Wheeler not only has to manage an enormously complex spectrum auction next year, he faces two huge policy debates: the battle over net neutrality and the ramifications of the telecom industry’s transition to IP.
[qi:105] Hey Comcast, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski has two words for you: network neutrality.
Actually he has more than two words. In an interview with TheHill.com, Chairman Genachowski said, “One thing I would say so that there is no confusion out there is that this FCC will support net neutrality and will enforce any violation of net neutrality principles.” The statement seems to be a direct answer to Comcast, which has questioned the legality of the FCC’s enforcement of network neutrality.
Comcast has filed an appeal of an FCC decision issued last August that rapped the broadband service provider on the knuckles for blocking P2P files using a special type of network management techniques. Comcast doesn’t believe the FCC has the authority when it comes to enforcing network neutrality. The FCC has until Sept. 21 to respond.
Chairman Genachowski told the Congress Daily that his general counsel, Austin Schlick, was “focusing on what exactly the right strategy is” in this fight with Comcast. He also told the publication that even though the FCC is focused on the National Broadband Stimulus, network neutrality remains a top priority.
Frank, one of our readers, noticed that lately I’ve been thinking about replacing my first-generation iPhone. He shot me a link to the BBC site, where they’ve uncovered a top-secret phone project. My curiosity got the better of me, plus I haven’t met a link that I couldn’t click…aside from obvious spam and scams, that is. Color me impressed with the video I saw.
The phone itself isn’t a looker although it reminds me of an iPod, but the interaction features are interesting. Created by a company that specializes in creating military equipment, the Zumba Lumba phone is two pieces: a think handset for the guts and a rather large earpiece that fits over your ear. The innovation here is that you don’t use the handset for much other than the processing and voice bits. Interaction is done by voice with the earpiece. Receive a text message and the phone will whisper it in your year. Want to respond via text message? Simply press a button and speak your message.
Your contacts aren’t even stored on the phone. They’re managed online and the phone grabs the data it needs when required. Dean McEvoy, the company CEO, says the phone is useless to anyone else if you lose it. I’m assuming that’s because there’s little to no data on the phone and it can’t make calls without your authorization. It probably won’t be out when I’m ready for a new handset, but the text-to-speech bit sounds incredible. For now, I’ll have to stick with using the free Melodis Dialer on my iPhone, which is amazingly accurate, but doesn’t let me compose a text message by speech. Thanks Frank!
BusinessWeek today has a short list of the people being considered to head up the Federal Communications Commission. The decision as to who will be appointed FCC Chair is a critical one, for in coming years the country faces some major issues that will need to be addressed head on — not from a corporate, but from a citizen perspective, including Network Neutrality, the availability of broadband, telecom competition and privacy. Among those in the running are:
- Julia Johnson: Florida consultant and chairperson of the Video Access Alliance who also sits on the board of the networks builder MasTec (s mtz).
- Mignon Clyburn: Commissioner for the Public Service Commission of South Carolina and daughter of House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.
- Blair Levin: Managing director at investment firm Stifel Nicolaus and former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt’s chief of staff.
- Scott Blake Harris: Managing partner with law firm Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, where he has represented technology and telecom companies.
- Larry Strickling: Currently works for policy think tank Aspen Institute, a Harvard Law School grad, and previously worked for Broadwing, which was acquired by Level 3 (s lvlt).
The Obama team is taking recommendations from former FCC Chairmen Bill Kennard and Reed Hundt, along with Henry Rivera, a lawyer who works for the law firm Wiley Rein and represents companies including AT&T (s T), Verizon (s vz), Viacom (s via.b) and Sirius Satellite Radio (s siri).
Those three folks, with their links to powerful communication companies, represent the old guard. And that is why I am really scared that we might be getting yet another ineffectual, bureaucratic FCC chair who puts special interests ahead of taxpayer needs. Current Chairman Kevin Martin just happens to be one of the more disappointing of the bunch.
If I had to pick from the above-mentioned short list, Levin and Strickling would be on my short list of candidates. Nevertheless, President-elect Obama should look outside the beltway and find someone who truly represents the taxpayers.
Tom Evslin, who is a retired telecom executive, is the kind of person I would expect to be in the FCC. He knows the machinations of the big companies and at the same time is an Internet liberal who can keep broadband providers and their anti-consumer tricks under check.
Who would you like to see named as chair?
FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has recently taken up a populist and politically lucrative crusade against Comcast and its nefarious efforts to block certain kinds of traffic. But this is nothing more than a diversionary tactic, one aimed at taking attention away from the service providers’ implementation of metered broadband.