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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

First Arrests of Smart Meter Protesters in U.S. Made Today in Marin Co., California

Should the Wireless Sector be Concerned with Increasing EMF Militancy ?

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/29/2010 San Francisco - Two activists protesting the deployment of smart meters by Northern California's Pacific Gas & Electric Corp. (NYSE: PCG) today became the first anti-smart meter campaigners in the U.S. to be arrested for their actions.

Katharina Sandizell-Smith and Kristin McCrory were accused of blocking a public street in Inverness Park, California this morning and arrested by Marin County Sheriff's Deputies. In a variety of venues, groups associated with today's arrests allege that wireless smart meters emit levels of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiation that are harmful to human health. 
Marin County Sheriff's Deputies arrest Katharina Sandizell-Smith (left) and
Kristin McCrory (right) in Inverness Park, California this morning.
Photo: Courtesy of Scotts Valley Neighbors Against Smart Meters


Today's arrests mark a new flash point among anti-smart meter groups scattered around the nation and electric utilities installing the terminals which are key elements of the emerging American smart grid infrastructure.


In comments of this afternoon to this publication, spokesperson Joshua Hart of the group, Scotts Valley Neighbors Against Smart Metersthat organized the protest went further than voicing the group's continued criticism of PG&E's smart meter effort. He warned the U.S. wireless industry of an increasing militancy, as activists fighting what they see as the harmful impacts of a variety of EMF applications present throughout society.


"The wireless industry needs to look itself in the mirror and decide whether they are going to follow the tobacco industry's route of denial and deception, burdening a generation with lasting health impacts or invest in high speed fibre optic, wired and stable connections for our future telecommunications needs", said Hart in an email in response to our questions about today's arrests.

"There is a growing revolution across the country against forced wireless smart meters, and other microwave radiation near people's homes.   Government and industry would be wise to take note," concluded the spokesperson of the group named , based in Santa Cruz County, California.



Hart agreed with our estimate that today's arrests in Marin are the first in the United States staged by anti-smart meter protesters. This assessment is concurred with by another leading anti-smart meter organizer, Sandi Maurer of Sebastopol, CA. Ms. Maurer is a co-founder of the EMF Safety Network


While several California legislators and consumer groups have criticized various aspects of PG&E's smart meter roll out as it effects ratepayers, these two groups have instead focused on what they see as the EMF ramifications of the large scale deployment. 


Concerns about the perceived harm of EMF radiation have been voiced for years by citizens opposed to the construction of wireless antenna sites. The new focus on smart meters has however caught the U.S. wireless industry  by surprise at a time it is greatly increasing its capital investment in 4G broadband networks. 


Activists allege that the peak or pulse radiation emitted by wireless smart meters, as the terminals cycle through bursts of near real time data delivery, should be further investigated and limited by federal equipment certification processes. They routinely state, in testimony to state utility regulators and in other venues, that this issue of peak radiation has not been properly studied by either the utility or wireless sectors.  


"Who Are Those Guys"?
Coming on the heels of passage in June of San Francisco's local ordinance requiring EMF warning labels on all wireless devices sold in the city, calls in Congress for further radiation studies, and EMF activism around smart meter installation programs in other California locations, one wonders if a tipping point of negative public opinion may loom on the horizon.


Marin County, California, like its more famous sister county across the Golden Gate, San Francisco, is one of the most progressive polities in the nation. Should the American wireless sector see concerns about EMF issues in Marin, in San Francisco, and in other areas of the Golden State as early telltales of a potential national trend, or as outliers easily dismissed? 


"Yes," said Sandi Maurer answering our question about the possible importance of today's apparently planned arrests, "today is significant in terms of the movement" toward what she calls "prudent use" of wireless.


"There is a certain part of the population, I can't guess how large it is, that avoids the use of wireless for health reasons," said Maurer of the EMF Safety Network. She pointed out that for those people wary of EMF radiation from a variety of sources, the perception that a utility will install a wireless meter in one's home without an "opt out" provision is upsetting.   


Advocates for smart grid investment nationally -- investment which has been given an $11 billion jump start by federal stimulus funding ($3.4 billion dedicated to smart meters) appropriated by Congress for programs of the U.S. Department of Energy -- can be forgiven for regarding two arrests in bucolic West Marin as being apropos of nothing. 


