More on Cellphone TV Regulation

by on April 20, 2005 · 4 comments

As I mentioned in a previous post, cellphone television is coming and that raises the interesting question of whether cellphone censorship will follow.

The New York Post has a short article today about the new race to develop a standard for cellphone video transmission. The article quotes Neil Strother, an analyst with In-Stat, a Scottsdale, Ariz., tech research firm, saying: “It’s a technology that’s here. But I think it’ll be about four years before it becomes mainstream.”

So cellphone video is coming quicker than anyone expected and the question now is whether the government will attempt to expand “indecency” regulations to cover it, much as they are currently trying to do for cable and satellite television.


As the father of two small children, I’m already thinking about what steps I’ll need to take to shield my kids’ eyes and ears from potentially objectionable content. Luckily, market solutions are already available. Firefly Mobile, for example, is already marketing a tiny, voice-only phone for kids with just 5 buttons on it. Two of the buttons have a little icon for mom and dad to call them directly via pre-programmed numbers. It comes in fun colors and has plenty of goofy little accessories that kids will love. But the important thing here is that it gives parents a great deal of control over what their kids can access.

Similar devices are sure to follow, and parental screening / filtering tools for more sophisticated cellphones are sure to follow. But, as I always mention, there is no substitute for talking to your kids about new technologies and media and what they might see or hear on them. That’s certainly preferable to calling in the feds to regulate all content on our behalf. The last thing we need is the government applying its hopelessly vague indecency regime to mobile devices.

  • Tim Wu

    Adam, with respect, I worry you’ve been in Washington too long if you think the big question right now is whether government will regulate TV cell phones.

    The bigger question is how good the technology actually is, and whether anyone will be willing to pay for cell phone TV. On both scores I’d be pessimistic. The larger point is that there is too much ex ante fuss, both regulatory and anti-regulatory, over technologies that don’t even exist in any important form. Like video over DSL, for example, video-telephone, and for that matter digital television. I suspect that the regulatory talk itself can slow down these technologies

  • Tim Wu

    Adam, with respect, I worry you’ve been in Washington too long if you think the big question right now is whether government will regulate TV cell phones.

    The bigger question is how good the technology actually is, and whether anyone will be willing to pay for cell phone TV. On both scores I’d be pessimistic. The larger point is that there is too much ex ante fuss, both regulatory and anti-regulatory, over technologies that don’t even exist in any important form. Like video over DSL, for example, video-telephone, and for that matter digital television. I suspect that the regulatory talk itself can slow down these technologies

  • http://futurewire.blogspot.com Brian

    Tim, I have to disagree. I’m sure there are plenty of politicians salivating at the prospect of regulating what they see as yet another rogue medium. There are too many brownie points to be earned, and too much money coming from special interest groups, especially in today’s political environment.

  • http://futurewire.blogspot.com Brian

    Tim, I have to disagree. I’m sure there are plenty of politicians salivating at the prospect of regulating what they see as yet another rogue medium. There are too many brownie points to be earned, and too much money coming from special interest groups, especially in today’s political environment.

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