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Two New Bills Promote Wireless Broadband

February 23, 2006

The American Broadband for Communities Act of 2006 (S. 2332) or ABC Act and the Wireless Innovation Act of 2006 (S. 2327) or WINN Act were introduced at the end of last week. They both are great steps forward to promoting broadband deployment, in this case, over wireless.

Both bills anticipate using radio spectrum in bands that, at least in part, are already being used by broadcast television. This television spectrum is what they call "beach-front property." Why? Well, first, they're carrying video signals, so they provide some high-bandwidth. And, as you know, TV signals can go through the walls of your home or office building. Imagine what it would be like if you didn't lose cell phone coverage when you walked into a building? Or if your WiFi carried consistent signal from your downstairs home office to your upstairs bedroom. The spectrum that TV runs over would negate those problems.

So now you'd probably be asking, "So, um, didn't you say that that spectrum is already being used by broadcast TV?" Yes, I did. But to be more precise, I should have said that the spectrum is being reserved for broadcast television. It turns out, there's a lot of that spectrum not being used, even though it's partitioned off by the FCC for the use of TV. It's those empty channels and the space in between the used channels that we're talking about here--also known as white spaces.

How much of these white spaces aren't being used? Well, in the rural state of Alaska, where Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens is from, the city of Juneau's white space consist of 74% of the digital broadcast spectrum(PDF). There's a lot of white space around--take a look at FreePress' analysis of it.

But just because these white spaces exist, that doesn't necessarily mean they can easily be used. Why? Because everywhere will have different white spaces. Think about it: the TV channels used here in DC are different than that of say, Ohio.

Great, so now what? Well, this is where it gets interesting. These bills promote policy that most likely will employ smart-radio technology (PDF)--a technology that is smart enough to not interfere with existing broadcasts. Off-roaders know the adage as: "Tread-lightly." So as not to interfere with radio signals, a smart radio "listens before it speaks." Additionally, because these wireless network devices are more likely to be shorter-distance radios (think how far WiFi goes in comparison to the signal from a TV tower), they don't have to speak as loudly, and will be that much less likely to interfere with other signals.

This sounds great, when can we get started? Well, there is one major concern. It doesn't have to do with technology or science behind providing broadband over these bands--that's doable, and it will clearly be a major boon to those in rural areas currently without fast Internet access. No, the problem is not a practical one, it's a political one. Namely, the television broadcasters are very protective of "their" spectrum, (or more correctly, "their" spectrum that they have been given by the FCC on behalf of the public). And even though the facts show that smart radios won't provide interference, you're soon going to see "studies" that call those facts into question.

Any guess who the funders of those studies will be?

We have a great opportunity to offer so many consumers a fast Internet connection by using spectrum efficiently. Let's not waste it. Give the following Senators a call and thank them for their leadership roles in bringing this subject to the forefront: Senator Ted Stevens (AK), Senator George Allen (VA), Senator John Sununu (NH), Senator John Kerry (MA), and Senator Barbara Boxer (CA).

But don't stop there, call your Senators today and ask them to support broadband over the TV white spaces!

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Net Neutrality and the Danger of Internet Payola

February 22, 2006

Late last week, ABC News had a show highlighting the latest goings on in the payola investigation conducted by the U.S. Justice Department and now the FCC. Payola is essentially pay-for-play without disclosure on the radio.

Explaining the scenario to my wife got me thinking: Do we have the same concern over payola as we do over net neutrality?

Actually, it's really more like payola in reverse. With traditional payola, record companies pay radio stations to promote their songs: content providers "bribe" distributors. In the absence of net neutrality, ISPs want content providers to pay for access to the end user: distributors "extort" content providers.

Does this description of why we need net neutrality make more sense to people?

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PK in the Know Podcast #011

February 21, 2006

We've broken past 10!

  • You can find the audio version of our In the Know newsletter here.

  • the enhanced audio version here.

  • and ideally, you could subscribe to the podcast here, but we still appear to be having technical difficulties with that.

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Siva on the Daily Show

February 17, 2006

I could describe it, but why when you can watch it? Go VideoBomb it here.

