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RIM, RIP: How BlackBerry Lost its Way, and How iPhones and iPads are Tapping to Success



April 2, 2012 – I admit to being taken in yesterday by Google’s April Fools prank – Gmail Tap. This priceless video promises to bring Morse code back for the smart phone era.

Gmail Tap hit a powerful nerve: how to make smart phones more useful for the things we do besides talking on them.

“Think of the size of the device…, and we are trying to cram an entire 26-key keyboard into that space,” said “David Brook,” listed as VP, Communications Services for Google. “It’s so many keys. I feel constricted by the keyboard,” says “Beth Dunning,” listed as Engineer, Gmail Tap.

Well, Morse code may be too far of a stretch. (“It’s just a dot and a dash. What’s simpler than that,” says “Mitch Fedenko” of the Tap team.) But the concept is a testament to the spirit of constant innovation in order to use technology to make our lives simpler.

Indeed, Gmail Tap is the perfect foil for the problem now faced by Blackberry manufacturer Research in Motion. The lead story in Friday’s Wall Street Journal described the scale of the problem faced by the Canadian company RIM – with sales tumbling 25 percent in the last quarter, long-overdue devices now further delayed, and corporate customers beginning switch accounts to iPhones and Android devices.

It’s time to let RIM to Rest in Peace – but not before we can learn some lessons about its saga.

The ‘Crackberry’ Did One Thing Right

For many years of the past decade, I was one of many “Crackberry” users who loved the device for what it did right: e-mail. Blackberrys once weren’t even telephones. They were merely portable e-mail retrieval systems. And they weren’t just for enterprise users: I bought my first Blackberry for personal use, never synchronizing it to a Microsoft Exchange Server.

By 2006, Blackberry worked seamlessly with Gmail: was a good app. Because I could use it with my wireless provider at the time, I happily upgraded to the Blackberry World Phone. While I never found the web browsing experience entirely satisfactory, the Blackberry met most of my needs: email, robust contact management, a decent interface for mobile maps, one of the earliest Twitter Apps, and the ability to talk wirelessly.

Here’s where the Morse code joke comes in: I didn’t find the keyboard constricting. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have “fat fingers” (watch the Gmail tap video, ;->), but typing quick messages on my Blackberry was about as good as e-mail could get, I thought.

Rely on Other Companies to Do Their Part

We all know that the iPhone – which is less than five years old, having been released on June 29, 2007 – changed so much in mobile computing and connectivity. Not the least was the savior-faire that it brought to what we now know of as the App economy. But because the iPhone was restricted to the AT&T network, Apple forced users to choice between device and network.

This tension was captured by the difference between Apple’s slogan, “there’s an app for that,” and a short-lived counter-punch from Verizon Wireless: “there’s a map that that.” Verizon was referring to maps of its extensive wireless network.

As Apple maneuvered out of its exclusivity contract with AT&T, the iPhone has become ingrained into America’s psyche as the premier smart phone, a class-busting phenom that appeals to the elite and to the masses. I find it hard to say which one thing the iPhone does right – because of the elegant way in which it puts so many disparate things together. But Apple needed to break out a single-carrier deal.

Nearly 18 months after I began using my first iPhone, I now prefer the one thing I didn’t like about it –Apple cramming in an entire 26-key keyboard into a tiny, virtual space. I can type faster and more pleasurable on the iPhone 4 than on my late-model and last-legged Blackberry Curve.

Discover New Needs

The personal computer emerged victorious over specific purpose instruments because of its flexible platform for innovation. The PC can do a lot of things – but can it do any of them well?

I’ve written frequently about how telephone, computers, radios and televisions are no longer separate objects. They are all central processing units, with radio-frequency communications capabilities – but with different “form factors” for input and output.

The ever-so-slight ways in which our preferences evolve – beveled keyboard or touch-screen device – shift market power among the equipment-makers. The same goes for the alliances between CPU-makers and network operators. Apple can sell more iPhones if it works with more wireless companies.

This past Christmas, I briefly considered ditching by Sprint-network Blackberry for an Android device running on Verizon or Sprint. (My iPhone is on AT&T’s network, the only one available at the time of purchase.) Nothing grabbed me.

Then, less than a month ago, the iPad 3 came along. It was Apple’s first device that can access broadband through Verizon’s LTE (for Long Term Evolution) network. The speed results are astounding. In a head-to-head comparison test using the Federal Communications Commission’s mobile broadband test on March 16, the Verizon LTE iPad yielded 13.38 megabits download, and 13.26 megabits upload; while the AT&T iPhone yielded 0.70 megabits download, and 0.51 megabits upload.

Speeds and coverage areas of networks are constantly changing, so these results are no more than a snapshot in time. But in partnering with the best wireless providers, Apple opens new opportunities for consumer use of its device.

Much has and will be written about the new iPad as more consumers get their hands on it. My first impression is similar to many others: a gorgeous reading machine, which will be a killer-app for newspapers, magazines and books. At its heart, the iPad appears to be nothing more than an oversized iPhone, so why would anyone want both? For the same reason that consumers want a small screen for “everywhere” tasks, a bigger screen on a laptop computer for “work” tasks, and a super-big screen for a home theater television “entertainment.”

