VoIP, eh?

In the Toronto Star, Michael Geist contemplates the potential of VoIP regulation in Canada: No need for Dickensian approach to voice-via-Web

While most industry observers seem convinced that VoIP is the wave of the future, the regulatory framework surrounding the emerging technology remains uncertain. This week the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) will hold three days of hearings on VoIP regulation

Bush Administration Opposes Open Access Requirement

Washington Post: High Court Petitioned on Cable Net Access Rule

In the past year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco has ruled twice that the Federal Communications Commission erred when it allowed cable companies to bar rivals from their networks. However, those decisions have been put on hold while the Bush administration considered its options. If the Supreme Court rejects the Justice Department’s appeal, cable companies would be required to share their lines with rivals, potentially creating more choice for consumers and a vast new market for independent Internet service providers.

Turner misses media regulation

Ted Turner: My Beef With Big Media

If nothing else, the 1990s dot-com boom showed that the spirit of entrepreneurship is alive and well in America, with plenty of investors willing to put real money into new media ventures. The difference is that Washington has changed the rules of the game. When I was getting into the television business, lawmakers and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took seriously the commission’s mandate to promote diversity, localism, and competition in the media marketplace. They wanted to make sure that the big, established networks–CBS, ABC, NBC–wouldn’t forever dominate what the American public could watch on TV. They wanted independent producers to thrive. They wanted more people to be able to own TV stations. They believed in the value of competition.

Spectrum as a public good

Clay Shirky: The Possibility of Spectrum As A Public Good

This matters, a lot, because with the spread of unlicensed wireless, the FCC could live up to its mandate of managing spectrum on behalf of the public, by allowing for and even encouraging engineering practices that treat spectrum itself as a public good. A public good, in economic terms, is something that is best provisioned for everyone (an economic characteristic called non-excludability) and which anyone can use without depleting the resource (a characteristic called non-rival use — individual users aren’t rivals for the resource.)

Three From the FCC

The Commission allows TiVo to deploy the TiVo to Go service, which was found to comply with the broadcast flag provisions, along with 12 other technologies: FCC Approves Digital Output Protection Technologies and Recording Method Certifications. Ernest Miller is less than thrilled: FCC Bestows Its Blessing on Technological Innovation.
The FCC announced a do-not-spam registry for mobile phone e-mail domains:FCC Takes Action to Protect Wireless Subscribers From Spam. This may protect mobile phone subscribers from receiving spam emails to their mobile phones, but will not prevent SMS spam.
Finally, the FCC initiated a set of rule-making procedures to require broadband and VoIP telephony to comply with CALEA: FCC Adopts Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Declaratory Ruling Regarding Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act.

Flying the Broadcast Flag

Washington Post: TiVo vs. the Broadcast Flag Wavers

TiVo, the company that makes the digital-video-recorder boxes that inspire such strange idolatry among their users, is in a weird spot. It’s asking the Federal Communications Commission for permission to add a new feature — the option for a TiVo user to send recorded digital TV programs via the Internet to nine other people.

Previously: MPAA, NFL flag TiVo (with links to FCC filings)

Regulating VOIP

Yesterday, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee passed a Voice Over Internet Protocol Bill.
VOIP Regulatory Freedom Act of 2004 (S. 2281) regulates VOIP at the federal level and preempts state law with three major exceptions. States may still enforce laws and regulations of general applicability, including consumer protection laws and prohibitions against fraud and unfair trade practices. States and local governments may still require 911 and E911 services. States may still regulate transmission facilities and require VOIP providers to pay compensation to incumbent carriers for the use of facilities and contribute to the universal service fees. The bill does not affect VOIP telephony providers obligations under CALEA.
The bill requests a report from the GAO in order to assess:

  • technical capability of law enforcement to intercept and analyze IP transmissions
  • problems encountered by law enformcement when intercepting communications over the Internet or using IP
  • assessment of options for law enforcement agencies to acquire the skills and equipment necessary to analyze Internet communications
  • assessment of the first 10 years of CALEA implementation, compliance along with a cost-benefit analysis.

From the FCC, the bill requires a study assessing the first 10 years of CALEA.
Thomas: Bill Summary and Status
News.com: Senate panel embraces state VoIP taxes

ut in an unexpected twist, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., persuaded the committee to adopt an amendment that permitted states to regulate VoIP services in two ways: levying taxes to pay for universal service and for compensating traditional telephone companies for the use of their phone lines through so-called access charges.

Law Practice Today: Everything You Need to Know about VoIP

MPAA, NFL flag TiVo

In February, TiVo filed with the FCC for broadcast flag certification under the Digital Broadcast Content Protection Rule: Broadcast Flag Certification of TiVo
The MPAA and NFL filed oppositions to TiVo’s certification, arguing that new TiVo features which allow TiVo subscribers to make recorded programs more portable should be subject to more stringent regulation. The Washington Post reports: TiVo’s plans lead to copyright fight
In a white paper, the MPAA argues that TiVoGuard does not prevent widespread indiscriminate redistribution of broadcast content and permits copyright infringing conduct. Additionally, remote access technologies such as TiVoGuard threaten the viability of the Local Broadcasting System. MPAA filing: Legal and Policy Issues Raised by TiVoGuard
The NFL filed a comment opposing the certification of TiVo. The NFL wants to continue to limit the markets to which NFL games may be broadcast and be able to sell the NFL Sunday Ticket at an absurd premium to DirecTV subscribers, but fears that a TiVo video sharing service will harm the market.
Access all the filed comments by search in the FCC Electronic Comment Filing System for Proceeding “04-63”
TiVo’s less commercially successful competitor ReplayTV offered an internet video sharing feature, which was the controversial subject of litigation. However, DNNA, the new owners of ReplayTV, dropped the Internet Video Sharing feature from the latest version of the ReplayTV.
PVRBlog: TiVo: you can only innovate if the NFL and MPAA say so

What is most shocking about the objections is that TiVo ToGo is an already crippled version of something TiVo hackers and users of software PVRs like Windows Media Center and Snapstream have been doing for years now.