Live From the Tech Policy Summit: The Communications Explosion
Fast-accelerating advances in communications -- through the creation and adoption of more and better wireless technologies -- may bring obvious benefits, but along with the advantages come complex problems and daunting challenges. The Tech Policy Summit is one venue for leaders with a variety of backgrounds and interests to begin sorting them out.
Tucked away down a dim hallway in the Renaissance Hollywood Hotel is a ballroom where participants in day two of the Tech Policy Summit are airing their pressing concerns about technology innovation and adoption.
The recently concluded Federal Communications Commission 700 MHz wireless spectrum auction is generating considerable buzz, as is today's shocking news that Comcast and BitTorrent have decided to cooperate. Other topics of interest are the ever-expanding online universe and advancements in wireless technologies.
Today's highlights included a keynote by FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who opened up his address by noting that the summit reflects "the wonderful reality that we are privileged to live in the most exciting time ever in the history of communications."
Half of the world's population now has a cell phone, he observed. "No technology has ever penetrated this deeply this fast."
Along with all of the obvious advantages, there's a downside. "Just like our gangling and awkward teenage years, the new media economy is working through growing pains," commented McDowell.
The 700 MHZ auction was "all about trying to bring new blood into the broadband game," he said. However, with the telecom behemoths dominating the show, many of the worries he harbored about the auction's outcome apparently were justified.
On open access -- a policy that Google had vigorously championed -- McDowell remarked that the market had long been heading toward the open waters of open access.
Any self-congratulations on Google's part were akin to "a rooster taking credit for the sunrise," he quipped.
McDowell waxed enthusiastic over the future of the FCC. "We have the building blocks for a healthy, well-funded agency. ... We're marching down the road of technological innovation, and we always will."
The Wireless Revolution
During her roundtable discussion on wireless innovation, Rachelle Chong, a commissioner on the California Public Utilities Commission, jokingly told the audience that the panel members "should disagree with each other often -- and if they disappoint me, there will be hell to pay."
Carolyn Brandon, vice president of policy for CTIA, dominated the discussion with her enthusiasm over the Comcast-BitTorrent agreement, which she called "absolutely fabulous."
The other participants -- Michael Calabrese, vice president of the Wireless Future Program for the New America Foundation, Simon Wilkie, professor and executive director of the USC Center for Communications Law and Policy, and Brian Knapp, vice president of corporate affairs and chief privacy officer for the "social compass" application provider Loopt -- touched on such topics as m-commerce, white space and municipal wireless.
White space is "sitting there doing nothing," Wilkie remarked.
Boring? Not So Much
Kai Ryssdal, host of the public radio business program "Marketplace," picked the brain of Craigslist Founder and Customer Service Representative Craig Newmark on subjects ranging from society to the Internet to himself.
"People always want to give each other a break," said the soft-spoken Newmark. "People of goodwill are getting together ... to change things."
His philanthropic efforts are giving him a new appreciation of lobbyists, he said. "There are a small number of people who have given the industry a bad name."
As for the fame he acquired for his namesake site -- which he called "pretty much an online flea market" -- Newmark said it's "all very surreal ... very odd. I'm just not used to that kind of attention. It all changes when I'm in L.A. I've been in L.A. about 36 hours, and already I want to adopt a baby from overseas."
Newmark maintained a self-deprecating tone throughout the interview. "In high school, I really did wear a plastic pocket protector," he confessed.
"I'm as boring as you can get. I wear gray socks. Brown is the new black," he said, in defense of his suit.
Click here to e-mail Rachelle Crum.