Coupled with consumer protection concerns over billing accuracy, and over capital costs loaded onto the rate base, will the growing militancy focused on smart meters argue for some state level regulatory second looks? Will these, in turn, result in even further slowed deployments of this essential end equipment needed to capitalize the larger national smart grid infrastructure?

Should the industry and the regulators, perhaps, be like Butch and Sundance and at least deign to ask "Who are those guys"? 


Our Take: Two Industries Need to Take A Closer Look in 2011
We believe wireless carriers and equipment manufacturers will be paying closer attention in 2011 to how smart meter deployments may become, surprisingly to many of us, drivers of an elevated concern with EMF issues by some U.S. consumers. We think the smarter utilities and regulators will be doing the same. We think that's a good thing.


Yes, yes, we've heard all the arguments that people concerned about this stuff are crazy.


Here's the deal: We in the telecom industry make our living in a sector that is regulated at all 3 levels of government.  We've permitted wired and wireless technologies since before most people even knew what cable television was.  We've been preaching in favor of the smart grid over broadband since before those terms were in common use. Despite what we might like to think, we don't have a god given right to dig up a street, site a tower, or receive public sector subsidies. We do all those things, and more, because our customers want our services. 


When fellow Americans, no matter how few and no matter how vilified, are going into the streets to get arrested about something our industry is doing, is that really a good thing for us? Anyone that thinks it is a good thing has never actually done the hard work of permitting, licensing, or deploying the technologies that drive our country's economy.     


Let's drop back and listen, do some more studies, allow opt outs when necessary. The big power monopolies, like PG&E, trace their ancestry back to the robber baron era. They often remind us of that. Let's remember that many of us in competitive telecom grew up fighting another monopoly called the Bell System. We had the American consumer on our side as we did. Let's remember that too.
 





StimulatingBroadband.com

Thursday, December 23, 2010

FCC Open Internet Order Released to American Public

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/23/2010 San Francisco - The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) this afternoon released to the public the long awaited final text of its historic Open Internet Report and Order.

FCC Open Internet Order - FCC-10-201A1

StimulatingBroadband.com

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FCC's "Open Internet" Order Is Still A Secret

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/21/2010 San Francisco - Somewhere George Orwell is smiling. The full text of the FCC's "Open Internet" Order remains a secret. It remains secret even after it was voted on this morning by Commissioners. 

In remarks of this morning at the Commission's open meeting, Chairman Julius Genachowski, the Order's lead author, stated he is "proud of this process, which has been one of the most transparent in FCC history." 

The document as approved by a 3 - 2 vote remains hidden from public view as staff edits final copy. We reported yesterday that senior Commission officials describe this as a process of making final "tweaks." Meredith Atwell Baker, one of two Republican Commissioners to vote against the Order, stated that the final draft voted on was submitted to Commissioners just "12 hours earlier."

That draft, the one now being "tweaked" by staff after one of the most critical Commission votes of the Internet era, resulted from 3 weeks of work by Commissioners and staff. That cycle was launched by Genachowski's action of December 1 as he submitted his initial draft "on circulation" to fellow Commissioners and authorized staff.

The initial draft also remains a secret despite calls for its public release -- and thereby, god forbid,  the disclosure of its many critical details -- by Republican Commissioners, Members of Congress, and a variety of public interest groups and trade associations. It is that initial draft which this publication called for to be leaked to us on December 2 for immediate publication. That is the same working iteration of the Order which we issued a FOIA request for the following day.   

No one at the FCC leaked that first draft to us. Our fcctransprarency@gmail.com has not received even a few pages of any working draft, as discussed with lobbyists during the scores of ex parte meetings held with Commission staff. 

In a discussion yesterday with the Commission's Office of General Counsel, we were told that the FOIA request would "be processed in  timely manner." Timely, of course, means we are not to expect any answer of substance, including a potential denial of release of the first draft, until the full '20 business days' allowed by the FOIA statute runs to its conclusion on January 4. Its called a slow roll.
 
So what's the big deal here anyway? 

The big deal is that there are some of us impertinent enough to, yes, actually want to study the arcane details, arguments, and legal citations of a document that holds untold impact for the most dynamic sector in the American economy. Some of us might actually desire to read the text of that complex and important document rather than take the word of Commission issued summaries, rare as they are. Having the final voted document in-hand allows us to see what Chairman Genachowski has cobbled together with (forgive us of this) the luxury of actually seeing and understanding what the Order says.

