Telcos Will See a More Activist Congress

Congressional Committee moves yesterday could herald more regulation for telecommunications firms from issues ranging from rural access to net neutrality. Yesterday Rep. Henry Waxman ascended to the head of the Senate Commerce Committee, which began an investigation into how web firms use a consumer’s data.

Broadband Bill Needs Signature and Funding

The recent bill dedicated to improving the nation’s broadband profile has passed the Senate — albeit with a few changes to render it less problematic for telecom companies. The modified version of the Broadband Data Improvement Act that is now before President Bush is aimed at gathering better data on actual broadband speeds offered to citizens, but is pretty weak when it comes to gathering detailed competition and broadband penetration data. Read More about Broadband Bill Needs Signature and Funding

Congress Bickers, Solar Stocks Crumble

The failed passage of a financial bailout bill has taken a harsh toll on most corners of the stock market, but few sectors saw steeper one-day declines Monday than solar stocks. That’s largely because there was a second piece of bad news coming from Congress that had special meaning for the solar industry.

Much like the bailout debacle, the House of Representatives and the Senate can’t find agreement on how to extend energy tax credits that are key to a more mainstream embracing of solar panels among businesses and homeowners. Incentives such as tax credits and subsidies are crucial to lowering the costs of solar power to make it competitive enough to reach a large scale.

The perception that Congress had been dragging its feet was a big factor in driving down solar-stock prices this year. Now legislators are taking action, but the arguing and sniping from both houses is threatening to delay a bill possibly into early 2009. More details on the political deadlock can be found at Congressional Quarterly and Bloomberg.
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Senate OKs $25B Bailout for Greener Detroit

Working through the weekend, Congress approved a $25 billion aid package for America’s sputtering auto industry. On Saturday, the Senate voted 78 to 12 to pass the auto bailout plan, which the House had passed earlier in the week. The President is expected to sign the bill into law this week. The bill kicks off with $7.5 billion in tax payer money from the Department of Energy in low-interest loans to help the auto industry, predominantly the Big Three, retool to make more fuel efficient cars.

These loans have been a long time coming. The program was actually written into law in last year’s energy bill aimed at helping automakers meet the new fuel efficiency standards of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The legislation passed over the weekend finally approved the appropriations to fund the program. The DOE now has 60 days to map out the details, but the DOE thinks it will likely take at least 18 months before GM, Ford, and Chrysler get the money.

Presidential hopefuls Obama and McCain have already voiced their support of the loan program. Obama has said throughout his campaign that as president he would work to help Detroit get out the mess it made for itself. His plan included $4 billion in loans and tax credits to car makers for factory retooling. But already Detroit is lobbying for another $25 billion in aid. How’s that story go about when you give a mouse an industry a cookie bailout?

F|R Crib Sheet: A Digital Hack to Trim Your Startup Legal Fees

When I began my career in corporate law 10 years ago, I was floored by the amount of time, money and paper consumed during the closing process of a business transaction. Every deal produces multiple sets of original documents and signature pages, so each party (and sometimes their lawyers, too) can end up with a bound volume containing a full record of everything, just for safe-keeping.

I recently worked on a financing for a young tech company that involved parties in Washington, Paris, San Francisco and Santa Clara, Calif. When the terms were finalized, I assembled the relevant documents and signatures, fed them into a scanner and sent the parties a digital PDF of the deal record. But one party decided they wanted a complete set of originals for their records. So after waiting days for more signature pages to arrive from France, we reassembled everything and physically shipped out a much thicker version in hard copy.

A financing like this one typically costs about $15,000 in legal fees. I’d estimate that the extra documentation and billable attorneys’ hours added another $1,000 to my client’s tab, for zero legal benefit.

Startups, especially those that are bootstrapping, are heavily burdened by such legal costs. The good news is that it’s getting easier, and more acceptable, to use scanned signatures for your transaction documentation. Doing this can save your startup a lot of pain – and thousands of dollars. Read More about F|R Crib Sheet: A Digital Hack to Trim Your Startup Legal Fees

This Week’s Net Neutrality Cheat Sheet

It’s Friday. The weekend everyone’s been working for is here. The last thing you want to read about is proposed Net Neutrality legislation making its way through Congress. But there were two developments on that front this week that you should at least be aware of, so to make it easier for you, we created this handy-dandy chart.

Bill Title Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008 (H.R. 5353) Internet Freedom and Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (H.R. 5994)
Sponsor Rep. Edward Markey (D.-Mass) Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Zoe Lofgen (R-Ca.)
Tactic Authorize the FCC to monitor broadband network operators. Uses antitrust laws to keep broadband network operators in line.
Concerns House committee split along party lines. Republicans fear FCC will over-regulate. Antitrust suits can be drawn out and expensive.

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Startup Vidoop Has A Plan To Monetize User Logins

Protecting your customers’ private information has always been a pain. Data security is just hard to provide, and thanks to hackers, even harder to protect. Web 2.0 and social networking have only made things worse, providing more opportunities for a breach every hour.
Yet web security has long been a last vestige of innovation in the software space, and for one very good reason: there was never any money in it.
But that may be about to change. A one-and-a-half-year-old startup based in Tulsa, Okla., called Vidoop claims it has a business plan — and the technology — to actually make money off user logins.
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