The new iPad is striking the next balance between the three screens. In doing so, it’s putting a screen on another industry that once had a dim future of its own: the newspaper business.

Drew Clark is the Chairman of the Broadband Breakfast Club, the premier Washington forum advancing the conversation around broadband technology and internet policy. You can find him on and Twitter. He founded, and he brings experts and practicioners together to advance Better Broadband, Better Lives. He’s doing that now as Executive Director for Broadband Illinois, based in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield.

Breakfast Media LLC CEO Drew Clark has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.

Social Media

Senate Commerce Committee Passes Two Bills To Protect Children Online

The bills failed to make headway in a previous Congress.



Screenshot of Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., during the markup Thursday

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2023 – The Senate Commerce committee on Thursday swiftly passed two pieces of legislation aimed to protect the safety and privacy of children online, exactly one year after the same bills passed the committee but failed to advance further.

The first bill to clear the committee was the Kids Online Safety Act, which requires social media sites to put in place safeguards protecting users under the age of 17 from content that promotes harmful behaviors, such as suicide and eating disorders. KOSA was first introduced in 2022 by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, D-Tenn. It previously won bipartisan support but ultimately failed to become law.

The current version of the bill was reintroduced in May, gaining traction in several hearings, and picked up more than 30 co-sponsors. Several changes were made to the text, including a specific list of online harms and certain exemptions for support services, such as substance abuse groups that might unintentionally suffer from the bill’s requirements.

The bill was also amended Thursday to include a provision proposed by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. that would require companies to disclose the use of algorithms for content filtering and give users the choice to opt out.

Critics of the bill, however, said the revised version largely resembled the original one and failed to address issues raised before. These concerns included sections that would require tech companies to collect more data to filter content and verify user age, as well as an infringement on children’s free speech.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, supported the bill but agreed that more work needs to be done before it moves to the floor. Since the last committee’s markup of KOSA, several states have approved measures concerning children’s online safety that might be inconsistent with the existing provisions, he noted, proposing a preemptive provision to ensure the bill would be enforced regardless of state laws.

The Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA 2.0, introduced by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Bill Cassidy, R-LA, was the second bill passed out of the committee. It expands on existing legislation that has been in effect since 2000 to protect children from harmful marketing. The bill would make it illegal for websites to collect data on children under the age of 16, outlaw marketing specifically aimed at kids, and allow parents to erase their kids’ information on the websites.

“It is time for Congress to meet this moment and to act with the urgency that these issues demand,” said Sen. Markey.

This pair of legislation is among many others that seek to protect children from online harms, none of which have made any headway in Congress so far.

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Free Speech

UK’s Online Safety Bill Likely to Impact American User Experience

The bill will affect the tone and content of discussion on U.S.-owned platforms that wish to continue offering UK services.



Screenshot of Amy Peikoff of BitChute

WASHINGTON, July 21, 2023 – The United Kingdom’s Online Safety Bill will impact the American-based user’s experience on various platforms, said panelist at a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event Wednesday.  

The Online Safety Bill is the UK’s response to concerns about the negative impact of various internet platforms and applications. The core of the bill addresses illegal content and content that is harmful to children. It places a duty of care on internet sites, including social media platforms, search engines, and online shopping centers, to provide risk assessments for their content, prevent access to illegal content, protect privacy, and prevent children from accessing harmful content. 

The legislation would apply to any business that has a substantial user base in the UK, having unforeseen impacts on the end user experience, said Amy Peikoff, Chief Policy Officer of UK-based video-streaming platform, BitChute. 

Even though the legislation is not U.S. legislation, it will affect the tone and content of discussion on U.S.-owned platforms that wish to continue offering their services in the jurisdictions where this legislation will be enacted, said Peikoff. Already, the European Union’s Digital Services Act, is affecting Twitter, which is “throttling its speech” to turn out statistics that say a certain percentage of their content is “healthy,” she claimed. 

Large social media companies as we know them are finished, Peikoff said.  

Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, will be responsible to provide guidelines and best practices as well as conduct investigations and auditing. It will be authorized to apprehend revenue if a company fails to adhere to laws and may enact rules that require companies to provide user data to the agency and/or screen user messages for harmful content. 

Peikoff claimed that the legislation could set off a chain of events, “namely, that platforms like BitChute would be required to affirmatively, proactively scan every single piece of content – comments, videos, whatever posted to the platform – and keep a record of any flags.” She added that U.S-based communication would not be exempt. 

Meta-owned WhatsApp, a popular messaging app, has warned that it will exit the UK market if the legislation requires it to release data about its users or screen their messages, claiming that doing so would “compromise” the privacy of all users and threaten the encryption on its platform. 

Matthew Lesh, director of public policy and communications at the UK think tank Institute of Economic Affairs, said that the bill is a “recipe for censorship on an industrial, mechanical scale.” He warned that many companies will choose to simply block UK-based users from using their services, harming UK competitiveness globally and discouraging investors.  

