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Ten Years After Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Electronics Companies Regret Supporting Law

WASHINGTON, October 14 — Consumer electronics manufacturers and owners of intellectual property offered divergent views of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 10 years after its passage, speaking at the inaugural forum of the monthly “Broadband Breakfast Club” hosted by BroadbandCensus.com.

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WASHINGTON, October 14 — Consumer electronics manufacturers and owners of intellectual property offered divergent views of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, 10 years after its passage.

Speaking at the inaugural forum of the monthly “Broadband Breakfast Club” hosted by BroadbandCensus.com, Mitch Glazier, senior vice president for government relations for the Recording Industry Association of America, called the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions “very successful.”

Glazier, who worked on the DMCA while working as a legislative counsel to Rep. Howard Coble, R-N.C., chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual property, said that the DMCA was in part responsible for the success of DVDs and Apple’s iPod and iTunes service.

But Michael Petricone, senior vice president for government affairs at the Consumer Electronics Association, offered a “mea culpa” for the DMCA on behalf of the electronics industry. “We took them at their word,” Petricone said of those who said the anti-circumvention provisions would be used only to tackle legitimate piracy.

Petricone said that the DMCA has hampered the development of new technology and harmed consumers.

Petricone compared the anti-circumvention measures to Congress enacting a law making jumping a neighbor’s fence illegal, even though existing tresspass law is sufficient to protect property.

The DMCA is “extremist” and “chills fair use,” he said, tipping the scales in favor of content owners and giving even the weakest DRM technology the “force of law.” But that law is being applied to behavior Congress did not anticipate, Petricone said.

The anti-circumvention measures in the DMCA foreclose innovation, said Berkman Center for Internet & Society fellow Wendy Seltzer. Instead, the law puts us in a position where we need permission to innovate, she said.

Seltzer, who founded ChillingEffects.org, a repository of DMCA takedown notices, said her site shows how the law is routinely misused. But “it’s hard to talk about what we can’t see” because people haven’t been able to get permission to innovate in advance, she said, suggesting that Congress could “tweak” the law to protect free speech.

Broadband wasn’t in the mind’s eye of Congress when the DMCA was crafted, said Emery Simon, counselorat the Business Software Alliance. Simon dismissed calls for reforming the law and said it was a “sideshow” compared to other problems. The content industry is still making the adjustment to a media environment in which they cannot control all aspects of digital distribution, Simon said. But he also insisted anti-circumvention protections are needed — “If people create something, they should be able to protect it,” he said. “Why shouldn’t there be rules?”

Those rules give incumbents incentive to exclude competition, Petricone countered. He said that the DMCA’s exemptions are “stingy and ludicrous,” and had created a “permission culture” that stifles innovation. Seltzer agreed, adding that anti-circumvention rules have hampered computer science research, and prevented investors and entrepreneurs from exploring new technologies.

Simon strongly disagreed, calling Petricone’s arguments “gobbledegook.” Critics should be more worried about highly invasive deep  packet inspection techniques undertaken by broadband providers. Such inspection could be used to enforce copyrights, he said.

Andrew Feinberg is the White House Correspondent and Managing Editor for Breakfast Media. He rejoined BroadbandBreakfast.com in late 2016 after working as a staff writer at The Hill and as a freelance writer. He worked at BroadbandBreakfast.com from its founding in 2008 to 2010, first as a Reporter and then as Deputy Editor. He also covered the White House for Russia's Sputnik News from the beginning of the Trump Administration until he was let go for refusing to use White House press briefings to promote conspiracy theories, and later documented the experience in a story which set off a chain of events leading to Sputnik being forced to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Andrew's work has appeared in such publications as The Hill, Politico, Communications Daily, Washington Internet Daily, Washington Business Journal, The Sentinel Newspapers, FastCompany.TV, Mashable, and Silicon Angle.

Digital Inclusion

Digital Inclusion Leaders a Critical Step to Closing Digital Divide: National League of Cities

The National League of Cities said government leaders need to have ‘multiple points of engagement’ with communities.

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Lena Geraghty, National League of Cities director of urban innovation

WASHINGTON, January 20, 2022 – To understand the digital divide, cities need to include digital equity leaders in their broadband needs assessment programs, the National League of Cities said at an event on community connectivity challenges Wednesday.

A broadband needs assessment would allow city leaders to explore the extent of the digital divide in their communities, said Lena Geraghty, the National League of Cities’ director of urban innovation.

“[A needs assessment] enable city leaders to dig into who’s being excluded, what’s currently available in your city, and what solutions city leaders can use” to close the digital divide, she said.

“The community is going to know best about where access exists, where gaps exist, and the needs that will make connectivity better,” Geraghty said. To get the best picture of a community’s need, stakeholders must find and include the community’s digital equity leaders in the data-gathering process, she added.

“These could be people that are knowledgeable about digital equity or people that are experiencing the digital divide,” she said. “Think really broadly about what it means to be a leader and the type of information these folks can bring to bear in solving the digital divide in your communities.”

