Articles by Drew Clark

Drew Clark is Editor/Executive Director of BroadbandCensus.com, a FREE web service with news and information about competition, speeds and prices offered by high-speed internet providers. He also hosts DrewClark.com -- The Politics of Telecom, Media and Technology. Previously, he was Senior Writer with National Journal Group, reporting on free speech, intellectual property, privacy, telecommunications and media for Technology Daily, a leading publication on information technology and public policy. He also ran the Center for Public Integrity's telecom and media project, and was Assistant Director of the Information Economy Project at George Mason University School of Law from January 2008 to January 2009. More detailed bio. He has been blogging on TLF since December 2006.


I’ve just posted two new entries over at BroadbandCensus.com (in addtion to the one about FCC v. Fox Televisions Stations) below. Now, I’ve got to go and vote.

The pieces at BroadbandCensus.com include a blog post about the real issue in white spaces: not broadcasters versus techies, but keeping the current Swiss-cheese arrangement in the airwaves versus clearing the broadcasters out of their radio frequencies entirely.

Also, in a special election day news report, myself and Drew Bennett have written about the delay in the vote over the universal service fund and intercarrier compensation overhauls.

Four-and-a-half years ago, I wrote this piece about how a converging media undermines the FCC’s rationalle for indecency enforcement. The piece, “TV Has Grown Up. Shouldn’t FCC Rules?” first appeared in the Washington Post Outlook section on Sunday, May 16, 2004, and it remains more relevant today than ever: the Supreme Court is today considering Federal Communications Commission v. Fox Television Station, a case about whether the FCC acted properly in sanctioning Fox over the use of the words “fuck” and “shit” on broadcast television.

WASHINGTON, October 30 – At the National Press Club, Larry Irving and Grover Norquist are debating technology and the presidential candidates. Check out the side of the page on DrewClark.com, or at http://twitter.com/drewclark, for my live Twitters!

William Webb, Head of Research and Development at OFCOM, to speak about ‘The Theory, Practice, Politics and Problems of Spectrum Reform’ on November 12

ARLINGTON, VA., October 23 – With the transition to digital television in the United States less than four months away, disputes about the airwaves used by broadcasters are raging here and around the globe.  A world-class expert will soon weigh in on how one country, the United Kingdom, views the challenges of bringing radio spectrum allocation into the 21st Century.

On Wednesday, November 12, 2008, the Information Economy Project at the George Mason University School of Law will host its next Big Ideas About Information Lecture, featuring an address by Dr. William Webb, a top policy maker at OFCOM, the U.K. telecommunications regulator.

OFCOM’s ambitious liberalization strategy, announced in 2004, permits the large majority of valuable frequencies to be used freely by competitive licensees, offering an exciting and informative experiment in public policy.  Dr. Webb’s lecture, “The Theory, Practice, Politics and Problems of Spectrum Reform,” will offer a timely progress report for the American audience.

Webb’s lecture will be the sixth in a prestigious series that has included Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith and noted economist David Porter on how FCC license auctions have worked; Martin Cooper, the “father of the cellphone,” on spectrum allocation; Brian Lamb, founder and CEO of C-SPAN, on the policies that enabled the cable network to launch;  former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Dennis Patrick, on the decision to abolish the “Fairness Doctrine” in 1987; and University of Minnesota Professor Andrew Odlyzko, on financial bubbles in high-technology industries.

Dr. Webb’s Lecture will review the century-long history of radio spectrum regulation. For almost all of that century, the policy-maker has micro-managed spectrum use, defining services, technologies and business models deployed by wireless operators. The inefficiencies embedded in this approach have triggered calls for liberalization since the pioneering work of economist Ronald Coase in the 1950s.

While efforts to relax administrative control have generally met great political resistance, some substantial progress has been made with the emergence of mobile telephone networks over the past two decades.  Policy makers in some nations are now seeking to achieve bolder changes. The regulator in the United Kingdom, OFCOM, has emerged as a leader in this campaign.

After the Labour Government commissioned a landmark 2002 study authored by economist Martin Cave, OFCOM moved aggressively to assist the emergence of property rights in frequencies, the institutional switch enabling market allocation of radio spectrum.

This lecture, delivered by a key OFCOM policy official and a noted spectrum technology expert in his own right, dissects the liberalization process in Great Britain and offers lessons learned. This experience promises great insight for the U.S. and other countries struggling to enact pro-consumer policy reforms.

