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October 31, 2014
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A turf war over telecom regulation Yelp’s Stoppelman brings a free speech …

With help from Darren Samuelsohn and Brooks Boliek

THE LATEST TECH TURF WAR: FCC VS. FTC — For telecommunications companies, the regulatory punches are suddenly coming from two corners — and the tension between the agencies is mounting as they jostle for cases and jurisdiction, Brooks and Katy write this morning. Just this week, the FTC sued ATT for misleading customers about unlimited data plans, only days after the FCC took up privacy violations — traditionally an FTC issue. And earlier this month, the two agencies jointly announced a $105 million settlement with ATT over mobile cramming, following a similar one with T-Mobile. This year’s cases are the first the FTC has brought against so-called common carriers.

“Telecommunications companies are being hit this year with one-two punches over issues like cramming and privacy, and publicly both the FTC and FCC say they are cooperating. But privately, officials admit there is tension as the regulatory forces bulk up enforcement efforts,” Brooks and Katy write. “Having two agencies with overlapping jurisdiction automatically sets up a conflict, said Betsy Page Sigman, a professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. ‘There’s always turf wars in government, and I’m sure there’s one here,’ she said. ‘Anytime you have two agencies where parts of their missions overlap, and in the modern world we live in now those distinctions aren’t as well defined as they used to be, there will be conflicts.’” Don’t miss the rest: http://politico.pro/1p5iYFn

YELP’S STOPPELMAN TALKS ONLINE COMPETITION AND FREE SPEECH — Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman is in town today for the Washington Ideas Forum and a later chat at 1776 — and you can expect him to talk a little policy while he’s here. He’ll speak a bit about the efforts the company has taken to protect consumers from lawsuits filed by business owners who don’t like the reviews they get on the site. He’ll shed a little light, too, on the need for fair competition in the online space, a company spokesman tells MT. If you’re up for another good tech company origin story, you won’t be disappointed — he’ll talk, too, about how he started Yelp when he couldn’t find a good doctor in San Francisco. More info on both events, here: http://theatln.tc/1nRp5Mt and here:http://bit.ly/1nRp8Id

— IN YELP’S CORNER: GOOGLE, FACEBOOK AND PINTEREST: One thing sure to be on Stoppelman’s mind: the company’s current legal troubles before the Virginia Supreme Court, which heard arguments this week in a case that could force Yelp to turn over the identities of seven reviewers who criticized the Hadeed Carpet Cleaning company. Yelp has fought to protect those reviewers, and now Google, Facebook and several other companies are weighing in, too. In a brief filed with the court, the online giants argue that unmasking the reviewers would drastically limit free speech. “The power of the Internet and of [our] services is that anyone, anywhere, has the platform and tools to exercise their right to speak, publish, and debate without fear of retaliation. It is that right that this Court should protect in this case,” the companies write. Read the full filing: http://politico.pro/104s4WL

GOOD THURSDAY MORNING and welcome to Morning Tech, where we are big fans of journalism-via-comic book (one of our favorites: http://bit.ly/104rlEX), so we were especially excited to see this Al Jazeera epic on Big Data, here:http://bit.ly/104rrN1. Tell us what you think when you send tips and comments over to emershon@politico.com and @eemershon. And catch the rest of the team’s info after speed read.

** A message from CTIA: Vehicle-to-vehicle, real-time traffic and weather and other helpful updates to keep drivers and passengers safer when on the road are either available or will soon be reality. But these kinds of connected life innovations could be in jeopardy if the FCC decides to reverse its 2010 open Internet decision when it voted that #WirelessIsDifferent. **

VERIZON WHITES OUT TITLE II — Big Red is telling the FCC that it can’t legally reclassify Internet service as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act as it considers new net neutrality rules, even if it wants to make the move. “That Title II contains no grant of authority to compel particular services to be offered on common-carrier terms is not surprising, because the ability to compel a broadband provider involuntarily to commit its private property to the use of others would be an extraordinary power raising significant issues of constitutional dimension,” Verizon writes in a new white paper submitted to the FCC late Wednesday.

