Intel, FTC in talks to settle antitrust case

Intel Corp. and the Federal Trade Commission are in talks to settle an antitrust case against the chip maker, a move that might increase competition in the chip market but also could make it more difficult for rivals to pursue damages, reports the Associated Press. In December, the FTC filed charges against Intel, seeking to end what it described as decades of illegal sales tactics that have hampered competitors and kept prices for computer chips artificially high. This week, the FTC and Intel agreed to suspend administrative trial proceedings as they work on hashing out a settlement. The FTC accused Intel of strong-arming computer makers into exclusive deals, manipulating technical data to make its chips look more powerful than those from competitors, and blocking rivals from making its chips work with Intel’s. Intel has disputed the charges. A settlement would be at least a partial victory for Intel, said Robert Lande, director of the American Antitrust Institute at the University of Baltimore. If Intel loses in court, rival chip makers such as Nvidia Corp. would be able to pursue damages. By contrast, settlements often come without any admission of wrongdoing. A key question remains whether the settlement will affect computer prices. Intel says its sales strategies help keep chip prices low; the FTC argues that prices haven’t fallen as much as they could have.

The case is particularly important, because the FTC has said it wants to change Intel’s behavior, instead of merely issuing fines…

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FCC votes to reconsider broadband regulations

The FCC's decision could have important implications for schools, many of which favor net-neutrality rules.
The FCC's decision could have important implications for schools, many of which favor net-neutrality rules.

Federal regulators are reconsidering the rules that govern high-speed internet connections, wading into a bitter policy dispute that could be tied up in Congress and the courts for years. The dispute has important implications for schools and colleges, many of which are hoping for clear rules that prevent service providers from discriminating against certain types of internet traffic.

Over the objections of the agency’s two Republican commissioners, the Federal Communications Commission voted June 17 to begin taking public comments on three different paths for regulating broadband. These include a proposal by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, to define broadband access as a telecommunications service subject to “common carrier” obligations to treat all traffic equally.

Genachowski’s proposal is a response to a federal appeals court ruling this past spring that cast doubt on the agency’s authority over broadband under its existing regulatory framework.…Read More

A face-off over sale of spectrum by FCC

Ever since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks exposed the communications difficulty that police, fire, and other personnel had in a crisis, government and public safety officials have wrestled with how to rebuild the nation’s emergency networks. Nine years later, that effort has reached a showdown between the FCC and public safety officials, reports the New York Times. The FCC is seeking to auction off a block of wireless broadband spectrum to the private sector, but public safety officials say the additional space on the public airwaves should be used instead for a dedicated emergency broadband network. With commercial wireless companies preparing to build the next generation of wireless communication networks, the resolution of the debate will determine whether public safety officials will be able to use the latest technology in emergencies. The two sides will face off on June 17 at a hearing before the House telecommunications subcommittee, which is considering legislation to pay for a public safety network. Over the last year, the disagreements over how to accomplish the goal have intensified. Attorney General Eric Holder said last October that he believed the new wireless spectrum should be turned over to public safety officials for a dedicated network. But the FCC has said auctioning the spectrum is a priority. On June 15, the agency released a technical white paper saying that police and fire departments could construct a better communications network at lower cost by using airwaves already dedicated to public safety use, supplemented by the right to take over commercial networks in an emergency…

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FCC aims to measure home broadband speeds

The Federal Communications Commission wants to find out whether broadband providers are delivering internet connections that are as fast as advertised, reports the Associated Press—and so the agency is seeking 10,000 volunteers to take part in a study of residential broadband speeds. Specialized equipment will be installed in homes across the country to measure internet connections. Those results then will be compared with advertised speeds. The agency hopes to get a cross section of volunteers who subscribe to broadband services provided by a range of phone and cable TV companies. The new project grows out of several proposals outlined in the FCC’s national broadband plan, released in March. “The big issue here is knowing what you are paying for,” said Joel Gurin, who heads the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau. According to data cited in the national broadband plan, average residential download speeds are typically only half as fast as the maximum speeds advertised by U.S. broadband providers. The FCC will summarize its findings on home broadband connections in a report later this year. The commission also is seeking input on ways to measure mobile broadband speeds. Broadband subscribers who want to participate in the FCC’s new study can register at www.TestMyISP.com

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FCC aims to simplify e-Rate, expand funding

New rules may impact schools' e-Rate funding.
New rules may impact schools' e-Rate funding.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed new e-Rate rules designed to simplify the program and bring discounts on networking services to more schools and libraries.

