of three broadband-related State of the Union Address previews, Obama said that “almost every state has a different law [on privacy] and its confusing for consumers and its confusing for companies – and it’s costly, too, to have to comply with this patchwork of laws.”


The new internet privacy legislation would be dubbed the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, and Obama said that it is a distillation of private sector and advocacy group proposals: “We’ve identified some basic principles to both protect personal privacy and ensure that industry can keep innovating. For example, we believe that consumers have the right to decide what personal data companies collect from them and how companies use that data.”


The other piece of legislation is the Student Digital Privacy Act. “We’re saying that data collected on students in the classroom should only be used for educational purposes – to teach our children, not to market to our children. We want to prevent companies from selling student data to third parties for purposes other than education. We want to prevent any kind of profiling that puts certain students at a disadvantage as they go through school.”


Obama and the administration said that the president’s additional broadband-related State of the Union preview events would take place on Tuesday, January 13, at the Homeland Security Department on cybersecurity; and on Wednesday, January 14, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, addressing the need for families and communities to enjoy faster and cheaper access to high-speed internet services.


Obama made NO mention of his December statement urging the Federal Communications Commission to regulate net neutrality through a reclassification of broadband internet services.

With AT&T’s T-Mobile Merger All But Dead, It’s Time to Focus on Broadcasters

in Congress/National Broadband Plan/Spectrum/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, August 31, 2011 – With the Justice Department’s announcement on Wednesday that it will contest AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile, the attention should now turn to what some consider the deal’s key driver: getting more wireless spectrum into the hands of broadband providers.

In a Wall Street Journal roundup this afternoon, analysts have noted that the Antitrust Division’s decision to challenge the deal makes it “all but definitely dead,” quoting a research report by Craig Moffet of Bernstein Research.

“AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile can be considered all but definitively dead…This clearly came as a significant shock to executives at both companies. But perhaps the most significant take-away from today’s events is that the end of the AT&T/T-Mobile deal is likely to be bad for all the U.S. carriers. There’s no good way to spin this for AT&T. They lose a key driver of synergies, and therefore earnings growth in 2012 and beyond. And they face a more dire spectrum shortfall, suggesting the need for higher capital spending and/or additional spectrum purchases.”

Two other vital perspectives to emerge in today’s commentary come from Harold Feld, the legal director of the non-profit group Public Knowledge, and Bruce Gottlieb, the General Counsel of the publication National Journal.

Feld explored the delicate dance between the DoJ and the FCC. This was also an issue that BroadbandBreakfast.com probed in the Broadband Breakfast Club on May 17, 2011, on whether the FCC or the Justice Department would be tougher on the merger. Watch the free video here.

Feld said that AT&T now faces some steep hurdles, including getting the Federal Communications Commission to approve the merger, in spite of the DoJ’s stance against it. He writes:

Bottom line is that there are really no good options for AT&T at this point. To come back for a victory, AT&T must (a) convince FCC to hold off; while, (b) convincing the court to go ahead despite the FCC being on hold. And then it has to win the case — which the odds do not favor.

It is true that the Antitrust Division’s decision to press suit doesn’t mean the merger cannot go forward, as when Oracle successfully acquired PeopleSoft over the opposition of the government.

But putting aside whether AT&T and T-Mobile may yet save their merger, the real question — as National Journal General Counsel Bruce Gottlieb notes in his post — is about the radio-frequency spectrum that is now the lifeblood of wireless broadband services.

The looming fight over wireless competition will be about how to dole out spectrum that is being repurposed from legacy uses like TV broadcasting to iPhones, iPads, and the like. Will it go to whoever can pay the most? Or will there be a finger on the scale for smaller providers, in the hopes of supporting competition?

The answer will matter tremendously because all carriers are facing spectrum scarcity as next-generation applications require ever-faster speeds. T-Mobile is in far and away the worst spectrum position of all the major carriers—indeed, that is one major reason it agreed to be acquired by AT&T.