Verizon won the lawsuit that challenged the commission’s old rules, setting up the current debate over how the FCC should treat Internet service providers. While the company doesn’t exactly threaten another lawsuit, it doesn’t shy away from it either. “Any attempt to ‘reclassify’ broadband Internet access as a common-carrier service subject to Title II would face significant legal challenge and would be unlikely to withstand appeal,” Verizon argues. “That is doubly true in the case of mobile Internet access service, which is statutorily exempted twice over from common-carrier regulation.” The white paper is here: http://politico.pro/13eO0R5

CERF, ROSENWORCEL AND BERNERS-LEE ON THE FUTURE OF THE WEB — Several Internet pioneers and policymakers, including Vint Cerf, Tim Berners-Lee and FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, were on hand last night for an event celebrating the World Wide Web Consortium’s 20th anniversary — and the main topic of conversation was the future. Cerf kicked things off, touching unsurprisingly on the Internet of Things and some of the privacy and authentication concerns therein. But his address got much more futuristic: he finished with a few remarks on the Internet in space — literally, a network connecting the International Space Station, Mars and elsewhere with Earth. “I hope to see a growing interplanetary backbone as more and more space missions are launched,” he said. He also called on Internet users to do their part to improve the web — to stop posting pictures unless we know everyone in the photo approves, and to come up with something better than passwords, too.

Rosenworcel, who took the stage later, also touched on IoT — and the ways that wearables and other nascent technologies can empower individuals with disabilities. “Sensors at the grocery store can communicate with the smartphones of a shopper with disabilities, providing vital information,” she said, per prepped remarks. “A classroom with RFID-tagged toys and a computer can help deaf preschoolers learn sign language by animating signs. … If we introduce technologies like these on a global scale, the possibilities for accessibility for the more than one billion people with disabilities worldwide — well, they’re endless.” There’s more info on the event, here: http://bit.ly/104v85g

ICYMI: AGS ARE BRINGING MORE CASES, AND THAT’S BRINGING OUT THE LOBBYISTS — The New York Times published a fascinating piece on the ways lobbyists are now wooing and trying to influence state attorneys general, especially as they target big companies — and tech and telcos are no exception. Microsoft and T-Mobile have retained former officials to lobby on their behalf in Washington state — T-Mobile even got that state’s top attorney to send out a letter to colleagues that the company drafted, the NYT reports. ATT gets a shoutout, too, for campaign contributions to state officials that came as those AGs were investigating the company’s billing practices. Don’t miss the full report:http://nyti.ms/13eLSsx

THE FTC SWIPES LEFT TO CRACK DOWN ON CORPORATE CATFISHING — The FTC settled Wednesday with an online dating company for using fake, computer-generated profiles to trick users into upgrading to paid monthly memberships. As part of the settlement, the company is barred from misrepresenting its service to consumers and must pay $616,165 in redress to members. The U.K. based JDI Dating Ltd. operated 18 websites like flirtcrowd.com and findmelove.com, which required users to upgrade to a paid membership to respond to messages. Most were from fake love interests, according to the complaint — and although the profiles used a tiny symbol to indicate that the profiles were fake, members didn’t see them, much less understand them. The websites also failed to tell consumers that their subscriptions would automatically be renewed each month.

FACEBOOK’S ELECTION DAY MOTIVATOR — Facebook on Tuesday will set a reminder atop everyone’s News Feed to go vote, available this year for the first time on both mobile and desktop devices and also in Spanish, Chinese, Korean and other languages. You can share with friends that you’ve already voted and find a link to help locate polling places.

TODAY: CDT, CALIFORNIA AG’S OFFICE TALK PRIVACY AND IOT — Nest’s Matt Rogers will kick off an event today on privacy and the Internet of Things, after which CDT’s Michelle De Mooy, Joanne McNabb of the California Attorney General’s Office and several tech execs will discuss the same subject. The event, co-hosted by TRUSTe, is out in San Francisco, but you can get more info here: http://bit.ly/13f2O24

SPEED READ

HBO’S STREAMING SERVICE MAY BE A BROADBAND ADD-ON. It could also be offered through a partnership with Apple, Microsoft or Amazon, the WSJ reports: http://on.wsj.com/104tRLu

