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Big Media Meets Law Enforcement at White House; Biden Announces Focus on Intellectual Property Theft

WASHINGTON, December 16, 2009 – The U.S. is committed to an inter-agency process for combating piracy of American intellectual property, Vice President Joseph Biden said Tuesday during a press availability with top law enforcement officials.

Appearing at the White House complex with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, the directors of the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, and the United States Secret Service, as well as the chief executives of the nation’s largest entertainment companies.

The meeting was followed by a closed-door, roundtable discussion on international intellectual property theft.

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By Andrew Feinberg, Deputy Editor, BroadbandBreakfast.com; and Eli Evans, Reporter-Researcher, BroadbandBreakfast.com

WASHINGTON, December 16, 2009 – The U.S. is committed to an inter-agency process for combating piracy of American intellectual property, Vice President Joseph Biden said Tuesday during a press availability with top law enforcement officials.

Appearing at the White House complex with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, the directors of the FBI, Customs and Border Protection, and the United States Secret Service, as well as the chief executives of the nation’s largest entertainment companies.

The meeting was followed by a closed-door, roundtable discussion on international intellectual property theft.

That second meeting brought together more than 20 high-ranking government officials and entertainment industry leaders in seeking solutions to the problem of piracy.

While Biden acknowledged the efforts of past administrations and programs, “The truth of the matter is that the problem has gotten worse,” he said. “Intellectual piracy is costing this country…billions of dollars and thousands of jobs,” Biden told the assembled executives.

The problem is likely to worsen without better inter-agency coordination and a sharp federal focus on the problem, he said, referring back to his days as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee: “It offends me that we … treat it as if it’s a mild irritant,” Biden said. “It’s theft – Flat unadulterated theft.”

The issue is no longer a minor one, said Attorney General Eric Holder. American industries “depend on intellectual property rights” and the enforcement of them, Holder said. The Obama administration will not tolerate [intellectual property] theft of any kind, Holder said.

And both Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke promised the full weight of their departmentss behind Biden’s initiative, with Napolitano bringing the power of Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the United States Secret Service to bear on copyright infringers to supplement the investigative and enforcement efforts of the FBI.

Intellectual property crime is going to get the same kind of focus at the Justice Department as the closing of Guantanamo Bay and ordinary street crime, said Holder.

But “this is not a problem the United States can by itself solve,” Holder conceded. “We need to work with international partners, who also need to confront… those nations where to0 much of this [piracy] occurs,” he declared.

The U.S. will place emphasis on shoring up international enforcement efforts with existing relationships, and by new commitments like the forthcoming Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, Holder said. By working with other nations, the U.S. can better target the large scale operations that are often the most serious – operations often based from within the borders of other nations.

Holder cited as a recent success of this new strategy the fruits of a series of raids around the U.S. and in Mexico. Relying on cooperation from the Mexican government, U.S. law enforcement seized 780,000 items, including 54,000 CDs and DVDs valued at more than $26 million.

This cooperative effort is not only admirable, but effective. Biden said, adding that such thinking motivated Tuesday’s meeting. It was an opportunity to have “all the major players in one place, in one room, with one overall, overarching strategy how to better deal with what is a serious, serious problem facing our country.”

But not all players were at the meeting, according to some consumer groups, who noted the absence of technology companies and representation of artists – the creators of intellectual property itself.

Such an omission speaks to a bias in favor of “big media,” critics said in numerous statements released Tuesday. “No consumer or public-interest groups, technology companies, technology associations or Internet service providers are on the guest list,” said Public Knowledge founder and president Gigi Sohn.

“No one who questions the need for draconian governmental policies on behalf of the privileged special interest group for whom this meeting is being held is on the guest list,” Sohn pointed out.

“If Vice President Biden is truly interested in learning more about intellectual property, we hope he will continue his consultations with a group of people who share a wider range of views than those with whom he will meet today.”

Editor’s Note: Broadband Census News is planning to hold a special event, “Net Neutrality, Copyright Protection, and the National Broadband Plan Town Hall Meeting,” on January 19, 2010, from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. (program from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.), at Clyde’s of Gallery Place. To register for the event, which includes breakfast from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. To register, click here.