And that is the point.

The Order is the single most important regulatory document in U.S. telecom policy since at least the passage of the 1996f federal Telecom Act. The point is that the American people have a right to see all of the various drafts of the Order. The point we have a President that pledged to open our government, and to preside over the most transparent administration in history. 

We deserve to understand not only what it says at a detailed level, we deserve to understand how lobbyists and partisan Commissioners changed the working draft over the past 3 weeks. That is what full transparency means. That is precisely the type of transparency that President Obama promised us.

What we have instead is a controlled view of what the Order says. It is a view spun by paid media relations personnel on government payrolls. It is a view reported by selected media outlets to which advance copies of the Chairman's speeches have been given ahead of the rest of us. It is a view framed by the PR arms of some of the largest cable and telecom trade associations in the nation who have accessed pieces of working drafts during those scores of ex parte proceedings.

Much will be written about the significance of the Open Internet Order. The fact that so much national debate has raged over a document that the American public has not seen to date is surely not the smallest irony delivered to us by an Administration that pledged better.


Somewhere George Orwell is smiling. StimulatingBroadband.com

Monday, December 20, 2010

Call It the Netflix Rule: FCC Says "We Will Not Bless Paid Priority Rules" in Net Neutrality Order

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/20/2010 San Francisco - Call it the Netflix Rule. 

It is the attempt by a now working majority of FCC commissioners to establish a rule that prohibits "paid prioritization" of Internet traffic, yet allows for the increased revenues necessary to recapitalize the American national broadband infrastructure in the face of surging usage.

That huge uptick in usage is most clearly produced by 4G mobile broadband applications and by online video content providers. The most prominent in the latter category is Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) current darling of both Wall Street and on demand video consumers.


That rule will be seen in the text of the final network neutrality Order which will be voted on -- but still not issued as a public document -- at the Commission meeting of tomorrow, December 21.


That rule, and the degree to which it is accepted or challenged by the two major camps at sword points over net neutrality issues -- application and content producers vs. service providers -- has become the single most critical question in American telecom policy since the passage of the federal telecom Act of 1996. Netflix, which is now seeing a surge of customers move to online viewing, stands to be the biggest single near term winner if the Commission can enforce its stated ban on paid prioritization.


Paid Prioritization Not "Blessed" in Order
Senior officials of the Federal Communications Commission today vehemently stated that the anxiously awaited network neutrality rules will in no way allow for so called paid prioritization of digital traffic by Internet service providers (ISPs).


Speaking on background during a conference call of this afternoon, two senior appointed staff officials of FCC made clear that the network neutrality Order expected to be voted on in the affirmative by all three Democratic commissioners at the Commission's open meeting of tomorrow, will not allow or otherwise give incentive for ISPs to charge for certain types of traffic over others. 


Multiple analysts, reporters, public interest groups, and trade associations have been stating their belief that such "paid prioritization" would be allowed, following the circulation to his four colleagues by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski of the secret draft of the Order on the first of December.


"It is categorically false," stated one of the two senior staff officials on the call "that the order will bless paid priority rules." Staff did however state that the language in which such practices will be prohibited will leave the door open to some conceivable practices which the Commission would not find "unreasonable" going forward. 


Paid Prioritization "Unlikely to be Reasonable"
"The Order explains it is unlikely to be found reasonable" in any response by the Commission to a complaint brought in the future, stated the officials. "Someday might it be reasonable?" asked the official rhetorically. "That is left open, with a very high bar" being set by the Order against any ISP attempting to levy such prioritization conditions on traffic.  


How and what is defined as "paid prioritization" is one of the most essential items in the Order, especially in relation to those practices that ISPs will be allowed. "The order does discuss the issue of broadband providers giving choices for services," further stated the FCC senior official. 


Previously the senior staff member had stated, in introducing the broad outlines of the Order, that the document has changed since Genachowski's December 1 submittal, with "changes providing a little more certainty around the definition of broadband services."


Will Wall Street investors and Silicon Valley VCs see the Order as allowing for capital flows back to ISPs needing to upgrade their access and transport networks, while still giving the protections for neutral access to those networks required by application developers and content providers? 


