MediaFile

Don’t you dare call us

Remember how we all did the happy dance when the U.S. government created the Do Not Call Registry back in 2003? How we popped the champagne corks because hefty civil penalties could be given to a telemarketer if they called your landline after you had opted-in on the registry? Sure, there are loopholes and enforcement problems but essentially the registry works, and it restored the natural order of things by liberating us from having to drop everything because some faceless, money-grubbing salesperson rang in our living rooms.

A mere eight years later landlines are a dying technology. Cool kids, lower-income people, and savvy middle-agers know there’s really no need for a “home phone.” We’ve never had to worry about mobile phone spam because there is a FCC rule against it. This restriction was premised largely on the fact that, unlike on a landline, receiving a wireless call can cost something to the recipient. Same is true for faxes, for the same reason: unsolicited faxes — i.e., spam — is a civil violation.

But, aside from the practical rationale, this dynamic reflects the fundamental truth that I have a phone to make calls and receive them from whom I choose. I’m not paying all this money to establish a marketing beachhead in my pocket.

Well, hang on to your smartphones: Telemarketers are trying to recreate in mobile what the DNC Registry and the demise of landlines rendered moot. If we don’t make a huge stink about this right now there is a chance, however slight, that robo telemarketing calls will make a come back, on steroids.

This abomination is being teed up as HR 3035, aka the “Mobile Informational Call Act of 2011.” It would amend the Communications Act of 1934 and give legal cover to the cretins of commerce who think they have the right to get your attention, anywhere you happen to be, by leveraging the reality that mobile phones are everywhere and the primary means of communication for hundreds of millions of people.

Tech wrap: AT&T, T-Mobile deal less likely than ever

The chances of AT&T’s bid for T-Mobile USA succeeding rapidly diminshed after AT&T said it would take a $4 billion charge in case its takeover fails. The telecommunications group and T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom, said they would continue to pursue anti-trust approval for the $39 billion takeover from the Department of Justice, but withdrew for now applications to the industry regulator.

Both the DOJ and the FCC oppose the deal. FCC approval would be meaningless if the DOJ blocked the transaction, and AT&T and Deutsche Telekom said they would return to the FCC process if they secured approval from the DOJ. Analysts said the merger, badly needed by sub-scale T-Mobile USA , looked less likely than ever to succeed.

Microsoft is planning the first beta of its Office 15 software in January, techblog WinRumors writes.

Congress should dismantle net neutrality

By Sam Batkins
The views expressed are his own.

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama promised, “I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality, because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out, and we all lose.”  Following his election to the Presidency, he threw the democratic process in the backseat when his appointees implemented net neutrality without congressional approval.

Thanks to this regulatory end-around, net neutrality is currently law, but it doesn’t have to be.  Courts could strike it down before they review the President’s health care mandate, or Congress could take the first bite, rescinding the regulation under the little-known Congressional Review Act.

Net neutrality has received intense scrutiny for more than five years but the arguments against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) power grab have hardly changed, and given the current economic climate, the arguments have only gotten stronger. The only thing that has changed is the FCC’s evolving justification for its implementation.

Tech wrap: ITC joins Apple-Samsung spat

The International Trade Commission agreed to investigate Apple’s complaint that mobile phones and tablets made by rival Samsung violate its technology intellectual property. The intensifying patent dispute threatens to strain a lucrative supply relationship: Apple in 2010 was Samsung’s second-largest customer, accounting for $5.7 billion of sales tied mainly to semiconductors, according to the Asian consumer electronics company’s annual report.

Google faces a total of nine antitrust complaints which EU regulators are now investigating, two sources said. Up to now, The European Commission has only confirmed four cases against Google. The increased number of complaints underscores Google’s dominant position but does not necessarily mean bad news for the company, said Simon Holmes, head of EU and competition law at law firm SJ Berwin.

“Google’s strong position means there are lots of interests involved. But there is nothing wrong per se in having a strong position,” he said.

Privacy regulation and the “free” Internet

Adam Thierer is a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The views expressed are his own.

Would you like to pay $20 a month for Facebook, or a dime every time you did a search on Google or Bing?  That’s potentially what is at stake if the Obama administration and advocates of stepped-up regulation of online advertising get their way.

The Internet feels like the ultimate free lunch.  Once we pay for basic access, a cornucopia of seemingly free services and content is at our fingertips.  But those services don’t just fall to Earth like manna from heaven.  What powers the “free” Internet are data collection and advertising. In essence, the relationship between consumers and online content and service providers isn’t governed by any formal contract, but rather by an unwritten quid pro quo: tolerate some ads or we’ll be forced to charge you for service.  Most consumers gladly take that deal—even if many of them gripe about annoying or intrusive ads, at times.

