Information Technologies – Documents on the Web –
Implementing the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act: A Report to Congress
Federal Trade Commission (FTC). February 2007. 33 pages.
In a report to Congress, the Federal Trade Commission says the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), enacted in 1998 to address privacy and security risks created when children under 13 years of age are online, and the Commission’s COPPA Rule have been effective in protecting the privacy and security of young children online without unduly burdening Web site operators. The report does not recommend any changes to COPPA or to the Commission’s Rule, but does note that, because widespread age-verification technology is not available, age falsification remains a risk on general-audience Web sites not intended for children’s use. The report also identifies social networking sites and mobile Internet access as new and emerging issues in children’s online privacy.
Telecommunications: Issues Related to the Structure and Funding of Public Television
Government Accountability Office (GAO). January 2007. 79 pages.
How to fund public television has been a concern since the first noncommercial educational station went on the air in 1953. The use of federal funds to help support public television has been a particular point of discussion and debate. This report reviews (1) the organizational structure of public television; (2) the programming and other services that public television provides; (3) the current funding sources for public television; (4) the extent to which public television stations are increasing their nonfederal funding sources and developing new sources of nonfederal support; and (5) the extent to which public television benefits financially from business ventures associated with programming and how this compares with commercial broadcasters.
The Truth in Caller ID Act
U.S. House of Representatives. Committee on Energy and Commerce. Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. February 28, 2007.
“Caller ID spoofing” refers to a practice in which the caller ID information transmitted with a telephone call is manipulated in a manner that misleads the call recipient about the identity of the caller. The use of Internet technology to make phone calls has apparently made caller ID spoofing even easier. The Federal Communications Commission is deeply concerned about reports that caller ID information is being manipulated for fraudulent or other deceptive purposes and the impact of those practices on the public trust and confidence in the telecommunications industry. Caller ID spoofing can potentially threaten our public safety. For example, spoofers can fabricate emergency calls and cause local law enforcement and public safety agencies to deploy their resources needlessly. Caller ID spoofing can potentially threaten consumers. For example, spoofing can be used by the unscrupulous to defraud consumers by making calls appear as if they are from legitimate businesses or government offices.
The Present and Future of Public Safety Communications
U.S. Senate. Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Full committee. February 8, 2007.
This hearing focused on the present and future of public safety communications. This is a matter of continuing importance to our nation, and to the men and women who risk their lives daily to provide Americans with emergency assistance. In too many cities and counties across this nation, our nation’s first responders struggle to talk to one another during natural or manmade disasters. Unfortunately, this problem is not new. More than a decade ago, a specially-created Public Safety Wireless Advisory Committee reported on the need for immediate measures to alleviate spectrum shortfalls and to promote voice interoperability.
Assessing the Communications Marketplace: A View from the FCC
U.S. Senate. Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Full committee. February 1, 2007.
The Committee appreciates the willingness of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to speak today about the state of the communications industry and what we must do as a nation to ensure that the benefits of new communications technologies are shared by all Americans, regardless of income or geography. While we have made significant progress in creating an environment that facilitates investment and ensures the American people realize the full benefits of our world-class communications system, there is more to be done. Four areas deserve particular attention: first, we must continue to increase access to communications services; second, we must continue to promote real choice for consumers; third, we must continue to protect consumers; fourth and finally, we must enhance public safety.
Private Health Records: Privacy Implications of the Federal Government's Health Information Technology Initiative
U.S. Senate. Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, the Federal Workforce, and the District of Columbia. February 1, 2007.
In 2004, President Bush called for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop and implement a strategic plan to guide the nationwide implementation of Health Information Technology (HIT). The plan also called for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to leverage its power with the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) to increase the use of HIT. This hearing will review the efforts of HHS to integrate privacy into the HIT national infrastructure and OPM’s efforts to expand the use of HIT through the FEHBP and the impact such actions have on federal employees’ health information privacy.
Technology Panel Urges Computer Research Funding (H.R. 1068)
Elaine S. Povich. CongressDaily. National Journal Group Inc. February 28, 2007.
The House Science and Technology Committee readily approved legislation designed to bolster high-performance computer research programs by calling for federal funds to go to the most efficient programs. The bill was approved on a voice vote. It does not set monetary amounts for federal support of computer research, rather, it sets out criteria for those funds, with an eye toward boosting successful programs.
Spoofing Bill Gains Telecom Subcommittee Support (H.R. 251)
Jessica Brady. CongressDaily. National Journal Group Inc. February 28, 2007.
The House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee approved legislation that would outlaw malicious callers from falsifying their identity when placing telephone calls to trick those on the other end of the line. The bill aims to cut down on the so-called practice "spoofing," where callers use Internet technology to change their identification information. For a nominal price, a caller can use the Internet to place a call under another identity, effectively changing the number appearing on a recipient's caller ID screen.
Telephone Fraud Bill Moves to House From Judiciary Committee (H.R. 740)
CongressDaily. National Journal Group Inc. February 7, 2007.
The House Judiciary Committee voted to make it a federal crime carrying stiff penalties to use someone else's telephone number to defraud a person or business. The so-called caller identification spoofing bill swept through the committee en route to the House on a voice vote with no audible dissent. The bill is designed to curb the growing problem of identity theft. The House Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security Subcommittee also approved it.
RESEARCH CENTER REPORTS:
Election Newshounds Speak Up: Newspaper, TV and Internet Fans Tell How and Why They Differ
Deborah Fallows. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Memo. February 6, 2007. 7 pages.
During the autumn 2006 campaign and election season, Americans flocked in record numbers to their favorite media sources for political news. When asked why they preferred one medium over the others, consumers all pointed to convenience of use and unbiased presentation of information in their favorite medium, whether they preferred TV, newspapers, or the Internet. Beyond that similarity, newspaper readers appreciated being able to settle in comfortably to pore over pages and scrutinize the information. TV viewers liked the effortless experience of being presented the news and valued seeing faces and hearing voices. For Internet users, it was all about control of the when, where, what, and how fast of their online experience.
WIRELESS INTERNET ACCESS
John Horrigan. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Data Memo. February 2007. 11 pages.
Some 34% of Internet users have logged onto the Internet using a wireless connection either around the house, at their workplace, or someplace else. In other words, one-third of Internet users, either with a laptop computer, a handheld personal digital assistant (PDA), or cell phone, have surfed the Internet or checked email using means such as WiFi broadband or cell phone networks.
Overcoming the Psychological Barriers to Telemedicine: Empowering Older Americans to Use Remote Health Monitoring Services
New Millenium Research Council. February 2007. 22 pages
As the American population grays and the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement, there is a growing need for accessible health care that is both high in quality and low in cost. The vast body of research on telemedicine reveals strong evidence that new technologies can help to overcome many of the costs associated with the social and economic aging crisis. The use of telemedicine technologies, such as home health care monitoring, can relieve growing pressures on health care institutions and provide the expanding aged population with new avenues for independent living and efficient care. But concerns held by older Americans regarding telemedicine services, including fear of reduced social interaction and strong desires to protect personal information, are under-scrutinized in telemedicine research. Experts indicate that further study of older patient perceptions of telehealth applications may yield important lessons for doctors and providers; increasing awareness of telemedicine benefits may encourage seniors to more widely adopt new home-based health technologies.
The Economics of Product-Line Restrictions With an Application to the Network Neutrality Debate
Benjamin E. Hermalin and Michael Katz. AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies. Working Paper 07-02. February 2007. 48 pages.
Firms often offer product lines - several variants of the same product. Examples include different programming packages offered by cable television companies and different versions of software (e.g., standard or professional) offered by software manufacturers. The authors examine the welfare effects of product-line restrictions, such as those called for by some proponents of network neutrality regulation. They consider a platform that brings together households and application providers. They find that restricting a monopoly platform to a single product has the following effects: (a) application providers that would otherwise have purchased a low-quality variant are excluded from the market; (b) applications “in the middle” of the market utilize a higher and more efficient quality; and (c) applications at the top utilize a lower and less efficient quality than otherwise. Total surplus may rise or fall, although the analysis suggests to us that harm to welfare is likely. They also examine a duopoly model and find that the welfare effects are similar.
Wireless Net Neutrality: CELLULAR CARTERFONE AND CONSUMER CHOICE IN MOBILE BROADBAND
Tim Wu. New America Foundation. Wireless Future Program. Working Paper #17. February 2007. 30 pages.
In many respects, the mobile wireless market is and remains a wonder. Thanks to both policy and technological innovations, devices that were science fiction thirty years ago are now widely available. Over the last decade, wireless mobile has been an “infant industry,” attempting to achieve economies of scale. That period is over: today, in the United States, there are over 200 million mobile subscribers, and mobile revenues are over $100 billion. As the industry and platform mature, the wireless industry warrants a new look. This report finds a mixed picture. The wireless industry, over the last decade, has succeeded in bringing wireless telephony at competitive prices to the American public. Yet at the same time, we also find the wireless carriers aggressively controlling product design and innovation in the equipment and application markets, to the detriment of consumers. In the wired world, their policies would, in some cases, be considered simply misguided, and in other cases be considered outrageous and perhaps illegal.
White Spaces Engineering Study: CAN COGNITIVE RADIO TECHNOLOGY OPERATING IN THE TV WHITE SPACES COMPLETELY PROTECT LICENSED TV BROADCASTING?
Mark A. Sturza and Farzad Ghazvinian. New America Foundation. Wireless Future Program. Working Paper #16. January 2007. 63 pages.