The thirst for spectrum is the key reason why the frequencies currently in the possession of the major wireless providers — AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile — are the most intensively used on the radio dial. And what spectrum is the least intensively used? The spectrum used by television broadcasters. After all, more than 90 percent of television viewing now takes place over cable, satellite, or internet viewing.

Getting spectrum from low-intensity to high-intensity uses is a long-term goal of the FCC, and was a specifically itemized by the National Broadband Plan of March 2010.

But this past April, soon after AT&T’s proposed acquisition of T-Mobile was announced, National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith challenged the likelihood that the FCC would succeed in its efforts to transform spectrum from broadcast to broadband.

“Were I still a member of the Commerce Committee and looking at budgetary numbers of $30 billion that [incentive auctions are] supposed to provide, and the biggest bidder just walked out, two of them, I would wonder what the options are,” Smith said at the time. “So as you begin to start to say, OK, we can compensate broadcasters, we can build out a public safety network we can add to the Treasury, I’m telling you can’t do all those things.”

If the DoJ’s opposition does indeed kill the deal, Gordon Smith’s challenge is likely to re-ignite another major broadband topic: how to keep satiating the demand that wireless providers have for the spectrum that may soon be formerly used by broadcasters.

Agency Heads Appear Before Congress to Tackle Privacy Issues

in Congress/FCC/House of Representatives/NTIA/Privacy by

WASHINGTON July 18, 2011- Two congressional subcommittees called on the heads of several government agencies late last week to inquire how each addresses Internet privacy issues.

The panel, assembled by the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade and the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology included the heads of the Federal Communications Commission, Federal Trade Commission and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

“The explosive growth of technology has made it possible to collect information about consumers in increasingly sophisticated ways. Sometimes the collection and use of this information is extremely beneficial; other times, it’s not,” said Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA)

“Frankly, I am somewhat skeptical right now of both industry and government. I don’t believe industry has proven that it’s doing enough to protect American consumers, while government, unfortunately, tends to overreach whenever it comes to new regulations.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski warned that if consumers are not able to trust the websites and services they use on the Internet then the true potential of high speed broadband can never be actualized.

“As the National Broadband Plan found, privacy concerns are a barrier to broadband adoption,” Genachowski said. “When people fear that new technology puts their privacy at risk, they’re less likely to use those new technologies. In general in this area, we need to strike a healthy balance – ensuring that private information is protected, and at the same time ensuring a climate that encourages new investment and new innovations that will create jobs and improve our quality of life.”

Genachowski went onto explain how the FCC approaches privacy in three main ways, consumer control and choice; business transparency about privacy practices, and data security.

To ensure consumer control and choice the FCC conducts a number of different educational programs in conjunction with the FTC, the Department of Commerce, and the Small Business Administration (SBA).

Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) called for a new Privacy Bill of Rights to protect children’s privacy rights.

NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling supported the idea of a Privacy Bill of Rights but wanted the protections to be extended to all citizens, not just children. The Obama administration asked Congress in March to develop a “Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights” but no bill was created.

“We urged Congress to consider legislation that would establish these rights and obligations; to create incentives for the private sector to develop legally enforceable, industry-specific codes of conduct that can address emerging privacy issues while providing companies some assurance that they are in compliance with the law; and to grant the FTC sufficient authority to enforce the law,” Strickling said.

Strickling suggested that the FTC be given additional enforcement authority under the privacy bill of rights to protect consumers.

FTC Commissioner Edith Ramirez presented a new framework for dealing with privacy issues, “companies should adopt a “privacy by design” approach by building privacy protections into their everyday business practices.  Such protections include providing reasonable security for consumer data, collecting only the data needed for a specific business purpose, retaining data only as long as necessary to fulfill that purpose, safely disposing of data no longer in use, and implementing reasonable procedures to promote data accuracy.”

Ramirez also endorsed the implementation of a Do Not Track list which would be a universal list that consumers could join to permanently op out of being tracked by websites and services.