We will only know once the American public can finally see the actual text of the Order, and see how application developers, capital markets, ISPs, and equipment manufactures eager to sell gear to carriers react. 




StimulatingBroadband.com

Alert: FCC Will Not Release Final Net Neutrality Order on 12/21

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/20/2010 San Francisco - Senior officials of the Federal Communications Commission just stated on a media conference call that the Commission will not be releasing its long anticipated final Order on network neutrality issues tomorrow, December 21, as expected.


Senior FCC officials stated that given the "robust" work among staff of the office of Chairman Julius Genachowski and Commissioners Clyburn and Copps, release of the final order will still await several important "tweaks" over the next several days. No specific date was disclosed for release of the Order, other than the time period of the next "several days."


The two senior Commission officials on the call fully anticipated that the three Democratic members of the Commission -- Genachowski, Clyburn, and Copps -- would vote in favor of the Order. StimulatingBroadband.com

Friday, December 17, 2010

IG of Commerce Discloses Points of Motorola Stimulus Grant Investigation

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/17/2010 San Francisco - Inspector General Todd J. Zinser of the U.S. Department of Commerce today disclosed his reasons for opening the first audit or investigation by a federal IG of any grant or loan award made under the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program of the Obama Administration. The disclosure is seen in a 3 paragraph memo just released to the media, and posted on a federal website, which also outlines the specifics points of the precedent setting inquiry.


The disclosure follows yesterday's news that Zinser's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) confirmed to press outlets that the controversial $50 million grant award to Motorola for the BayWEB wireless public safety project was the subject of an audit. As we reported yesterday, this is the first time in the nearly 2 year history of the program that such action by an IG has been publicly disclosed.


In his memo to Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence E. Strickling, Zinser stated that the OIG action was triggered by the letter of November 1 written by Dr. Jeff Smith, County Executive of Santa Clara County, California, and addressed to Zinser. Smith had asked for an investigation of the BayWEB award by the OIG, given that the grant was made by Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).


The IG states his auditors and investigators will be looking at 2 specific issues:

1. Staff of OIG will "examine the procedures followed by NTIA in reviewing the initial complaint from the County of Santa Clara and City of San Jose prior to preparing its October 1, 2010 response, and subsequent actions to look into the issue."


2. "Second, we will review the valuation of equipment provided as matching share by the grantee, in addition to the equipment being purchased from the grantee as part of the BayWEB project."



Notification to NTIA BayWEB

Resources:
The BayWEB Examination is our compendium of information on the project. We believe it is the most comprehensive such collection available. We have assembled links to all media coverage of the issue, to online documents secured by us from confidential and open sources, to documents secured by others and by this publication under federal and state public records filings, and to our own published reporting.

Note on awardee identification: The project grant was applied for by, and subsequently awarded to, the entity Motorola, Inc., formally traded as (NYSE: MOT). Motorola, Inc. was split into 2 new and separate companies, which both began trading on January 5, 2011.  The network infrastructure side of the business, all public safety equipment lines, and the network integration / management services divisions became Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI). We have retroactively re-tagged our BayWEB stories with the MSI ticker symbol. StimulatingBroadband.com

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Alert: Motorola Confirms Inspector General's Audit of $50 Million BayWEB Broadband Stimulus Grant

First OIG Announced Audit Under Entire Broadband Stimulus Program; NTIA Unaware of OIG Action

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/16/2010 - (Updated 11:20 PM) San Francisco - Company and federal officials have confirmed that the $50 million BayWEB broadband stimulus award to Motorola, Inc. (now Motorola Solutions, Inc.; NYSE: MSI) is now the subject of an audit by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Commerce (OIG).


BayWEB thus becomes the first and only broadband stimulus award in the nation to be specifically targeted for an audit by a federal inspector general, or to be publicly announced as the focus of such an inquiry.


Inspector General Todd J. Zinser, U.S. Department of Commerce
In excess of $7 billion has been awarded to date, although little of it has been expended, under one of the signature technology funding programs within the Obama Administration's $787 stimulus effort. The program is jointly managed by the Agriculture Department's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). BayWEB is a grant solely issued by NTIA for one of the few federally financed 700 MHz LTE public safety networks.


