Issues

How Gigi Sohn’s Nomination to the FCC Went From Concerning—To Fully Corrupt

Today’s political arena tolerates hypocrisies with a greater degree of acceptance than many would like, though the public absolutely draws a line at shady backroom deal-making.

This is why we ought to be aghast at the process surrounding Gigi Sohn’s nomination to the FCC. Recently, Sohn announced that, if confirmed, she would recuse herself for several years on matters related to retransmission consent or television broadcast copyright. These issues are of great importance to FCC and to broadcasters, and broadcasters were worried about Sohn’s record on them.

Sohn had been in hot water about these matters since late 2021. In November of 2021, the National Association of Broadcasters expressed that while they did “not currently oppose the nomination of Gigi Sohn, we have serious concerns about her involvement as one of three directors of the illegal streaming service Locast.” That streaming service had essentially fleeced the broadcasters by illegally streaming their content for free. Sohn was a board member and supported the activity.

Thereafter, Sohn’s nomination hit choppy waters, and suddenly, she couldn’t be on the wrong side of the broadcasters anymore. Thus, her recent gambit: Recusing herself from big issues pertaining to broadcasters.

Her recent bending-of-the-knee led to this: “NAB appreciates Ms. Sohn’s willingness to seriously consider our issues regarding retransmission consent and broadcast copyright, and to address those concerns in her recusal. We look forward to the Senate moving forward with Ms. Sohn’s confirmation and are eager to work with her and the full complement of commissioners in the very near future.”

From “serious concerns” to “eager”—welcome to rank regulatory corruption in 2022. Here is the bottom line: An embattled nominee for a regulatory position just announced that she would not regulate so that she could comfortably earn her regulatory posting. There is a fitting Latin expression for this, one that doesn’t wear well in the halls of Congress: A quid pro quo.

To put it bluntly, Sohn’s job as an FCC Commissioner would be to regulate the broadcast industry. And yet, at a moment of maximum peril for her nomination, she promised the broadcast industry that she’d be hands-off for a few years.

Set aside the flagrantly unethical nature of this. Consider a more practical problem with Sohn recusing herself on retransmission and copyright issues, a conundrum best articulated by the Wall Street Journal: “These subjects consume a large share of the FCC’s regulatory bandwidth, which means the agency could be deadlocked for good or ill on many issues.”

The decision to press ahead with Sohn’s nomination is a galling dereliction of duty. There are issues of real concern including media ownership, retransmission, and broadcast copyrights that require a fully operational Commission. By giving up her ability to regulate broadcasters on these issues, Sohn has neutered her own position—even before she’s been confirmed. And because she’d have to refrain from voting on these matters, she’s also neutered the FCC.

This is unacceptable. There were already questions swirling about Sohn’s backroom wheeling-and-dealing and her questionable record on minority media ownership, among other worries. But this quid pro quo is simply the last straw. Congress cannot and should not move forward with a nominee for a regulatory position who has abdicated all regulatory authority.

There are certainly other qualified nominees for the FCC post. Perhaps most importantly, any new candidates shouldn’t campaign for the job by saying they won’t do the job. This FCC Commission seat should be filled by a regulator who can actually regulate.

National Security Experts: Additional 5G delays “a costly and avoidable mistake”

We’ve written about the dysfunction in Washington delaying efforts to get powerful new 5G networks fully online.  These networks are critical to America’s innovation culture and high tech leadership.

By now the FAA’s mischief on this issue has been widely exposed.  A recent Ars Technica report explained “FAA forced delay in 5G rollout despite having no proof of harm to aviation.”  UK spectrum regulator William Webb recently complained “there is no excuse for” the FAA’s 5G “blockade”.

And now a group of experienced National Security policymakers is sounding an additional warning – tying 5G delays to America’s long term role as tech and innovation leader worldwide.  They write “it would be a costly and avoidable mistake with profound consequences for U.S. economic competitiveness and national security interests to allow the dispute over spectrum policy to linger indefinitely.”

The FCC should heed the experts and move quickly forward with full 5G deployment – it’s an issue of national security as well as US leadership overall.

Online Privacy: It’s Time To Demand Executive Accountability

What if we approached online privacy the way we do financial reporting? That’s the solution that Mike Montgomery proposes in his newly published op-ed for Morning Consult.

According to Montgomery, CALinnovates’ executive director, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation and the upcoming California Consumer Privacy Act are fundamentally flawed, because they ultimately make the consumer responsible for policing privacy. What we need, says Montgomery, is a law — such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that arose from the Enron scandal — that holds individual executives’ feet to the flames when privacy is breeched.