Among other actions, the FCC wants to index the e-Rate to inflation. That would result in the first increase in funding to the $2.25 billion-a-year program since it began more than a decade ago.

But executives attending the Software and Information Industry Association’s annual Education Technology Industry Summit in San Francisco expressed disappointment in the FCC’s proposal, saying it doesn’t go far enough in meeting schools’ needs.…Read More

FCC plan could revive ‘net neutrality’

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants to reclassify broadband as a 'telecommunications' service, but without as much regulation.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants to reclassify broadband as a 'telecommunications' service, but without as much regulation.

The head of the Federal Communications Commission thinks he has come up with a way to salvage his ambitious national broadband plans and his hope for “net neutrality,” a principle favored by many school technology advocates, without running into legal obstacles that have threatened to derail him.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said May 6 that his agency has crafted a compromise in how it regulates high-speed internet access: It will apply only narrow rules to broadband companies. The FCC chairman, a Democrat, said this delicate dance will ensure the agency has adequate authority to govern broadband providers without being too “heavy-handed.”

But his plan likely will hit legal challenges from the big phone and cable companies, and it already faces significant opposition from Republicans at the FCC and in Congress.…Read More

Could net-neutrality ruling hinder online education?

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's net-neutrality and national broadband plans are in danger after an April 6 court ruling.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's net-neutrality and national broadband plans are in danger after an April 6 court ruling.

A federal court threw the future of internet regulations and U.S. broadband expansion plans into doubt April 6 with a far-reaching decision that went against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The ruling poses a major hurdle for federal policy that school and college administrators hoped would ensure the growth of online education and make high-speed internet affordable for even the smallest school systems and campuses.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the FCC lacks the authority to require broadband providers to give equal treatment to all internet traffic flowing over their networks. That was a big victory for Comcast Corp., the nation’s largest cable company, which had challenged the FCC’s authority to impose such “net neutrality” obligations on broadband providers.

The ruling marks a serious setback for the FCC, which is trying to adopt official net-neutrality regulations. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, argues that such rules are needed to prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over internet access to favor some online content and services over others.…Read More

National Broadband Plan focuses on e-Rate, online learning

 

The Nationa Broadband Plan suggests that federal programs should be more accessible and ready to meet the challenges of a 21st century economy.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski discusses the National Broadband Plan, unveiled March 16.

 

More students should have access to online learning, and the federal e-Rate program should be more widely deployed and should embrace and encourage innovation, according to the National Broadband Plan, which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) unveiled on March 16.…Read More

FCC announces Children’s Agenda for broadband

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski highlighted ways the new National Broadband Plan will effect children and families.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski highlighted ways the new National Broadband Plan will affect children and families.

Digital access, literacy, citizenship, and safety are the four key areas of focus in the Federal Communications Commission’s plan to bring broadband access to all children.

Broadband internet access should be available to 100 percent of American children, but parents should be aware of the possible challenges they will face by the increased amount of time their children might spend online, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a March 12 speech.

Genachowski announced the creation of the FCC’s “Children’s Agenda for Digital Opportunity,” which he said will build on the four pillars of digital access, digital literacy, digital citizenship, and digital safety. The Children’s Agenda is part of the National Broadband Plan to be released this week.…Read More

FCC to propose revamping Universal Service Fund

Federal regulators trying to bring high-speed internet connections to all Americans will propose tapping the government program that now subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural areas, reports the Associated Press. The Federal Communications Commission will include a proposal to revamp the Universal Service Fund (USF) as part of a national broadband plan due to Congress on March 17. Although the proposal itself has been expected for months, the agency’s March 5 announcement offered the first solid details. The FCC said it envisions transforming the USF over the next decade to pay for high-speed internet access instead of the traditional voice services that it currently finances. The proposal would create a Connect America fund inside the Universal Service program to subsidize broadband, and a Mobility Fund to expand the reach of so-called 3G, or third-generation, wireless networks. “It’s time to migrate this 20th-century program,” said Blair Levin, the FCC official overseeing the broadband plan, which was mandated by last year’s stimulus bill. The FCC’s announcement focused only on the traditional high-cost, low-income portion of the USF, which also pays for the e-Rate, a $2.25 billion-a-year program that provides telecommunications discounts to eligible schools and libraries. The FCC’s plan will lay out several options to pay for the proposals it outlined March 5, including one that would require no additional money from Congress and one that would accelerate the construction of broadband networks if Congress approves a one-time injection of $9 billion. Either way, Levin said, the proposals would not increase the annual size of the USF, but instead would take money from subsidies now used for voice services…

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