Broadband's Impact

Dianne Crocker: Recession Fears Have Real Estate Market Forecasters Hitting the Reset Button

Growing fears of recession trigger pullback on previous rosy forecasts.

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Dianne Crocker, Principal Analyst for LightBox

The lyrics to “Same As It Ever Was” by the Talking Heads certainly don’t apply to how 2022 is playing out in the commercial real estate market. Two quarters of negative economic growth has put a damper on market sentiment and triggered fears that the U.S. economy is heading for a recession. By midyear, market analysts were taking a good, hard look at their rosy forecasts from the start of the New Year and redrawing the lines.

Once upon a time…

At the start of 2022, forecasters were bullishly predicting that commercial real estate investment and lending levels would be nearly as good as 2021. This was significant, considering that 2021 set new records for deal-making and lending volume as the debt and equity capital amassed during the pandemic while looking for a home in U.S. commercial real estate.

What a difference a few quarters have made. Virtually, all the predictions that started the New Year were obsolete by mid-summer. The abrupt shift in market conditions is palpable and surprised just about everyone. Now, markets are reaching an inflection point that is in sharp contrast with the strong rebound of last year.

The two I’s: Inflation and interest rates

At the core of the recent upset in market sentiment is the persistence of high inflation, which seems to be ignoring all attempts by the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates and bring prices down. Higher inflation is having a ripple effect throughout the economy, pushing up the costs of construction materials, energy, and consumer goods. Among the notable economic indicators showing stress at mid-year was the GDP, which fell for the second consecutive quarter, and the Consumer Price Index, which jumped 9.1% year-over-year in June – the highest increase in about four decades.

In July, the CPI fell to 8.5%, an encouraging sign that inflation was beginning to stabilize. By the latest August report from LightBox, however, hopes were dashed when the CPI showed little improvement, holding firm at a still high of 8.3%.

The market is responding to a higher cost of capital as lenders tap the brakes. As the cost of capital rises with each interest rate hike and concerns of a recession intensify, many large U.S. financial institutions are pulling back on their loan originations for the rest of 2022 and into 2023. This change in tenor is a significant shift, given that 2021 was a record-breaking year for commercial real estate lending. Many lenders have already shifted to a more defensive underwriting position as they look to mitigate risks.

The Mortgage Bankers Association, which had previously predicted that lending levels in 2022 would break the $1 trillion mark for the first time revised their forecast downward in mid-July. By year-end, the MBA now expects volume to be a significant 18% below 2021 levels—and one-third lower than the bullish forecast made in February. Now, investment activity is cooling as higher borrowing costs drive some buyers from the market.

In the investment world, transactions were down by 29% at midyear due to a thinning buyer pool as higher rates impact access to debt capital. Market volatility is causing investors, lenders, and owners to rethink strategies, reconsider assumptions, and prepare for possible disruption.

Looking ahead to year-end and 2023

The rapid and diverse shifts in the market make for an uncertain forecast and certainly a more cautious investment environment. The battle between inflation and interest rates will continue over the near term. As LightBox’s investor, lender, valuation, and environmental due diligence clients move toward the 4th quarter—typically the busiest quarter of the year–unprecedented volatility is driving them to recalibrate and reforecast given recent market developments.

Continued softness in transaction volume is likely to continue as rates and valuations establish a new equilibrium. If property prices begin to level out, there will be more pressure on buyers to consider how to improve a property to get their return on investment. The next chapter of the commercial real estate market will be defined by how long inflation sticks around, how high interest rates go, and whether the economy slips into a recession (and how deeply). The greatest areas of opportunity will be found in asset classes like office and retail that are evolving away from traditional uses and morphing to meet the needs of today’s market. Until barometers stabilize, it’s important to rethink assumptions, watch developments, and recalibrate as necessary.

Dianne Crocker is the Principal Analyst for LightBox, delivering strategic analytics, best practices in risk management, market intelligence reports, educational seminars, and customized research for stakeholders in commercial real estate deals. She is a highly respected expert on commercial real estate market trends. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views reflected in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

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Digital Inclusion

White House Presses Outreach Initiatives for Affordable Connectivity Program

White House officials urged schools and other local institutions to engage in text-message and social media campaigns for the ACP.

