(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘FCC

“All history is the history of unintended consequences”*…

Your correspondent confesses that this piece is mildly geeky in an “inside baseball” kind of way. But beyond its importance in its own right, it raises a possible broader systemic issue worth pondering…

Urged on by broadband giants such as Charter Communications, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is pushing to confirm a Republican to the Federal Communications Commission. However, McConnell’s goal seems to extend further: creating a deadlocked Biden FCC 2–2, then blocking confirmation of a third Democrat. What McConnell intends as a gift to his corporate patrons could turn into a nightmare for them.

McConnell and his allies believe they can force the Biden FCC into a business friendly “consensus agenda” that will move forward on 5G and corporate consolidation while blocking Democratic priorities such as net neutrality and broadband subsidies for the poor. And perhaps that is how the Democrats will respond. But in this new world of total war between Democrats and Republicans, this deadlock creates the incentive and ability for the Democratic FCC Chair to use her authority over the agency’s bureaus to push back and pressure anyone standing in the way of a full commission.

Not everything at the FCC requires a vote of the Commission. The vast majority of day-to-day work happens through the FCC’s many offices and bureaus — all of which report to the Chair. These actions must be appealed to the full Commission before parties can go to the courts. Absent the usual rulemaking process, a Democratic FCC Chair can — and should — take large (and largely unreviewable) steps to advance a consumer protection agenda without a single Commission vote.

Even more powerfully, the Chair can effectively shut down the agency until Republicans approve a third Democrat. While this sounds like an industry dream, this would quickly devolve into an industry nightmare as the necessary work of the FCC grinds to a halt. Virtually every acquisition by a cable provider, wireless carrier, or broadcaster requires FCC approval. Unlike in antitrust law, there is no deadline for the agency to act. The Chair of a deadlocked FCC could simply freeze all mergers and acquisitions in the sector until Democrats have a majority.

If that does not work, the FCC Chair could essentially put the FCC “on strike,” cancelling upcoming spectrum auctions and suspending consumer electronics certifications (no electronic equipment of any type, from smartphones to home computers to microwave ovens, can be sold in the United States without a certification from the FCC that it will not interfere with wireless communications). Such actions would have wide repercussions for the wireless, electronics, and retail industries. But the FCC Chair could slowly ratchet up the pressure until industry lobbyists pushed Republicans to confirm a third Democrat.

Finally, we come to net neutrality. Stopping the Biden FCC from restoring the Obama-era legal framework for broadband is the grand prize that supposedly justifies McConnell’s unprecedented obstructionism. Even here, the next FCC Chair can act. At present, the FCC is suing the state of California to block California’s own net neutrality law. The FCC can switch sides in the litigation, throwing its weight against the industry and supporting the right of states to pass their own net neutrality laws. The FCC can do the same in the D.C. Circuit — no Commission vote required.

Political observers might question whether a Biden FCC Chair would take such brazenly political action and put at risk so much of the economy. Admittedly, Democrats often seem to lack the same willingness as Republicans to engage in Mutually Assured Destruction. But we live in a time of unprecedented polarization and partisan division — as the last-minute campaign to deadlock the FCC shows. The only way for President-elect Biden and Democrats to work with Republicans is to show them at the outset that they can be just as destructive to Republican interests and constituencies as Republicans are to Democratic interests and constituencies. And there’s no better way to do that than to threaten the corporate chieftains at the top of the Republican food chain, the ones currently urging Republicans to deadlock the FCC.

Rather than an industry-friendly “consensus agenda,” Senator McConnell and his Wall Street allies are setting the stage for a war of total destruction. Wise investors should sell now and wait for the dust to clear — if it ever does.

Harold Feld (@haroldfeld), Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge, on how Senator McConnell’s strategy of obstruction might backfire: “In the Republican War on the Biden FCC, Wall Street May End Up the Biggest Loser.”

* historian T.J. Jackson Lears

###

As we focus on Georgia, we might recall that it was on this date in 1948 that the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Of the 58 members of the U.N. at the time, 48 voted in favor, none against, eight abstained, and two did not vote. Considered a foundational text in the history of human and civil rights, the Declaration consists of 30 articles detailing an individual’s “basic rights and fundamental freedoms” and affirming their universal character as inherent, inalienable, and applicable to all human beings.

The full text– eminently worth reading– is here.

source

The Ages of Data…

It’s said that there’s a kind of hierarchy of knowing:  data can be assembled into knowledge, which (with experience and empathy) can become understanding, then with grace, wisdom… but it all starts with data.

Happily for us, Stephen Wolfram, the creator of the indispensable Mathematica and more recently of Wolfram|Alpha, takes data very seriously…

The precursors of what we’re trying to do with computable data in Wolfram|Alpha in many ways stretch back to the very dawn of human history—and in fact their development has been fascinatingly tied to the whole progress of civilization.