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Over at DrewClark.com, earlier today I reported today that television networks – which in recent years have had a strained relationship with local broadcasters on a variety of fronts – joined with the National Association of Broadcasters in calling for a time out on the politically simmering issue of “white spaces.” Here’s the start of the story, and you can read the full post at DrewClark.com

WASHINGTON, October 23 – The top executives of the four major broadcast networks on Thursday urged the head of the Federal Communications Commission to delay a vote on a politically simmering issue that pits broadcasters against Google and high-tech executives.

In the letter, the CEOs of CBS Corp., NBC Universal and Walt Disney, and the chief operating officer of News Corp., urge that the FCC exercise caution before taking irreparable action with regard to the vacant television channels known as “white spaces.”

Google and the other technology executives, including Microsoft, Motorola, Philips and others, want the FCC to authorize electronic devices that capable of transmitting internet signals over vacant television bands.

The network executives – CBS’s Leslie Moonves, Disney’s Robert Iger, NBC’s Jeffrey Zucker and Peter Chernin of News Corp. – want a time out.

They join their local broadcasting colleagues, as well as manufacturers and users of wireless microphones, like the National Football League and Boadway theater owners, who have been actively lobbying the issue.

[...]

Read the rest of the story at my blog, DrewClark.com – The Politics of Telecom, Media and Technology

Readers of Tech Liberation Front may be interested in a new breakfast series that BroadbandCensus.com has recently begun.

The next event in this series, “Should Government Funding Be Part of a National Broadband Plan?” will be held on Tuesday, November 18, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., and will include Stan Fendley, the director of legislative and regulatory policy for Corning, Inc., Kyle McSlarrow, CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), and John Windhausen, Jr., president of Telepoly Consulting. I will moderate the discussion.

Two weeks after Election Day, this Broadband Breakfast Club meeting will consider one of the hottest topics in telecom: can and should funding for broadband work its way into a pending fiscal stimulus package?

Future meetings of the breakfast club (December 2008 through March 2009) will consider the role of broadband applications in harnessing demand, how the universal service fund will be changed by high-speed internet, the role of wireless in universal broadband, and the extent of competition in the marketplace.

The Broadband Breakfast Club meets monthly at the Old Ebbitt Grill, at 675 15th Street, NW, in Washington. (It’s right across the street from the Department of the Treasury.)

Beginning at 8 a.m., an American plus Continental breakfast is available downstairs in the Cabinet Room. This is followed by a discussion about the question at hand, which ends at 10 a.m. Except for holidays (like Veteran’s Day), we’ll meet on the second Tuesday of each month, until March 2009. The registration page for the event is http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com.

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It’s nearing Halloween, so it must mean the anniversary of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is just around the corner. In fact, it was 10 years ago, on Sunday, that Congress passed the DMCA, on October 12, 1998. The law was signed by President Clinton on October 28, 1998.

The information and news service that I have launched, BroadbandCensus.com, is “celebrating” the passage of the law with the inaugural event of the Broadband Breakfast Club. The breakfast event will take place on Tuesday, October 14, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., at the Old Ebbitt Grill at 675 15th Street NW, Washington, DC.

This event will bring together several key stakeholders together to share perspectives on this topic:

  • Drew Clark, Executive Director, BroadbandCensus.com (Moderator)
  • Mitch Glazier, Senior Vice President, Government Relations, Recording Industry Association of America
  • Michael Petricone, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Consumer Electronics Association
  • Wendy Seltzer, Practitioner in Residence, Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Law Clinic, American University Washington College of Law
  • Emery Simon, Counselor, Business Software Alliance

Breakfast for registrants will be available beginning at 8:00 a.m., and the forum itself will begin at around 8:30 a.m., and conclude promptly at 10 a.m. The event is open to the public. The charge for the breakfast is $45.00, plus an Eventbrite registration fee. Seated attendance is limited to the first 45 individuals to register for the event.

Future events in the Broadband Breakfast Club monthly series will feature other key topics involved in broadband technology and internet policy. In fact, you can mark your calendar for the next event on Tuesday, November 18, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., also at the Old Ebbitt Grill.

For more information about BroadbandCensus.com, or about the Broadband Breakfast Club at Old Ebbitt Grill – on the second Tuesday of each month – please visit http://broadbandcensus.com, or call me at 202-580-8196.

Note: Here’s a second post I just put live at DrewClark.com. It refers to an upcoming conference, on Friday, October 3, sponsored by the Information Economy Project at George Mason University School of Law. It will be held at 8:30 a.m. at the National Press Club. Registration details are below.