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Photo of President Joe Biden, obtained from Wikimedia.

WASHINGTON, September 15, 2022 – The White House on Monday urged schools and other local institutions to engage in text-message and social media campaigns, PSAs, and other community-outreach initiatives to promote enrollment in the Federal Communications Commission’s Affordable Connectivity Program among of families with school-age children.

The Affordable Connectivity Program subsidizes internet service bill for low-income households. Monthly discounts of up to $30 are available for non-tribal enrollees, $75 for applicants on qualifying tribal lands. In addition, the ACP offers enrollees a one-time discount $100 on qualifying device purchases.

To boost ACP enrollment, speakers encouraged schools to reach out directly to families. Bharat Ramanurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council, said text-message campaigns drive up enrollment in government programs. A Massachusetts text-message campaign doubled ACP enrollment rates in subsequent days, said Ramanurti.

Also highlighted was the administration’s “ACP Consumer Outreach Kit,” which provides partners with resources, including fliers, posters, audio PSAs, social-media templates.

In fact, many of these tactics have proved effective in increasing ACP enrollment among telehealth patients. In addition, Microsoft and Communications Workers of America recently announced a circuit of ACP sign-up drives in that will tour several states including Michigan, New York, and North Carolina.

Political considerations as November nears…

As students go back to school and midterm elections loom, new ACP sign-ups could benefit the enrollees as well as the Democrats’ political chances.

Public officials and private experts alike recognize the value of community involvement in extending broadband connectivity and digital literacy nationwide. Marshaling community institutions – like schools – to maximize broadband access could help Biden and other Democrats overcome inflation-driven electoral headwinds in the November midterms. The White House obtained commitments from 20 providers to offer high-speed internet plans for $30 per month or less to ACP-eligible households – this means no out-of-pocket costs for recipients of ACP discounts. Free broadband coverage could bring the administration – and all Democrat candidates, by extension – back into the good graces of low-income families.

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Digital Inclusion

Federal Government Must Collect More Granular Data on Minorities to Aid in Initiatives

Discussion on the “data gap” comes as the nation tries to connect the unserved and underserved.

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Screenshot of Denice Ross, the White House's chief data scientist

WASHINGTON, August 31, 2022 – In order to serve the needs of all Americans, the federal government must gather and act on more granular data on underrepresented minority groups that have been historically overlooked in the data-gathering process, said Denice Ross, the White House’s chief data scientist.

Ross argued at an online event hosted by the Center for Data Innovation on Tuesday that many minority groups – including African Americans, Native Americans, the disabled, and the LGBT community – are disadvantaged by the “data divide,” a term which refers to disparities in the amount and quality of available data on various groups.

Ross was citing a report issued earlier this year by the Equitable Data Working Group, a task force created by President Joe Biden earlier this year, which said policymakers are often unable to perceive or ameliorate problems facing minority communities if data on those communities are unavailable or insufficiently disaggregated. Disaggregated data, the report says, is “data that can be broken down and analyzed by race, ethnicity, gender, disability, income, veteran status, age, or other key demographic variables.”

The report recommends a federal data collection strategy that safeguards privacy and facilitates analysis of “the interconnectedness of identities and experiences,” or how individuals’ various minority-group identities compound the societal disadvantages they face. The report also advocates the creation of “incentives and pathways” promoting minority representation in the data collection process.

The recommendations come as the broadband industry and federal agencies try to improve knowledge of where there are unserved and underserved areas for broadband connectivity and to take action to improve digital literacy. The Illinois Broadband Lab and other state broadband offices, for example, implement a community-up approach to data gathering. Direct community involvement provides data insights that help states deliver coverage to in-need communities, officials say. 

In the panel discussion that followed Ross’s opening remarks, experts and academics agreed that community outreach is a necessary step in closing the data divide. Dominique Harrison, director of bank Citi Ventures’ Racial Equity Design and Data Initiative, said that some in the African American community view data collection with skepticism.  

Christopher Wood, executive director of LGBT Tech, argued that the passage of a federal privacy standard is a critical step toward establishing trust in government data collection. The most recent attempt to pass a national privacy regime, the American Data Privacy and Protection Act, was approved by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce last month.

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