OVERNIGHT TECH: FCC issues wireless report

THE LEDE: The Federal Communications Commission's Wireless Bureau released its 15th annual report on wireless competition, in which the FCC, for the second straight year, did not issue an opinion on whether the market is effectively competitive. Instead, the report attempts to quantify the current state of various aspects of the wireless industry, such as the percentage of the population with access to four or more wireless providers. The commission's failure to take a stand on the issue appears to be a letdown for stakeholders on both sides.

“Like last year’s report, the 15th Mobile Wireless Competition Report does not reach an overly simplistic yes-no conclusion on the state of competition in the complex mobile services marketplace," said Neil Grace, press secretary for Chairman Julius Genachowski. "Instead, the Report uses updated data to provide information on trends in competition and choice over time — an approach that fits best with the role of the FCC as a fact-based, data-driven agency responsible for promoting competition and protecting consumers.”

Reactions:

"I cannot ignore some of the darkening clouds over the state of mobile competition. The headline for this Report will be that the FCC neither finds nor does not find effective competition. Dig deeper and, sure enough, we find ongoing trends of industry consolidation." — Democratic FCC Commissioner Michael Copps

"Bringing the benefits of mobile broadband to rural America is an important priority. At the same time, given these examples of good news, we all should tread cautiously lest we jeopardize the compelling consumer benefits associated with the ongoing rollout of mobile broadband services." — Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell

"Our competitors aren’t just other wireless-network providers, as this report seems to indicate. Today wireless competition comes from cable companies; Wi-Fi and satellite service providers; handset, tablet and laptop manufacturers; operating system and application designers, and many others. All these players both compete against each other and partner, driving innovation and giving consumers more choices and lower prices in the wireless market." — Kathleen Grillo, Verizon senior vice president of federal regulatory relations

"While CTIA again wishes they would have concluded effective competition existed in 2009, consumers clearly enjoyed more advanced handsets, an ever-expanding range of services and applications and more robust networks, even as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that prices decreased." — Steve Largent, president of CTIA-The Wireless Association.

Supreme Court tosses violent video game ban: The Supreme Court struck down a California law Monday that banned the sale of violent video games to minors, ruling video games are protected under the First Amendment as free speech. The court reached a decision in Brown v. the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) by a vote of 7-2, with Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer dissenting. Writing for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the law would have created a new class of regulations for content aimed at children and noted there is no tradition of limiting children's exposure to violent, as opposed to sexual, content.

Justice Alito argued in a concurring opinion that playing violent video games doesn't affect children any more than reading violent literature. However, Justice Thomas claimed speech to minors without their parents' consent was originally intended as an exception to the First Amendment by the Founders. Justice Breyer wrote that it makes little sense to prevent youth from accessing pornography and still allow them to play games depicting graphic violence. The entertainment industry cheered the announcement, while parents groups such as the Parents TV Council were disappointed.

Court will review FCC's indecency policy: The Supreme Court said Monday it will review a lower court ruling that struck down the Federal Communications Commission's ability to regulate broadcast airwaves for indecency. A federal appeals court tossed the FCC's policy of fining broadcasters for expletives uttered on live television last July, arguing it was unconstitutionally vague and could lead to self-censorship by broadcasters. The FCC subsequently acknowledged the lower court's decision would prevent the commission from enforcing its indecency policy even in cases of scripted rather than fleeting profanity or nudity.

On Tap Tuesday:

White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt will discuss the government's plan to secure private-sector networks at the ISACA's World Congress for IT Professionals at the National Harbor in Maryland. Schmidt will likely discuss the Obama administration's proposed cybersecurity plan, which was released last month.

The Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project will host a forum on the role of innovation in promoting economic growth Tuesday morning at the Liaison Hotel on Capitol Hill. Federal CTO Aneesh Chopra, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs administrator Cass Sunstein are among the speakers.

The FCC's Wireless Bureau will hold a forum on location-based services featuring representatives from Foursquare, Facebook and Google. The forum comes amid growing concern among lawmakers about how carriers use and share consumers' location data; Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced a location privacy bill earlier this month.

Google gets most data requests from U.S. government: The U.S. government made more than twice as many requests for user data from Google as any other nation over the last six months of 2010, the search giant said Monday. Google received 4,601 requests from the U.S. government to hand over user data between July and December of last year and complied with 94 percent of them, according to a transparency report. Brazil and India were second and third with 1,804 and 1,699 requests, respectively.