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FCC & unleashing technology

Posted February 29th, 2012 in Broadband, employment, entrepreneurship, first responders and tagged , by Alton Drew

“At the FCC, our mission is to unleash the potential of communications technology –
including mobile broadband – to benefit our economy and our society. We believe in the
power of dynamic free markets to drive these benefits, and that government has an
important but limited role to play in enabling innovation and investment in
communications technologies and services, promoting competition, and empowering
consumers.”

These words were shared by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski during a speech delivered in Barcelona a couple days ago. While I appreciate the Chairman’s intention to make broadband access available to every American household, we shouldn’t give Spain the impression that there is another European country with a capital west of Portugal.

Chairman Genachowski’s statement gives the impression that the FCC controls private capital namely communications technology. Yes, to a certain degree, the FCC regulates or creates a framework for access to the telecommunications, broadcast, and cable television markets. It also sets the framework for accessing public rights-of-way, poles, and that great and limited national resource; spectrum.

The agency, along with the rules it promulgates, and the statutes that give it authority, do not best promote a flexible and dynamic market. Free markets unleash communications technology and the innovation and dynamism that come along with it when incented by consumers that are willing and able to not only purchase communications goods and services and producers willing and able to develop and sell these goods and services.

It is the FCC’s attitude, as captured by the statement from Mr. Genachowski’s speech, which has it frequently on the precipice of picking winners and losers. Leave the technology development to the markets, FCC. The industry, its investors, and consumers will leave the FCC to regulate market entry on a minimal basis and ensure the acquisition of spectrum necessary for keeping consumers connected.

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I wonder how much mileage Romney got out of Twitter last night

Posted February 29th, 2012 in Broadband, Twitter, wireless communications and tagged , , , , by Alton Drew

I’m replaying a PBS NewsHour video where Howard Kurtz of CNN’s Reliable Sources and Lauren Ashburn of The Daily Download are discussing political warfare in cyberspace. Check out the video here. I guess we can think of social media as behind the lines guerilla warfare with the advertising and debates we see on television as the traditional front lines.

I love it. One of the great things about wireless mobile access to broadband is the access to the political discussion going on minute-by-minute. I think Ms. Ashburn put well when she says it’s almost like debating. I would say real debating; unbridled, unscripted, unregulated.

Watch those hashtags!

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Can government intervention really push Florida to the next level of broadband infrastructure?

Posted February 25th, 2012 in Broadband, Education, Florida and tagged , , by Alton Drew

Just read an insightful blog post by Citizens for a Digital Future. The post addresses online education in my former home state of Florida. According the report, online education is bringing Florida students additional value. The questioned posed in the piece is what can Florida government, particularly the legislature, do to increase broadband access.

I would recommend two approaches. One, the legislature should advocate and support attempts by larger carriers to obtain spectrum from smaller carriers and broadcasters. Larger carriers with the technical and financial ability to generate economies of scale are in a very good position to deploy wireless broadband facilities into unserved or underserved areas of Florida. The legislature should understand that it’s not about the number of carriers. It’s about the quality of carrier.

Second, just like Florida contracts out for the building and maintenance of its highways and ports, the legislature should look at broadband as infrastructure. It should create broadband infrastructure funds dedicated to building the conduits necessary for deploying these services.

Florida, like any other state, cannot afford to fall behind in the new knowledge economy.

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I would love to see Apple eat up Sprint

Does the word “communications” or “telecommunications” mean anything anymore? Communications refers to the act of imparting or interchanging thoughts, opinions, or information by signs, writing, or speech. A communication may be a document or message imparting news, views, or information.

If I talk to my son, I’m communicating (or trying to. Kids are hard headed.). If I call him on his cell phone, we are still communicating since the only thing happening is that electrons are moving up and down a wire and the message isn’t being changed by the phone company (But as parents we know the message is being changed in our kids’ heads…).

The reason I’m pondering the definition is because I’d love to see Apple, Google, or Facebook make a play for a wireless or even a wireline company. I don’t want to see them get bogged down by 20th century notions of what communications is, however. The FCC and a bunch of state regulatory commissions would love to get their hands on a piece of Apple’s, Google’s or Facebook’s cash flow.

With people using their smart phones as miniature and mobile information access terminals (I avoid using the term computer or phone when I can), maybe some type of separations cost scheme is needed, much like the separations mechanism used by the FCC and the states to share access revenues. That would really give Apple, Google, or Facebook an advantage by reducing their cost of entry into the wireless market while giving AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile a run for their money.

I expect, given their truly nationwide network that AT&T and Verizon would do well. Deadweight companies like Sprint and T-Mobile would probably go the away like the wind, given their networks are not as large or as fast.

Let’s face it. Apple, Google, and Facebook are media companies. It’s only logical that they would want to secure the distributional channels for the information that they want to share, namely our information. It would be like AMC Studios owning movie theatres. They produce the flick, they sell the flick.

Can FCC follow policy that would keep them out of the way of a potential mega deal?

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Net Neutrality goes Global

The Balkans War has started again. If Russia and China have their way, we could see a fragmentation of the World Wide Web that was inconceivable over twenty years ago.

Robert McDowell, admittedly my favorite Federal Communications Commission member, raised this very scary observation in a piece he wrote in yesterday’s The Wall Street Journal. In short, China and Russia would support an assertion of control over the Internet by the International Telecommunications Union.

If it’s not broke, why fix it? “Fixing” it may mean handing nations not known for their celebration of the freedom of expression a new tool to dampen the exchange of ideas, as well as make a little money for their coffers by charging for access to foreign websites.

The United Nations will reportedly start discussing this proposal as part of treaty negotiations that created the ITU. Discussions begin 27 February 2012.

Well, this latest development should make net neutrality proponents here in the United States very happy. It is going to be very tough for the United States to say no to heavy handed regulation of Internet traffic when our own Federal Communications Commission has allowed for the same approach to Internet traffic here in the United States. How can we tell China, Russia, and other members of the new Internet-communist bloc that management of Internet traffic by a government agency is a bad thing when we require transparency on network management via net neutrality rules?