Technology

A federal wireless policy built on carrots, not sticks

It was forty years ago when the first mobile wireless call was made.  Marty Cooper took to the sidewalk in New York.  He held to his head what looked like a 10-inch brick, a clunky device that weighed over two pounds.  He spoke, the call went through, and he made history.

Four decades hence, look what that one call wrought.  We are now a nation with more mobile phones than people.  Half of those phones are smartphones.  Add to this the tablets that one in three adults in the U.S. now owns—a number that is growing especially fast.

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The spectrum crisis is upon us

The White House recently announced a $100 million initiative on spectrum sharing and a “Spectrum Technology Day” to promote innovations in wireless communications, one of the few successful sectors in a sluggish economy.

This proposal could maintain momentum generated earlier this month, when the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing to assess the state of the wireless industry—a hearing which revealed a potentially stalled wireless market if spectrum hits capacity.

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Dear Wall Street: Think bigger about cybersecurity

The recent theft of approximately $45 million from ATMs across the globe made for a series of splashy, cringe-inducing headlines.  The thought that a network of criminals could maneuver their way through sophisticated security programs to quickly syphon tens of millions of dollars out of bank accounts has prompted more than a few people to sneak a look at their checking account to make sure it is all there.

Fortunately, committing a crime that requires you to go to dozens of ATMs in a short time span is going to give law enforcement officials a pretty good idea of who you are.  On top of that, the decision of those same criminals to spend their newfound fortune wildly – not to mention document it on social media - means that they (a) were not exactly criminal masterminds and (b) never watched “Goodfellas”, where similar behavior of those involved the large robberies earned them a one-way trip into a freezer truck.

The high-profile nature of this attack, however, is an excellent illustration of how much damage a determined cyber attacker can do with a little knowledge.  The $45 million ATM hack was not the first big cyber attack, and it surely will not be the last.

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Pandora is stiffing artists

As a songwriter and ASCAP member, I found the recent opinion piece by Pandora’s assistant general counsel (“Why Pandora bought an FM radio station” ) to be long on rhetoric but short on facts.

Unlike Pandora, ASCAP is a nonprofit membership organization that collects and distributes royalties to the hundreds of thousands of songwriters, composers and music publishers it represents. Members like me depend on ASCAP to negotiate fair deals on our behalf, so we can earn a living as more listeners discover and enjoy our music across a wide variety of platforms, including Internet radio.

Savvy readers will note a mere four percent of Pandora’s total revenue is spent on licensing public performance rights from songwriters and composers. That means we make a fraction of a cent every time one of our songs streams on Pandora’s service — while the company's founder has cashed out more than $15 million in stock since the company went public. Yet we’re supposed to be excited that Pandora has now bought an FM radio station, because it will allow the company to pay the songwriters and composers who fuel their entire business even less than a fraction of a penny? It’s hard to follow that logic. Harder still to see how the FCC, which has to approve the sale, would find such a clearly self-serving purchase to be in the public interest.

I like streaming music online as much as the next guy. And I certainly appreciate the opportunities it creates for me as an artist to reach new listeners. But Pandora is misleading readers by claiming to be on the side of artists, when its recent actions firmly prove otherwise. Shame on us if we let them continue the charade.

Kear is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter for such artists as Lady Antebellum ("Need You Now"), Carrie Underwood ("Before He Cheats," "Blown Away"), Luke Bryan ("Drunk on You"), Darius Rucker ("True Believers") and others.

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Innovating to meet consumer expectations

It does not take a computer scientist or Silicon Valley evangelical to see that the rise of the Internet will wash over and transform the video experience.
 
The power of technology – fueled by a robust Internet platform and connected consumer devices – is feeding the seemingly insatiable consumer appetite for video content and remodeling the video marketplace. It is both exciting and challenging for companies working to deliver value and a compelling experience to the American consumer.

Gazing into the future is always hazardous, but a few critical trends paint a picture of what is possible in the emerging video landscape.

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Why Pandora bought an FM radio station

The internet isn’t just the future of radio; it is radio. Today, 70+ million Americans listen to Pandora, accounting for more than 7 percent of all U.S. radio listening. Our Music Genome Project, the most comprehensive music analysis ever undertaken, has transformed radio into a remarkable enabler of music discovery for artists and listeners alike.

The story of Pandora has been remarkable, and transformative, but not without challenges. As Jerry Garcia said, “what a long, strange trip it’s been.”

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Stop thief! Time to limit US IP theft

In May, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property released its final report, which documents the growing extent of foreign theft of U.S intellectual property (IP) and the economic damage it causes. This latest testament to the need for tougher national and international policy to address IP theft needs to be met with decisive action by the United States and its allies.

The U.S. economy is particularly susceptible to IP theft because it is increasingly dependent on knowledge- and IP-intensive industries—they account for 40 percent of U.S. GDP, 74 percent of U.S. exports, and support over 40 million U.S. jobs.

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Legislators choosing populism over good policy on mobile phone unlocking

Earlier this year, many Americans were understandably angry when the Librarian of Congress came to the decision that consumers would not longer be exempt from a provision in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) making it illegal to unlock cell phones. A grassroots effort to change the policy sprung up, more than 114,000 people signed a White House petition to voice their discontent, and politicians responded with legislation to address the issue.

Under the Unlocking Technology Act of 2013 (H.R. 1892,) introduced recently by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and co-sponsored by Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky,) it would be legal to circumvent digital rights management locks and to develop and sell cell phone unlocking software.

The White House also came out in support of mobile phone unlocking earlier this year.

“Neither criminal law nor technological locks should prevent consumers from switching carriers when they are no longer bound by a service agreement or other obligation,” wrote R. David Edelman, White House senior adviser for Internet, Innovation and Privacy.

Maybe Congress and the administration missed the memo, but the largest nationwide carriers already have very liberal unlocking policies. In fact, the three largest wireless carriers -- AT&T, Verizon and Sprint --all allow unlocking on the iPhone (and will even do it for you) after you’ve met the terms of your contract. Many carriers will also unlock phones for customers traveling abroad, based on their terms of service.

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Wireless communications must be improved in America

Are you fed up with waiting for “bars” on your cellphone? Or waiting for a video to download even when you have a strong signal? Are you impatient with slow downloads of data? Tired of dropped calls? Exasperated by “no service available” messages?

Well, help could be on the way.

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