FCC, Market Trends Push Move to Unlock Set-Top Box Market

Federal Communications Commission chair Tom Wheeler continues to promote his plan to “unlock” the set-top box marketplace, ending the dominance of cable and satellite TV companies. Opposing the plan are, no surprise, those same cable and satellite companies, including Comcast and AT&T’s DirecTV, which reap profits of $20 billion a year in set-top-box rentals. CBS also opposes the plan, as do other studios that believe regulation will get in the way of quickly making their content available on multiple platforms. Continue reading FCC, Market Trends Push Move to Unlock Set-Top Box Market

FCC Chair Pushes Compromise Plan to Open Set-Top Boxes

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler hasn’t given up on his goal to open up the TV set-top box market, thus breaking the cable industry’s dominance in this arena. Sources say he is preparing a “compromise version” of his proposal by which cable companies would be required to make their feeds available, via apps, to competitive device manufacturers. In today’s market, the set-top box, which once simply translated cable signals for TV sets, can now be used to offer access to cable TV and video-streaming services such as Hulu or Netflix. Continue reading FCC Chair Pushes Compromise Plan to Open Set-Top Boxes

FCC Will Regulate Cable, Wireless Companies on Data Privacy

In a shift in the status quo, the Federal Communications Commission will take over the Federal Trade Commission’s power to regulate Internet access providers regarding customer privacy. The FCC already proposes new rules to shield users from unwanted use of their Internet data. Impacted cable and wireless firms are protesting that the rules would target them unfairly, putting them at a disadvantage against Internet service firms such as Facebook and Google, which will continue to be regulated by the FTC. Continue reading FCC Will Regulate Cable, Wireless Companies on Data Privacy

FCC to Shake Up Set-Top Box Dominance, Impact Competition

Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler has just proposed updating rules for television set-top boxes, in order to lower cable bills and provide more access to Internet-based programming. Consumer advocates supporting the change say the move would increase competition, giving the consumer choices over whether to use the service provider’s set-to-box/cable app or competing devices and apps. That competition could be advantageous to TiVo, Alphabet’s Google unit and other alternative STB providers. Continue reading FCC to Shake Up Set-Top Box Dominance, Impact Competition

Carriers, Twilio Clash Over Text Messaging Regulatory Status

Text messaging is a regulatory gray zone that is currently the object of a dispute between AT&T, Verizon and other wireless carriers, and Twilio, a software company that enables automatic text-sending, with consumer advocacy groups Public Knowledge, Common Cause, and Free Press. Twilio is petitioning that the FCC impose common carrier regulations on text messaging, which means carriers could not block or throttle texts. The carriers say they’re protecting consumers against spam. Continue reading Carriers, Twilio Clash Over Text Messaging Regulatory Status

TPP Trade Agreement Sparks Response from Tech Community

With the publication of the Trans Pacific-Partnership (TPP) international trade treaty, numerous technology and privacy rights groups are speaking up over a range of issues. Non-profit consumer rights organization Public Citizen decries what it says is “serious implications for online privacy.” Others note that the TPP would prevent member countries from requiring that companies from other member states hand over the source code of their products. And some activists believe TPP could help further net neutrality. Continue reading TPP Trade Agreement Sparks Response from Tech Community

Verizon Could Face Investigation Over Mobile Supercookies

Last week, we reported that Verizon would offer users the ability to opt out of the company’s mobile ad-targeting program, which tags customers with unique codes to track online activity. The move followed complaints from privacy advocates regarding the use of the alphanumerical customer codes known as “supercookies.” Now, three Democratic members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation are calling for a formal investigation into Verizon’s tracking practices of its wireless subscribers. Continue reading Verizon Could Face Investigation Over Mobile Supercookies

Congress Passes Bill That Makes it Legal to Unlock Cellphones

The House of Representatives passed a bill on Friday that would allow consumers to open the digital locks on their cellphones, legislation that was already passed by the Senate. Unlocking mobile phones makes it easier to switch wireless carriers. Under current copyright law, however, consumers risk jail time and fines up to $500,000 for unlocking their phones without carrier permission. Such restrictions have proven unpopular with the public and last year a petition called for government action. Continue reading Congress Passes Bill That Makes it Legal to Unlock Cellphones

Will Proposed FCC Regulations Create a Two-Speed Internet?

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed to allow broadband providers to charge fees for high-speed Internet for faster delivery of video and other data, essentially allowing a premium Internet fast-lane for companies that can pay. Small content providers may not be able to compete because they do not have the resources to pay for high delivery speeds. The regulations would also prohibit broadband companies from blocking or slowing down individual websites. Continue reading Will Proposed FCC Regulations Create a Two-Speed Internet?

3D Printing Raises Complex Questions of DRM and Copyright

The popular designer Asher Nahmias recently removed his work from a well-known online store due to accusations that Stratasys, a 3D printer manufacturer, improperly used one of his designs. The incident highlights the confusion surrounding copyright and 3D printing, which involves more than just individuals stealing designs from corporations. But as 3D printing grows, intellectual property issues surrounding it will not be addressed overnight. Continue reading 3D Printing Raises Complex Questions of DRM and Copyright

Copyright Issues: Will 3D Printing Prove to be a Disruptive Technology?

  • 3D printers can reproduce objects by spraying layers of plastic, metal or ceramics into shapes based on photos or designs. Some models already cost less than a computer did in 1999.
  • The technology allows users to copy vases, board game pieces, protective covers for phones and even pieces of furniture. Imagine eventually being able to “print” parts for cars, bicycles, computers, cameras and much more.
  • “Call it the Industrial Revolution 2.0,” suggest The New York Times. “Not only will it change the nature of manufacturing, but it will further challenge our concept of ownership and copyright. Suppose you covet a lovely new mug at a friend’s house. So you snap a few pictures of it. Software renders those photos into designs that you use to print copies of the mug on your home 3D printer.”
  • “Copyright doesn’t necessarily protect useful things,” said Michael Weinberg, a senior staff attorney with Public Knowledge, a Washington digital advocacy group. “If an object is purely aesthetic it will be protected by copyright, but if the object does something, it is not the kind of thing that can be protected.”