News of the audit was first broken by business reporter Eli Segall of the San Jose Business Journal this afternoon.  Segall quoted OIG spokesperson Randall Popelka as saying, "There is apparently an irregularity in this grant, and we look at irregularities."


Popelka confirmed for this publication early evening today that the OIG audit of BayWEB is underway, and the reporting by Segall was fully accurate.


Motorola's authorized spokesperson for the firm's Government and Public Safety section, Mr. Matthew Messinger, stated to StimulatingBroadband.com this afternoon that "we are aware of the audit."  Continued Messinger, "the people we are talking to within Motorola say this is customary."


When asked if the OIG's audit was ongoing, the Motorola spokesperson replied, "We are aware the audit is being done."


When reached early evening today, NTIA spokesperson Ms. Moira Vahey was unaware of the audit action by OIG, stating the agency would have a response comment Friday morning.


Resources:
The BayWEB Examination is our compendium of information on the project. We believe it is the most comprehensive such collection available. We have assembled links to all media coverage of the issue, to online documents secured by us from confidential and open sources, to documents secured by others and by this publication under federal and state public records filings, and to our own published reporting.

Note on awardee identification: The project grant was applied for by, and subsequently awarded to, the entity Motorola, Inc., formally traded as (NYSE: MOT). Motorola, Inc. was split into 2 new and separate companies, which both began trading on January 5, 2011.  The network infrastructure side of the business, all public safety equipment lines, and the network integration / management services divisions became Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI). We have retroactively re-tagged our BayWEB stories with the MSI ticker symbol. StimulatingBroadband.com

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Alert: San Jose City Council Asks Feds to Reallocate $50 Million BayWEB Stimulus Grant Away from Motorola

Council Member Who is Former Prosecutor Calls for "Public Corruption Case"

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/14/2010 -  The City Council of San Jose, CA, deliberating this morning on the increasingly controversial $50 million federal broadband stimulus grant awarded to Motorola, Inc. (now Motorola Solutions, Inc.; NYSE: MSI) for an advanced public safety network project, passed an item asking the federal government to reallocate the grant from the firm to the city governments it is proposed to serve.  The vote by the legislative body representing the largest city in Northern California is the first of its kind for any award under the $7.2 billion broadband stimulus program of the Obama Administration.

During the 90 minute discussion on the matter, a sitting councilmember who is a former federal and state prosecutor said that a "public corruption case" was warranted for the so-called BayWEB project.


The action came as the Council voted unanimously to support two recommendations proposed by staff of Mayor Chuck Reed.  He and Santa Clara County Executive Dr. Jeff Smith are the leading area officials strongly questioning the budgetary, ethical, and procurement aspects of BayWEB. The project is proposed as one of the first 700 MHz LTE broadband networks in the nation, and is funded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The grant is part of agency's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). 

The lead recommendation voted by the Council asks "the National Telecommunications and Information Agency to reallocate the funds to the Bay Area cities and counties," thus moving the $50.6 million federal grant from Motorola, to the governmental jurisdictions the funds are intended to support. Mayor Reed stated during the meeting that NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling has already told him in direct conversation "the money goes back" to the U.S. treasury if awarded funds are not disbursed to Motorola.

Councilmember Sam Liccardo, a former state and federal prosecutor, said during deliberation on the BayWEB item that if he were still serving as a prosecutor, "I would have cleared my desk for a public corruption case," given the appearance of improper activity alleged to surround the BayWEB award.


Liccardo's statement marks the first time an elected official in California has suggested in public a criminal investigation into the mounting allegations and questions about the project.


This morning's action by the council was triggered by a demand of last week issued by NTIA Program Manager Lance Johnson for public sector partners in the BayWEB effort to express verbally and in writing their "intent" to move ahead with the project, or otherwise.

Today's vote demonstrates that BayWEB is increasingly a severe public relations and business development challenge for Motorola as it attempts to show first mover status in the growing broadband wireless sub-sector of the public safety communications equipment marketplace.

We will follow this Alert with detailed reporting on the escalating events of the past week around BayWEB as they continue to develop here in the Bay Area and in Washington. 


Resources:
The BayWEB Examination is our compendium of information on the project. We believe it is the most comprehensive such collection available. We have assembled links to all media coverage of the issue, to online documents secured by us from confidential and open sources, to documents secured by others and by this publication under federal and state public records filings, and to our own published reporting.

