Infrastructure

In Tech-Driven Economy, FCC Needs to Step Up

By: Mike Montgomery

It’s clear that technology is a key driver of prosperity in today’s modernizing economy. Trillions of dollars in economic activity flow through the networks which make up the internet, making America’s digital economy the envy of the world. Networks are redefining the services people consume and the income people derive. For example, according to a Pew survey, 72 percent of Americans have used a sharing or on-demand service.

That’s why the Federal Communications Commission has never been more important. From last year’s Net Neutrality rules to current proceedings about set-top boxes, internet privacy and business services, FCC rules are shaping the future of the internet – and the broader economy that it fuels. Whether you agree or disagree with these regulations, everyone agrees they will have a profound impact.

That is why it’s so disconcerting to see the FCC disconnected from the economic impact of its decisions. In a report he published in July, the FCC’s very own former chief economist, Gerald Faulhaber, Ph.D., raised alarms about the agency’s dangerous turn away from economic analysis in its decision making.

In the report, Dr. Faulhaber asks: Why do the U.S. Department of Labor, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau all conduct stringent cost-benefit analyses on their decisions while the FCC does not?

The FCC has simply become too important to the economy for it to fail to explore the economic impact of its decisions. For example, numerous economists warned the FCC that its decision to impose so-called Title II regulations on internet service providers, which treats today’s advanced broadband access in the same way as telephone services from generations ago, will have a negative impact on investment and innovation while not solving the issue we all want addressed: how to ensure that internet traffic is treated fairly across networks, regardless of where it comes from. Yet, when issuing its Open Internet Order, the FCC conducted no economic analysis of the impact its proposed rules would have on consumers, innovation or investment.

How is that possible?

The problems continue. The FCC is currently facing a major backlash from Congress, Hollywood and many innovators for its proposed new technology standards for set-top boxes.

Read the full article here.

Hope For Startups: US Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Design Patent Dispute

By: Tim Sparapani

The annual tech startup and innovation festival held annually in Austin, Texas known as South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) has recently ended. While all the big tech companies were there strutting their stuff along with all the companies that are trying to reimagine themselves as tech companies, the real stars of the show are the start-ups. Tens of thousands of people attend annually to find or become the next big thing, which his why I applaud the US Supreme Court for giving those strivers and innovators a win this week by deciding to hear the design patent appeal in the five year old battle between Apple and Samsung.

More about the big guys in a minute and their fight, which I’ve written about before here: http://www.wirelessweek.com/article/2016/02/us-supreme-court-should-clarify-law-design-patents. But before we get there let’s talk about what’s at stake in the case for startups and why it is so important that the Supreme Court is revisiting the lower court’s mistaken ruling.

Turns out the big things all started out as small things and they all needed a lot of luck and lots of care and feeding to grow and prosper. Most especially, they needed to not have extraordinary and unnecessary barriers put in their place. Startups are like salmon swimming upstream to spawn. The odds are already long that they will reach their goal. Any additional barrier put in their way, like a dam blocking a river, can exhaust the startup and rob it of its vitality thereby preventing it from reaching its goal. The absolute last thing that a tech startup needs is to have to – after coming up with a great idea to take to the market, struggling to raise capital, forging a team and bringing a product to the market – fight unnecessarily with an incumbent about the design of their product. But, unless the US Supreme Court steps in and reverses the lower court’s decision, that’s likely to be an all too common scenario for startups. As soon as the next exciting startups get some momentum going they are likely to face a new breed of patent trolls that could halt their progress entirely by waving about an alleged infringement of a design patent.

The long festering dispute between Apple and Samsung focuses on whether Samsung infringed design patents covering elements within Apple’s iPhone. In simplest terms, a design patent historically has been intended to protect and incentivize designers and inventors creative and innovative work. The US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals unwisely ruled in these big kids’ dispute that, despite the fact that tens of thousands of patents are jammed into every smartphone, an alleged infringement of just one design for one of many elements of the device itself can lead to extraordinary damage awards against the infringer.

Read the full article here.

Truth about our crumbling infrastructure is the tweets

By: Kish Rajan

Sometimes, it takes a tweet to speak the truth: Bay Area residents must recognize our crumbling infrastructure.

Last week, commuters complaining about delays were surprised when Taylor Huckaby, a social media manager for @SFBart, did the politically unthinkable. When faced with hundreds of tweets, he was frank and honest about the financial and structural challenges facing the public transit agency, and the Bay Area’s infrastructure at large.

Such is political discussion in 2016: Honesty is surprising and highlights something we’d rather ignore. Few comprehend that our public infrastructure is woefully outdated and ignored.

In 2000, the total population of the Bay Area was just a little more than 6.7 million people. In 2010, it had risen to around 7.2 million, despite the Great Recession. And in 2014, that number jumped to around 7.6 million, representing nearly a million more people in the nine-county region in about 14 years.

And while the tax base expanded, there hasn’t been a corresponding improvement in infrastructure development. When Chronicle City Hall reporter Heather Knight visited San Francisco’s Hall of Justice, housing the San Francisco Police Department, the San Francisco County Jail, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney’s office, she was shocked at what she saw. The hall, with peeling paint, stained ceilings and evidence of rats, sat mere blocks from startups working in renovated lofts — and offering free lunch.

Read the full article here.

Utilities panel has too much on its plate

By: Kish Rajan

Assemblyman Mike Gatto is taking a bold step with his proposed constitutional amendment to obliterate the California Public Utilities Commission. Such a drastic action may not pass into law, but it kick-starts a critical conversation about the agency’s future.

Gatto cites concerns about the PUC’s handling of a string of problems related to energy utilities, including the San Onofre nuclear plant shutdown and the San Bruno gas line explosion. The commission is also deeply engaged in overseeing California’s massive shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

If regulating the energy industry wasn’t enough of a chore, utilities are not the only sector under the PUC’s purview. The commission has divisions overseeing railroads, light rail and transit; taxis and ride-share services; and water and sewer systems.

And its jurisdiction over telecommunications is largely overlooked. As the center of the innovation economy, California relies heavily upon strong telecommunications infrastructure. But the commission is failing to keep pace with the fast-changing industry, holding back critical investments to providing more and better technology to more Californians, particularly low-income citizens on the other side of the digital divide.

According to the Milken Institute, San Jose and San Francisco are the best-performing cities in the nation for job growth, wage gains and technological advancement. While that is laudable, what is the PUC’s plan to extend that prosperity beyond the Bay Area and into every region across California?

The pathway to greater prosperity is through innovation and investment. That is driven by consumer demand supported by forward-looking thinking, rather than outdated regulatory mandates.

U.S. Supreme Court Should Clarify the Law of Design Patents

By: Tim Sparapani

It’s been 120 years since the US Supreme Court last heard a case regarding design patents. Now it has the opportunity to do so again, and it should, because technology has advanced yet the interpretation of laws protecting innovations has become ill fitting and out of date.

Samsung recently agreed to pay $548 million in damages to Apple following several appeals regarding claims that Samsung infringed on some of Apple’s design patents. Samsung has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case and address the issues it raises that extend well beyond smartphones.

This legal clash of tech titans over whether Samsung infringed Apple’s design patents spawned extended debate over what is protected by a design patent and may lead – if the dispute is reviewed and precedent set – to a more solid framework for design patent protections and dispute resolution clarity in future cases.

For more than five years, these companies slugged it out concerning the limitations of design patents, how to determine whether patented designs were infringed, and the proper remedies.  The case is notable, not just because of the size and importance of these companies, but also because of the precedents that this case sets for our digital age when hardware and software are merging together in novel and unforeseen ways.

Rarely are cases so well teed up for the Supreme Court to offer crucial guidance in an area of law that has become so muddled.  Given the extensive motions, trials, remands and appeals between Apple and Samsung this case seems primed for Supreme Court review because the legal issues have been highly refined allowing the Court to issue narrow decisions on legal grounds that nevertheless have broad impact.

Read the full article here. 

Contra Costa Times: Guest commetary – In world of innovation Golden State is not so golden

By Kish Rajan

Recently, Narendra Modi became the first Indian prime minister in 30 years to visit Silicon Valley. Given his reputation as the most tech-savvy prime minister in India’s history, it makes sense that Modi broke the dry spell.

The purpose of Modi’s visit was to spread the gospel of Digital India, his initiative to turn India into one of the most digitally-connected countries in the world. At a dinner hosted by Silicon Valley luminaries such as Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, Modi called Digital India an “enterprise for India’s transformation on a scale that is, perhaps, unmatched in human history.” Modi wants to “change the way (his) nation will live and work.”

Inspiring stuff.

But Modi’s words were unintentionally tinged with irony. He was making his pitch in the heart of a state that is slowly atrophying.

When politicians discuss tackling California’s problems, including the drought, crumbling roads and environmental degradation, they hardly ever turn to the high-tech industry for help.

Meanwhile, Modi is tapping companies such as Cisco, Intel and IBM to help make Digital India a reality. To that end, Qualcomm has already made a commitment to invest $150 million in Indian startups.

Though Modi came here looking for support, California should be looking to Modi for inspiration. Our state, which houses these high-tech giants, fails to innovate to meet our public needs.

 

Read the full article here.

Allow Municipalities the Chance to Build Broadband Networks

After all, who better to know what a community needs than a local government? If elected officials recognize a need for better broadband access in their state, shouldn’t voters have the final say as to who gets to build and maintain its broadband networks?

Every corner of the country deserves access to high-speed Internet.

Read more on The Huffington Post

 

March Member Update: IP Networks, SXSW & Connected Cities

 

From the Desk of Executive Director Mike Montgomery:

An all-IP future is no longer such a distant possibility.  Last week, AT&T announced that it would hold test trials to transition wire centers to all-IP services in two communities: one rural (Carbon Hill, Alabama) and one suburban (Kings Point, Florida).  Just three months into 2014, our nation is truly embracing the idea of ‘out with the old and in with the new.’  Our communications infrastructure has long been reliant on centuries-old technology.  The time has come to upgrade these antiquated networks to a network that provides consumers with far more options for their communications needs.   As my friend Larry Downes and his co-author Paul Nunes write in their book Big Bang Disruption, “The transition to digital networks [would] significantly counter the obstacles that keep 20 percent of American adults from joining the Internet.”  For that reason alone, we’d be crazy not to embrace these next-gen all-broadband networks.  It’s good for consumers, both existing and potential, across the country.

We’re traveling the state to help our members make progress on the issues that matter most.  Don’t hesitate to reach out should there be a roadblock CALinnovates can help remove for your company to experience the growth and success you’re striving for in Q1 and beyond.


Upcoming Events:

SXSW Immigration Happy Hour with Steve Case

March 9, 2014 | Austin, TX

 
Mobile Margaritas Hosted by Mobile Future
March 9, 2014 | Austin, TX

Join DC-based Mobile Future for SXSW for Mobile Margaritas, a meet-up with other mobile leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs.  


News You Can Use:

All-IP Beta Test Markets Announced
CALinnovates,
February 28, 2014

CALinnovates has long been a strong proponent of a modernization of our nation’s communications infrastructure, and last week marked another important step down this critical path. Earlier this year, I called the transition “the beginning of the next great digital transformation in our nation’s history.” …

True Peer-to-Peer Rideshare Now a Reality
Daily Kos,
February 28, 2014

Sidecar announced last week that it is looking to take a big bite out of its competitors by launching the first true peer-to-peer marketplace in the rideshare industry.  Co-founder and CEO Sunil Paul says Sidecar’s new marketplace “will give riders the power to choose…

The Tale of Three Connected Cities
TechZulu, March 3, 2014
By: Mike Montgomery

When it comes to major technological projects like building out Wi-Fi networks, it’s wise to turn to the experts in order to better serve citizens.

Case in point: Los Angeles, which is issuing an RFP for private industry to build out a citywide Wi-Fi network. The winning company will not only be tasked with the design and build out of the network, but maintaining and upgrading that network into the future. This necessary ongoing investment, as the experiment in Riverside has shown us, is where the majority of project pitfalls reside…

In this Issue:


From the Desk of Executive Director Mike Montgomery


Upcoming Events


News You Can Use


Member Spotlight


Member Spotlight…

SeeClickFix

If you haven’t downloaded the SeeClickFix app on your iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, or Blackberry, now’s the time. Founded by Ben Berkowitz and Kam Lasater, SeeClickFix is a communications platform for citizens to report non-emergency issues. Governments also use the platform to track, manage, and reply — ultimately making communities better through transparency, collaboration, and cooperation. It’s free on the app store of your choice.



@CALinnovates /CALinnovates CALinnovates

A Tale of Three Cutting-Edge Cities

“The road to failure is often paved with good intentions,” famed writer Samuel Johnson might have said.

Just ask Riverside, California. Back in 2006, the city set out to build a municipal Wi-Fi network for its citizens. But a severe lack of interest from customers prompted the city’s original communications partner to pull away from the project.  The city scrambled to find resources to build and maintain the network, ultimately costing residents more than $700,000 per year for a network to live up to the hype.  the Wi-Fi network never even reached two-thirds of the population and has been described as obsolete.

In other words, the good intentions from Riverside officials have resulted in a costly, and failed, experiment on the taxpayer’s dime.

Read the full article on Tech Zulu

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