On Friday Chmn. Genachowski departed FCC to be replaced by Acting Chair Clyburn effective 12:01 AM Saturday. Her statement to FCC staff ended with
“Today, however, I see the FCC as home, and you, my regulatory family. Like every other family, we may disagree at times, and yes, frustrate each other. But at the end of the day, we’ve got each other’s back. We’ve got America’s back.
“So while we may face many challenges in the days and weeks ahead, by working together, we will continue to do great things. Continuity and progress: the hallmarks, the building blocks, of a great time, great people and a great agency. Thank you for all that you’ve done, and what you will continue to do, to make this nation proud.
“Thank you and Godspeed.”
A nice article on the interregnum appears in yesterday’s Politico, entitled “At FCC, Mignon Clyburn cracks the glass ceiling”. Some excerpts:
Clyburn isn’t President Barack Obama’s choice to lead the commission. That distinction goes to venture capitalist Tom Wheeler. But she’ll helm the agency as acting chairwoman until he is confirmed, a process that’s likely to drag on for months. And she’ll be in charge at a time when the agency is dealing with major decisions from media ownership to spectrum auctions to the SoftBank-Sprint deal…
An acting chair isn’t expected to break new ground but can have influence. Acting Chairman Michael Copps won accolades for restoring order after the tumultuous reign of Chairman Kevin Martin…
Wheeler’s confirmation is expected to stretch into the fall, in part because the GOP has yet to pick someone to replace former Commissioner Robert McDowell. Commission appointments usually pair a Democrat and a Republican.
Even so, it’s unlikely that Clyburn will get too far in front of Obama and Wheeler, Sohn explained.
Our congratulations to Acting Chair Clyburn on this well deserved honor!
FierceWireless announced today “AT&T recruits Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile to curb texting while driving”. AT&T started the It Can Wait website in 2012 to deter texting and driving, especially by teenagers. Sprint, T-Mo, and VZW have now joined the capping which will kick off in full on May 20. (Sprint had previously cooperated since 2010 with Oprah’s No Phone Zone website on discouraging texting use while driving.)
In addition, FierceWireless reports:
In conjunction with It Can Wait, smartphone manufacturers Pantech, HTC and Samsung will preload the AT&T DriveMode safety app on Android devices sold to AT&T subscribers. DriveMode automatically replies to incoming texts, notifying the sender that the message recipient is driving and unable to respond. The app automatically turns on when the user is in a vehicle moving at speeds in excess of 25 miles per hour, and it automatically shuts off once the vehicle falls to speeds below 25 miles per hour for five minutes.
Our congratulations to the 4 major carriers for joining together now in this valuable effort.
NTSB Chair Hersman
reported here in December 2011 a much broader recommendation from NTSB. Here is a statement from that time from NTSB Chair Deborah A.P. Hersman:
Note that this last sentence is simplified on the above industry website to just “No text is worth the risk”. The CTIA website says “The wireless industry defers to consumers and what they choose to support on driving legislation, whether that’s hands-free regulations or bans on talking on their mobile devices while driving.” Thus there still is a major gap between NTSB and the wireless industry, but the recent move is a positive step forward.
"According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents. It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving.
No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life.”
Tom, congratulation on this well deserved great honor!
Tom Wheeler joined Core Capital in 2005 after nearly three decades of working at the forefront of telecommunications policy and business development. As an entrepreneur, Tom founded multiple companies offering cable, wireless, and video communications services, and co-founded SmartBrief, the largest online targeted news service. As a policy expert, he has been intimately involved in the development of the government’s telecommunications policy at both the legislative and regulatory level. In 2009, he led the Obama-Biden Transition Project's Agency Review Working Group in charge of transitions for the science, technology, space and arts agencies.
On the 20th anniversary of the cable television industry (1995), Tom was selected as one of the 20 most influential individuals in the industry’s history and on the 25th anniversary of the cellular telecommunications industry (2008), he was named one of the top 10 innovators in the wireless industry. Tom was President of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) from 1979 to 1984. After several years as CEO of various technology start-ups, including the first company to offer high-speed data to the home and the first digital video delivery service, he was asked to lead the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA), where he was CEO until 2004.
President Obama appointed Tom to the President's Intelligence Advisory Board. Previously, Presidents Clinton and Bush had appointed him a Trustee of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Tom is the former Chairman of the Foundation for the National Archives and Board Member of PBS. He has authored two books: Take Command: Leadership Lessons of the Civil War (Doubleday, 2000) and Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails: The Untold Story of How Abraham Lincoln Used the Telegraph to Win the Civil War (HarperCollins, 2006).
