Obama Tech Adviser Lays Out Telecom Policy Roadmap
A leading technology advisor to President Obama said in a research note for his investment firm today that privacy and net neutrality will be among the biggest telecommunications issues facing the Federal Communications Commission and the administration going forward. Analyst Blair Levin, who was the co-lead of Obama's technology and innovation team along with nominated FCC Chair Julius Genachowski, wrote in a Stifel Nicolaus research note that the economic crisis and change of administration will shift the focus of telecom policy away from traditional phone companies to "Internet/edge" players.
Indeed, Google and other Web video and voice companies like Skype have been increasingly active in recent years at the FCC, pushing particularly for net neutrality rules that would prevent carriers from blocking or charging more for certain content that travels over the Web. Levin said in a note that net neutrality will emerge again as an issue in the new administration for wireless networks.
On the other hand, there won't likely be a push for new net neutrality rules for cable, DSL, and fiber network carriers at the FCC.
"(There is a) consensus emerging that disputes about whether a wireline network
management tool is 'reasonable' (or is actually blocking or
degrading traffic) to be resolved on a case-by-case basis," Levin wrote in the note with analysts Rebecca Arbogast and David Kaut.
It would be a tough climb to impose rules that force wireless carriers to open their networks.
Apple and AT&T successfully argued to lawmakers and regulators to keep their exclusive iPhone contract. Skype's petition to the FCC to force carriers to allow any handset or software to operate on any network was shot down by former FCC Chairman Kevin Martin.
He said the biggest "sleeper" issue will be privacy. With a major overhaul of healthcare records to the Web, the rise in behavioral advertising and cloud computing, where information is stored in computers strung across many geographies, consumer, business and government advertising will lead to privacy disputes at the FCC and courts.
Levin's note also downplayed the immediate success of Obama's push for high-speed Internet in every American household. He said the initial $8 billion in stimulus funds for constructing new high-speed Internet lines and other programs was modest and just a start. He also said the FCC's mandate in the stimulus plan to come up with a broadband strategy for the country within one year would be "more likely to produce a volley of targeted recommendations than a silver bullet."
He added the FCC probably wouldn't quickly overhaul a $7 billion phone subsidy program to also include broadband Internet networks.
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