Expert Opinion: Why the FCC should deny the AT&T / T-Mobile Merger

in Expert Opinion/Media ownership/Mobile Broadband/Wireless by

In order for the Federal Communications Commission to approve the mega-merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, AT&T has to make a showing that the merger is in the public interest. Despite AT&T’s declaration that this merger is the most pro-consumer, pro-innovation and pro-investment solution to America’s wireless problems, a mega-merger like this can only hurt the broadband market, both for innovators and consumers alike.

Basic Facts

The basic facts are that post-merger, AT&T will control nearly 40 percent of the wireless market, and together with Verizon Wireless will create a duopoly that is approaching 80 percent market share in the wireless industry.  To put this in perspective, the market power of the top two companies in the wireless market post-merger will amount to 76.1 percent – more than double the market share of the top two companies in the Oil (24.0 percent), Airline (30.7 percent), Banking (20.2 percent), and Auto (35.3 percent) industries.

New Media Rights recently filed a detailed petition to deny the merger citing its negative affect on innovation, access to the internet, customer service quality, prices, service availability, and consumer privacy. We’ve also asked the California Public Utilities Commission to review the merger. Below is a discussion of just one of the areas that we think justify close scrutiny of this merger, the effect of the merger on Internet gatekeeping.

How AT&T uses its gatekeeping role to stifle innovations in voice telephony and control the way consumers access the internet

The current “gatekeeper” model of wireless internet access, where access providers like AT&T and service providers like Apple can control the services we can access, will only become more rigid should this merger be allowed. In the past few years AT&T has shown that it will work with other gatekeepers, such as Apple, in order to keep competitive products, such as Google Voice, out of its markets. In 2009, AT&T was called to explain its role in Apple’s decision to block Google Voice from the App Store, an app which would have introduced direct competition to AT&T’s voice services. During those proceedings it was revealed that Apple and AT&T had agreed not to approve Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services for use over the 3G network because the service is in direct competition to voice plans used on the phone. Initial approval for VoIP apps was limited to those that would only work when the phone was hooked up to a local wireless network rather than AT&T’s data network.

Skype, another VoIP application for the iPhone, was similarly blocked in 2009 for use on AT&T’s network. Both Skype and Google Voice would have allowed consumers to move to cheaper voice plans, as well as have access to more affordable international calling.

The fewer wireless internet access providers available to internet users, the greater the ability of gatekeepers at all layers of the communications marketplace to affect how we use the internet and what services we access.

Apple’s gatekeeping power would also be enhanced by this merger, affecting the version of internet individuals have access to over wireless broadband.  Software developers and start-up businesses who rely on the benevolence of gatekeepers for distribution of their product can suffer though imposition of fees and unfavorable terms of service, especially when their products are perceived to compete with the gatekeeper’s. For example, a recent change in Apple’s policies for software developers and in-app sales appear to have forced at least one e-book reader out of business.

As further evidence of the need for competition at the various layers of the wireless internet marketplace, Apple has also demonstrated an ability and willingness to censor and block apps that it deems “offensive.” Two apps critical of President George W. Bush were blocked from sale in the app store, because Apple decided that they were in violation of the Terms of Service, namely, either a provision against criticizing a public figure, or one restricting views deemed to be offensive to a large part of Apples customers. Other apps have been labelled obscene and censored by Apple before being released to the public.

Apple and AT&T are two separate companies, but as demonstrated directly with the Skype and Google Voice apps, they have worked together to shape the “Internet” that is available to consumers to use through AT&T’s network.

The Commission chose in late 2010 not to engage in basic net neutrality regulation in the wireless space to ensure service providers do not abuse their gatekeeper powers, limiting regulations to ensure an open and free internet to the wireline space. The Commission, by avoiding basic regulation in the wireless space, made a choice to rely on competition as the only force to ensure an open and free Internet for consumers in the already highly concentrated wireless marketplace.

With a major competitor eliminated from the market through the potential merger, AT&T would have the ability to write new chapters in its history of anti-innovation behavior.

