Address the patent trolls, but don't ignore the patent evaders

There’s been a tremendous amount of discussion about the allegedly negative effects of “patent trolls.” While this may or may not be a real issue it has attracted considerable attention, resulting in a significant amount of anti-patent rhetoric from some in Washington, including the highest levels of government. Unfortunately, this torrent of patent system bashing has done little in terms of proposing fair and balanced means of addressing the perceived problems while protecting true innovation. Worse, the one-sided patent dialogue has served to embolden companies, many of them foreign-based, that knowingly appropriate American innovation yet refuse to license technologies and patents under any circumstance.


The national broadband goal: A technology upgrade that leaves no one behind

America’s Internet infrastructure is undergoing an historic upgrade to faster and more efficient technologies for delivering all those bits and bytes we so voraciously consume.   For most Americans, the upgrades are old news.  They have embraced broadband connectivity and are experiencing all of the worthwhile benefits that that brings.   But those coming late to the Internet or who are still dependent on their traditional landline for keeping in touch, the move to an all IP infrastructure to support their phone or broadband connection may loom as an unsettling eventuality.   For these consumers (perhaps just a quarter of the population), service providers and policymakers must find a way to minimize their fears and address their concerns.


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.