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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.

By Cecilia Kang  |  March 6, 2009; 2:45 PM ET  | Category:  Cecilia Kang
Previous: Readers Help Family Caught In Digital Divide | Next: Obama's $8B Broadband Plan Launches Tuesday

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Will Obama have the courage of Kevin Martin to aide the middle class's utility bill and push for a la carte cable? Afterall, like many other middle class households, I currently pay for $100 worth of channels when all I really want is 5 channels, costing about $10. Where is Obama's leadership on this vital middle class issue?

Posted by: Dellis2 | March 6, 2009 3:37 PM

This whole telecomm industry is a mess! It is a tangled web of incestuous relationships between regulators, legislators, and companies providing goods and services…all of them designed to minimize services and maximum profits…and hang the consumer or any service!
In my area, we have both Coax cable and fiber; one “owned” by the phone company and the other by the Cable services! Both terminate at the curb and cable at least is extended into the home to limited locations while the fiber is converted to “copper wire” for each home, also to limited locations!
Obviously, the Fiber could be shared by the phone companies and the cable company; saving considerable expense! And that Fiber should be extended into each home into at least 1 location in every room. Using Copper Wire for anything in the 21st Century is just plain stupid.
As for the “segmentation” of connectivity; that is also stupid! I have been in 3rd world countries where every shack had high speed fiber at a fraction of the cost of “America”! It is obvious that having all of this various equipment at various speeds are merely gimmicks to allow the Telecomm companies to stratify the market and exploit each element to the maximum while providing the least service possible!
The reasonable thing to do is to once again disband the Telco’s; nationalize the Fiber network and provide any company the right to provide services over these connections at some minimum rate needed to maintain the fiber networks; remove the piggyback taxes that the Quid pro quo to legislators to do the crazy social engineering schemes to justify the “creepy” monopolies given to the Telco’s for 20th Century agendas. Every home should have at least 1.5 Mips connectivity if not more and phone service should be essentially free!

Posted by: Chaotician | March 6, 2009 5:03 PM

Real scary. $8 billion is only a the down payment on universal medical mayhem(if the government runs it). Where do these nitwits think the money is going to come from? My children and grand children are already broke, thanks to these a__holes.

Posted by: LarryG62 | March 6, 2009 5:47 PM

It's time to force TV stations to broadcast simultaneously on the internet. There is no logical reason for preventing it.

Posted by: kevinschmidt | March 6, 2009 11:05 PM

My comment/opinion is in response to the first comment by Dellis2.
The good news that I see on the near horizon is that consumer choice will finally come via TV & the net merging. TV Choice will happen when we have real & affordable broadband for the masses.(But NO digital bridges to nowhere...) Sadly my friends, back in the 20th century I too supported ala cart channel choice via the straight talking senator from Arizona. Back then locally, the advisory peeps would just listen but never take action. It was like someone showing me the impossible sit-up back in high school.
Anyhow, one can only vote via their wallet & give positive digital input here there and everywhere on the online public square...
A coupla random thoughts.
Let's ask Barrack and the FCC for a real definition of the word "BROADBAND". ( A techy consensus like 50 mps (?) works for me.) I'm thinking free choice can't happen with crumby broadband, unfair provider LIMITS, and voodoo network management...
Today, one can buy a digi. box that sends net content, of ones choice, to your tv. ( Blockbuster has a similar example.) No need for cable or ala cart with this option combined with free over the air digital HDTV. REMEMBER, with cable or sat your paying dearly for content that the providers obtain for just pennies a month. ( Except for ESPN )
I've been following the lack of media / provider access & balance since 2004. ( This includes having our air waves more fair & balanced & becoming a fast wireless TWO WAY public digital street...) As we force wired free choice to the for front, via the broadband TV intersection, our digital lives will become much cheaper & of course more complicated. I'm ready... Were just now beginning to see the Newmark effect shifting to the digital content plateau. ITS ALL GOOD, competition (hopefully this time) should force fair prices. Except all the FEAR, hate, & bias stories to come. Of coouuurrrrssssseeeeee.....
Wait, wait, wait, one more EXTREMELY important thought :-). I don't have a new years resolution, BUT I'm hoping the US Supreme Court will let us park copyrighted material in the cloud for later "personal" use. One should be able to schedule, park and then retrieve content in a consumer friendly (green)fashion. This includes letting servers keep only an appropriate number copies of each file. This would be my green digi comment of the year. ( Such a process eliminates the need for wall to wall DVRS and hard drives consuming (coal) energy in all of our homes.
Fred Rodgers, please send us all your hope & prayers from above to help make this happen.

Posted by: billsharpe | March 7, 2009 12:17 PM

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