FCC Commissioners, Bill Clinton On Hand Wednesday At CES
January 9, 2013 at 4:02 PM (PT)
At Day 2 of the International CES in LAS VEGAS, FCC Chairman JULIUS GENACHOWSKI sat down with the CEA's GARY SHAPIRO for a chat that covered topics ranging from incentive auctions of spectrum to healthcare, accessibility, and his announcement that the Commission is moving to open more spectrum from the Department of Defense and other sources for Wi-Fi (which SHAPIRO pronounced "absolutely terrific"). The announcement was immediately followed by a heckler who complained loudly before being escorted out of the room that Wi-Fi causes cancer and is endangering lives. He said that incentive auctions are "the best" option to free up spectrum for broadband and said that despite broadcasters' opposition, "this is a big deal for the country and we have to get it right.... we're in a competitive bandwidth race and our competitors are not slowing down." GENACHOWSKI added that he is hoping for wireless to grow into a competitor for home broadband with wired services.
GENACHOWSKI suggested that the Commission's initiative to turn "white spaces" of spectrum over to wireless service might be taken to another level with contiguous blocks of spectrum set aside so that the same white space frequencies can be available nationwide, and that the plan for freeing up spectrum in general will require reallocation of some present services to allow for open contiguous blocks of spectrum to be available across the country rather than having different frequencies for different markets.
On Internet freedom, GENACHOWSKI warned that "we are seeing a trend towards censorship in the world," citing countries that are cracking down on free speech and "Balkanizing" the Internet. He declined to comment on low power FM near the borders and getting international assent to such allocations.
"In this new world," GENACHOWSKI said that he told his staff, "we need big new ideas."
GENACHOWSKI's talk was followed by a panel featuring the rest of the FCC Commissioners, Republicans ROBERT MCDOWELL and AJIT PAI and Democrats MIGNON CLYBURN and JESSICA ROSENWORCEL. WASHINGTON POST reporter CECELIA KANG moderated the session, which covered each Commissioner's priorities and hopes for the coming year of regulation. MCDOWELL suggested yearly audits of the FCC rules to see which can be discarded, and called for a comprehensive rewrite of the rules to reflect the new technological situation. ROSENWORCEL stressed the need to inspire consumer confidence and explain their options ("CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW -- It's the first word in the title and it should be first in everything we do") and how the public should prepare for emergencies and disasters with backup power and communications options the way they prepare by buying water and food when weather reports indicate trouble. CLYBURN gave the FCC's performance a "B-plus... there's room for improvement." The panelists disagreed on the need for Net Neutrality regulation, with MCDOWELL noting the lack of examples of actual widespread discriminatory practices before or after regulation and PAI wondering what the limiting principles would be if the regulation is upheld by the courts. The same man who interrupted GENACHOWSKI's talk asked the panel his question about radiation, but this time waited until public question time and got an answer from CLYBURN, who said the matter is presently open for public comment.
Earlier on WEDNESDAY, the day was opened by SAMSUNG's keynote featuring an appearance by former President BILL CLINTON and the unveiling of flexible OLED video screens, with a prototype on hand showing a wrap-around screen and a video suggesting several possible uses for the technology. The company, represented by SAMSUNG DEVICE SOLUTIONS Chairman Dr. STEPHEN WOO, joined by BRIAN BERKELEY and representatives from other companies, also stressed development of new components, including the new Exynos 5 Octa chip, demonstrated (after a short wait) with a game of "Need for Speed; Most Wanted" projected on the big screen. CLINTON spoke on using mobile technology in developing nations and, briefly, about gun control and climate change.