Note on awardee identification: The project grant was applied for by, and subsequently awarded to, the entity Motorola, Inc., formally traded as (NYSE: MOT). Motorola, Inc. was split into 2 new and separate companies, which both began trading on January 5, 2011.  The network infrastructure side of the business, all public safety equipment lines, and the network integration / management services divisions became Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI). We have retroactively re-tagged our BayWEB stories with the MSI ticker symbol. StimulatingBroadband.com 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Barton Concedes Energy & Commerce Gavel to Upton

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/07/2010 San Francisco - Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX-06) has just issued a statement conceding the chairmanship of the U.S. House Energy and Committee to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI-06). The Michigan Republican will become Chairman of the powerful House committee as the GOP takes control of the lower body in January when the 112th Congress is seated.
Rep. Fred Upton
Barton's concession follows this afternoon's vote by the Republican Steering Committee to recommend Upton as Chairman to the full House Caucus. 


In his statement emailed to the media within the past several minutes, Barton, the Ranking Member of the Committee, said:


“It has been a privilege to serve on the Energy and Commerce Committee for 24 of my 26 years in the House of Representatives, and it was a high honor to lead this committee.

Now I want to offer my congratulations to Fred, who is taking over the best committee in Congress. He has an enormous job ahead, and Im going to do everything I know how to make his chairmanship the kind of success that the American people want and expect."
StimulatingBroadband.com

Friday, December 3, 2010

Barton to Genachowski: FCC Staff Engaged in Distortions on Net Neutrality

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/03/2010 San Francisco - Texas Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX-06) the Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce now in contention to become Committee Chairman in the new Congress, has again racheted up the partisan debate over possible federal network neutrality policy, between Capitol Hill Republicans and the Federal Communications Commission.


Barton this afternoon issued a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachoswki pointing to alleged "discrepancies" and "distortions" in a statement being circulated by FCC staff intended to show industry support for the Chairman's controversial open Internet proposal issued only to fellow Commissioners earlier this week.

Barton Letter - 120310 FCC Quote Distortions


 StimulatingBroadband.com

Thursday, December 2, 2010

To FCC Staff: Leak the Net Neutrality Proposed Regs

We Call for Transparency the Old Fashioned Way, We Will Publish the Leaked Document


StimulatingBroadband.com 12/02/2010 San Francisco - The release late Tuesday by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski of proposed network neutrality regulations marks a new round in one of the most controversial and critically important debates in American tech and telecom policy since the passage of the 1996 Telecom Act.
___________________________

Send a copy of the Chairman's net neutrality proposal to: fcctransparency@gmail.com
___________________________


As every reader here knows, the reaction to the Chairman's suggested framework approach has been pointed and swift from industry, political, and policy arenas alike. Public interest advocates have called the proposal a sellout to the large carriers. Newly energized Republicans on Capitol Hill have called Genachowski's move outright illegal. The largest cable trade association, the NCTA, applauded the effort. The Chairman's two colleagues from across the aisle, Commissioners  Meredith Atwell Baker and Robert M. McDowell, have been nearly as pointed in their criticism as House Republicans.
There is only one important procedural problem in all of this: The document at the center of this critical policy debate, a proposal that has the potential of impacting our economy to the tune of billions of dollars, is not available to the public. 


Its secret. Not classified, Wikileaks material secret. You and I can't see it, nonetheless. 


The fact you and I can't see it is wrong. Its wrong under our framework of open democratic government. Its wrong under the Administration of President Obama who pledged a new dedication to the goals of openness and transparency. Its wrong under any simple reading of the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Its wrong that an arcane procedure of the FCC will keep the document out of public view until voted on by the full Commission, a vote now scheduled for December 21 in this case.   


I've spoken and corresponded at some length with Commission staff over the past day in attempts to get a copy of the document for publication. Staff has been incredibly helpful in walking though Commission rules. They have correctly said release of the document would be a violation of those rules. These folks are exemplars of the federal workforce. We are well served by them. They are following the rules, and telling us what Commission policy is. That is their job.   


So, here's our pitch to FCC Commissioners, staff, interns, file clerks, and the people that clean the offices; to staff on the Hill; and to attorney - lobbyists with access to pieces of drafts (which is also the way the system works): Send to the email account listed above the Chairman's network neutrality proposed regulations, in any version, form, or finish you have access to. We will publish whatever we receive immediately. The public interest will be served. No one need listen to tiresome iterations about FCC procedures that any Administration truly committed to reform would have tossed out months ago.


