Technology

Our national broadband strategy: Wireless déjà vu?

The national broadband strategy articulated by the President is a good news/bad news sort of déjà vu for those of us who were on the front lines of municipal WiFi’s surge and eventual flame out. At least the bad news part is correctable if both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue learn one valuable lesson from 2006.

The good news is that the President clearly understands the vital impact broadband can have on economic development. When integrated with appropriate existing programs such as urban enterprise zones, SCORE and local economic gardening, broadband indeed helps make businesses more competitive, enables telemedicine advances and transforms education and worker training. 

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Social media as a strategic weapon

Austin, Texas - An analysis by the Global Language Monitor has found that a new weapon has recently been detected in the world's strategic arsenal.

To  the uninitiated, it might appear to be part neutron bomb, which destroys only living things with little collateral damage, part some as yet unidentified weapon, which has the ability topple dictators, regimes and unsuspecting governments while rendering both living things and physical structures unharmed.

We are speaking, of course, about Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.), which have the apparent ability to re-align the social order in real time, with little or no advanced warning.

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Consumers deserve affordable access to wireless networks

Right now, there’s a strong chance that you’re reading this on your smartphone or laptop while connected to the Internet through a wireless network. But not everyone is that fortunate. In fact, it may surprise you that a third of households in this country don’t have access to high-speed Internet. That’s why Consumers Union was pleased to hear President Obama’s commitment that 98 percent of Americans will have access to wireless broadband in the next five years.

For Americans who have access to broadband now, it is hard to imagine how to navigate the 21st century without it. Jobs, education, communication and innovation now all rely on high speed Internet access. And as the President said, this is about more than faster Internet and digital trends. It’s about opportunity, and giving every American access to these opportunities through high speed wireless networks.

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Stop government from regulating the Internet

Washington has taken over the banks, health care, the college loan industry and now it is targeting the Internet.

The private sector has invested $700 billion into developing the Internet as we know it today. Private companies have transformed it from a dial-up phone technology into an instrument that can share information in real time throughout the world, with no wires attached. 

The development of the Internet has been one of the greatest success stories in recent history – accounting for one-sixth of the U.S. economy – because it has been allowed to grow without taxes and Washington regulations. Access to information has exploded, prices continue to plummet and new innovations continue to evolve exponentially.

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Aviation infrastructure is vital to winning the future

In his State of the Union address, President Obama focused the nation’s attention on the economic importance of investing in infrastructure. America can win the future, and successfully compete against emerging powers such as China if we transform our economy with modern technology and infrastructure.

As Congress moves forward with the reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), lawmakers have an opportunity to pass a jobs bill that will enhance the global competitiveness of the U.S. economy. It is vital that our government better utilize aviation policy to fuel economic growth, mindful that our competitors are effectively using commercial aviation to further their national ambitions.

The growth markets of the world understand how commercial aviation can transform an economy and they are investing accordingly. Just a few weeks ago, China announced plans to pour a total of 1.5 trillion Yuan, roughly $228 billion, into its aviation sector over the next five years, including the construction of 11 new commercial airports and the acquisition of 290 new planes in 2011 alone.

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FCC poised to tackle dated regulations

For too long, we've been told that when it comes to the size and role of government, Democrats want it bigger and Republicans want smaller. Although oversimplified stereotypes like these make good headlines and cable show talking points, what the American public really wants and deserves is smarter government. Fortunately for us all, President Obama does as well.

During his State of the Union address, the President called on government agencies to revisit and repeal unnecessary and outdated regulations that are stifling economic growth and innovation. In this case, smart government happens to be even smarter politics. 

Considering that broadband is an amazing growth engine for our economy, it's no surprise that Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the FCC, will be one of the first to answer the President's call to action at the FCC meeting February 8. 

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Public broadcasting is critical to our democracy (Rep. Earl Blumenauer)


Every month, more than 170 million Americans have their lives enriched by tuning in or logging online to public radio and television stations. These local stations serve every major city and many small towns in America.  In many rural areas, they are the only source of free and high-quality local, national and international news, children’s shows, music and cultural programming.  Public broadcasters employ more than 17,000 people, providing family-wage jobs in every state.

Once broadcast and print journalism was local, but today that era is over.  A few giant, private companies dominate.  Public broadcasting is one of the few remaining journalistic institutions organized around and rooted in local communities.   There are over 9,000 local board members to assure community interests are reflected in programming. 

Local newspapers are shuttering their doors at an unprecedented rate, and national broadcasting networks are cutting back, making federal funding for public broadcasting more important than ever.  As most news sources are downsizing – if not closing – their foreign bureaus, leaving one person to cover all of Russia, public broadcasting is one of a handful of sources able to provide original content and news from abroad.

