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Pai commends House commerce committee on consolidated reporting bill

Posted July 31st, 2013 in Congress, Federal Communications Commission and tagged , by Alton Drew

Here are comments made by Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai about the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s passage of the Consolidated Reporting Act:

“I commend the House Energy and Commerce Committee for passing the Federal
Communications Commission Consolidated Reporting Act and applaud Subcommittee Chairman
Walden, Ranking Member Eshoo and Representative Scalise for their leadership in sponsoring
this common-sense piece of legislation. The FCC’s reporting requirements are numerous,
burdensome, and sometimes obsolete. Replacing these disparate obligations with a single
biennial Communications Marketplace Report will make better use of limited Commission
resources. It will also provide Congress and the public with a comprehensive and far more
useful set of data that better reflects the realities of today’s converged marketplace. I hope that
this bipartisan legislation will soon be signed into law.”

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Tom Wheeler gets the nod from Senate sub-committee

Here’s what the Senator John Rockefeller, chairman of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, had to say about today’s committee vote approving Thomas E. Wheeler as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission:

“I congratulate Tom Wheeler on the strong bipartisan support he received in the Commerce Committee today. Now that the Committee completed its work on the nomination, the full Senate needs to move forward and confirm him. With all the important issues before the FCC, it’s critical that the agency has a confirmed chair and strong leader in place. I am confident, given Tom Wheeler’s extensive experience and capabilities in the communications industry, he is the right person for this job.”

Analysis from The Hill.com indicates that it may be awhile before Mr. Wheeler’s nomination is voted on by the full Senate. President Obama has yet to select a Republican to fill the seat vacated by Robert McDowell earlier this year and getting Mr. Wheeler’s vote through the full Senate may be easier if the Republican nominee’s name is also on the voting slate.

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Communications regulation reform needs a narrative

Communications regulation needs a narrative and regulators should take a hint from the late President John F. Kennedy for guidance on to formulate one.

President Kennedy provided America with a narrative based on a new frontier. This narrative manifested itself in the quest to place a man on the moon within ten years. Kennedy painted a picture of America in malaise; in stagnation, and that by passing the torch to a new generation, the country could blaze new trails. The end game was the new frontier.

This theme, with the occasional hurdles brought on by the Cold War with Russia and arguably a result of the narrative, would underlie Kennedy’s thousand days in office. While I would not call Kennedy a progressive, he did set a tone for the need of reform in how we approached the rest of the world and our role in it, but never lost site that America should remain preeminent in global affairs while taking the lead in crafting mankind’s greatest achievements.

This is the type of approach America need to take in its reform of communications reform. There has been no narrative offered, merely the blathering of buzz words like “competition”, “transparency”, and “robust”. Talking point and familiar words do not create bold policy. Nor do marginal tweaks to communications rules transmit to our society that our regulators share the urgency to enter brave new worlds of connecting Americans to their commerce via our communications networks.

Take for example the Federal Communications Commission’s Preliminary Plan for Retrospective Analysis of Existing Rules, released in November 7, 2011. The Plan is supposed to provide a road map for how the FCC proposed to can rules deemed unnecessary; rules that may spawn more economic costs than benefits for carriers. Upon inspection of the plan there is no narrative, no vision or direction to move the current state of regulation to and along.

Anticipating effects of outdated rules on innovation is not enough. Being a responsive, effective, and efficient agency in the face of technological and economic opportunities in a millennium that is moving at warp drive does not tell me where the FCC sees communications going. The difficulty may be that the FCC does a poor job of looking at the entire market when discussing regulation. Its approach is like a painter throwing splotches of paint on a canvass, a reference I’ve made in previous posts. The FCC does not realize that this lack of a definitive road map; this failure to converse on where we are, where we are going, and why, is at the heart of its dilemma.

Let me offer this as a potential narrative. The state of the communications regulation has been one-sided, with the FCC taking an overly cautious view towards regulation such that investors view the broadband market in much the same way. In order to keep capital flowing into the market while fueling innovative ways to deliver services giving current and projected spectrum constraints, the FCC’s end game, with authority from a re-written Communications Act, should be a market where the private sector allocates spectrum, subject to FCC rules and the authority given by the Act.

Outside of rights-of-way and pole attachment concerns, broadband providers should not be limited by onerous franchise requirements detailing where they must serve, forcing carriers to be broadband providers of last resort while running up the cost of deployment in hard to serve areas.

The vision should be one of a communications marketplace unfettered by unnecessary restraints that seem more focused on the management practices of a carrier versus its output.

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A rewrite of the Communications Act should describe how we communicate today

If there is going to be a re-write of the Communications Act of 1934, it has to start with a change in the flavor the statute. What do I mean by flavor? The tone, the gist, of the current law is based on an old communications world that was voice-centric. The current statute has the word, “telecommunications” sprinkled all over and throughout the Act’s language.

Section 153(50) of the Act defines telecommunications as the transmission, between or among points specified by the user, of information of the user’s choosing, without change in the form or content of the information, as sent and received.

In today’ communications world, although one can argue that a user of a communications facility still specifies to who they wish information to be sent, changing form and content of the information is par for the course. E-mails are modified, added to, during their transmission. Video content can be added to text during exchanges of information, thus modifying what is being sent and received by users. Yes, we still use voice, which falls squarely into the definition of telecommunications, but voice transmission is not sole method by which we communicate anymore.

I can communicate with literally hundreds of friends and family members with a post to my Facebook page. I can notify hundreds of Twitter followers about what was said at a conference while sharing simultaneously with conference attendees my opinions on an issue. We don’t do that with run-of-the-mill telecommunications.

I don’t pretend to be an engineer, but it’s safe to say that the networking of a communications infrastructure designed to provide us our current way of communication with each other is far different and more efficient than the legacy network used to provide telecommunications of the past. That this new, digital network can still provide us with voice service while allowing the other modes of communicating supports an assertion that voice communications, telecommunications, is just an “app” and should no longer be treated as the focus of policymakers or of the Communications Act.

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Remembering the moon landing

Posted July 20th, 2013 in Education and tagged , , by Alton Drew

I called my son into my room to show him footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing. We watched a couple minutes of footage where Neil Armstrong touched the lunar surface and uttered the notice, “That’s one small step for man … One giant leap forward mankind.” I explained to him that this is the result when we focus our mental and intellectual capabilities on doing great things.

Feel free to check out some old video from Apollo 11. Ten thousand years from now, only one name will be remembered. Armstrong. And it will be attached to doing the impossible.