Five things Congress could do for music creators that wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is holding hearings on an overhaul of the Copyright Act.  Goodlatte is getting a lot of advice requiring considerable bureaucratic resources.  It would be a missed opportunity to focus on the complex and not see the relatively simple reforms to better the lot of creators.  Here’s  a few ideas that not only could be quickly implemented but also could make a big difference in the lives of music artists and songwriters.


The ACLU's witch hunt against license plate recognition

Back in the 1700’s, places like Salem, Massachusetts got pretty worked-up about witches. Fear and misinformation drove officials to undertake horrible acts. But even Salem’s wacky witch hunters didn’t think it made sense to outlaw the use of brooms, since they couldn’t tell the difference between the household variety and the witches' getaway vehicles.


Put sound policy before technology

There is a battle going on in Washington, D.C., that could have a dramatic impact on the future of the market for all forms of communications services.  At issue is ensuring that the fundamental principles intended to benefit consumers are sustained as networks once again undergo a technology transition – this time to the use of Internet protocol (IP) transmission technology.  Regardless of the technology, any transition should embrace these core policy objectives for consumers, including access to innovative services, greater choice among providers, and lower prices.  However, if these policy objectives are not sustained in an IP-enabled world, the nation’s consumers and businesses are likely to pay more for services and get less in return.


One of the most important changes in mobile policy in nine years: Legalizing cellphone unlocking

As of November 24, 2003, consumers have been given the right to change providers while keeping their wireless number. Since 2007, consumers have also had the right to "unlock" their wireless device.  But the Librarian of Congress recently made a bureaucratic ruling eliminating consumers' right to use their device as they see fit after their contract expires. This Congress is now forced to act to protect the rights of the owners of wireless phones to use them as they choose.

This critical issue affects millions of Americans and ultimately the future of the wireless market.


Digital trade in a post-PRISM world

While much ink has been spilled already on the implications of the National Security Agency’s mass electronic surveillance programs for privacy, civil liberties, and national security, the fallout from PRISM is also likely to have an immediate and lasting negative impact on U.S. economic competitiveness. Not only are the few U.S. companies named on Edward Snowden’s leaked slides suffering reputational harm among consumers around the world because of their court-ordered compliance with government surveillance activities, but entire U.S. industries are facing increased threat of a global backlash from customers who may choose to flee to foreign competitors who are perceived, rightly or wrongly, as keeping data safe from government monitoring. While these threats are most severe to the U.S. technology sector, they extend to many other U.S. industries that handle sensitive information, such as banking, insurance, and health care.


Broadcast spectrum is not the only spectrum available

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee is holding an oversight hearing this week to examine the Federal Communications Commission’s progress in planning its upcoming spectrum incentive auction.  The Commission expects the auction to contribute 120 MHz of broadcast spectrum to the goal of an additional 300 MHz for mobile broadband by 2015 established by the FCC’s National Broadband Plan.


The cable industry – what we don’t see on TV every day

Today we know cable as that essential amenity in our home that keeps us laughing, captivated and informed. It’s the way in which we learn about diverse cultures and people, whether by watching a novela hoping to learn a bit of Spanish, or by watching the Travel Channel to learn about distant lands. But behind the television screen and numerous reality shows that feature the lives of celebrities here in my home state of California exists an industry that stands for so much more than what we see on TV.


Consumers and first responders demand successful spectrum auctions

As America’s mobile innovators feverishly invest tens of billions of dollars in next-generation network infrastructure, and scramble in the meantime to swap, sell and merge broadband assets to meet the skyrocketing demand of consumers for all things wireless, this week’s House Telecom hearing – “Oversight of Incentive Auction Implementation” – is an encouraging signal that when it comes to spectrum, Congress, too, is doing its part to ensure our nation, our economy, and our citizens will not be left short-changed when it comes to our nation’s spectrum requirements.


A competitive wireless market Is good for business and consumers

Tomorrow, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s  Subcommittee on Communications and Technology will conduct a public hearing on the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) upcoming auction of valuable low-band spectrum currently used by television broadcasters, also known as the “incentive auction.”  In a very real way this auction has the potential to determine the future of the wireless marketplace.  It will have a sizeable impact on consumers’ ability to receive innovative services at affordable prices, and its revenues will help fund an advanced communications network for our nation’s first responders.