PK Weekly Recap 12/5/11

On the Monday following the long Thanksgiving holiday, during which AT&T filed a motion to withdraw its application to acquire T-Mobile with the FCC, we at Public Knowledge accused AT&T of gamesmanship by attempting to prevent the results of the FCC's inquiry into the merger from seeing the light of day. On Tuesday afternoon, the FCC allowed AT&T to withdraw its application, but also released a staff report detailing its findings.

A quick overview of the FCC staff report's findings is here.

Then, on Thursday, AT&T's chef lobbyist Jim Cicconi complained about the FCC's treatment of his company and declared that the report, written by expert staff, "lacks all credibility."

The melodrama surrounding the AT&T/T-Mobile merger got so out of hand last week that legal director Harold Feld compared it to a telecom telenovela.

"SOPA" and "PIPA", the rogue website bills currently being debated in Congress, continued to be in the limelight last week as well. Both bills jeopardize online community platforms and innovation, set a bad example for internet censorship globally, and threaten security online. Public Knowledge is part of a broad coalition of organizations dedicated to bringing these serious issues to the forefront of policymakers' minds. If you haven't taken action by contacting your Members of Congress, do so now! For a comparison of the two bills, read PIPA v SOPA; for a deep dive on the reality of online piracy, check out Playing with Numbers: Why SOPA Still Won't Solve Internet Piracy.

In other news, we filed comments with the Copyright Office on Thursday, asking that consumers be allowed to copy DVDs they own onto other devices. Right now, it is illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to break the digital lock on digital content, whether the use itself is lawful or not. There is a process at the Copyright Office to petition for exemptions to this rule every three years. For a full breakdown, read Senior Staff Attorney Michael Weinberg's blog post PK to Copyright Office: Let People Rip Their Own DVDs.

Also on Thursday, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) announced its adoption of a new policy on cell service interruption, following its disruption of service in August. The FCC has signaled intentions to begin an open, public process to further review the free speech rights and public safety implications when local authorities shut down cellular phone networks. We are still concerned that BART's new policy is not as strong as it could be, making it all the more important for the FCC to provide national guidance.

Friday, Verizon announced its plan to buy a chunk of spectrum from the cable company consortium. While spectrum is better held in the hands of those who will use it, we have some questions and concerns about the transaction's side deals. We'll keep you posted as this story develops; the FCC will be reviewing the transaction.

All of last week, PK staff attorneys John Bergmayer and Rashmi Rangnath attended the convening of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva. More on their time in Geneva is forthcoming, so stay tuned for more blog posts.

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