Technology

Fix broken broadcast retransmission consent system

Few things are more frustrating to a former Congressman than to see a law he sponsored twisted in a way that undermines its intended purposes. Unfortunately, this is precisely what has happened during the last few years with the 1992 Cable Act, and in particular, with the provisions I sponsored dealing with “retransmission consent.” These provisions require a cable operator or other video provider to obtain a broadcast station’s permission to retransmit the broadcast signal to subscribers (unless the broadcaster elects a different option called “must carry”). Our goal was to ensure that the public would retain access to local broadcast programming as cable television gained in power and influence.  But today, more than ever, broadcasters are using these provisions to claim that the Act gives them license to pull their signals from video providers and their subscribers unless these providers agree to pay rapidly rising fees. In essence, broadcasters are exploiting a law designed to prevent consumers from experiencing service disruptions to justify blackouts. This just happened in the New York and Philadelphia area, where Fox blacked out its network stations to three million households during the baseball playoffs and World Series.

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Reclassification of the Internet won’t stand the legal test

One of the issues that will bridge the 111th and 112th Congress’ is the proposal by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski to reclassify the Internet as a Title II “telecommunications service” from its present status as a Title I “information service.”

In an opinion I wrote on behalf of Broadband for America, I pointed out that “as a legal matter the language of the statutes enacted by Congress, the unbroken line of previous FCC decisions and the reasoning of the Supreme Court’s Brand X decision” make reclassification “unlikely to survive judicial scrutiny.”

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A post-election job for Congress: Resolve the net neutrality fight

At times, the political battle over net neutrality regulation recalls the tragic mythological tale of Sisyphus, who could never quite push that rock all the way to the top of the hill. When Congress shut down for re-election campaigning earlier this month rather than consider a neutrality compromise from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), it appeared at first blush that a resolution had again slipped away. But a closer look suggests the key players are edging toward an agreement that would preserve an open Internet for consumers while also enabling continuing business investment that would expand Internet capabilities and create jobs to help the economy.

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Members of Congress are not harnassing the communicative power of Twitter

I am in email contact with something over a dozen members of congress. Our communication goes like this:

Something dire will happen unless I am elected or re-elected. Please send money.

Iterate 20 times.

Pause for two years.

Something dire will happen unless I am elected or re-elected. Please send money.

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New salmon can address myriad problems

Natural fish stocks have been so depleted in the past few decades that more than half of the salmon we consume here in the United States comes to us from “fish farming,” 97 percent of which is imported.  That’s because we consume highly-desirable fish like salmon at least twice as fast as it can reproduce in the wild.

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Developing a more secure smart grid for the nation (Rep. Martin Heinrich)

Last June, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $3.9 billion in Recovery Act funding targeted toward smart grid technologies and investment in electric transmission infrastructure.  As private companies begin the task of implementing a national smart grid, questions about security and vulnerabilities have emerged.  Some analysts have even questioned whether a national smart grid will be more vulnerable to hacking than the current utility grid. 

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Something’s fishy in the FDA

Last week, a number of U.S representatives and senators called on the FDA to re-examine the controversial, flawed approval process it is currently utilizing to determine whether to allow the first genetically engineered food animal to hit the market. The bipartisan efforts, led by Senator Begich (D-Ark.) and Representative DeFazio (D-Ore.), reflect growing public concern over the safety of AquaBounty’s genetically engineered (GE) salmon.

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NASA Bill passes the House by 304-118

The following are reactions to S. 3729, the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which passed in the House on Wednesday on a vote of 304-118.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden

We thank the members of Congress for their thoughtful deliberations about NASA's future over the past months. Both the House and the Senate provided insight, ideas and direction that were truly exemplary of the democratic process. It is clear that our space program inspires passion and dedication across party lines, and for that we are truly thankful.

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The FCC’s opportunity: Unleashing the potential of 'Super Wi-Fi'

The way people watch television, consume news and even shop has been transformed by the Internet. And thanks to Wi-Fi and wireless broadband, consumers are no longer tethered to a desktop computer screen if they want to be entertained or informed. Instead, they can access a wealth of information via their cell phones, laptops, tablets, and numerous other wireless devices. But as people expect limitless connectivity while on the move, the wireless networks we use are coming under increasing strain.

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