FoxNews Mic Nicked – iPhone Left Untouched!

Fox Mic Nicked - iPhone Left Untouched!Just as it appears that the whole of America goes mad over the blooming iPhone, there are some there who have different priorities.

Fox News was in the street in New York interviewing Steven Levy of Newsweek who had an iPhone before their release (BTW, He’s posted on his blog how unsatisfactory he found blogging from his iPhone was).

Just as the ‘news’ watching people hear from the reporter that Steven was one of only four people who got to test the phone before it was released, some tricky rascal comes along and pinches the reports Mic – _Not_ the iPhone! (Brings to mind the iDon’tWantOne coverage that we published back in January).
Watch the video after the jump
Continue reading FoxNews Mic Nicked – iPhone Left Untouched!

Frontline Wireless: US Analogue TV Spectrum Raising Much Interest

There’s a scramble for US spectrum by a collection of big-time venture capitalists.

Frontline Wireless: US Analogue TV Spectrum Raising Much InterestIn the same way that UK frequencies are being freed up by analogue TV going digital, a big chunk of valuable frequency will also be coming up for grabs in the US too. The big difference is that the US one is coming up a lot sooner, with the US government having mandated that their analogue switch off occurs on 19 Feb 2009.

Once freed-up, it is to reallocate the frequencies to public-safety organizations and commercial broadband networks.

According to the IHT, one of the contenders is a company called Frontline Wireless, which was formed at the start of this year to try to utilise the 700-megahertz band – by fulfilling both public-safety usage and commercial usage simultaneously.

A key part of their technical solution is the use of Software Defined Radio (SDR), which allows the same device to operate on many different frequencies, using the same chipset, switched by software.

Frontline Wireless: US Analogue TV Spectrum Raising Much InterestThe 700-megahertz frequency is highly favoured as it has a significant capacity, good range and can easily penetrate buildings and other structures.

Frontline has a number of advantages on their side. Not only does it have Reed Hundt, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman acting as Vice Chairman, but the company’s first public investor was K. Ram Shriram, an early Google investor known for his investment acumen. Venture capitalists L. John Doerr and James Barksdale, originators of Netscape, have also jumped on board.

They plan to offer to the public-safety network free of charge, while monetising the commercial side of the network. It’s estimated that they’d spend over $8 billion building out the network.

Frontline Wireless

Net Neutrality Matters

Net Neutrality MattersImagine a world where Internet performance is controlled by the company who owns the cables and where speed is sold to the highest bidder. Imagine a world where some Web sites load faster than others, where some sites aren’t even visible and where search engines pay a tax to make sure their services perform at an acceptable speed. That’s the world US Telecommunications companies (telcos) such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner are trying to create.

The debate centres around the ongoing review of the US Telecommunications Act and the concept of network neutrality (net-neutrality). The telcos have been lobbying congress to allow them to introduce priority services ensuring that the fastest data transfers and best download speeds are sold at a premium rate. The telcos position is widely seen to be in conflict with the most fundamental assumptions about what the Internet actually is.

To the lay person, it may seem like a laughable proposition. As Cory Doctorow (FreePress) put it, “It’s a dumb idea to put the plumbers who laid a pipe in charge of who gets to use it.” And yet the US congress is swaying towards the view of the telcos, so what’s going on?

The debate was kick-started in November 2005 when AT&T CEO, Ed Whitacre commented, “Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain’t going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there’s going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they’re using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?”

Whitacre’s argument boils down to the assumption that services such as Google and Yahoo are somehow freeloading on the infrastructure owned by the telcos. Cory Doctorow points out a fundamental flaw in his reasoning, “Internet companies already are paying for bandwidth from their providers, often the same companies that want to charge them yet again under their new proposals.”

Net Neutrality MattersAs Doctorow and other commentators have observed, Internet users and businesses already pay proportionally for their use of the net, allowing the owners of the infrastructure to take a further cut distorts the market in favour of those with the deepest pockets and threatens innovation and the development of new services.

Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, weighed in to the argument saying “Net neutrality is this: If I pay to connect to the Net with a certain quality of service, and you pay to connect with that or greater quality of service, then we can communicate at that level. That’s all. Its up to the ISPs to make sure they interoperate so that that happens.”

The debate in the US is split largely along partisan lines with Republicans favouring the telcos and Democrats siding with the pro-neutrality lobby. Since Whitacre started the debate, the telcos have promoted their case heavily using extensive television advertising and lobby groups. The pro-neutrality group (comprising the bulk of the industry) has organised itself with activist Websites such as save the internet and has signed up over a million individuals to its petition, but the campaign is not going well. On May 8th the House of Representatives passed the “Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act of 2006,” or COPE Act while defeating an amendment (the so-called Internet Platform for Innovation Act of 2006) that would have provided protection for neutrality. The next opportunity for progress comes this week when the Senate votes on Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2006 which also carries a neutrality friendly amendment.

Today, the legal Website Outlaw reported that two US Attorney Generals (Eliot Spitzer and Bill Lockyer) have backed the pro-neutrality cause. Spitzer wrote a letter stating that “Congress must not permit the ongoing consolidation of the telecommunications industry to work radical and perhaps irrevocable change in the free and neutral nature of the Internet”.