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The FCC: Censors, regulators and snoopers

These are busy times for the Federal Communications Commission. President Obama’s law school classmate, Julius Genachowski, managed to regulate the Internet, defying Congress and a unanimous holding from the D.C. Circuit.  The FCC also lost their longstanding indecency feud with NYPD Blue.  (Lesson: Dennis Franz always wins.) Now that the FCC has decided to take its talents to cyberspace, all one billion gigabytes of it, they’ve announced a new effort to entice Americans to develop apps to help the Commission monitor Internet providers.

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Why ruin really necessary cybersecurity legislation with a really bad idea?

A recent white paper written under the auspices of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), asserts that the federal government should disregard existing professional cybersecurity certifications in favor of supposedly more advanced ones that test both knowledge and skills, and even goes so far as to claim that existing certifications are wasting scarce resources. 

Talk about an absurd notion, and one that certainly does not need to be legislated. Let’s take it apart bit by bit.  

First, cybersecurity professionalization involves far more than technical knowledge. Moreover, it is a field that is changing and growing more rapidly than any other field involving federal employees, with the possible exception of healthcare. Yet, the Office of Personnel Management has not seen fit to create a job specialty series for the cybersecurity workforce, or otherwise to determine the knowledge, skills and abilities, or the career path for these professionals. The principal authors of the white paper are two former Office of Management and Budget officials who, during their tenure inside the government, could have easily moved OPM in the right direction to create a series for the cybersecurity professional.

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The federal pat-down of the Internet (Rep. Mary Bono Mack)

With so many Americans rightly focused on jobs and the economy, it is very possible that many people are unaware of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) scheme to impose a number of burdensome government regulations on the Internet. The move - while bad for consumers, innovation and investment - is not surprising because it is the fulfillment of a campaign promise made by President Barack Obama in 2008. Never mind that the Internet is a bright spot for our struggling economy and functioning just fine without what amounts to a federal pat-down of the inner workings of the Internet.

Federal regulation of the Internet, also known as network neutrality, has been seen as the holy grail for the media regulation obsessed left-wing special interest groups like Moveon.org, Free Press and George Soros's Open Society Institute for the latter half of the past decade. And with these and other special interests to satisfy going into a Presidential Election, it really does not matter that only 21 percent of Americans support federal regulation of the Internet over the free market or that these regulations will deter capital investment which create private sector jobs. Despite promises to change how Washington works, this is special interest policy-making 101 and to the Obama administration's FCC all other facts are seen as inconvenient truths.

Sadly, this is not the FCC's first attempt to regulate the Internet. For years, my colleagues and I - primarily Republicans but also some Democrats - have introduced legislation and written to the FCC asking the commission to cease attempts to regulate the Internet unless given the clear authority to do so by Congress. The message in our correspondence to the FCC was crystal clear: Members of Congress do not believe you have the current legal authority to regulate the Internet, therefore, do not act. Like too many other out of control Washington agencies, the FCC did not listen. In 2008, FCC bureaucrats attempted to extend their regulatory tentacles beyond the authority granted by Congress and were stopped cold by a court ruling earlier this year. Unfortunately, like teenagers determined to out-game an authority figure, the FCC was determined to prove it knew best. And so, here we are once again confronted with another big-government plan to regulate a vibrant component of our nation’s commerce.

At its core, the FCC’s plan to regulate the Internet will force businesses and people to check first with the government and get permission to innovate. Under this regime the FCC, not the free market, would determine what can be done online and what should be given priority. That’s right, an unaccountable FCC, which meets with special interests in private, will be able to craft rules to benefit politically favored companies that can afford expensive law firms so that they can gain competitive advantages. Are you angry? You should be.

As the Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell who staunchly opposes the FCC’s regulation of the Internet stated the following:

"Litigation will supplant innovation. Instead of investing in tomorrow’s technologies, precious capital will be diverted to pay lawyers’ fees. The era of Internet regulatory arbitrage has dawned."

But, all is not lost. Fortunately, we have the United States Constitution on our side. As a government agency the FCC is not elected by the people - Congress is. And, as our Constitution points out, the authority to makes laws is only granted to the elected representatives of the American people, i.e. Congress, not the politically appointed FCC. As such, my colleagues and I will introduce legislation next Congress to undo this regulatory power grab by the FCC.

Unfortunately, each minute we spend reining-in out of touch bureaucrats who have never created a job in their lives is one less minute we spend focusing on getting our economy back on track and putting more Americans back to work.

The American people should reject this power-grab and demand that government get out of the business of picking winners and losers when it comes to the Internet. As a member of Congress serving on the Committee with oversight of the FCC, that is what I will continue to do until this poorly conceived plan is abandoned once and for all.

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