National Do Not Call Registry: Annual Report to Congress for FY 2007 Pursuant to the Do-Not-Call Implementation Act on Implementation of the National Do Not Call Registry
Federal Trade Commission (FTC). July 2008. 20 pages.
The National Do Not Call Registry is, by virtually every available measure, an effective consumer protection initiative. By the end of FY 2007, there were more than 145 million telephone numbers on the National Registry. The available data show that compliance with the National Registry provisions of the Amended Telemarketing Sales Rule (“Amended TSR”) is high and that, as a result, consumers are receiving fewer unwanted telemarketing calls. The National Registry received over 19 million new registrations during FY 2007. Approximately 66,000 sellers, telemarketers, and exempt organizations accessed the National Registry during the fiscal year, with over 6,000 of those entities paying fees totaling more than $21.5 million. The FTC initiated three new cases alleging violations of the National Registry and resolved or added defendants to eight cases that were filed before FY 2007 but were still pending.
Privacy: Congress Should Consider Alternatives for Strengthening Protection of Personally Indentifiable Information
Linda Koontz. Director. Information Management Issues. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Testimony before the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate. June 18, 2008. 27 pages.
Concerns have been raised about the privacy and security of personal information in light of advances in information technology and the increasingly sophisticated ways in which the government obtains and uses information. Federal agencies' use of personal information is governed by the Privacy Act of 1974 and the E-Government Act of 2002, while the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) provides implementation guidance and oversight. These laws and guidance are based on the Fair Information Practices, a set of widely accepted principles for protecting privacy. GAO was asked to testify on its report concerning the sufficiency of privacy protections afforded by existing laws and guidance.
DIGITAL TELEVISION TRANSITION: Broadcasters’ Transition Status, Low-Power Station Issues, and Information on Consumer Awareness of the DTV Transition
Mark L. Goldstein. Director. Physical Infrastructure Issues. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Testimony before the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Committee on Energy and Commerce, U.S. House of Representatives. June 10, 2008. 23 pages.
This requested report examines the status of broadcast stations in transitioning to digital, the extent to which broadcast stations are encountering issues, and the actions the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken to guide broadcasters in the digital transition. Television broadcast stations have made substantial progress in transitioning to digital television, with the vast majority already transmitting a digital signal. Approximately 91 percent of the 1,122 full-power stations responding to this survey are currently transmitting a digital signal, with approximately 68 percent of survey respondents transmitting their digital signal at full strength and 68 percent transmitting their digital signal on the channel from which they will broadcast after the transition date. Some stations, however, still need to complete construction of their final digital facilities, and others need to relocate their digital channel to complete the transition.
Broadband Internet Access and the Digital Divide: Federal Assistance Programs
Lennard G. Kruger and Angele A. Gilroy. Congressional Research Service (CRS). June 4, 2008. 38 pages.
Broadband technologies are currently being deployed primarily by the private sector throughout the United States. While the numbers of new broadband subscribers continue to grow, studies and data suggest that the rate of broadband deployment in urban and high income areas may be outpacing deployment in rural and low-income areas. Some policymakers, believing that disparities in broadband access across American society could have adverse economic and social consequences on those left behind, assert that the federal government should play a more active role to avoid a “digital divide” in broadband access. One approach is for the federal government to provide financial assistance to support broadband deployment in underserved areas. Others, however, believe that federal assistance for broadband deployment is not appropriate. Some opponents question the reality of the “digital divide,” and argue that federal intervention in the broadband marketplace would be premature and, in some cases, counterproductive.
Broadband Internet Regulation and Access: Background and Issues
Angele A. Gilroy and Lennard G. Kruger. Congressional Research Service (CRS). May 27, 2008. 23 pages.
Some areas of the nation -- particularly rural and low-income communities -- continue to lack full access to high-speed broadband Internet service. In order to address this problem, the 110th Congress is examining a wide range of issues including the scope and effect of federal broadband financial assistance programs (including universal service and the broadband programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service), and the impact of telecommunications regulation and new technologies on broadband deployment. One facet of the debate over broadband services focuses on whether present laws and subsequent regulatory policies are needed to ensure the development of competition and its subsequent consumer benefits, or conversely, whether such laws and regulations are overly burdensome and discourage investment in and deployment of broadband services.
Broadband Loan and Grant Programs in the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service
Lennard G. Kruger. Congressional Research Service (CRS). May 15, 2008. 35 pages.
Some key issues pertinent to a consideration of the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) broadband programs include restrictions on applicant eligibility, how “rural” is defined with respect to eligible rural communities, how to address assistance to areas with preexisting broadband service, technological neutrality, funding levels and mechanisms, and the appropriateness of federal assistance. Ultimately, any modification of rules, regulations, or criteria associated with the RUS broadband program will likely result in “winners and losers” in terms of which companies, communities, regions of the country, and technologies are eligible or more likely to receive broadband loans and grants.
The Federal Networking and Information Technology Research and Development Program: Funding Issues and Activities
Patricia Moloney Figliola. Congressional Research Service (CRS). May 15, 2008. 19 pages.
