Last month, I authored a blog discussing the Librarian of Congress’s recent decision not to exempt handset unlocking of new phones from the anti-circumvention petitions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”).  Since that blog was posted, copyright-reform activists launched an on-line campaign to have the White House “ask the Librarian of Congress to rescind this decision, and failing that, champion a bill that makes unlocking permanently legal.”  Last week, in a post by R. David Edelman, Senior Advisor for Internet, Innovation Policy, entitled It’s Time to Legalize Cell Phone Unlocking, the White House joined in the dispute stating: The White House agrees … that …
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Recently, a renewed interest in long-term contracts and the practice of locking handsets to networks has emerged from an unlikely source:  Copyright law. Making a very long and complicated story short, under Section 1201(a)(1)(A) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), it is unlawful to circumvent certain technological measures employed by or on behalf of copyright owners to protect their works.   That said, copyright law always embeds some balance between owner and user, and Section 1201(a)(1)(B) limits the prohibition for subsection (A) by exempting those persons who are “adversely affected by virtue of such prohibition in their ability to make noninfringing uses of that particular …
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In his recent keynote speech at the CTIA show in New Orleans, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski reiterated his (and the industry’s) concern that the “demand for mobile services is on pace to exceed the capacity of our mobile networks” and, therefore, we must “tackle the capacity challenge.” The Chairman has previously foretold of a future where spectrum exhaust could make “consumers […] face slower speeds, more dropped connections, and higher prices.” Plainly, spectrum exhaust remains a key challenge for both mobile service providers and policymakers. The Chairman also took the chance in his CTIA speech to challenge what we and others have said …
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What is the effect of regulation on investment?  At a high level of abstraction, it is impossible to say.  Rate-of-return regulation, for example, is criticized by economists for possibly encouraging too much investment—a principle known as the Averch-Johnson Effect.  On the other hand, if a firm fears that the regulator will alter the rules in a way that reduces the ability to earn profits on large, long-term capital investments, then the incentive to make such investments is reduced.  Importantly, the issue is not, as some claim, just about “regulatory uncertainty.”  There could be great uncertainty about future rule changes, but if the expectation is that …
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Last week, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) issued an interesting Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or “NPRM.”  Basically, the FCC announced that assuming that some technical glitches can be worked out (and the agency was optimistic that they could), the FCC would like to see—either by voluntary agreement or by regulatory fiat—interoperability for mobile devices and equipment in the lower 700 MHz band. The agency’s rulemaking appears to be motivated by the desire to promote handset availability for the smaller and rural operators that purchased A block licenses in the 2008 auction.  According to these carriers, given their given their small size they cannot obtain the …
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