In the United States, the regulation of broadcast radio and television has always been done under a different standard than the regulation of the print medium.

As Secretary of Commerce in the administration of President Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover declared: “The ether is a public medium, and its use must be for a public benefit,” he said at the Fourth National Radio Conference, in 1925. “The dominant element for consideration in the radio field is, and always will be, the great body of the listening public, millions in number, country-wide in distribution.”

When Congress created the Federal Radio Commission in 1927, it decreed that broadcasting was to serve the “public interest, convenience and necessity,” and this standard was re-affirmed in the Communications Act of 1934. Several Supreme Court decisions — albeit decisions that have been much criticized — affirmed that broadcasting could and should be treated differently than the traditional “press.”

This differential treatment for broadcasting — versus the print medium, and also cable television — was underscored by the decisions in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC (1969), which upheld the “Fairness Doctrine,” and also FCC v. Pacifica Foundation (1978), which upheld indecency rules for over-the-air broadcast television. The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to grant reply time to those who said their views were criticized.

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Note: Here’s a post I just put live at DrewClark.com. It refers to an upcoming conference that might be of interest to Tech Liberation readers. Make sure to follow the link to the bottom of the post for registration information for this FREE conference, to be held tomorrow, Friday, October 3, at 8:30 a.m.

If all goes according to plan, on February 17, 2009, television broadcasters will power down their analog transmitters. They will be broadcasting their signal only digitally.

After more than 20 years in the long transition to digital television, this might be considered progress. Now, millions of Americans are collecting vouchers from the Commerce Department to subsidize their purchase of converter boxes. These are the electronic devices that take the digital signals — and convert them back to analog — so that viewers without high-definition televisions can watch broadcast TV on their old sets.

What about the bigger questions? Is there any benefit to the public, or to consumers, from the transition to digital television? What about the vaunted visions of hundreds of broadcast channels, through multi-casting? What would be the new public-interest obligations, if any, of broadcasters? This question has definitely not been resolved.

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Our conference, “Broadband Census for America,” is fast approaching…. The event is tomorrow. If you want to attend, follow the instructions in the press release below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

WASHINGTON, September 25, 2008 – California Public Utilities Commissioner Rachelle Chong, a member of the Federal Communications Commission from 1994 to 1997, will kick off the Broadband Census for America Conference with a keynote speech on Friday, September 26, at 8:30 a.m.

Eamonn Confrey, the first secretary for information and communications policy at the Embassy of Ireland, will present the luncheon keynote at noon. Confrey will overview Ireland’s efforts to collect data on broadband service through a comprehensive web site with availability, pricing and speed data about carriers.

Following Chong’s keynote address, the Broadband Census for America Conference – the first of its kind to unite academics, state regulators, and entities collecting broadband data – will hear from two distinguished panels.

One panel, “Does America Need a Broadband Census?” will contrast competing approaches to broadband mapping. Art Brodsky, communication director of the advocacy group Public Knowledge, will appear at the first public forum with Mark McElroy, the chief operating officer of Connected Nation, a Bell- and cable-industry funded organization involved in broadband mapping.

Also participating on the panel will be Drew Clark, executive director of BroadbandCensus.com, a consumer-focused effort at broadband data collection; and Debbie Goldman, the coordinator of Speed Matters, which is run by the Communications Workers of America.

The second panel, “How Should America Conduct a Broadband Census?” will feature state experts, including Jane Smith Patterson, executive director of the e-NC authority; and Jeffrey Campbell, director of technology and communications policy for Cisco Systems. Campbell was actively involved in the California Broadband Task Force.

Others scheduled to speak include Professor Kenneth Flamm of the University of Texas at Austin; Dr. William Lehr of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Indiana Utility Regulatory Commissioner Larry Landis; and Jean Plymale of Virginia Tech’s eCorridors Program.

Keynote speaker Rachelle Chong has been engaged in broadband data collection as a federal regulator, as a telecommunications attorney, and since 2006 as a state official.

Chong was instrumental to the California Broadband Task Force, which mapped broadband availability in California. She will speak about broadband data collection from the mid-1990s to today.

The event will be held at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences’ headquarters at 12th and H Streets NW (near Metro Center) in Washington.

For more information:
Drew Bennett, 202-580-8196
Bennett@broadbandcensus.com
Conference web site: http://broadbandcensus.com/conference/
Registration: http://broadbandcensus.eventbrite.com/