You'll feel better when you do it. The document belongs to the American people. The American public has a right to see it, to read it, and to debate it. Those might not be the rules of the agency you work for. They are the rules of the people that founded our nation. They are the rules given to us by a lot of brave men and women buried in American cemeteries all over the world.


Oh, lastly, if anyone wants to know: I personally think Chairman Genachowski is the best thing that's happened to the FCC in a long time. I just have a bad habit of actually believing this stuff about free speech and open government. I have a worse habit of actually holding people that I work to get elected -- people like the guy who appointed the Chairman -- accountable for what they say. 


Update: We have issued a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the document to FCC on December 3. Given that FOIA allows the agency up to 20 business days to respond via either release of the document or citation of 1 or more legal exemptions invoked to continue withholding of the material, that response can take longer than the 3 weeks between now and the Commission meeting of December 21.


FOIA Letter FCC 12-03-2010 Web


- Peter Pratt, Publisher StimulatingBroadband.com

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

GOP Questions FCC Legal Authority for Net Neutrality Framework Regs

StimulatingBroadband.com 12/01/2010 San Francisco - Republicans on Capitol Hill, and on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), have reacted quickly and strongly against the network neutrality regulatory framework proposed this morning by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.


FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker
As the two Republican appointees sitting on FCC, Commissioners Meredith Atwell Baker and Robert M. McDowell, were issuing their statements on the heels of  the Chairman's webcast speech of this morning, the two Ranking Members of the House committee most involved in telecom issues issued a written salvo trained at Genachoswki.


The common theme running through the pronouncements of Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX-06) and Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-TX-06), and those of the Baker and McDowell statements: The FCC does not have the legal authority to act on network neutrality matters, as Genachowski is urging for favorable action by the Commission at its December 21 open meeting.

Barton - Stearns 120110 Letter to FCC Net Neutrality

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Net Neutrality Leaders Demand FCC Act vs. Comcast on Zoom's Cable Modem Fight

StimulatingBroadband.com 11/30/2010 San Francisco - A coalition of the leading public interest groups in the nation lobbying for network neutrality protections have this afternoon sent a joint letter to the FCC demanding that Commission side with cable modem manufacturer Zoom Telephonics against Comcast, in Zoom's formal complaint of anticompetitive action by the U.S. cable giant.


The letter of today, sent within the last several hours to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, is below:
Fp Map Naf Pk Fcc Zoom Letter of 11-30-2010










StimulatingBroadband.com

Friday, November 5, 2010

$50 Million Grant Application by Motorola for Controversial BayWEB Project Published

StimulatingBroadband.com 11/05/2010 San Francisco - So it has come to this: What should be a public document, involving millions of dollars from the U.S. Treasury, is apparently prized out of a federal agency under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), partially redacted, and sent anonymously to this publication.


We publish it here, as received. We do not know the specific source of the material, as it was transmitted to us by a non-governmental third party located in the San Francisco Bay Area.


The document appears to be a nearly full text copy of the grant funding application submitted in March by Motorola, Inc. (now Motorola Solutions, Inc.; NYSE: MSI) to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The application resulted in the funding, for $50 million, of the controversial BayWEB public safety wireless communications project. Various governmental bodies, with the City of San Jose and the County of Santa Clara in the lead of such effort, have petitioned for release of the full document for the past 60 days. 


Certain information in the document has been redacted, with citations given to the applicable parts of FOIA allowing for specified exemptions for claimed proprietary data.


FOIA BayWEB Consolidated


Resources:
The BayWEB Examination is our compendium of information on the project. We believe it is the most comprehensive such collection available. We have assembled links to all media coverage of the issue, to online documents secured by us from confidential and open sources, to documents secured by others and by this publication under federal and state public records filings, and to our own published reporting.