Fox/Cablevision still talking, FCC also talking. Yet no change on Day 4.

NYGiants

So you know the story well by now: Fox Networks’ Fox 5 and My 9 channels have been off the air  for Cablevision’s 3 million odd homes in the New York area since midnight on Saturday morning because both sides have been unable to reach a carriage deal. As a result New York football fans have missed a key Giants game versus Detroit Lions (pictured)  and could miss more if this continues. As you might expect, the argument between Fox and Cablevision is over money.

Since then both sides have exchanged barbs and made various claims about who’s to blame — which is standard practice in a programming fee dispute. But FCC Chair Julius Genachowski appears to have had enough according to this statement:

“I am deeply troubled that Cablevision and Fox are spending more time attacking each other through ads and lobbyists than sitting down at the negotiating table.  The time for petty gamesmanship is over.

Comcast, NBC Universal pledge support for local news

Comcast has finally unveiled its formal announcement that it plans to take control of NBC Universal from General Electric. Public interest groups and various U.S. government types have been tutting and clucking over whether this media mega-deal would be against the national interest, and few doubt that Congress and the administration will want to review this plan in loving detail.

To that extent, Comcast released a memo on Thursday outlining its public commitments. There are a bunch in here, but this old-school journalist wants to point out above all else that the company said it’s committed to preserving and enriching “the output of local news, local public affairs and other public interest programming on NBC O&O (“owned and operated”) stations.”

That’s a mighty strong commitment to make. Let’s hope that it doesn’t do what many radio and TV stations have done for years to satisfy their government-mandated public interest requirements and stick all that stuff on the air at 5 a.m. Sunday morning. Also, how much more money will they provide?

FCC: There might be something amiss in media

Newspaper advertising is a joke, local TV stations are struggling to get ads of their own, journalists are losing their jobs and media executives are calling 25 percent revenue declines an improvement. It sounds like something might be amiss in the U.S. media world.

But don’t take our word for it if you’re the Federal Communications Commission, and you’re about to revisit media ownership regulations and see if they need some changing. See this item from Inside Radio:

[FCC] Chairman Julius Genachowski hires internet entrepreneur and journalist Steven Waldman to lead an agency-wide initiative assessing the state of media. Waldman will lead a team to conduct what’s promised to be an “open, fact-finding process” looking at how the economy is impacting media outlets and make recommendations for policy changes.

Apple hasn’t rejected Google Voice iPhone app after all

Apple, Google and AT&T all filed their responsesFriday to the FCC’s requestfor more information in the Google Voice app saga. The story line thus far has been trying to determine the reasons behind Apple’s decision to reject the iPhone app.  Some blamed AT&T for the thumbs down, believing that the iPhone’s exclusive U.S. carrier feared the app would provide competition for voice services on the smartphone.

But Apple said AT&T played no role in the rejection. In fact, the iPhone maker said the Google Voice app hasn’t even been rejected.

“Contrary to published reports, Apple has not rejected the Google Voice application, and continues to study it,” Apple said in its response. “The application has not been approved because, as submitted for review, it appears to alter the iPhone’s distinctive user experience by replacing the iPhone’s core mobile telephone functionality and Apple user interface with its own user interface for telephone calls, text messaging and voicemail.”

Vonage CEO sees no reason for iPhone Google Voice rejection

The US telecom regulator FCC has been looking into why Apple rejected an Internet telephony application from Google for inclusion in its iPhone application store. Responses from Google, Apple and AT&T, the exclusive U.S. iPhone carrier, are due today.

Along with Google Voice’s consumer fans, the outcome of the inquiry will be closely watched by other Internet telephone services such as eBay’s Skype. Apple approved a Skype app for iPhone but consumers can only make Skype calls when they are connected to a short-range wi-fi network and not via the AT&T cellular network.
The head of another U.S. Internet telephony provider Vonage weighed in on the topic in an interview this week. Vonage plans to offer its own mobile communications application later this year.

Marc Lefar previously served as chief marketing officer of Cingular, now AT&T Mobility, where he helped put together the mobile operator’s iPhone deal with Apple, before becoming Vonage Chief Executive last year. Taking his previous experience in the wireless industry into acccount, Lefar said it was unclear to him why the Google Voice application was rejected for iPhone.