What the Senate needs to ask Tom Wheeler

The nomination of Thomas E. Wheeler, longtime president and CEO of the Cellular Telecom and Internet Association, to head the Federal Communications Commission has produced predictable bursts of praise and criticism. Both sides make some valid points, but the simple truth is that we don’t know where Wheeler stands on some of the most critical issues the FCC will face in the coming years — issues that will have a huge impact on consumers.


The math on distraction argues for a shift in strategy

This week, scores of surgeons are visiting Capitol Hill, and the Auto Alliance is pleased to join them in supporting “Decide to Drive,” a campaign to help reduce distracted driving. Their timing is perfect, because we have arrived at a crucial crossroads in addressing distracted driving.
Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released guidelines for reducing distracted driving that articulate a perfectly calibrated goal -- one with which automakers agree. That goal is to get drivers to connect their phones to the integrated, built-in systems in vehicles -- systems increasingly operated by voice commands -- so drivers can keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.


Restricting Lifeline program funding won't make it more efficient

If you’ve watched certain YouTube videos or heard statements from a number of Republican members during last week’s House Subcommittee hearing, you might think the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program is enabling rampant abuse of taxpayer funds by the poor to collect stockpiles of free cell phones.   

It would be wrong thinking, as the most egregious abusers of the program have been opportunistic private companies, not the vast majority of low-income households that rely on the program for discounted basic phone service.


To network the nation, go back to the future

A little less than two decades ago, in a bid to stoke competition and create more choices for consumers, Congress rewrote the law that governed telephone and cable TV communication. It was a difficult, bipartisan, multi-year effort as we weighed the advice of policy experts, listened to competitors’ concerns and looked for the best way to serve consumers. That focus and a lot of hard work created a landmark accomplishment that stimulated competition and consumer choice in the local telephone, long-distance and cable television markets.


The Marketplace Fairness Act is nothing more than a 'convenience tax'

In classic Beltway fashion, the government has introduced a bill to pick winners and losers in the marketplace with a name implying the exact opposite. The Marketplace Fairness Act, introduced by Senators Michael Enzi (R–Wyo.), Dick Durbin (D–Ill.) and Lamar Alexander (R–Tenn.), would force online stores to collect sales taxes on behalf of other states, regardless of the web company’s physical location.
Under current law, states can only collect taxes from businesses that have a physical presence in the state. Buyers are supposed to track their own purchases and pay a “use tax” to their state at the end of the year. However, states rarely enforce payment of the tax, since most buyers don’t even know about this requirement.


US must impose moratorium and seek global ban on killer robots

Representatives of some of world’s most respected human rights and humanitarian organizations are gathering in London today to launch the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. “We’re serious,” says the tagline of their Twitter feed, anticipating potential disbelief. 

Indeed, a future of proliferating autonomous armed robots able to chase down, select and fire on human beings is closer to reality than we might like to think.


Data Breach Report Highlights Need for Cyber Policies

This week Verizon released the 2013 Data Breach Investigations Report, its sixth comprehensive annual report of the state of cybersecurity.  The DBIR adds important factual information to the increasingly public debate over the consumer privacy, national security and economic issues around cyber crime and how to prevent it. 


Apple's missed opportunities for alliances with government and academia

Apple appears to be a company in crisis as the stock closed at $392.05 Thursday, down a whopping 44% from its lofty heights in late September 2012. The only people happy about this move are the short sellers who are having a field day. Many have forgotten how fickle consumers can be about technology and brand loyalty is incredibly difficult to sustain. Michael Dell can attest to that.

There have been ominous signs of trouble for some time now though. Leap Wireless and their Cricket brand made a huge gamble with their purchasing commitment for $900 million of iPhones but consumer demand has been soft for the iPhone 5 and the company is likely to lose millions. Consumers have simply decided that the differences between their iPhone 4S and a newer model are rather insignificant or that better deals are to be had with the popular Samsung Galaxy line, which reached a milestone of 100 million units sold by the end of last year.

So where did it all go wrong for a cash-rich company with so many Apple converts worldwide? A recent apology by Apple CEO, Tim Cook, to China, was indicative of Apple’s recent frustration with slowing sales and perhaps missed opportunities in the most rapidly expanding nation. Business penetration has been extremely lacking, which is quite surprising given the superiority of their server technologies. Moreover, in terms of security, the iPhone is arguable superior to just about any Android smartphone and the latest encryption technologies found on Macs can stand up to just about any computer.


Lost and found in cyberspace

In case you've been in a cave for a while, there is a fair amount of (not unreasonable) anxiety these days about rules of the road for cyberspace. Controversial topics include: privacy for electronic records, location tagging of devices, tracking Internet history for online advertising, mining of "big data" for all sorts of business, government and research purposes, perpetuating "too much information" on social media, remote computing and storage in "the Cloud," transferring personal data across international borders, hacking for all sorts of nefarious purposes, denial of service attacks against major financial institutions, monitoring communications for law enforcement and national security, and commanding cybersecurity protections for critical networks and company secrets. And all of that before we even have ubiquitous deployment of powerful facial recognition technology, omnipresent domestic drones, pervasive online gambling, powerful computing eyewear, and of course the next new thing.