SAMSUNG ADMITS IT’S LAGGING, AS PROFITS DROP 49 PERCENT. The company was hit hard by lagging growth in mobile, and it admitted it erred in judging the market, the AP reports: http://bit.ly/104u8hw

APPLE PAY’S RIVAL DEFENDS ITS SERVICE — AS IT’S HIT WITH A DATA BREACH. The retailer-backed Merchant Customer Exchange, which will be a rival mobile payments system, is defending its decision to require that companies who use it eschew alternatives, the AP reports: http://apne.ws/104sBba The Wall Street Journal has more, too, on that company’s recent data breach: http://on.wsj.com/104tq3L

NO GOOGLE GLASS AT THE MOVIES. The MPAA updated its guidelines — viewers won’t just be told to silence their cellphones, but to take off their wearable tech, too, the Washington Post writes: http://wapo.st/104tkJv

IBM WILL USE TWITTER TO INFORM BUSINESS DECISIONS. The unlikely pair announced a new partnership Wednesday, the NYT reports: http://nyti.ms/104t5y7

NINTENDO’S WORKING ON A SLEEP TRACKER. It measure sleep quality and fatigue, execs said according to Reuters: http://reut.rs/104ta4O

Tips, comments, suggestions? Send them along via email to our team: Alex Byers (abyers@politico.com, @byersalex), Eric Nelson (enelson@politico.com, @jonericnelson), Eric Engleman (eengleman@politico.com, @ericengleman), Brooks Boliek (bboliek@politico.com, @technocowboy), Tony Romm (tromm@politico.com, @tonyromm), Erin Mershon (emershon@politico.com, @eemershon), Katy Bachman (kbachman@politico.com, @KatyontheHill) and Kate Tummarello (ktummarello@politico.com, @ktummarello).

**  A message from CTIA: Car manufacturers and wireless companies are developing new tools and technology to keep drivers and passengers safer, from vehicle-to-vehicle sensors to real-time traffic and weather alerts in the car. But these kinds of innovations could be in jeopardy if the FCC decides to reverse its 2010 open Internet decision when it voted that #WirelessIsDifferent.

As General Motors noted in a recent letter to the FCC, mobile Internet users in heavy traffic or traveling on the Interstate is “fundamentally different” from wired broadband because the FCC “can’t define exceptions for ‘reasonable network management’ for circumstances it can’t imagine.”

As long as innovators, such as GM, are only limited by their imaginations, and not burdensome and unnecessary regulations, Americans will continue to benefit. We need rules that support our connected lives from cars to mHealth and beyond. Learn more on why #WirelessIsDifferent by visiting http://ctia.org/net-neutrality **

October 31, 2014
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Vice Media Signs Deal for TV Channel in Canada

Vice Media took a significant step Thursday toward creating a traditional television channel, signing a deal with Canadian cable and wireless provider Rogers Communications Inc. to build a content studio that will lead to the launch of a TV network in Canada next year.

Vice continues to negotiate in the U.S. with cable channel-owner A+E Networks, which bought 10% of the edgy, youth-oriented website for $250 million in late August. In…

October 31, 2014
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BEN GRIFFITHS: Gavin Patterson’s power play as he bids to turn BT into …

Ben Griffiths

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Gavin Patterson, chief executive of BT, is known to be a huge fan of television drama House of Cards.

Set in Washington DC, it is a cleverly rendered masterpiece of political power-mongering, with lead character Frank Underwood – played by Kevin Spacey – willing to go to any lengths of manipulation in a crusade to advance his position.

Patterson’s own plans for domination of the home internet and entertainment market could be taken from Underwood’s Machiavellian playbook – minus the on-screen murders, of course.

For BT, it’s more a case of utilitarianism: the greater good are regular consumers who are benefiting from a fierce competition between BT and arch rival BSkyB, owner of the Sky satellite television business. Patterson’s goal is to turn the former fixed-line phone monopoly into a broader telecoms and media giant.

House of Cards fan: BT boss Gavin Patterson

Linking up with movie streaming service Netflix, home of House of Cards, is just one element of his strategy. Since he left consumer goods giant Procter Gamble to join BT, the group has spent hundreds of millions of pounds on buying up rights to Premier League football matches. The magic appeal of the world’s most popular sport has lured thousands to BT.