It should be consumers driving the future of the mobile Internet, picking the winning and losing services and applications at different layers of the market through individual choice. Instead, this merger will allow AT&T and Apple the kind of vertical market power that, instead of promoting competition, permits preemptive elimination of services and applications that are perceived to be competing.  Innovation and consumer choice will be what suffers.

To read more of our comments on the negative affect of this merger on innovation, access to the internet, customer service quality, prices, service availability, and consumer privacy, you can read our recently filed petition to deny the merger here.

Art Neill is Director of New Media Rights, a San Diego based digital rights and advocacy organization, and is an adjunct professor at California Western School of Law.


Walden Speaks On Net Neutrality, Spectrum At Cable Summit

in Congress/FCC/House of Representatives/Net Neutrality/Public Safety/Senate/Spectrum by

WASHINGTON April 14, 2011 – Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Chairman of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee, voiced his opposition Wednesday to network neutrality, supported increased oversight of the  Federal Communications Commission and addressed how spectrum issues need to be explored with great caution at the American Cable Association summit.

“I do not believe the FCC has the authority to regulate the Internet,” said Walden in support of the House’s passage of House Joint Resolution 37 , which would nullify the FCC’s recently-passed Open Internet Order.

Walden said that he does not believe the measure will pass the Senate, but that the FCC needed to know that House was displeased with its actions.  President Obama has already indicated that if the measure came before him he would veto it. Walden believes that, if vetoed, there would not be enough votes in the Senate to override.

“The FCC is an independent agency, but it is Congress’ job to provide adequate oversight and we had to let them know that we were not happy with their actions,” he went on to say. “We need the FCC to create policy after they see a problem occurring – not before it happens so they can then be challenged and lose in court.”

The House had included a budget rider preventing the FCC from funding the enforcement of the Open Internet Order but the rider did not make it into the final budget resolution achieved last week.

Walden also provided a brief overview of the his subcommittee’s hearing Tuesday on spectrum use in public safety. He told the group that the issues surrounding spectrum reallocation are complex and while many people would like the issue to be solved quickly, he would not allow the process to be rushed through Congress.

“We will only go through this process once and we have to get it right. It will take time for us to fully understand the issues,” Walden said. “We won’t be rushed on this.”

He said that while spectrum auctions may be a possible solution, the way the auctions are designed will make the difference whether the auctions are successful or not. While the FCC has recommended Congress pass legislation allowing spectrum auctions, Walden said he doubted the bill would pass this year.

When pressed by the cable operators about why the Congress has not explored the issues surrounding retransmission agreements Walden noted the need for legislation that will be effective as well as enduring.

“We want to have competitive markets,” he said, “but we also do not want to install rules which will quickly become irrelevant.”

Retransmission agreements occur between the cable companies and the networks to determine the price the cable company must pay to be able to carry the network’s programming. Increasingly the negotiation of these agreements has become long and hostile processes. In the fall, Fox broadcasting cut off access to its programming to Cablevision while the two companies negotiated a new contract.

When asked by an audience member if the FCC should intervene during these intractable negotiations Walden commented that currently the FCC does not have the authority to force a contract to be signed by either party.

FCC Bureau Chiefs Report To NARUC On Commission Activities

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/Mobile Broadband/Public Safety/Spectrum/Universal Service/Wireless by

WASHINGTON February 16, 2011 - Officials from the Federal Communications Commission updated the telecommunications subcommittee of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners on the current state of wireless, public safety and wireline competition at the Association’s yearly convention Tuesday.

Ruth Milkman, Chief of Wireless Bureau, emphasized the increasing importance of spectrum for the future of broadband development.

“Spectrum is a scarce and limited resource, we can’t simply mine more of it,” said Milkman. “We must use what we have carefully and to the best of our ability”

The wireless bureau has been tasked to finding 500 megahertz of free spectrum for expanding mobile broadband. Milkman said that the bureau is not only looking at commercial license holders but also wants to reclaim unused  spectrum owned by the federal government.

“The first step in reclaiming spectrum is conducting a thorough inventory,” said Milkman.  ”We have already conducted part of it, and have posted the results online via the spectrum dashboard.”