Whatever Spitzer and Lockyer’s influence, many commentators believe this kind of corporate influence on communications can only lead to economic censorship. As law professor and copyright activist Lawrence Lessig said in 2004 “The Internet was designed to allow competition and let the best products and content rise to the top. Without a policy of network neutrality, some of those products could be blocked by broadband providers”.

Broadcast Flag Knocked Back By US Court

Today, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that the US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) does not have authority to prohibit companies from making computer and video hardware that doesn’t comply with the Broadcast Flag. This was to come into effect on 1 July, this year.

As far back as 2002, representations were made to the FCC by the content industry to restrict the use video content on US Digital TV sets, as the Broadcast Protection Discussion Group, as it was named then, crossed the line“.

Despite having had some notice on this, today’s ruling will be a shock for content owners.

We spoke to John Enser, Partner in Media and Communications at Olswang, “It isn’t the first time that the FCC have had one of their decisions overturned. There are usually two type of ruling; a firm no, or a softer ‘you haven’t done it right this time, but there may be ways it can be done.’ This at first glance, this looks like a firm no.”

We equated it to either a door being slammed, or it being politely pushed closed, but left ajar. It appear as if it’s the big slam.

Is this the end of the road for the Broadcast Flag? Probably not thinks John Enser, “They can either appeal, or they could go back to Congress to give them the powers.” We’d imagine it’s probably more likely Congressmen will be getting phone calls today as content owners are fierce lobbyists in Washington. When we put this to Cory Doctorow, European outreach officer of the EFF he felt it was less likely, “The only option open to Hollywood is to find a senator so suicidal that they are prepared to force a law that will break their delegates television sets.”

Ren Bucholz, EFF Policy Co-ordinator, America told us that the EFF were “shocked and delighted” by the ruling. In particularly “by the pro-public interest language used” and “unanimity of all three judges voting the same way.” He went on to wonder what it meant to the future of the FCC, “possibly leading to a trimming of their wings.”

A number of calls to the MPAA were not returned before publication.

As to what will happen to all of the TV and computer equipment that has been manufactured in readiness for 1 July is unclear, as is whether the FCC will be compelled to rebate the manufacturers of the effected equipment.

We’ll leave the closing words to Cory Doctorow, “Now the Broadcast Flag is dead, it is essential that the content industry doesn’t introduce the same restrictions into Europe, via the back door of the DVB specification.”

Court ruling FCC

(photo credit: Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Michael Powell, FCC Chair to Go

Michael Powell FCCThe Wall Street Journal is reporting that US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, Michael Powell, will be leaving his position today.

The rumours of his departure have been circulating for a long time, but what is unexpected is that he is resigning the day after George Bush’s inauguration.

Powell has had his detractors and his supporters. He’s acted as a liberaliser – opening up the VoIP market, and, in some peoples eyes, a restrictor – last year he authorised fines in excess of $7.7 million for indecent programming.

He will, for us, for ever be remembered for calling a TiVo “God’s machine“.

Overall we think he’s been an enthusiastic supporter of technology advances. We hope his replacement will show a similar enthusiasm.

WSJ – FCC Chairman Powell Plans to Step Down (reg. req.)
Seattle Post-Intelligencer – Officials: FCC Chairman Powell to resign

FCC Approves First Software-Defined Radio (SDR)

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced its approval of the first software-defined radio (SDR) device allowed in the United States. The new equipment will allow users to share limited airspace, increase flexibility, and reduce interference concerns. In a move that may prove to be a radio technology revolution, the industry is now beset with pioneering work to find more creative and efficient use of airwaves in order to offer benefits to consumers.

Software-defined radio, sometimes shortened to software radio (SR), refers to wireless communication in which the transmitter modulation is generated or defined by a computer, and the receiver uses a computer to recover the signal intelligence. To select the desired modulation type, the proper programs must be run by microcomputers that control the transmitter and receiver.

However, the most significant asset of SDR is versatility. For instance, wireless systems employ protocols that vary from one service to another – even in the same type of service – whereas a single SDR set with an all-inclusive software repertoire can be used in any mode, anywhere in the world. Software defined radios can change the frequency range, modulation type or output power of a radio device without making changes to hardware components. This programmable capacity permits radios to be highly adaptable to changing needs, protocols and environments.

The ultimate goal of SDR is to provide a single radio transceiver capable of playing the roles of the cordless telephone, mobile phone, wireless fax, wireless e-mail system, pager, wireless videoconferencing unit, wireless Web browser, Global Positioning System (GPS) unit, and other functions, operable from any location.

The FCC’s approval gives the go-ahead to Vanu, a software development company, for a cellular base station transmitter. Vanu’s Radio GSM Base Station, which is based on a HP ProLiant server running Linux coupled with ADC Telecommunications’ Digivance radio subsystem, can support multiple cellular technologies and frequencies at the same time and can be modified in the future without any hardware changes. The technology has the potential to lower costs and provide new flexibility in wireless networks, thereby changing the entire cost structure over time. The first users will be military and public safety officials.