Last year we invited the leaders of today’s great data repositories to our Wolfram Data Summit—and as a conversation piece we assembled a timeline of the historical development of systematic data and computable knowledge.

This year, as we approach the Wolfram Data Summit 2011, we’ve taken the comments and suggestions we got, and we’re making available a five-feet-long (1.5 meters) printed poster of the timeline—as well as having the basic content on the web.

Wolfram’s explanatory blog post, “Advance of the Data Civilization: A Timeline,” is fascinating– both an unpacking of the events collected and an analysis of the patterns they form…

The story the timeline tells is a fascinating one: of how, in a multitude of steps, our civilization has systematized more and more areas of knowledge—collected the data associated with them, and gradually made them amenable to automation.

The usual telling of history makes scant mention of most of these developments—though so many of them are so obvious in our lives today. Weights and measures. The calendar. Alphabetical lists. Plots of data. Dictionaries. Maps. Music notation. Stock charts. Timetables. Public records. ZIP codes. Weather reports. All the things that help us describe and organize our world…  the timeline is not about technology or science, it’s about data and knowledge. When you look at the timeline, you might ask: ”Where’s Einstein? Where’s Darwin? Where’s the space program?” Well, they’re not there. Because despite their importance in the history of science and technology, they’re not really part of the particular story the timeline is telling: of how systematic data and knowledge came to be the way it is in our world. And as I said above, much of this is “back room history”, not really told in today’s history books.

…when I first looked at the completed timeline, the first thing that struck me was how much two entities stood out in their contributions: ancient Babylon, and the United States government. For Babylon—as the first great civilization—brought us such things as the first known census, standardized measures, the calendar, land registration, codes of laws and the first known mathematical tables. In the United States, perhaps it was the spirit of building a country from scratch, or perhaps the notion of “government for the people”, but starting as early as 1785 (with the formation of the US Land Ordinance), the US government began an impressive series of firsts in systematic data collection.

Read the full post— it’s an eminently-worthy guided walk from data to understanding.

[Thanks to Curiosity Counts for the pointer]

As we fondly recall counting on our fingers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1986 that Howard Stern became a national radio personality when WYSP in Philadelphia first simulcast his show.  By the time that he moved to satellite radio in 2004, Stern had won Billboard‘s Nationally Syndicated Air Personality of the Year award eight times; his show had the distinction of being the most-fined radio program (the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] issued fines of $2.5 million to station licensees for broadcasting allegedly indecent material on Stern’s show).

source

Interestingly, it was also on that same date– August 18, 1986– that the Anti-Howard, John Tesh, became a national broadcast personality with his first appearance on Entertainment Tonight.

source

… so you don’t have to…

Every week, I scour Netflix for a movie rated at one star and put it in my queue, suffering through it for your entertainment so that you don’t have to. In the past, I’ve taken on anime cancer demons, softcore Iraq War porn and racist ventriloquism, and this week, it’s the most unnecessary sequel since Caddyshack IV: Oblivion.

ACE VENTURA :  PET DETECTIVE JR. (2009)

Starring:  Existential dread.

If you’re anywhere near my age, then you probably remember when Ace Ventura: Pet Detective hit theaters, and how it led to 7th graders across the nation upgrading their playground Fire Marshall Bill impressions into full-fledged Ace Ventura riffs that were only slightly less funny than the end of Old Yeller by fall.  Looking back, I can pinpoint the class (third period Social Studies) where I came to the conclusion that if I never heard another pre-teen drop an “alllllllll righty then,” it’d be too soon.

And then someone had to go and spend more money than I’ve ever seen to make that very thing happen.

Read the entire review here, then check out the Worst of Netflix Archive.  It’s the handiwork of Chris Sims, one of whose other endeavors, Chris’ Invincible Super Blog is a treasure of sufficient worth to have become an “easter egg” in Glen David Gold’s Sunnyside.

As we cull our queues, we might bid a profane farewell to wise and witty George Carlin, the Grammy-winning comedian who is probably best remembered for his routine (originated on his third album) “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.”  When it was first broadcast on New York radio, a complaint led the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ban the broadcast as “indecent,” an order that was upheld by the Supreme Court and remains in effect today.  Not coincidentally, Carlin was selected to host the first Saturday Night Live.

source

Not fighting the last war…

From Brian Lane Winfield Moore, inspirational updates of classic war posters– propaganda for the new millennium!

See Norman Rockwell’s original here… and see Brian’s full set here.


As we feel the stirrings of a sense of duty
, we might recall that on this date in 1941, NBC broadcast the first TV commercial to be sanctioned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  The appearance of illegal ads on stations earlier in the year had moved the FCC to act; they began licensing commercial television stations in May 1941, granting the first license to NBC.  During a Dodgers-Phillies game that was broadcast July 1, NBC pulled the trigger on its newly-acquired right, and ran its first commercial– for which the first legitimate television advertiser, Bulova, paid $4.

The first (legal) television commercial (source: MobHappy)

%d bloggers like this: