We heard last week that Google was tantalizingly close to getting regulatory approval in the EU for its proposed takeover of Motorola Mobility, and today the search giant got that approval. Not only that, but US regulators came down in favor of Google a little earlier than expected. The company now has an almost free hand to absorb Motorola and get access to all those juicy patents.
Bitcoin is a new digital currency traded over p2p connections that is essentially untraceable and not connected to any bank. This has made it a favorite of the tech-literate crowd, but two US Senators are looking to crack down on Bitcoin after reports that it is being used to buy illegal drugs online.
Log on to your Mom's Netflix account, get thrown in jail. Sounds silly, right? Not if you live in Tennessee. State lawmakers just passed a bill that makes it illegal to use somebody else's login for a paid Internet service like Netflix or Rhapsody. Did your computer automatically sign in to your buddy's premium Pandora account because he was screwing around on your PC earlier? You just crossed The Man! Say hello to Big Bubba for us.
One of the four FCC commissioners that approved the Comcast-NBC deal has announced that she will be leaving the FCC at the end of her term in June. You'll never guess where she's going to work. Yep, Comcast. Meredith Attwell Baker will be Comcast's new SVP of government affairs.
AT&T has taken the first official step in gaining regulatory approval for its proposed purchase of T-Mobile USA. The FCC has received AT&T's application to take over the wireless spectrum licenses held by T-Mobile, as well as supporting documentation. This begins the (likely) long process of hearings and investigations that could end with AT&T swallowing up the nation's smallest carrier.
The news just broke shortly ago that the Comcast-NBC deal has been approved by government regulators. The FCC approved the sale of NBC Universal to Comcast by a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Michael Copps was the lone holdout. In a statement he said the deal "opens the door to the cable-ization of the open Internet." We had been expecting the FCC to ok the deal, but the Justice Department was always more of an unknown.
Almost immediately after the FCC vote, the Justice Department also approved the deal, according to a Comcast press release. Now that both agencies have given their stamp of approval, the acquisition is expected to go through by the end of January. This will make Comcast a first of its kind media powerhouse.
Early indications are that at least some of the FCC's conditions will be in place for the deal to proceed. Comcast will be required to allow online video distributors (read: Netflix) access to their content. Additionally, Comcast will be allowed to retain its stake in Hulu, but will have to relinquish its decision making role. How do you feel about the deal?
There were rumblings last week that Verizon and Google had struck an unseemly deal to end net neutrality, but today the two companies have issued a statement clearing the whole matter up. The proposal for "an open internet" makes some bold suggestions, at least when you consider who's involved. For fans of net neutrality, it's encouraging, but still a bit of a mixed bag.
The policy proposal is based around two main points. First: "Users should choose what content, applications, or devices they use, since openness has been central to the explosive innovation that has made the Internet a transformative medium." This all goes to the idea that content cannot be preferentially treated online. This is a big step for Verizon in particular with their status as an ISP. The statement also calls for enforceable penalties for companies found to be violating these tenets.
The second tentpole here is a sentiment that "America must continue to encourage both investment and innovation to support the underlying broadband infrastructure." Along with this a recognition that wireless and wireline broadband are different, and may need different levels of regulation to continue to grow. Google and Verizon appear to be conceding the point that wireless bandwidth is too constrained for all parts of net neutrality to be enforceable right away. What they are encouraging, is transparency. What do you think of the proposal? Sound off in the comments.
Google's primary creed of "Do No Evil" may give comfort to some, but according the New York Times the US Federal Government may need a bit more convincing. "They are not just on the radar screen. They are at the center of it," said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia University and the author of a forthcoming book on technology monopolies, "The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires." "If you are in the federal government and are interested in antitrust, you are looking at Google."
Scrutiny of the California based search giant was bound to continue mounting as a result of its success, however recent privacy snafus, including the Wi-Fi sniffing issue have only served to further fuel the flames of mistrust between Google and federal regulators. Google executives acknowledge that being under the spotlight is expected given their rapid growth, but maintain that competition on the Internet is still strong and is a mere click away. This argument has kept regulators at bay until now, but it remains to be seen what action, if any the government is considering.
It may be a long forgotten issue for most, but Federal Judge Denny Chin is expected to rule very soon on the amended book publishing settlement inked with authors which could very well set the tone for any further interventions. Google has a tradition of breaking business models in just about every industry it enters, so it will be interesting to see how long this goes unchallenged.
Do you buy the "competition is one click away" argument, or is Google just becoming too powerful to responsibly organize the worlds data?
As FCC chair Genachowski moves toward an announcement on future broadband regulations, sources are indicating that he is leaning toward keeping the current system mostly intact. The turnaround comes in the wake of the recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision that the FCC overstepped its autority when it fined Comcast in 2008 for throttling torrent traffic. There were rumors that the FCC would attempt to reclassify broadband providers giving them more regulatory powers, but that course of action has apparently been ruled out.
Instead of an overhaul in regulation, only minor changes would be made. The exact policies were not detailed, but the goal would be to ensure the FCC has some roll in future policy discussions. The whole issue has left the FCC's net neutrality plans up in the air. It is unclear if they will have the clout to push many changes in the current climate.
Where should the FCC go from here? Is it just time to pack it in and get ready for more traffic shaping?
New regulations have made it compulsory for businesses to retain all wireless communications including IMs and text messages. Among the various legislations mandating the archival of wireless communications the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) are most prominent. Also, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) made the archiving of IMs and Texts compulsory through one of its edicts issued in December, 2007.