In 2004, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed to allow unlicensed wireless devices to utilize vacant television channel frequencies in each market, a rulemaking that is currently in its final stages. The FCC discussed three methods (control signals, position determination, and cognitive radio with dynamic frequency selection) to ensure that unlicensed TV band devices operate only on vacant channels without harmful interference to broadcast TV service. Of these methods, cognitive radio has spurred the most debate. The cognitive radio method uses spectrum sensing and dynamic frequency selection (DFS) to identify and avoid occupied TV channels. This method has been approved by the Defense Department for unlicensed devices to share spectrum with military radar in the upper 5 GHz band. Potential service providers and equipment manufacturers embrace it because it does not require external infrastructure. TV broadcasters oppose it, however, because they do not understand it and fear it will result in harmful interference. This report answers the following question that is central to the FCC’s current rulemaking: can unlicensed TV-band devices using cognitive radio techniques completely protect licensed broadcast TV services?
Quantifying the Impact of Unlicensed Devices on Digital TV Receivers
Daniel DePardo, Joseph B. Evans, James A. Roberts, Victor R. Petty, Alexander M. Wyglinski. The University of Kansas / New America Foundation. January 31, 2007. 30 pages.
This report presents the preliminary results from a feasibility study regarding the operation of secondary spectrum users within unused television spectrum. It has been hypothesized that television spectrum is underutilized, making it a candidate for dynamic spectrum access. The feasibility of using this spectrum for enabling secondary transmissions is assessed in this work, with a focus on the possibility of unlicensed devices interfering with digital TV reception. Specifically, the authors investigate the critical operating parameters for developing the technical rules for device operation in bands adjacent to a digital television transmission.
THINK TANK OPINION AND ANALYSIS:
No TV Left Behind: Digital Transition Subsidies for Basement Televisions?
James L. Gattuso. The Heritage Foundation. Web Memo # 1340. February 5, 2007.
Within a few weeks, the Department of Commerce is expected to release rules for the TV subsidy program mandated by Congress in 2005. Reversing an earlier proposal, the program reportedly will allow households that subscribe to cable TV to receive federal support, at a potential cost to taxpayers of hundreds of millions of dollars. This would be a mistake. Subsidizing broadcast reception for anyone makes little sense: There is no right to television. It makes even less sense to subsidize reception for cable households, whose access to programming is not threatened by the switchover to digital broadcasting. For the sake of taxpayers, the Bush Administration should decline to subsidize basement TVs.
The Net Neutrality Debate: Twenty Five Years after United States v. AT&T and 120 Years after the Act to Regulate Commerce
Bruce M. Owen. AEI-Brookings Joint Center for Regulatory Studies. Working Paper 07-03. February 2007. 12 pages.
Net neutrality policies could only be implemented through detailed price regulation, an approach that has often failed, in the past, to improve consumer welfare relative to what might have been expected under an unregulated monopoly. Regulatory agencies often settle into a well-established pattern of subservience to politically influential economic interests. Consumers, would-be entrants and innovators are not likely to be among these influential groups. History thus counsels against adoption of most versions of Net neutrality, at least in the absence of refractory monopoly power and strong evidence of anticompetitive behavior - extreme cases justifying dangerous, long shot remedies.
Rep. Bean’s “SAFER NET Act:” An Education-Based Approach to Online Child Safety
Adam Thierer. The Progress & Freedom Foundation. Progress on Point. Release 14.3. February 2007. 10 pages.
During the previous session of Congress, several measures were introduced aimed at regulating Internet websites or online content. All of these proposals and others are likely to be reintroduced in the 110th Congress. Legitimate concerns motivate many of these efforts. Government officials feel that more needs to be done to help parents shield their children from content they find objectionable while also helping to root out serious threats to child safety, especially online predators. Regulation, however, is not the only answer. In fact, it’s not even the most effective answer. Education should serve as the cornerstone of any serious effort to deal with the issue of protecting children from either objectionable content or various cyber-dangers. Many private online safety efforts and websites are already in place, or being proposed, which can assist lawmakers as they look to expand their educational efforts.
Copy Protection and Games: Lessons for DRM Debates and Development
Solveig Singleton. The Progress & Freedom Foundation. Progress on Point. Release 14.2. February 2007. 8 pages.
Technical protection measures for copy protection for music, movies, and books are sometimes controversial. Digital rights management (DRM) may allow consumers to use content as they became accustomed before digitization and before the Internet. But it might not. It is tempting for policymakers, like consumers, to take a backwards-looking view of what the media consumption experience "should" be like, particularly with regards to fair use. But this would be bad policy. The market landscape is just too complex and fast-moving. And it offers plenty of protection for consumer interests without legal interference. Content producers want and need to reach their audience; and consumers do not care about the right to make backup copies at any cost.
Need. More. TV.
Scott Wallsten. The Progress & Freedom Foundation. Progress Snapshot. Release 3.3. February 2007. 2 pages.
If there’s one thing Americans need, it's more television. Video franchise reform would not only increase competition for cable TV services, but would also increase the supply of broadband services and demand for it, thus further increasing broadband competition and benefiting consumers. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should thus be praised for pushing forward an important but controversial issue. The FCC's recent order also raises interesting questions about how reforms should handle legacy investments and highlights the need to pay attention to inherent consumer demand for broadband.