The dashboard presents a graphical way to identify license holders in the radio spectrum – it can be found here.

The greatest source of new spectrum will be the TV white spaces, which are the bands that were once used for transmitting television signals but now remain empty after the digital transition.

The bureau also plans to explore the possibility of holding incentive auctions to reclaim spectrum which is not being used by its license holder.  Milkman said that auctions would be voluntary and would likely be supported by the license holders if they were able to keep the at least a portion of the proceeds from the auction.

“Currently the law states that any spectrum auction proceeds go to the US Treasury,” he said, “but if we can change the law and allow the license holders to profit from the auction they will be much more likely to give up their unused spectrum.”

The incentive auctions have gained support from Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV), who introduced a bill that would allow the FCC to hold the incentive auctions and allow the commercial owners to keep some of the profits.

David Furth, Deputy Chief of the Public Safety & Homeland Security Bureau, also described the importance of spectrum for the proposed national public safety network.

“Unlike previous networks which were created independently then made to work with each other,” Furth said, “we now plan to make a single nationwide network that is designed to be interoperable.”

He then went onto describe potential updates to the e911 system such as allowing text messages or email to be sent to first responders.

Chief of the Governmental and Consumer Affairs Bureau, Joel Gurin spoke mainly about how the consumer bureau is looking to expand their work in “bill shock” to include broadband.  Bill shock occurs when customers see a sudden and unexpected increase in their monthly service bills without changing their plans.

“The office of engineering is working with us on an upcoming project on broadband speed,” said Gurin. “We need to inform consumers as to what speeds are needed to run popular applications, [consumers] need to understand what the speeds mean and they need to know how to check if they are getting the speeds that are advertised. We also need to expand truth in advertising to broadband ads.”

Sharon Gillett, Chief of the Wireline Competition Bureau, gave the most expansive presentation going into deep detail on the proposed reforms to the Universal Service Fund (USF).

“We need to update USF to include broadband and provide quality service with a reasonable cost to consumers,” said Gillett. ”Under the current system, some areas gain support for multiple phone providers but no broadband is funded.”

Gillett went onto to explain that the transition period between the current Universal Service System and the Connect America Fund would see upheaval in the local markets but is necessary for the long-term health of the program.

According to Gilllet, the new Connect America Fund will not only bring service to consumers but also promote fiscal responsibility and install market-driven and incentive-based policies.

Research Shows Broadband Adoption Related to Clear Need for Its Use

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/Education/Fiber/Health/Minority/Public Safety by

WASHINGTON, October 6, 2010 – The final day of the Telecommunications Policy Research Conference looked at broadband adoption and universality. The problems addressed are key in helping the government determine how broadband is being adopted and where intervention is necessary.

The panel on adoption included a presentation by John Horrigan from the Federal Communications Commission, who showed that non-adopters claim price is a major factor in their lack of access.

When controlling for price, however, the paper found that one of the most powerful factors to get non-adopters to subscribe is the support of a social network that includes adopters. This theory is key to the FCC’s digital literacy corps program. That initiative aims to train young people in technology in the hopes that they in turn will teach their families and communities.

The lack of a social network that finds the internet useful may be key in why the final non-adopters do not use the internet. If these individuals do not have any adopters in their social network then they are not exposed to the benefits of broadband.

Janice Hauge from the University of North Texas discussed her paper on demand side policies that reinforced Horrigan’s findings by showing that when individuals find technology relevant they are more likely to adopt it. “A program should motivate non-users to adopt, make broadband affordable, employ content in the training that relates to everyday life or the use of public services, and focus on the accessibility and usability of broadband and online services.”

Nocil Tuner-Lee from the Joint Center observed that among African Americans, younger people are actively helping their community learn about the value of the internet.

This research mimics findings that the Rural Electrification Administration found in the 1930s when trying to expand electricity.

The final panel of the day looked at the issues surrounding universal access. While it is clear to both the FCC and researchers that the Universal Service Fund is broken, there are numerous possible solutions.