Read the full argument here.

California Cities Take A Giant Step Backward On 5G

There’s a consensus that 5G is a vital step forward for the economy and our communities; and the sooner we prepare for it, the better off we will be. But, recent moves by Los Angeles and San Rafael are disappointing to see.

In October of last year, the city of Los Angeles approved a 1,000 percent increase in the fee that companies will have to pay when they dig up or damage streets. That means companies will pay a lot more to lay new cable and utilities under city streets. This price increase makes it increasingly difficult to build and deploy the infrastructure that will enable 5G — ultimately making it more expensive for consumers and businesses to access the technology.

San Rafael, meanwhile, unanimously passed an ordinance that imposes tighter restrictions on wireless companies wanting to build 5G infrastructure. The new ordinance will make small cell antennas significantly more difficult to install in the city because of a stipulation that requires wireless companies only build and deploy within certain geographic boundaries. This will negatively impact businesses, services and residents that rely on this infrastructure by eating into the city’s potential future revenue. Ultimately, San Rafael’s city council preempted the Federal Communications Commission ruling that went into effect in January that limits local authority over the installation of 5G infrastructure.

5G is a necessity; that is clear. The U.S. needs 5G-based technologies to maintain its competitive edge globally. 5G will unlock enormous economic growth, help create new businesses and jobs, improve transportation and public safety, save energy and greatly improve infrastructure. Accenture projects 5G will create up to 3 million new jobs and boost GDP by $500 billion, in part that is because it will vastly increase mobile connectivity and capacity.

Global data traffic is projected to increase from 19.01 exabytes per month in 2018 to 77.5 exabytes per month by 2022, a compound annual growth rate of 46 percent. That’s roughly 800 million times higher than 15 years ago. By the end of 2019 alone, more than 50 billion devices and 212 billion sensors will be connected to network services.

Without new and updated infrastructure, all that data and those connections will make wireless service slow and unreliable. 5G could bring up to 100 times faster speed for data transfer, significantly more reliable than current 4G LTE — especially in densely populated areas.

Furthermore, it is estimated that 5G, in combination with the Internet of Things (IoT), could net $160 billion in economic activity for “smart” cities, through reductions in energy usage, traffic congestion and fuel costs.

But all those benefits are dependent on having a comprehensive and robust 5G network in place. So, what do these two misinformed ordinances have to do with 5G? The fact of the matter is that, in order to achieve this next generation of wireless coverage, we need the right wireless infrastructure, such as “small cells,” to match so we can access 5G capabilities. Small cells are small antennas — about the size of a pizza box — and can be built to mimic the aesthetic of the surrounding area where they are installed and can be attached to existing infrastructure, such as a light pole. Yet many municipalities, like Los Angeles and San Rafael, are resisting them by imposing long wait times for permits or charging unreasonable fees.

Unlike these two cities, the FCC is working to speed up the installation of 5G infrastructure by making it easier and less costly to get networks up and running. On Jan. 15, the FCC’s new rules went into effect, allowing for a drastic increase in deployment of wireless infrastructure across the nation, including in Los Angeles and San Rafael. The new regulations impose tight permit deadlines on cities and limit how much a city can charge to install 5G infrastructure in public rights of way. In the simplest of terms, the FCC is working to ensure a smooth and efficient rollout of 5G.

The FCC rule is a major step forward. Obstructionist regulations by cities, on the other hand, are denying their residents access to the fastest and most reliable wireless networks, forcing local businesses to compete using outdated technology, and costing their first responders the best access to life-saving technology. Without updated infrastructure and policies in place, we’re all going to be losing out.

5G Networks And Infrastructure: The Prescription For Improving Telemedicine

The Federal Communications Commission’s $100 million “Connected Care Pilot Program” to support virtual healthcare, or “telemedicine,” is a vital program to bring high-quality care to our veteran, low-income, and minority communities, writes Kish Rajan, chief evangelist for CALinnovates. But telemedicine isn’t a viable option without the high-speed wireless connections needed for quality videoconferencing.

The answer to this problem, Rajan says, is upgrading the nation’s wireless infrastructure:

To deal with the demand today and to lay the foundation for the 5G networks of tomorrow that will allow telemedicine to reach its full potential, we must upgrade and densify our communications infrastructure by expeditiously deploying more fiber optic cable and densification devices known as “small cells.”

Read what this entails here.