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To The Point with Gigi and the Gang

February 13, 2006

Gigi was on KCRW's To the Point talking about net neutrality and the roll out of broadband. Other guests were Jeff Chester, Adam Thierer, and Christopher Yoo.

You can hear the audio of the show here.

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ICAC’s State of the Net Conference 2006

February 13, 2006

Last week in DC there was a great conference put on by the good folks at Internet Caucus. There were several great panels that discussed issues regarding broadcast and radio flag, net neutrality and broadband policy, and independent media on the Internet.

There are some great videos of the event you should check out:

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Superbowl XL: Why Fair Use of Broadcast TV is So Important

February 10, 2006

Regardless of whether you hold allegiance to the Steelers or Seahawks, the debate continues on whether that first touchdown was really a touchdown.

Some may say, "It's just a game," or "It's just one call." But don't tell that to the football fans, and especially don't tell that to the NFL, ABC, ESPN, Disney, Sprint, Pepsi, or GM who all have a lot of money riding on the credibility of those officiating the game.

Would that credibility be enhanced or degraded if the NFL officials were the only ones allowed to see the instant replays of controvercial calls? Would the credibility be enhanced or degraded if the viewer were only allowed to see ABC / ESPN / Disney's edited version of the controvercial calls? Do these content providers have incentive to provide viewers with the full, unedited coverage of the game--or might they have more incentive to not have the officials criticized?

I submit to you the writings of Stephen Speicher, who does the Clicker column over at Engadget. In this weeks post, he discovers that in the VOD version of the Superbowl, some of the more interesting parts were edited out:

Gone was the Daryl Jackson play where one foot landed in bounds and the other hit the pylon. Touchdown? Gone was the phantom hold call. Gone was any discussion over whether Big Ben actually made it into the end zone. Gone was the flag being thrown on the Hasselbeck's tackle. Cynics might argue that the game was edited to support the NFL's conclusion of "proper officiating."

Granted, he'd have been better off actually recording the show instead of downloading the VOD version--something that thankfully the doctrine of fair use allows. Digital technologies allow football fans and media critics alike, to record the Superbowl for personal replay, excerpt portions, provide a commentary, and post it on a website like YouTube, and promote discussion of the controvercial plays using sites like VideoBomb.

Fair use is alive and well, and these types of activities are happening all over the Internet--not just for discussion in academic settings, not just on news and public domain materials, but of which any kind of content that one decides he or she wants to make criticism or comment.

Fair use may be alive, but if incentivized parties are permitted to artificially cripple technology to prevent fair use, we may never know who really won the Superbowl.

Digg this story here

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Net Neutrality Day II

February 7, 2006

Lots of net Net Neutrality going on today, as well. Perhaps it will end up being Net Neutrality week?!

  • The Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the topic. Google's Vint Cerf and Prof. Larry Lessig did a great job standing up for the internet principles. Additionally, Gary Bachula of Internet2 gave us a view of what the internet could be if telco's kept it simple: side stepped the discrimination and just pumped bandwidth. Take a look at the webcast, make sure not to skip the second panel witnesses.

  • Daniel Berninger had a great op-ed on Om Malik's blog regarding net neutrality and why the internet won't be the internet without it.

  • There have been a bunch of articles on this in the past 24 hours on net neutrality, and we try to update you on them all. Check out Art's Breaking News for the latest headlines, or you could even subscribe to the Breaking News RSS feed.

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Net Neutrality Day

February 6, 2006

There's a lot going on today with regard to Net Neutrality and PK.

Elsewhere on the web, others are talking about net neutrality as well. One of my favorite v-logs, MobuzzTV had a great rant on it--check it out.

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They said wha?

February 2, 2006

Words I thought I'd never hear:

"One of the most effective weapons for defeating online piracy is providing legal, easy-to-use alternatives,"

from a studio exec about using P2P technology. In this case, it's reportedly Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group who said this to Reuters, when announcing their intent to use P2P technology for the legal distribution of their video content.

Right now, WB plans to use the technology to move around language-dubbed US content in Germany, but there are hopes of expansion to other markets.

The service will be called In2Movies (not sure if this site is the actual thing or a squatter).

Ah, times are a-changin'!

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