Cell-phone use on airlines grabbed all the headlines Thursday, but while the world wasn’t paying attention, the Federal Communications Commission moved ahead with less-noticed but more-important policy changes in its long-term agenda.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler hinted on Thursday that the agency would impose bidding limits on AT&T and Verizon in an upcoming government auction of spectrum. The sale, scheduled for 2015, will allow wireless networks to purchase the spectrum from broadcasters that they need to keep pace with the public’s demand for mobile phones and ubiquitous Internet connection.
Wheeler’s statements, made during a House committee hearing, follow AT&T’s indication Tuesday that it was shifting its position on bidding caps, saying it is open to caps provided they are applied equally to all participants in the highly anticipated incentive auction.
The caps are aimed at balancing competition between the industry juggernauts — AT&T and Verizon — and smaller carriers, and have been a hotly contested point throughout the run-up to the auction. Harold Feld, senior vice president at Public Knowledge and one of the witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing, said the shift signals to stakeholders in the auction process that “it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get serious about what you can live with instead of what you want.”
And that wasn’t all the news Wheeler had for Congress. The chairman reassured members that he supports an open Internet — “full stop.”
With a federal court decision imminent for FCC v. Verizon, which concerns the agency’s ability to enforce net neutrality, Wheeler had sent a ripple of fear around the Internet community in his first public remarks last week when he implied he may be open to price discrimination of Internet traffic.
Finally, Wheeler promised that his bureaucratic behemoth is taking seriously its promise to streamline the way it operates. The FCC has been notoriously out of step with the dynamic, innovative technology industry it regulates.
The House Commerce Committee Wednesday advanced a reform bill for the FCC, a measure that Wheeler said Thursday was “significant, noted, and appreciated.” He is expecting an in-house report on the subject by the end of the month.
But even as he was making his proclamations, the FCC got a pointed reminder of the technological challenges his agency faces: During Thursday’s meeting, the live-streaming of Thursday’s open commission meeting cut out halfway through.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."