But City analysts are increasingly concerned that the battle for subscribers risks descending into a price war, which would impact both firms’ earnings.

For his part, Patterson accuses Sky of literally bribing consumers by giving away free broadband to existing account holders.

He is adamant that BT will not ‘buy’ customers, preferring to tempt high-value consumers with premium packages of television and communications deals.

And he insists there is no certainty that the company will have to pay more and more for football rights as time goes by. The next rights auction is next spring.

Consumers may like BT for its premium package of services, but investors covet the stock for its reliable dividend payout, up another 15 per cent for the first half to 3.9p.

With the luxuriantly-coiffured Patterson in the boardroom, BT’s own house of cards is looking far from flimsy.

Bad Banks

Barely a day goes by without one of our major banks being dragged into yet another scandal of increasing seriousness.

It has now become so frequent an occurrence that fatigue is beginning to set in, particularly as the sanctions they face are so meagre compared with earnings.

Fines – when they are handed out – barely dent profitability and not a single banker has been imprisoned for their shady actions during the run up to the financial crisis.

Barclays yesterday morning became the first of an expected slew of lenders to set aside funds to cover likely fines from its involvement in rigging the £3trillion-a-day foreign exchange market. RBS was today set to follow suit, while HSBC is expected to join them when it reports numbers on Monday.

Antony Jenkins, who pledged to make Barclays the ‘go to bank’ when he took the top job, must cringe when he looks back at his stated five values of respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship.

Over at the bank’s City neighbour Standard Chartered, the picture also became bleaker yesterday when it was thrust back under the spotlight amid reports US regulators had reopened their probe into the emerging markets specialist’s illicit dealings with Iran.

Shares subsequently slumped to a five-and-a-half year low, and analysts warned that investors are losing faith in the management team, leaving beleaguered boss Peter Sands hanging onto his job by the thinnest of threads.

With examples such as these two, it is no wonder that our crucial financial services industry remains in the dog house.

Royal Approval

Since being taken over by India’s Tata conglomerate, British car marque Jaguar Land Rover has gone from strength to strength.

The Queen was wheeled out yesterday to give the Royal seal of approval to the group’s new £500million engine factory in Wolverhampton, which will make the powerplant for Jaguar’s new XE sport saloon car.

Covering an area equivalent to more than 14 football pitches, the plant’s unveiling was described as one of the most important days in Jaguar’s history by boss Ralf Speth.

The British car industry remains a crucial and successful part of UK plc. Overall automotive manufacturing generated £64billion of turnover last year, adding some £12.4billion to the economy.

A staggering 770,000 UK jobs are dependent on the sector, which is set to overtake its 1972 record production level of 1.9million units a year.

With Ford doing a U-turn and bulking up its plant in Dagenham, Jaguar is just one of several car firms ploughing investment into the engine room of Britain’s economy.

 

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October 31, 2014
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Free time/temperature number’s hour has yet to end

Now here’s a retro freebie to ponder:

Some of you may remember there once was a local telephone number you could call that would give you the time and temperature.

When I was growing up in Memphis, the number was “jamjam1″ (my pals and I wore it out), and apparently the Nashville counterpart was 259-2222.

Both got good traffic back in the day, but I couldn’t imagine that such time and temperature numbers would be very popular in today’s techy world of mobile phones, weather apps and up-to-the-minute news.

I hadn’t thought of dialing “jamjam1″ in years, but when I received an email news release from a Mt. Juliet fellow named Greg Cain, letting me know about the return of the Middle Tennessee time and temperature number, jamjam memories dialed back.

More: Ms. Cheap’s columns

More: Ms. Cheap’s Guide to Fall

But I must say I was puzzled. I mean, who would call this number?

“This number is a community service and it is free. This is a great story that I would like for you to cover for your loyal readers,” Cain confidently wrote.

Free always gets my attention, but still I had to wonder why anyone would call such a number when “everybody” has a cell phone that has the current time right there on the screen, and “everybody” has access to countless, easy smartphone apps for up-to-date weather reports.