The Millennial Dilemma: Too Many Smartphones And Not Enough Bandwidth

The Pew Research Center says 100% of Americans age 18 to 29 own a cellphone, with 94% owning a smartphone,” writes CALinnovates’ Mike Montgomery on Modernize California. “A separate survey from Pew found that 89% of smartphone users go online daily, while nearly four out of 10 18- to 29-year-olds go online ‘almost constantly.'”

He continues: “While the increased use of connected technology has certainly made our society more efficient, we are at a tipping point where our networks and infrastructure must be modernized to deal with the massive demand for data.”

Read Montgomery’s proposed solution to this issue here.

The Key To The Future Of Self-Driving Cars: 5G

“Small cell and fiber deployment, much like autonomous vehicle progress, is not happening fast enough,” says CALinnovates’ Mike Montgomery. “The reality is, we will need thousands of small cells connected by thousands of route miles of fiber for our mobile networks to reach their full potential.”

“Prioritizing communications infrastructure buildout now is not only fundamental to speeding the adoption of self-driving cars, but enabling countless innovations that stand to make our communities smarter and safer through the power of 5G.”

Read Montgomery’s full column on Modernize California.

Cities Shouldn’t Wait For 5G To Install Small Cell Antennas

By Mike Montgomery

It’s hard to remember, but a little more than a decade ago flip phones were the height of mobile phone innovation. Texting via a numerical keypad was all the rage and only a handful of mobile devices could even access the internet.

The difference between that time and today is remarkable. Now we do everything on our phones – staying in touch with friends via video chat, keeping up with family on social media, banking and even watching movies. A lot of these advances have come from improved device technology, but many have come from upgrades to the networks that power our devices to make room for the extra data needed to keep us hyper-connected.

For many of us, 4G isn’t the marvel it used to be. Dropped calls, slow downloads and sinking number of bars have become more prevalent as we continue to add more and more devices to our wireless networks. And guess what? Our networks are going to continue to get more crowded – according to projections, in North America alone mobile data traffic will reach 6.4 Exabytes per month by 2021.

The good news is, there is a solution to our capacity problems, and that solution is already underway – upgrade both our network and the infrastructure that powers it. Let’s start with the network upgrade. The next evolution of our mobile networks will be 5G, but in reality 5G will be more of a revolution.

You see, 5G is expected to be 100 times faster and support 100 times the capacity of 4G. The benefits to users are obvious – instantaneous video downloads, fewer dropped calls, zero lag in live video – but 5G will also be a major boost for the U.S. economy. Accenture predicts that 5G will bring with it $500 billion in GDP growth by making smart cities a reality. 5G is the key to faster speeds and more connections points, which will ultimately help cities use less energy through smart grids, limit commute times and traffic fatalities by powering self-driving cars, allow cities to deploy sensors that will instantaneously alert police to things like gunshots, and help make emergency services more efficient.

However, 5G is not available to the public yet and the rollout of the network will take several years, which obviously doesn’t do much for our immediate capacity issue. What will help immediately, and is also an absolute necessity to making 5G a reality, is the modernization of our communications infrastructure.

While we wait for the 5G revolution, cities can begin to reap the immediate 4G boosting benefits of new wireless antennas known as small cells. Small cells are exactly what they sound like, small, low-powered nodes located near the end user that add much needed capacity to existing 4G networks while simultaneously laying the groundwork for 5G – small cells will literally serve as the backbone of 5G networks. Thanks to their size and ability to be camouflaged, small cells can be placed on utility poles, traffic lights, even under the seats in a stadium.

London is already doing this – building out a network of small cells to improve 4G coverage in the city. According to Techradar:

“As the finance capital of Europe, it was seen as unacceptable to have poor mobile coverage thanks to the numerous tall buildings blocking signals. Small cells were identified as the ideal solution.”

London expects to have 400 small cells by March 2019.

The essential point, small cells help bridge the gap between 4G and 5G while improving the customer experience right away. Installing a robust small cell network now is a rare win-win for cities by allowing them to deal with the immediate growth of data traffic – which climbed 238% in the last two years alone – while laying the groundwork for 5G.

As FCC Net Neutrality Rules Expire, Internet Survives — For Now

savethenet

“This is not doomsday at all. The internet hasn’t broken today,” said Mike Montgomery, executive director of CALinnovates, in a San Francisco Chronicle piece about the expiration of the Federal Communications Commission’s old net neutrality rules. “Consumers aren’t going to see or feel anything changing in their internet experience.”

But what about the future? Read more about Montgomery and other net neutrality advocates’ concerns here.

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