Last Week in Tech Law & Policy Vol. 28: Should the FCC Reconsider Lifeline Voice Phase-Out, Minimum Standards from Broadband Expansion Order?

[Editor’s note: each week during the academic year, TLPC student attorneys write blog posts on cutting edge issues as a prompt for class discussion. We’re back for Fall 2016! We also welcome your feedback via Twitter and e-mail.]

(by Caroline Jones, Colorado Law 2L)

On March 31st, 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved, over the dissents of Republican Commissioners O’Rielly and Pai, new rules governing the Lifeline program designed to “help low income customers afford access to the 21st Century’s vital communications network: the Internet.” The Commission’s Lifeline program was adopted in 1985 under the Ronald Reagan administration, and initially provided discounted landline telephone service for qualifying low-income households before eventually expanding to wireless service in 2005. The new rules expand the program to include broadband internet service, set minimum broadband service standards, and outline the eventual phase-out of standalone voice service in favor of voice and data bundles.

Continue reading “Last Week in Tech Law & Policy Vol. 28: Should the FCC Reconsider Lifeline Voice Phase-Out, Minimum Standards from Broadband Expansion Order?”

TLPC Files FCC Petition for Rulemaking re: Spectrum Interference Dispute Resolution

This semester, TLPC student attorney Stephanie Vu and student technologist Stefan Tschimben continued their work from the previous semester on a petition for rulemaking at the FCC under Silicon Flatirons Fellow Pierre de Vries’ guidance and mentorship. During the fall semester, the students, along with student attorney Chris Laughlin, researched how the FCC currently resolved spectrum interference disputes and drafted a petition for rulemaking to improve the process by suggesting that the FCC allow parties to bring their cases directly to an Administrative Law Judge for adjudication. This semester, the students sought feedback from attorneys, technologists, and policymakers, which was addressed and incorporated into the petition, filed today at the Commission.

TLPC Completes 911 Accessibility Report for Colorado Public Utilities Commission

This semester, TLPC student attorneys Victoria Naifeh, Allison Daley, and Elizabeth Chance and student technologist Jeff Ward-Bailey worked with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission’s 911 task force  to research the legal landscape surrounding 911 accessibility for the deaf, deaf-blind, hard of hearing, and speech disabled communities in Colorado.  The final project, a white paper summarizing the research, is now available here and on the the Social Sciences Research Network:

Last Week in Tech Law and Policy, Vol. 14: Piracy and File Leakage in the Digital Age

(by Conor Stewartson, TLPC Student Attorney)

As spring approaches, millions of fans of Game of Thrones, HBO’s most successful television program, become anxious with anticipation for yet another season of the television adaptation of the critically acclaimed book series.  Season 5 of GoT was scheduled for simultaneous release on April 12th in 170 countries across the globe in order to decrease the historically high piracy rates that the show experiences.

The efforts by HBO were made at least partially moot on Saturday when the first four episodes of the season were leaked online.  Over 1.7 million copies of these episodes were downloaded in less than 24 hours.  The leaked episodes appear to have come from review copies sent to the press, which contained a blurred watermark and were only available in standard definition.

The timing could not have been worse for HBO, which recently rolled out its new “HBO Now” service that allows for viewers to pay a monthly rate ($14.99) in return for standalone HBO service that does not require a cable subscription.  In the past, obtaining an HBO subscription may have been impossible for viewers that lacked standard cable service—a difficulty that may have been a driving force behind the proliferation of online piracy of GoT.

[Editor’s note: we’ll be (mostly) offline over the summer break. See you in the fall!]

Last Week in Tech Law and Policy, Vol. 10: Digital Technologies and Innovation in the Distribution of Content

(by Sam Moodie, Student Attorney)

This past Thursday, Colorado Law’s Silicon Flatirons Center hosted a conference focusing on the current state of innovation in the creation and distribution of content.  The conference hosted well-known artists in music, film, television, and photography as well as major players in content distribution to discuss in part, how digital technologies are either enhancing or challenging traditional structures of creation and distribution.

Music

Music has long been the stage to exemplify how digital technologies can frustrate and disrupt an entire content industry.  Some have argued that the rise of music piracy, peer-to-peer sharing, and pay-per-track have drastically reduced profits for music executives, song writers, and performing artists alike.  The new wave in music distribution is streaming—a technology made possible through licensing and advertising revenues.  However, artists claim that this model drastically under-compensates them  for their work, to the point where an artists song earning a million streams may not even earn the profit of $100.  In response, some popular artists like Taylor Swift has removed her work from Spotify, one of the most successful music streaming sites.

Many now question whether streaming has fundamentally shaken the music industry at its core, or if the traditional business structure simply needs to adapt slightly in order to remain relevant. Some take the perspective that users need to be retrained on the value of content, and how to interact with it.

Television

Digital technology in the television industry has quickly stepped in to answer users’ demands to control their content.  The most notable means through which this has happened are subscription networks like Netflix and Amazon Prime.  This distribution model arguably assists in the democratization of television because producers can work directly with distribution companies instead of working within the traditional broadcast television structure.

Similarly, the interfaces used by these entities provide a wealth of content and allow users to interact and search for content on their own terms.  The subscription model allows for a wider array of content, often much edgier than can be found on mainstream television, and at a vastly lower price compared to cabe subscriptions.

