Technology

The question at the core of the data caps debate

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) regularly insist that data caps are a legitimate tool to ease congestion on their networks and an effective way to signal value to consumers. But, as we have argued, data caps do not resolve congestion, are confusing to consumers, and lend themselves to unfair and anticompetitive behavior. 

In light of this disagreement, it is a promising sign that a recent study published by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and co-authored by Steven S. Wildman, the new Chief Economist of the FCC, moves beyond some of the previous rhetoric and takes a significant step towards focusing the debate on real areas of conflict. 

Unfortunately, it stops short of recognizing a critical distinction in understanding the heart of the disagreement. Let’s take a look:

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The future of independent voices on cable TV

On January 1, Time Warner Cable (TWC) rung in the New Year by dropping our network, Ovation, from its channel lineup. Other independent networks may face the same fate. These are not isolated incidents but the disturbing result of years of consolidation in the pay TV industry with a small number of dominant carriers offering the networks of a small number of media conglomerates. The result is the homogenization of cable TV and the betrayal of cable’s promise to deliver diversity. Policymakers, concerned citizens and industry leaders need to understand and seek to arrest this trend before it is too late.

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No reversal of fortune for Google's opponents

We all remember the movie “Reversal of Fortune” that retells the real life story of Claus von Bulow, accused of attempting to kill his super-wealthy wife. When the movie begins life looks extremely bleak for Claus – he has been convicted of murder, the factual evidence seems compelling and he seems like a wholly unsavory character. Yet Alan Dershowitz arrives on the scene, and although he believes Claus is guilty, he finds new legal avenues, undermines the key evidence, and reverses the conviction.

Google’s opponents probably feel like Claus with the news that the decision in the ongoing Federal Trade Commission antitrust investigation has been delayed. The FTC seemed poised to close the investigation into search, perhaps with some enforceable voluntary commitments by Google. Then the announcement was delayed beyond the end of 2012, and we still remain in limbo awaiting the Commission’s decision.

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Living in a mobile world

It may not be the end of the world as the Mayan’s foretold, but it’s certainly the end of an eventful year for American innovation. If future civilizations look back on the information age, they could chart its progress largely by the innovation driven here in Silicon Valley. First came the Internet, then the mobile Internet and now the transformations occurring at the nexus of mobile, the Internet and social media.
 
Think back to popular culture moments: The Olympics, the re-election of the president, the suddenly ubiquitous Gangnam Style. What the three disparate events have in common is that we flocked to the social, mobile web to learn, to debate and to share with one another.

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Courts, not FTC, should decide on Google practices

Why isn't the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) holding Google to the same "honest broker" standard to which it holds every other company in the U.S. economy?
 
After an eighteen-month investigation of the most extensive alleged "deceptive and unfair business practices" in FTC history, FTC investigators recommended the FTC prosecute Google for deceptive search bias in a 100-page memo. That recommendation built upon the evidence collected by a bipartisan Senate Antitrust Subcommittee investigation of Google search bias last year. In addition last May, the European Commission concluded Google's search bias is illegal.

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Eradicating patent trolls

One of the critical obstacles to our innovation economy are patent trolls or Patent Assertion Entities (“PAE”) which acquire patents simply to bring patent litigation and effectively tax innovation. PAEs exploit numerous problems in our legal system including the expense and uncertainty of patent litigation, the excessive granting of patents in the high-tech space, the ambiguity of abstraction surrounding the claims of many high-tech patents, and the anticompetitive pricing power that comes from aggregating patents in an industry where market definition is especially difficult. PAEs are costing the economy over $29 billion annually and creating barriers to the innovation that is critical to the growth of the economy.

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Privacy bill amendments will provide clearer guidance to investigators

On August 21, 1789, the House of Representatives adopted amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which later became known as the Bill of Rights. The fourth of these amendments was introduced to protect private citizens from unlawful search and seizure by government agents. Last Thursday, members of Congress once again sought to protect the citizens they represent from unreasonable searches by agents of the government.

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You are doing it wrong: The Right and digital politics

The results of this election made one thing clear about the GOP and the era of digital politicking: we are doing it wrong.
 
It is not that Conservatives are not engaged online (in fact the opposite is true), or that the Right is not using the best tools or techniques. It is fundamentally that Conservatives do not have the correct view of the role of digital politics in campaigns.
 
After the ground-breaking uses of technology in Howard Dean’s presidential campaign and the game-changing use of the internet by Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, it became clear to many on the Right that the era of digital politics was here to stay. And while the Right has by-in-large embraced the digital arena, it is not enough to just engage in social networks, buy digital ads, send emails and engage in mobile campaigning.

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Business success should not trump creativity: Pandora isn't playing fair

Last week, we grabbed our guitars, borrowed a piano and set up shop on Capitol Hill to tell our story: Pandora isn’t playing fair. 

We are songwriters. Those lyrics you know by heart or the tune you can’t get out of your head. The songs you dance to, cry to, and sing in the shower.  That’s us. You probably wouldn’t recognize us on the street. 

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FTC should proceed with case against Google

When you stare down a $220 billion corporation, it’s hard not to blink.  But if the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t deliver on its ultimatum to Google that it settle its antitrust problems soon for real relief or face prosecution, then consumers will never get the open and unfettered online and mobile access to information they deserve.
 
While the government’s battle with Microsoft in the 1990s was about whether the dominant software company could bundle software and an Internet browser, the antitrust case against Google is about whether one company should have so much control over online information that it can steer us any where it chooses for its own profit.

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