Surf and turf wars in Silicon Valley

At first blush, the event held by Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy entitled “The Broadband Technology Explosion: Rethinking Communications Policy for a Mobile Broadband World” could have easily seemed like a wonk fest for public policy nerds.


GAO report on economic impact from IP theft underwhelms

On Tuesday, July 9, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released testimony it provided to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations regarding Insights Gained from Efforts to Quantify the Effects of Counterfeit and Pirated Goods in the U.S. Economy. While the testimony did attest to the importance of intellectual property (IP) to the U.S. economy and did point to the challenges inherent in producing accurate estimates of the impact of counterfeit and pirated goods, it was rather surprising that the testimony did not point to the valiant work of organizations like the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and the IP Commission report to do precisely that.


Promoting US invention; Aiming high in innovation

Twenty-five years ago, almost to the day, engineers from a small Silicon Valley start-up filed their first patent application.  Patent No. 5,088,032, entitled “Method and apparatus for routing communications among computer networks,” was ultimately issued in 1992, and provided foundational capability for the interior gateway routing that enables the Internet as we know it.  The company was Cisco, which this month becomes one of only a handful of American companies to be awarded its 10,000th U.S. patent.


Banning bidders from spectrum auctions doesn’t make sense

Making government policy is not like Little League soccer. Robust competition is a hallmark of our nation, but giving everybody a chance to play shouldn’t mean keeping the most capable players off the field when we need them most.  As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) develops the rules for upcoming spectrum auctions, including the big telecom players will raise the most money and allocate much-needed spectrum to its most efficient uses.


Navigating the airspace of the future

The U.S. general aviation community, which is defined as all non-military and non-commercial aircraft, logs almost 25 million hours in the air each year. With our nation’s air traffic expected to double by 2031, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is working to ensure it can handle the increased workload.


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.


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.


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.


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.