Proponents of federal support of information technology (IT) R&D assert that it has produced positive outcomes for the country and played a crucial role in supporting long-term research into fundamental aspects of computing. Government-funded IT research often leads to open standards, something that many perceive as beneficial, encouraging deployment and further investment. Industry, on the other hand, is more inclined to invest in proprietary products and will diverge from a common standard when there is a potential competitive or financial advantage to do so. Finally, proponents of government support believe that the outcomes achieved through the various funding programs create a synergistic environment in which both fundamental and application-driven research are conducted, benefitting government, industry, academia, and the public. Critics assert that the government, through its funding mechanisms, may be picking “winners and losers” in technological development, a role more properly residing with the private sector. For example, the size of the NITRD Program may encourage industry to follow the government’s lead on research directions rather than selecting those directions itself.
“Spam”: An Overview of Issues Concerning Commercial Electronic Mail
Patricia Moloney Figliola. Congressional Research Service (CRS). May 14, 2008. 21 pages.
Spam, also called unsolicited commercial email (UCE) or “junk email,” aggravates many computer users. Proponents of UCE insist it is a legitimate marketing technique that is protected by the First Amendment, and that some consumers want to receive such solicitations. On December 16, 2003, President Bush signed into law the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act, P.L. 108-187. It went into effect on January 1, 2004. The CAN-SPAM Act does not ban UCE. Rather, it allows marketers to send commercial email as long as it conforms with the law, such as including a legitimate opportunity for consumers to “opt-out” of receiving future commercial emails from that sender. Proponents of CAN-SPAM have argued that consumers are most irritated by fraudulent email, and that the law should reduce the volume of such email because of the civil and criminal penalties included therein. Opponents counter that consumers object to unsolicited commercial email, and since the law legitimizes commercial email (as long as it conforms with the law’s provisions), consumers actually may receive more, not fewer, UCE messages.
Broadband over Powerlines: Regulatory and Policy Issues
Patricia Moloney Figliola. Congressional Research Service (CRS). May 13, 2008. 21 pages.
Congress has expressed significant interest in increasing the availability of broadband services throughout the nation. Broadband over powerlines (BPL) has the potential to play a significant role in increasing the competitive landscape of the communications industry as well as extend the reach of broadband to a greater number of Americans. BPL, like any technology, has its advantages and disadvantages. Proponents state that BPL is less expensive to deploy than the cable and telephone companies’ broadband offerings; it does not require upgrades to the actual electric grid; and, it is not limited by some technical constraints of its competitors. However, critics are concerned that BPL interferes with licensed radio frequencies used for amateur radio, government, and emergency response.
Evidence on the Costs and Benefits of Health Information Technology
Peter R. Orszag. Director. Congressional Budget Office (CBO). CBO Paper. May 2008. 46 pages.
Health information technology (health IT) plays a key role in health care. Providers such as physicians and hospitals generate and process information as they provide care to patients. Managing that information and using it productively pose a continuing challenge, particularly in light of the complexity of the U.S. health care sector, with its many different types of providers, services, and settings for care. Health IT has the potential to significantly increase the efficiency of the health sector by helping providers manage information. It could also improve the quality of health care and, ultimately, the outcomes of that care for patients. In this paper, prepared at the request of the Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, the Congressional Budget Office examines the evidence on the costs and benefits of health IT, possible barriers to a broader distribution and use of it in hospitals and clinicians’ offices, and possible options for the federal government to promote use of health IT.
DIGITAL TELEVISION TRANSITION: Majority of Broadcasters Are Prepared for the DTV Transition, but Some Technical and Coordination Issues Remain
Government Accountability Office (GAO). Report to Congressional Requesters. April 2008. 38 pages.
This requested report examines the status of broadcast stations in transitioning to digital, the extent to which broadcast stations are encountering issues, and the actions the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken to guide broadcasters in the digital transition. To address these issues, GAO conducted a Web-based survey of full-power television broadcast stations. GAO surveyed 1,682 stations and obtained completed questionnaires from 1,122 stations, for a response rate of 66.7 percent.
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The opinions expressed in these publications do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government
HOME BROADBAND ADOPTION 2008
John B. Horrigan. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Report. July 2008. 31 pages.
Some 55% of all adult Americans now have a high-speed Internet connection at home. The percentage of Americans with broadband at home has grown from 47% in early 2007. Poorer Americans saw no growth in broadband adoption in the past year while at the same time nearly one-third of broadband users pay more to get faster connections.
THE INTERNET AND THE 2008 ELECTION
Aaron Smith and Lee Rainie. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Report. June 15, 2008. 27 pages.
A record-breaking 46% of Americans have used the Internet, e-mail or cell phone text messaging to get news about the campaign, share their views and mobilize others. A significant number of voters are also using the Internet to gain access to campaign events and primary documents. Some 39% of online Americans have used the Internet to access "unfiltered" campaign materials, which includes video of candidate debates, speeches and announcements, as well as position papers and speech transcripts. Online activism using social media has also grown substantially since the first time the Pew Center probed this issue during the 2006 midterm elections.