In anticipation of the election last year and the expected change in FCC leadership no matter what the outcome, IEEE-USA prepared a nonpartisan industry-neutral set of recommendations to improve spectrum policy decision making at FCC and parallel deliberations at NTIA. We hope that nominee Wheeler and the Senate confirmation will consider these issues to help make FCC function better in key spectrum policy issues that are vital to both the telecom industry and the whole economy.
For 2 divergent viewpoints on the nomination:
The cellular industry does may things very well. It provides high speed reliable service in many parts of our country. It provides amber alert service to help protect children. It helps those suffering from spousal abuse get cell phones for their protection. But the industry also turns a blind eye to the societal problems that are the unintentional consequences of its service. Last year’s New Year’s Resolution post compiled several of these issues. None have shown noticeable improvement.
As in many things, problems not attended to often get worse. The item at the top is an article from the front page of the May 2 New York Times with the title “Cellphone Thefts Grow, but the Industry Looks the Other Way”. One wonders if CTIA and its members will now boycott advertising in theTimes as they have boycotted San Francisco?
The article starts:
When a teenage boy snatched the iPhone out of Rose Cha’s hand at a bus stop in the Bronx in March, she reported the theft to her carrier and to the police — just as she had done two other times when she was the victim of cellphone theft. Again, the police said they could not help her.
Commenting on a record 1,829 cellphones were taken in robberies last year in Washington DC, Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier was quoted as saying, “The carriers are not innocent in this whole game. They are making profit off this.” We guess she was not very moved by CTIA’s John Walls, Vice President, Public Affairs who made this YouTube video last year to show how concerned the industry was about this issue after CTIA felt the Today Show misrepresented their position:
March 2012 Today Show segment on cell phone thefts:
CTIA response to Today segment the same day:
While CTIA statements on cellphone theft usually focus on protecting private information on the phone, the large number of thefts raises concerns about violence and contribution to growing crime rates. According to the Times,
In San Francisco last year, nearly half of all robberies involved a cellphone, up from 36 percent the year before; in Washington, cellphones were taken in 42 percent of robberies, a record. In New York, theft of iPhones and iPads last year accounted for 14 percent of all crimes.
Some compare the epidemic of phone theft to car theft, which was a rampant problem more than a decade ago until auto manufacturers improved antitheft technology.
The Times article point out that one complexity that limits owner from making stolen phones nonfunctional by remote controls that the International Mobile Station Equipment Identity of many phones can be hacked, making the stolen phone impossible to identify. On this issue, the cell phone industry is not the only party at fault. Some privacy advocates view this ability to change identity as a good thing. The article states:
Some industry experts say consumers should have the right to modify their phones’ identification features to avoid being tracked.
The right to change the identification is a “pro-privacy measure,” said Seth Schoen, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a technology-oriented civil liberties group in San Francisco.
While your blogger often agrees with EFF on issues, in this case they have oversimplified the problem. Freedom from being mugged for your smart phone is as important as freedom of your children to go to school without fear of a gunman killing their classmates.
If some people want to change their IMSEIs from time to time for privacy reasons, no doubt a niche market, perhaps such phone should be available and clearly identified as such. Buyers more concerned about muggings - we suspect a much greater portion of the market - could then buy phones with permanent IMSEIs just as we regularly buy cars with permanent VINs. (It would probably be convenient for some to have cars where you can change the license plates by remote control as in James Bond movies but I am not aware of any jurisdiction that allows that.)
In any case, it looks like FCC will have to make a policy decision whether some or all IMSEIs should be permanent as intended. The industry may not be interested in such a proceeding at FCC, but the public safety demands that all options be considered in an open and transparent process.
As an MIT grad I was very moved by the events of the day and the recognition of this brave effective police officer who was loved by the campus he protected. MIT has posted the video of the moving memorial service.
Due to announced road closures related to the memorial, I left the North Shore where I was staying with relatives, to drive to MIT around 7 AM under rainy skies on a typical cold New England Spring morning. As you can see in the video, the skies cleared and it turned into a beautiful Spring day as the service started at Noon.
President Obama said the following at the April 18th Interfaith Service in Boston:
Tomorrow, the sun will rise over Boston. Tomorrow, the sun will rise over this country that we love. This special place. This state of grace.
Scripture tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” As we do, may God hold close those who’ve been taken from us too soon. May He comfort their families. And may He continue to watch over these United States of America.
Collier’s family has requested that gifts in his memory go to The Jimmy Fund. MIT has created a Sean A. Collier Memorial Fund that will support a Collier Medal — to be awarded to individuals who demonstrate Collier’s values — and other causes.