In addition, Lesh highlighted privacy concerns introduced by the legislation. By levying fines on platforms that host harmful content accessible by children, companies may have to screen for children by requiring users to present government-issued IDs, presenting a major privacy concern for users.  

The primary issue with the bill and similar policies, said Lesh, is that it enacts the same moderation policies to all online platforms, which can limit certain speech and stop healthy discussion and interaction cross political lines. 

The bill is currently in the final stages of the committee stage in the House of Lords, the UK’s second chamber of parliament. Following its passage, the bill will go to the House of Commons in which it will either be amended or be accepted and become law. General support in the UK’s parliament for the bill suggests that the bill will be implemented sometime next year. 

This follows considerable debate in the United States regarding content moderation, many of which discussions are centered around possible reform of Section 230. Section 230 protects platforms from being treated as a publisher or speaker of information originating from a third party, thus shielding it from liability for the posts of the latter. 

Our Broadband Breakfast Live Online events take place on Wednesday at 12 Noon ET. Watch the event on Broadband Breakfast, or REGISTER HERE to join the conversation.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023 – The UK’s Online Safety Bill

The UK’s Online Safety Bill seeks to make the country “the safest place in the world to be online” has seen as much upheaval as the nation itself in the last four years. Four prime ministers, one Brexit and one pandemic later, it’s just a matter of time until the bill finally passes the House of Lords and eventually becomes law. Several tech companies including WhatsApp, Signal, and Wikipedia have argued against its age limitation and breach of end-to-end encryption. Will this legislation serve as a model for governments worldwide to regulate online harms? What does it mean for the future of U.S. social media platforms?


  • Amy Peikoff, Chief Policy Officer, BitChute
  • Matthew Lesh, Director of Public Policy and Communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs.
  • Drew Clark (moderator), Editor and Publisher, Broadband Breakfast

Panelist resources

Amy Peikoff is Chief Policy Officer for BitChute. She holds a BS in Math/Applied Science and a JD from UCLA, as well as a PhD in Philosophy from University of Southern California, and has focused in her academic work and legal activism on issues related to the proper legal protection of privacy. In 2020, she became Chief Policy Officer for the free speech social media platform, Parler, where she served until Parler was purchased in April 2023.

Matthew Lesh is the Director of Public Policy and Communications at the Institute of Economic Affairs. Matthew often appears on television and radio, is a columnist for London’s CityAM newspaper, and a regular writer for publications such as The TimesThe Telegraph and The Spectator. He is also a Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute and Institute of Public Affairs.

Drew Clark is CEO of Breakfast Media LLC. He has led the Broadband Breakfast community since 2008. An early proponent of better broadband, better lives, he initially founded the Broadband Census crowdsourcing campaign for broadband data. As Editor and Publisher, Clark presides over the leading media company advocating for higher-capacity internet everywhere through topical, timely and intelligent coverage. Clark also served as head of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, a state broadband initiative.




Illustration from the Spectator

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As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.

SUBSCRIBE to the Broadband Breakfast YouTube channel. That way, you will be notified when events go live. Watch on YouTubeTwitter and Facebook.

See a complete list of upcoming and past Broadband Breakfast Live Online events.

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Free Speech

New Tool Measures Economic Impact of Internet Shutdowns

The calculator is being called a ‘major step forward’ for those pushing back against such shutdowns.



Photo of a protest in Frankfurt, Germany by M K

July 10, 2023 – New measuring tool NetLoss launched by the Internet Society shows the impacts of internet shutdowns on economies including Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan, where government-mandated outages have cost millions of dollars in a matter of hours or days.

NetLoss, launched on June 28, calculated a four-hour shutdown in July in Iraq, implemented by the government to prevent cheating during high school exam season, resulted in an estimated loss of $1.6 million. In May, a shutdown in Pakistan cost more than $13 million over the span of four days, while a five-day internet outage in Sudan in April cost the economy more than $4 million and resulted in the loss of 560 jobs.

NetLoss is unique among other internet assessment tools as it also includes subsequent economic impacts on the unemployment rate, foreign direct investments, and the risk of future shutdowns, claimed the advocacy group Internet Society. It provides data on both ongoing and anticipated shutdowns, drawing from historical dataset of over 90 countries dating back to 2019.

“The calculator is a major step forward for the community of journalists, policymakers, technologists and other stakeholders who are pushing back against the damaging practice of Internet shutdowns,” said Andrew Sullivan, CEO of the Internet Society. “Its groundbreaking and fully transparent methodology will help show governments around the world that shutting down the Internet is never a solution.”

The tool relies on open-access databases, including the Internet Society Pulse’s Shutdown data, the World Bank’s economic indicators, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project’s civil unrest data, Yale University’s election data, and other relevant socioeconomic factors. To stay up to date with real-time changes, the data will be updated quarterly.

According to the press release, internet shutdowns worldwide peaked in 2022 with governments increasingly blocking internet services due to concerns over civil unrest or cybersecurity threats. These disruptions are extremely damaging to the economy, read the document, as they impede online commercial activities and expose companies and the economy to financial and reputational risks.

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