Note on awardee identification: The project grant was applied for by, and subsequently awarded to, the entity Motorola, Inc., formally traded as (NYSE: MOT). Motorola, Inc. was split into 2 new and separate companies, which both began trading on January 5, 2011.  The network infrastructure side of the business, all public safety equipment lines, and the network integration / management services divisions became Motorola Solutions, Inc. (NYSE: MSI). We have retroactively re-tagged our BayWEB stories with the MSI ticker symbol. StimulatingBroadband.com

Thursday, November 4, 2010

K Street's Best Guides to Capitol Hill's Changing Policies & Players

StimulatingBroadband.com 11/04/2010 San Francisco - If K Street lobbyist firms were in the food business, they would give away free snacks at the supermarket.


Since of course they are in the business of representing clients' interests in front of legislators, they instead give away tasty morsels of Capitol Hill analysis and updates. They track the changing players in Congress having influence over client interests.


A congressional sea change of the type the nation is now experiencing, as a result of Tuesday's not unexpected midterm blowout, is a boon for both K Street's leading lobbying firms, and for the smaller shops that specialize in particular policy areas with changing agendas. American business hates uncertainty almost as much as it hates governmen- tal action it sees as counter to its interests.


Currently, our two favorite guides to the new players, projected new assignments, and evolving new policy initiatives of the incoming 112th Congress are from lobbying powerhouse Patton Boggs LLP, and the globally integrated K&L Gates LLPThey are both free, timely, an invaluable.


Read the Patton Boggs work for detailed analysis of the leading public policy issues on the Hill now in transition. Check back in with the K&L document for updates as committee assignments for both the incoming Republican new majority in the House, and the remaining Democrats shifting to the minority, are seen.


For us policy and political types, a big shift on Capitol Hill is like the Superbowl and World Series all rolled into one. Thanks to two of K Street's standout firms, we can enjoy the game munching on these free snacks. Download the documents from the firms' sites:


K&L Gates LLP, November 2010 -
Election Guide 2010: A Guide to Changes in Congress


Patton Boggs LLP, November 3, 2010 -
President Barack Obama and the Closely Divided 112th Congress: An Angry Electorate Has Spoken, Now What? 


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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rick Boucher Loses House Seat

StimulatingBroadband.com 11/02/2010 San Francisco - Congressman Rick Boucher (D-VA-09), Chairman of one of the two most important committees on Capitol Hill framing American telecommunications policy and federal funding strategies for the sector, has lost his seat in the U.S. House.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA-09), Chairman,
House Subcommittee on Communications,
Technology and the Internet.
According to an Associated Press report out of Boucher's home state of Virginia, the fourteen term Representative from the rural southwestern Virginia Ninth District was defeated in balloting today by Republican challenger Morgan Griffith (R-VA). Griffith is the current Majority Leader of the Virginia House.  

Boucher, who has served on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet since the 1980s, rose to become Chairman of the Subcommittee in this Congress as long term Charmain Ed Markey (D-MA-09) moved to head the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. 

Democratic concern for incumbent Members of Congress in the Old Dominion had most recently centered on Freshman Rep. Tom Perriello (D-VA-05) in the district adjacent to Boucher's to the east. President Obama campaigned for Perriello, who was also defeated today, in the Virginia Fifth within the past week. As champion political prognosticator Nate Silver wrote within the past hour, Boucher had been seen "as a slight favorite" to win a fifteenth term in the House.

As the Democrats now go into the minority in the House, speculation turns to Markey to take over the position of ranking member on the Subcommittee, a position he held when the GOP last had control of the chamber.


Our Take: A young man testifying to the Subcommittee 1989 was made to feel at ease by the accent, familiar visage, and steady hand of a fellow Bostonian serving as Chairman, and by a true gentleman from Virginia asking the most incisive questions with the utmost courtesy. Along with the then Chairman, Ed Markey, Rick Boucher would be instrumental in supporting what we from the public interest groups representing consumers and the cities were then pushing for: Competition for the cable industry from telcos. Today that is ancient history. Today that competitive environment, previously illegal under federal law, is a fact of economic life which fuels the entire broadband-enabled sector of our nation. It is so largely because of Rick Boucher. 


In succeeding years, Markey and Boucher would become the workhorses without whom the Telecom Act of 1996, and the subsequent recapitalization of the U.S. telecom infrastructure, would not have been possible. America's leadership in high technology is intimately related to that regulatory innovation. We leave it to others as to how and why someone who has added so much to our country, and to his own district, can be turned out of office by the constituents he served.


For now, we fondly recall some ancient history:
  

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