Dawn Nafus from Intel Labs presented a paper that found that while those in Washington say that they must provide funds for rural Americans, many of those living in rural America do not want federal funds to be spent on this. Additionally, it is important to note that many living in rural America choose to live in areas where communication is not easy and choose not to have access, she said. However, if they can see the case for using broadband to better education, public safety and economic expansion, they are more likely to support funding and invest their own money.

Scott Wallsten, formerly from the FCC, presented a paper which analyzed the level of competition in broadband providers. He found that on average most census tracts have two providers but they do not always cover the same area and so may not be in direct competition. Looking at speeds available, cable subscribers generally subscribe to faster speeds. However, there is increased growth in the fiber-to-the-home market. Even with super-fast broadband available, most Americans choose speeds of between 15-20 megabits per second downstream since they do not see a compelling reason to buy faster speeds.

There are major problems when trying to determine pricing; primarily the fact that most consumers purchase their broadband as part of a bundle with television and phone service makes it difficult to determine the price of just the broadband. Additionally, often there are time-linked deals which decrease the price of the service. However, the paper showed that on average the price of broadband is generally around $45, which is similar to what Pew Center research has found.

House Leaders Call on FCC to Protect the Open Internet

in Net Neutrality by

WASHINGTON, August 16, 2010 – Democratic Representatives Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Anna G. Eshoo of California, Jay Inslee of Washington and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania urged that the Federal Communications Commission weigh in to preserve an open internet.

The letter they sent  is a direct response to the recent Google-Verizon announcement that provides exceptions to the principle of network neutrality, or the notion that internet service should not be prioritized based on competitive advantage.

In a statement about the letter Doyle said, in part, “The power of the Internet comes from the ability of everyone to find anything anywhere – or to put anything on it for the world to see. The internet’s value comes from the fact that it’s not like any other communications platform before it. I am concerned that the proposal put forward by Google and Verizon could have the effect of choking off much of the most important, creative, and valuable contributions the Internet can make to the idea-driven economy of the 21st century.”

The representatives bemoaned the possible separation of wireless from any new rules. “Exclusion of wireless services from open internet requirements could widen the digital divide by establishing a substandard, less open experience for traditionally underserved regions and demographic groups that may more often need to access or choose to access the internet on a mobile device.”

Additionally, the group warned that the use of “managed services” can lead to current services simply being rebranded. “Managed services might be rebranded or repackaged services and applications – only with priority treatment not available to competitors. By undermining competition and the value of the open Internet, managed services could have significantly negative consequences for consumers and commercial enterprises.”

Eshoo also commented that, “In my Silicon Valley district there are people building the next generation of internet breakthroughs. We cannot undermine their success by ‘cable-izing’ the Internet. That’s why my colleagues and I remain steadfast in our commitment to net neutrality.”

The full letter can be found here.

Medical Technology Makers Debate Convergence of Health Issues, Spectrum

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact/FCC/Health/Spectrum/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, July 28, 2010 – Experts gathered at the behest of the Federal Communications Commission and Food and Drug Administration to give the investor and research and development perspective at the agencies’ public meeting on enabling the convergence of communications and medical systems.

“The communication landscape is changing very rapidly,” said Peter Ko of Ericsson, and all experts agreed that wireless communications was going to be prevalent in the medical field.

Each panelist represented different medical technology manufacturers, and each had concerns about security and the spectrum needed for the wireless network.

The biggest debate was where to get the spectrum needed by devices to transmit their data.
Some, like Ko, believed that current wireless carriers could be used to transmit this data. “You let an ambulance pass you on the street,” said Ko, talking about how mission-critical data could be sent with priority over regular messages.

Dale Wiggins, chief technology officer at Phillips, said more dedicated spectrum was not the correct approach to wireless medical networks.

Reallocating spectrum to the medical field would fragment currently allocated spectrum even further, he said. On the one hand, allocating spectrum would ensure interoperability and insure that messages would not be interrupted. However, allocating spectrum would also mean that there would be more micromanaging by government agencies, and it would take valuable spectrum from the private sector, he said.