But curiosity got the best of me and I punched in the numbers on my iPhone — 615-259-2222— and was met with an ad for Furniture Unlimited. And then sure enough the melodious radio voice said “Today is Monday, Oct. 27. From the U. S. Naval Observatory’s Master Clock, the time is 9:08. Current temperature is 65 degrees. Here is Middle Tennessee’s Only Official Forecast …,” which detailed the day’s outlook.

Yep, right there on my phone in 38 seconds I had all of my information.

But still my question was: Who else beside me would call?

Many folks, according to Cain, who is a CPA by training and came up with this “side business” in the summer of 2012 to make a little extra money.

“This number was disconnected for over five years and was reconnected by me in August of 2012,” he said. “When the number was reconnected, I received 272 calls. I am now receiving 1,200 calls a day with nothing but word of mouth.”

My initial puzzlement turned to intrigue. That would be 438,000 calls a year.

I cattily wondered if Mr. Cain had any way to track how many of those calls were from rotary phones.

His answer was no — that he could not track that data, but he said he continues to grow the number of calls.

“A couple of weeks ago, I had some business cards made and I passed them out,” he said. “A lot of people said, ‘I’ll start calling it again.’ “

Cain, who says he has yet to make a cent with his “side business,” told me that his investment included the purchase of a $4,500 Weatherphone machine, which is a GPS- and satellite-assisted piece of digital equipment that keeps track of and broadcasts the time and temperature information to callers on multiple phone lines.

Cain conceded that his audience is a bit on the older side — 40 and older people who remember the old time/temp lines. But he’s confident that his concept has potential for growth, even in a world dominated by smartphones.

“How many people watch the Super Bowl?” he asked rhetorically, noting that although a huge percentage of TV viewers watch the big game, there are still plenty of people watching other shows on other stations. “It’s the same thing. There are people who want to call.”

Weatherphone owner Randall Hinton of Atlanta, whose time-temperature machines are in 300 cities, said there is plenty of potential for growth, both in terms of callers and advertisers. He noted that the service in some markets has had ads from giants such as Coca-Cola, and that some cities such as Fort Worth are getting 25,000 calls a day on their service.

I asked if Cain’s Middle Tennessee version had that kind of potential.

“Good Lord, yes,” he said. “It is sort of like ‘field of dreams’: If you publicize it, they will dial.”

Hinton, who was a WLAC radio man in Nashville in the 1970s, said the driving force for people to call the time/temperature service is “convenience. You can just dial the number, and you always know what you are getting. It is not like an app. You have to download an app, and then you have to find it and look at it. With this you can just put the number on speed dial and listen to it before you get out of your warm bed.”

I’m still a tad skeptical, but with the always confusing daylight savings time change coming this weekend, this might be the prime time to try it.

After all, it is free and the official time does come from the “U.S. Naval Observatory Master Clock.”

Now here’s an idea: Maybe I could add 615-259-2222 to my iPhone contacts, and then when I want to know the time and temperature, I could instruct Siri to call it. What a happy anachronism!

Stay cheap!

Reach Ms. Cheap at 615-259-8282. Follow her at www.tennessean.com/mscheap, at Facebook.com/mscheap and on Twitter @Ms_Cheap, and catch her every Thursday at 11 a.m. on WTVF-Channel 5′s “Talk of the Town.”

Number to call

To find Middle Tennessee’s time, temperature and weather conditions, 615-259-2222.

October 31, 2014
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Policy: AT&T counters T-Mobile US’ data roaming push

ATT continues to counter T-Mobile US’ requests that the Federal Communications Commission move forward with clarifying the “commercially reasonable” standard in its 2011 data roaming rule.

Joan Marsh, VP of federal regulatory at ATT, noted in a recent blog post that roaming rates T-Mobile US is paying to ATT Mobility have dropped 70% over the past three years and are in line with what T-Mobile US claims it’s paying to other operators. Marsh added that ATT Mobility is now paying an average roaming rate that is higher than the 30 cents T-Mobile US reports it paid to other providers in 2013, “and significantly higher than the 18 cents T-Mobile projects it will pay in 2014.”

Marsh also questioned T-Mobile US’ build-out plans, noting the carrier had sufficient spectrum to cover areas where it claims it needs to roam onto ATT Mobility’s network.