JOB OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE GREEN ECONOMY: A STATE-BY-STATE PICTURE OF OCCUPATIONS THAT GAIN FROM GREEN INVESTMENTS
Robert Pollin and Jeannette Wicks-Lim. Political Economy Research Institute. University of Massachusetts, Amherst. June 2008. 15 pages.
This report provides a snapshot of what kinds of jobs are needed to build a green economy in the United States. The authors focus on six key strategies for attacking global warming and highlight some of the major “green jobs” associated with each of these approaches: building retrofitting, mass transit, energy-efficient automobiles, wind power, solar power, and cellulosic biomass fuels. Millions of U.S. workers -- across a wide range of familiar occupations, states, and income and skill levels -- will all benefit from the project of defeating global warming and transforming the United States into a green economy.
RURAL BROADBAND AND THE TV WHITE SPACE: HOW UNLICENSED ACCESS TO VACANT TELEVISION CHANNELS CAN BRING AFFORDABLE WIRELESS BROADBAND TO RURAL AMERICA
Benjamin Lennett. New America Foundation. Wireless Future Program. Issue Brief #22. June 2008. 4 pages.
In 2004, the FCC initiated a proceeding to determine rules to allow the unlicensed operation of wireless communication devices in unused television band spectrum between channels 2 and 51. These vacant and unassigned television channels, known as the TV “white spaces,” would help make affordable wireless broadband in rural America a reality.
THE INTERNET AND CONSUMER CHOICE
John B. Horrigan. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. Report. May 18, 2008. 42 pages.
Networked information gives consumers ready access to resources that can provide clues about product quality, terms of service, and other features. This report examines the process by which people come to purchase three types of products that, in different ways, are likely to be influenced by online information. This reports finds that the Internet plays an important role in how people conduct research for purchases, but it is just one among a variety of sources people use and usually not the key factor in final purchasing decisions.
EXPLAINING INTERNATIONAL BROADBAND LEADERSHIP
Robert D. Atkinson, Daniel K. Correa and Julie A. Hedlund. Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF). May 2008. 108 pages.
It is hard to follow broadband telecommunications policy without hearing almost weekly that the United States ranks 15th out of 30 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) nations in broadband adoption. But it is much less apparent why the United States is behind. Indeed, relatively little work has been done to understand why some nations are ahead, and why some, like the United States, are lagging. By examining OECD nations through statistical analysis and in-depth case studies of nine nations, including the United States, this report identifies factors that have spurred broadband performance in other nations, presents key findings that government and the technology industry must recognize if they are to find the right course for the United States, and proposes key policy recommendations that will drive greater broadband performance.
UNDERSTANDING INTERNATIONAL BROADBAND COMPARISONS
Scott Wallsten. Technology Policy Institute. May 2008. 56 pages.
Discussions about broadband policy in the United States today inevitably begin by citing OECD estimates. Many analysts interpret the low ranking of the U.S. in broadband penetration relative to other OECD countries as meaning that U.S. broadband policy has been a failure. Whatever the relationship between rankings and policy, the OECD estimates are inaccurate and therefore misleading. In fact, broadband is nearly universally available in the U.S. and the U.S. compares favorably to other rich countries in terms of broadband penetration, speeds, and in broader measures of information and communications technology.
THE BROADBAND EFFICIENCY INDEX: WHAT REALLY DRIVES BROADBAND ADOPTION ACROSS THE OECD?
George S. Ford, Thomas M. Koutsky and Lawrence J. Spiwak. Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies. Policy Paper Number 33. May 2008. 27 pages.
In this paper, the authors assess the performance and efficiency of OECD countries with respect to broadband Internet subscription. Using the econometric technique of Stochastic Frontier Analysis, they estimate scores indicating the efficiency with which a country converts its economic and demographic endowments into broadband subscriptions. With very few exceptions, they find that broadband subscription in OECD countries is consistent with those endowments -- about two thirds of OECD countries have an efficiency rate of 95% or better. Significantly, the United States has an efficiency index of 96.7%, which is slightly higher than Japan (96.3%) and Korea (95.8%). Consistent with earlier research, they find that economic and demographic endowments explain nearly all of the variation in broadband subscriptions (91%).
REVERSE AUCTIONS AND UNIVERSAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS SERVICE: LESSONS FROM GLOBAL EXPERIENCE
Scott Wallsten. Technology Policy Institute. April 2008. 20 pages.
The United States now spends around $7 billion on universal service programs -- subsidies intended to ensure that the entire country has access to telecommunications services. Most of this money supports telecommunications service in “high cost” (primarily rural) areas, and the High Cost fund is growing quickly. In response to this growth, policymakers are considering using reverse auctions, or bids for the minimum subsidy, as a way to reduce expenditures. While the U.S. has not yet distributed funds for universal service programs using reverse auctions, the method has been used widely.
Previous issues of Information Technologies – Documents on the Web are available at: http://france.usembassy.gov/irc/econ/webalert/default.htm