Broadcast blackouts – where are we with reform efforts?

The threat of TV blackouts is never welcome news. For the millions of consumers unlucky enough to have had to worry about their favorite shows going dark, or actually losing their signals, the problem is not only real but frustrating and inconvenient. So what’s being done about it?

Blackouts occur when video distributors (such as cable, satellite and telephone companies) are unable to reach agreement with television stations over “retransmission consent” fees. These disputes frequently blow up into public relations battles with each side blaming the other and consumers getting caught in the middle. At worst, TV stations pull the plug and their channels go dark for days and sometimes weeks.

Why is this happening? Broadcasters say it’s because they need more money to pay for programming, so they have to charge higher rates. Program distributors say it’s because broadcasters have the incentive and ability to play hardball, since there is usually more than one distributor in each local market to keep carrying the station. We see it happen in large markets and small ones. 


The cloud is transforming Washington

When President Obama hosts his first Twitter town hall meeting Wednesday, it will mark the latest chapter in Washington’s migration to the Internet-based technologies already fully embraced by Americans beyond the beltway. Cloud computing, in particular, is transforming the way business gets done in Washington, and platforms like Facebook and Twitter are key to understanding voter concerns on hot-button issues like the economy, national security, health care and education.  

Over the past half-decade, social media has redefined the way government conducts its daily business. Cloud computing -- services and platforms delivered over the Internet (Facebook, Google, and Twitter are all examples) -- has become more powerful with the broad adoption of high-speed broadband. Stories about building movements, streamlining operations, recruiting followers and launching interactive Web platforms — once the stuff of front page news — have, for the most part, become routine. Stated simply, the cloud is now the most efficient way for government officials to collaborate, broadcast messages (an almost unbelievable 94 percent of all people engaged by an online political message watched it in full according to one recent survey) and directly source ideas that form the basis of public policy.


Stem cell bill ignores patients and real science

The reintroduction of a bill for federal taxpayer support of human embryonic stem cell research by U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), will waste taxpayer funds on unworthy science and possibly delay cures for patients. While the text of the bill isn’t yet available at this writing, sources say it will be close or identical to her previous offering in the 111th Congress.

The bill’s purpose supposedly is to codify the Obama administration’s 2009 liberalized policy of federal funding for human embryonic stem cells. However, it lays out a policy that is neither ethically responsible nor scientifically worthy, including authorizing funds for the cloning (by somatic cell nuclear transfer) of human embryos for experiments.


Reputation in the modern world

Today, the important discussion about online privacy continues with the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on how best to protect consumers’ privacy in the modern world. Intel has worked hard to understand what consumers want out of technology and why.

We consistently hear that consumers have different ideas about what information deserves to be private. Consumers want to control information that is important to them, specifically information that shapes their online reputations and their families, friends, and work colleagues. People want to be able to choose what, when, and with whom to share certain information. After having made choices about how to protect this information, they do not want to be surprised by how the data will be used. By exercising control over their information, consumers aim to manage their reputation and to protect those they care about.


AT&T and T-Mobile merger would foster competition

It’s unsurprising to watch foes of the free market calling on Congress and federal agencies to block or heavily regulate the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile. They point to the pre-1980s telephone monopoly era, claiming a lack of competition and stagnated innovation are poised to return. Yet, while they demand government block or lob conditions on the merger, they fail entirely to recall that it was government which caused those mid-20th century problems – not the free market.

Prior to Ronald Reagan’s presidency, a single company controlled virtually the entire nation’s telephone service under the protection and de facto authority of the federal government. Beginning in 1934, AT&T was a government-sanctioned and heavily regulated monopoly. The Federal Communications Commission didn’t just regulate service and prices, but actively took steps to prevent competition. And thanks to this level of government involvement, there was very little advancement of technology.


Getting illegal bus companies off the road

When a passenger steps on board a bus to begin a trip, they need to know that the bus they are on is safe and in good working order, the driver has met all the current certifications and the bus company is reputable and operates within the law.

On June 13, I, along with Federal Motor Coach Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro and three others, testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee about ways to make bus travel safer. We at the American Bus Association are working closely with members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the Senate Commerce Committee, the FMCSA and all other interested parties as Congress continues its work on the new, six-year transportation reauthorization bill.


Agriculture’s real challenge

We have it pretty good in America. When we're hungry, we can run to the nearest restaurant or grocery store for our favorite burger or salad. When we need a snack we head to the neighborhood convenience store on the corner. We live in a country where we enjoy the safest, most abundant and affordable food supply in the world, right at our fingertips.

Our ability to largely find what we want, when we want it is in large part due to the hard work and innovation of America's farmers, ranchers and growers. Today, each agriculture producer is responsible for supplying food for more than 150 people. That's a modern miracle many of us take for granted. However, there's more for them to do.


Expanded wireless broadband: A necessity for rural America

This week, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association was in Washington to discuss policy issues of utmost importance to the communities across the country it represents. This included delivering support for policies that can accelerate adoption of the potential social and business benefits advanced mobile broadband networks will bring to rural and harder-to-reach areas across the nation.
Our nation’s ranchers and farmers rely on modern technology. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone as we’ve been tasked with the role of helping to feed a growing world. We don’t take that challenge lightly, and technology helps achieve the efficiencies necessary to fulfill that goal.


Television for the 21st century

Eyes were wide when television was unveiled at the 1939 World’s Fair. Incredulous onlookers were so suspicious of the technology that a glass TV set had to be constructed, an attempt to convince skeptics that the product was not a hoax. But the awestruck were right to be wary. Social upheaval was soon to follow.

Television signals traveled the path then efficient: terrestrial broadcasting. That drew in regulators to supervise airwave use. They seized the opportunity to police not simply the mundane conflicts of overlapping emissions, but to design the market. The TV Allocation Table of 1952 defined a paradox: huge bandwidth was set aside for broadcasting, but very few licenses were issued. Competitive forces were quashed. Indeed, when a fledgling fourth national broadcast network - DuMont - challenged NBC, CBS and ABC, it was extinguished by 1955. Cause of death: regulation.  


Embracing the new media landscape

Twenty years ago, if you wanted to contact your member of Congress, you mailed them a letter or picked up your home phone and called their office. Today you can send a text from your mobile phone or an email from your iPad. In a little over a decade, the Internet has revolutionized the relationship between elected representatives and their constituents. Now, almost every member has a “digital office” and online presence with virtual office hours to serve constituents around the clock.