This leads to the question of whether cable and broadcast are still relevant, and if so, if they can remain relevant in the future.  Some consider the current price of cable subscriptions to be unsustainable given the success and popularity on online streaming television.

Some see traditional and digital entities as being able to work together.  As noted at the conference,  cable providers and producers see themselves as the leaders in providing up-to-date and new content.  Coupling with entities like Netflix that provide past seasons of television shows all at once, allowing viewers to binge watch and catch up on past content, may be a perfect marriage for complete access to content.  However, with Netflix now creating its own series, how long will cable have a relevant role in this relationship?

Regardless, it is increasingly clear that these technologies are giving a considerable amount of leverage to users. The point where the balance has shifted, and industry executives are losing more and more control over their content.

Last Week in Tech Law & Policy Vol. 7: The Politics of Net Neutrality

By Austin Gaddis (Colorado Law 2L)

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares for its much-anticipated vote on Chairman Wheeler’s net neutrality proposal on Thursday, Republicans on the Commission and in Congress are using the opportunity to stage one final battle before the votes are in and the lawsuits begin. Under the Chairman’s proposal, both fixed and mobile broadband services would be regulated under Title II of the Communications Act, which would ban throttling, blocking, and paid prioritization of Internet traffic by Internet service providers (ISPs).

Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, has taken the helm as the chief critic of Wheeler’s plan, often dubbing it “the President’s plan” in a reference to President Obama’s public push to put pressure on the FCC—an independent regulatory agency—to adopt strong net neutrality regulations. Commissioner Pai’s foray into the debate represents the most high-profile opposition of his tenure at the Commission.

On Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers are also using their platform (and gavels) to put implicit and explicit pressure on FCC as it prepares for Thursday’s vote. Currently, three congressional committees have lined up to investigate the White House’s influence on FCC’s decision-making process, especially since Chairman Wheeler seemed to be signaling a  different approach to the net neutrality proceedings before the President’s public campaign in support of strong Title II regulations late last year. One committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has decided to delve even more into the commission’s operations, calling attention to Chairman Wheeler’s use of the agency’s “delegated authority.”

In an address at Colorado Law several weeks ago, Chairman Wheeler outlined his vision for the future of broadband under a Title II regime, delivering what TechCrunch called an “explanatory manifesto of the Chairman’s thinking.” In the speech, he attempted to respond to critics of his plan who think of Title II regulation as an outdated relic of the past, calling instead for a modernized Title II that addresses the unique opportunities and challenges that the Internet poses in the contemporary world.

Articles we’re reading:

Last Week in Tech Law & Policy, Vol.3: SOTU and the Community Broadband Act

(by Elizabeth J. Chance, Colorado Law 3L)

State of the Union: In his State of the Union address last Tuesday, President Obama shared his vision on hot-topic issues in technology law and policy. In response to debates over US surveillance programs, President Obama promised a report next month on how the country’s intelligence agencies are keeping our country safe and strengthening privacy. Additionally, President Obama assured the country that the government is integrating intelligence to address cyber attacks, and urged Congress to pass legislation to better meet the evolving need of cybersecurity. Without expressly referencing the issue of net neutrality or municipal broadband,  President Obama discussed the need for 21st century infrastructure including fast, free, and open Internet:

Twenty-first century businesses need twenty-first century infrastructure—modern ports, stronger bridges, faster trains and the fastest Internet. . . . I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.

Community Broadband Act: Two days after the President’s State of the Union Address, four Democrats introduced the Community Broadband Act in Congress. The Community Broadband Act aims to preserve the rights of cities and localities to build municipal broadband networks and ensure that their communities are connected and have access to reliable networks. Senator Edward Markey also continued to urge the FCC to act to use its authority to end any state restrictions that impede local communities from making these decisions for themselves.

Last Week in Tech Law & Policy, Vol.1: Net Neutrality and the Sony Hack

(by Blake E. Reid, TLPC Director)

Just about every week during the fall and spring semesters, the TLPC spends time discussing current events in tech law and policy. Our students do a great job researching and highlighting current events, so this semester we thought we’d share what we’re reading with the world.

I have the task of leading our inaugural discussion, so I’m going to focus on two events that have blown up over our winter break:

Net Neutrality. While it’s hard to narrow down the 10+ year-old net neutrality / Open Internet discussion down, the biggest news over break was the soft-launch of the Commission’s plan to reclassify ISPs under Title II of the Telecommunications Act— announced at the Consumer Electronics Show—in rules to be voted on at the Commission’s February open meeting. Other interesting issues waiting in the wings include the treatment of wireless providers, the Commission’s approach to forbearance, various other bells and whistles of the final item (I’m particularly interested in the treatment of reasonable network management and the premises operator exception), and how the courts and Congress will ultimately impact the state of play (or not).

The Sony Hack. There’s so much to say about this, but I’ve been most interested in the epistemological debate over whodunit (is it North Korea, or isn’t it?), and the difficulty of assessing adversaries online. This is the tip of the iceberg for this phenomenon, which has broad implications for the future of law enforcement, crime and punishment, privacy, and war.

See you next week!