“In these broad swaths of the country, T-Mobile holds [1.9 GHz] and [1.7/2.1 GHz] spectrum that it could use to provide broadband services,” Marsh wrote. “It instead has chosen to rely on roaming. In contrast, ATT has built out its network in many of those same areas, and, notably, it did so with the same higher-frequency spectrum T-Mobile holds. There is no reason T-Mobile could not do the same.”

T-Mobile US initially filed its petition for clarification with the FCC in May, asking the FCC to take another look at previously approved data roaming rules that it claimed were not meeting the FCC’s guidance. T-Mobile US, which reiterated its position last month, in August received support from a pair of trade associations representing rural operators.

Both ATT and Verizon Communications have come out against the request, with ATT claiming that its smaller rival was asking the FCC to “eviscerate” its previous ruling and upset the “careful balance” the FCC had established in “ensuring that mobile wireless providers can obtain data roaming arrangements on reasonable terms while preserving incentives to invest in broadband networks.”

“In short, T-Mobile’s latest effort to manufacture a case for new data roaming regulations offers no reasoned basis for the commission to abandon the careful balance struck in the data roaming order,” Marsh wrote this week. “T-Mobile, like the rest of the industry, has shifted to LTE, and can choose among multiple LTE roaming partners, including new roaming hub arrangements like the kind that Sprint has entered into with 27 carriers covering [38 million potential customers].”

– Citing difficulty in gaining access to important agreements, the FCC last week suspended the 180-day review period connected to Comcast’s pending acquisition of fellow cable provider Time Warner Cable and ATT’s pending acquisition of satellite television provider DirecTV.

The suspension followed comments filed by “content companies” that said the release of confidential agreements to certain individuals with access to such information would undermine those agreements. Those content companies included CBS Corp. Scripps Networks Interactive, The Walt Disney Company, Time Warner, Twenty First Century Fox, Univision Communications, Viacom, Discovery Communications and TV One.

The suspension stopped the ATT proposal at day 76 of the proceedings and the Comcast proposal at day 85. The FCC in August set up a steering committee to oversee the deals.

“After we rule on the objections, we will issue a Public Notice setting forth new pleading cycles that will provide sufficient time for commenters to review the relevant materials and prepare their comments,” the FCC noted.

ATT in May initiated plans to acquire DirecTV for $48.5 billion in a deal the company said would bolster its ability to offer video content across multiple platforms, with DirecTV increasing the company’s pay-TV presence that it currently bases on its U-verse fiber product. DirecTV counted just over 20 million pay-TV customers at the end of the first quarter, while ATT said it had just over 11 million subscribers to its U-verse broadband and pay-TV offer.

DirecTV also counts more than 18 million customers across Latin America, with ATT noting the region’s pay-TV segment is under-penetrated at just 40%. To help gain regulatory approval in Latin America, ATT said it would divest its interest in América Móvil, which operates across a number of Latin American countries and also owns domestic wireless reseller TracFone Wireless.

Domestically, ATT said that if approved, it will commit to expanding broadband coverage to 15 million rural homes; continue to offer a stand-alone broadband service providing at least 6 megabits per second speed “where feasible” in current markets at a fixed priced for three years; continue offering a stand-alone DirecTV service for at least three years; and continue its commitment to net neutrality efforts.

More importantly for the wireless industry, ATT said it remains committed to spending at least $9 billion in the government’s recently delayed 600 MHz incentive auction if there is sufficient spectrum made available for a nationwide 20 megahertz footprint. The incentive auction is reliant on a reverse-auction process that will see television broadcasters turn in spectrum holdings in exchange for cash, though the total amount of spectrum made available for the telecommunications industry won’t be known until the reverse-auction process is complete.

Reports surfaced in August that ATT had agreed to government conditions that would allow the deal to move forward. Terms were not detailed, though it was said the move would allow the acquisition to be approved this month.

Comcast in February announced its $45 billion plans to acquire Time Warner Cable that would combine the nation’s No. 1 and No. 2 cable providers into a larger No. 1 carrier with more than 30 million customers and nearly half the domestic market. The deal is thought to be a way for Comcast to further bolster its offerings against competing offers from telecom-based providers getting into the television space like Verizon Communications and ATT.

Make sure to keep up to date on policy news by visiting RCR Wireless News’s Policy page.

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