Geraghty said it may be useful to formalize the leaders’ work by creating a broadband working group or ad hoc committee led by the city’s government. “Giving some roles and responsibilities can help everyone move in the same in direction, there’s agreement, and really clear goals and outcomes.”

Geraghty added that it’s important for government leaders to establish multiple points of engagement for the community. “It’s not enough to gather data or information from people once,” she said. “The state of access to the internet and devices is always changing,” so leaders should create multiple touch points for community input.

The National League of Cities released its Digital Equity Playbook for cities in December, walking readers through how they can promote digital equity in their cities. The playbook has a four-step process on how to get started with digital equity.

By walking readers through the process of connecting with the community, evaluating the connectivity landscape, gathering foundational information and reporting on findings, city leaders will be prepared to target broadband funding to unserved and underserved areas in their communities.

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Environment

FCC Commissioner Starks Says Commission Looking into Impact of Broadband, 5G on Environment

Starks sat down to discuss the promise of smart grid technology for the environment.

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FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2022 – Former and current leaders within the Federal Communications Commission agreed Thursday that it is important to make sure the FCC’s broadband efforts support the nation’s goals for the environment.

On Thursday, during a Cooley law firm fireside chat event, Robert McDowell, a former FCC director, and current FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks discussed how broadband expansion and next-generation 5G mobile networks will affect the environment.

Starks said that the commission is currently focusing on answering that exact question and are evaluating the current attempts to protect the environment, as more money is expected from the federal government and as broadband infrastructure expands. That includes putting more fiber into the ground and erecting more cell towers, but also allowing for a broadband-enabled smart grid system that will make automated decisions on energy allocation.

Smart grid systems, for example, provide real-time monitoring of the energy used in the electrical system. These systems can help to reduce consumption and carbon emissions, Starks said, by rerouting excess power and addressing power outages instantaneously in the most efficient and environmentally friendly manner. The smart grid systems will monitor “broadband systems in the 900 MHz band,” said Starks.

Starks also noted the Senate’s “Strengthening Mobility and Revolutionizing Transportation” initiative, which would set apart $500 million for cities across America so they can begin working on ways to lower carbon emissions.

FCC also focused on digital discrimination

Starks said the commission is also focusing on “making sure that there is no digital discrimination on income level, race, ethnicity, religion, national origin,” and that it all comes down to funding and who needs the money.

He stated that the first step is to finalize the maps and data that have been collected so funding can be targeted to the areas and people that need it the most. Many have remarked that the $65 billion allocated to broadband from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will not be divvied out until adequate maps are put in place.

Starks noted that broadband subsidy program Lifeline, although fundamental to some people’s lives, is significantly underutilized. Starks stated that participation rates hover around 20 percent, which led the FCC to explore other options while attempting to make Lifeline more effective. For example, the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program – which provides monthly broadband subsidies – has been replaced by the Affordable Connectivity Program, a long-term and revised edition of the pandemic-era program.

Starks and McDowell also stated their support for the confirmation by the Senate of Alan Davidson as the permanent head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and expressed that Davidson will be a key player in these efforts.

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Broadband's Impact

CES 2022: Public-Private Partnerships Key to Building Smart Cities, Tech leaders Say

Public-private partnerships will increase the community benefit of infrastructure projects, leaders at Qualcomm and Verizon said.

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Panelists on the “Smart Cities and Public-Private Partnerships” CES session on Friday.

LAS VEGAS, January 12, 2022––Telecommunications industry leaders said Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show that public-private partnerships will pave the way to realizing the future of smart cities.

Raymond Bauer, director of the domain specialist group that connects governments to Verizon’s telecommunications services, said the government needs private partners to improve its infrastructure efforts.

Referencing the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Bauer said governments should look forward to partnering with private technology companies to improve upcoming infrastructure projects.

“There’s a once in a lifetime opportunity from IIJA,” Bauer said. “We should find common ways to work in a way we haven’t in the past. There are certain goals and use cases to leverage the infrastructure we have,” he said.

The $1.2 trillion bipartisan legislation funds physical and digital infrastructure projects, including $65 billion for the expansion of broadband across the country.

Bauer said communities have a chance to monetize the services Verizon offers to communities if Verizon builds infrastructure for broadband access in underserved areas. “By bridging the digital divide, underserved communities get the services they need,” he added.

Ashok Tipirneni, head of smart cities and connected spaces at Qualcomm, said that cities should be thinking about how technology can improve much-needed infrastructure projects.

“Cities are growing faster than available utility,” he said, citing global issues of housing, water, and equity for vulnerable populations. “How do we ensure access for all citizens? And how can cities be in lock step with new technology, whatever it is?” he asked.

Qualcomm’s Smart Cities Accelerator Program delivers internet of things ecosystem products and services to member cities and local governments.

“New Orleans, Miami, and Los Angeles has local governments asking how they can do better,” he said. “They offer opportunities for partnerships that wouldn’t have been the case a few years ago.”

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