Neal Seidl of General Electric Healthcare warned of the potential for interference in a medical environment. People walk into a hospital without realizing they have radios and cell phones with them, devices that can cause interference.

Beyond interference, the interoperability of devices is a concern. With different manufacturers, if the devices they create don’t all work together lives could be at risk, he said.

David Hankin of the Alfred Mann Foundation said dedicated spectrum would get crowded easily, and shared spectrum was probably the answer.

Wireless communication, and technology in general can only be so secure. Hankin also said preventing the nefarious use of all of this new information would be a major concern.

Kevin Fu of the University of Massachusetts said in the computer systems field there is no system that is secure, only systems that have not been broken yet.

How this information is going to be moved and secured is an issue that will need to be addressed by the FCC and FDA, he added.

In a discussion concluding the event, Julius Knapp, chief of the office of engineering and technology for the FCC, said there is a lot of work to be done, but the meeting was a first step.

Bakul Patel of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said the meeting was just the beginning, adding that there are activities the agencies are sometimes not going to be able to tell the public about, but that they were going to be as open as possible.

The two agencies plan to meet shortly to digest the information gathered by the two days of panel discussion.

Study: More Federal Workers Seek Teleworking Opportunities

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/National Broadband Plan by

WASHINGTON, June 21, 2010 – More federal workers wish to telework and the government should study private sector efforts to make that happen, according to a new study.

A new report out from media firm FedScoop titled “Telework 2010: Telework in the Federal Government” addresses recommendations laid out in the Federal Communication Commission’s National Broadband Plan that addresses incentivizing off-site working opportunities within the federal government.

FedScoop’s study asks the question of whether the government is prepared to implement such a policy, and then “assesses current attitudes and practices of telework in the federal sector, and ways technology can improve operations.”

The study’s sample is skewed toward public sector employee respondents, with 62 percent of respondents coming from the federal government, as opposed to 38 percent, who come from private industry. Of these combined groups, 47 percent are in management positions. The study is geared as a guide to management, and this slight skewing in favor of non-managing personnel seems to reflect that intent.

According to the study, 93 percent of federal sector employees report that the ability to telework would make working for an organization “more desirable.” This contrasts with the current state of federal telework – 23 percent of respondents report teleworking “regularly or exclusively,” as opposed to 64 percent of private sector respondents.

The lack of teleworking alternatives does not spring from lack of confidence with technology among the federal sector. Ninety-one percent of respondents working in the private sector felt qualified to engage in telework, while 95 percent of respondents working in the federal sector felt the same way. This confidence gap is inversely proportional with current availability.

One element of this, the study suggests, may lie in a difference in federal priorities versus private sector priorities. When asked about the importance of cost saving, hiring disabled persons, having a positive environmental impact and preserving a flexible work environment, federal government workers rated their organizations between 12 and 32 percent less likely to care about these goals than private sector employees.

The study notes that 93 percent of all managers surveyed are satisfied with the quality of work done remotely, while the same percentage also said that they trust their team members to telework remotely. The only question where any gap appears is in managers’ confidence in their own ability to manage teleworking employees. Eighty-one percent of managerial staff felt that their management ability was unaffected by telework.

The study also suggests that telework may become immediately valuable as a practical matter in crisis situations. One section of the study contrasts the response of the private sector to the response of the federal sector with respect to the snowstorms that occurred last winter. Of those surveyed, 92 percent of federal employees reported that their offices were forced to close by the storm, whereas 37 percent of private sector employees reported the same thing.

Having demonstrated the differences between public sector telework and private sector telework, the study makes three recommendations. Firstly, the federal sector should “empower management through telework training programs.” Secondly, the federal sector should “put performance standards and procedures in place so that managers can track results” and lastly it should “encourage managers to work with their agency’s designated telework coordinator.”

The study also suggests that the federal government distribute laptops to its employees, train them in data backup/password usage and equip all work-related technology with industry standard Virtual Private Network software to allow remote work.

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