FCC Considering New Rules for OTT Video Services

FCC Considering New Rules for OTT Video Services
By Ben Munson
Sep 30 2014

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will begin looking into new rules and regulations for Over-The-Top (OTT) video services aimed at providing subscription TV over the internet, according to the Wall Street Journal.

As Verizon and Dish Network work to bring online video services to consumers without pay-TV subscriptions, the FCC is considering whether those services should be subject to the same rules as traditional cable and satellite providers.

The report says new rules could give OTT operators power to negotiate terms for carrying local broadcasts as well as limit TV channel owners’ ability to refuse licensing. But the new rules could also expose OTT services to the same taxes and fees as traditional TV services as well as make them responsible for public interest services.

In 2012, the FCC originally began looking into OTT video regulation after online subscription service provider Sky Angel argues Discovery violated regulations by pulling out of a distribution deal it had with the company. At the time, Sky Angel argued for multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) status so it would have to be treated like any other TV provider. Comcast weighed in saying the OTT industry is still growing and too much regulation would impede that, while DirecTV argued that any entity acting like an MVPD should be treated like one.

Now the debate looks to be revived at talk of LTE broadcast and multicast technology opens the opportunity for mobile network operators to efficiently send broadcast over their networks. Verizon demonstrated its LTE multicast technology earlier this year during the Super Bowl.

Along with Verizon and Dish, many of the major carriers are looking into video ventures in order to secure content rights and further monetize their existing networks.

AT&T earlier this year formed a $500 million joint venture with the Chernin Group in order to “acquire, invest in and launch over-the-top (OTT) video services.” New reports say SoftBank, the majority owner of Sprint, is pursuing a $3.4 billion deal for Dreamworks, a move almost certainly aimed at securing mobile content distribution rights.

Rachel Maddow Show: Security deal commits troops, Congress absent

Rachel Maddow Show: Security deal commits troops, Congress absent
Sep 29 2014

Rachel Maddow looks at the way in which tens of thousands of U.S. troops are being recommitted to Afghanistan and Iraq for ten years without a peep from Congress despite their Constitutional responsibility.

Video: 5:42 min

California cops don’t need warrants to surveil with drones

California cops don’t need warrants to surveil with drones
Golden State’s governor vetoes privacy law already adopted in 10 other states.
By  David KravetsSep 29 2014<http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/09/california-cops-dont-need-warrants-to-surveil-with-drones/>

California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation that would have required the police to obtain search warrants to surveil the public with unmanned drones.

Brown, a Democrat facing re-election in November, sided with law enforcement and said the legislation simply granted Californians privacy rights that went too far beyond existing guarantees. Sunday’s veto comes as the small drones are becoming increasingly popular with business, hobbyists, and law enforcement.

“This bill prohibits law enforcement from using a drone without obtaining a search warrant, except in limited circumstances,” the governor said in his veto message (PDF). “There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill’s exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution.”

At least 10 other states require the police to get a court warrant to surveil with a drone. Those states include Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin.

As Slate described it, “California’s drone bill is not draconian. It includes exceptions for emergency situations, search-and-rescue efforts, traffic first responders, and inspection of wildfires. It allows other public agencies to use drones for other purposes—just not law enforcement.”

The widespread acceptance of drones has even caught the attention of a member of the US Supreme Court. Justice Sonia Sotomayor said two weeks ago that she was concerned over a lack of unified privacy standards concerning drones.

“There are drones flying over the air randomly that are recording everything that’s happening on what we consider our private property. That type of technology has to stimulate us to think about what is it that we cherish in privacy and how far we want to protect it and from whom,” Sotomayor told a gathering at Oklahoma City University. “Because people think that it should be protected just against government intrusion, but I don’t like the fact that someone I don’t know…can pick up, if they’re a private citizen, one of these drones and fly it over my property.”

The American Civil Liberties Union urged the governor to sign the bill, AB 1327, from Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Southern California. “California leads the nation in technological innovation. It should also lead the nation in protecting the privacy of its citizens.”

Gorell told the Los Angeles Times that the veto was “very disappointing.”

“We’re increasingly living in a surveillance society as the government uses new technology to track and watch the activities of Americans,” he said. “It’s disappointing that the governor decided to side with law enforcement in this case over the privacy interests of California.”

DHL to Begin Deliveries by Drone in Germany

[Note:  This item comes from friend Steve Goldstein.  DLH]

DHL to Begin Deliveries by Drone in Germany
Sep 25 2014

LONDON — In the world of drones, Europe is out to show that whatever the United States can do, it can do better.

That’s the plan for Friday, when a small pilotless aircraft, or drone, owned by the German logistics company DHL is expected to take off and ferry medicine to Juist, a sparsely populated island off the northwestern coast of Germany.

The flight — expected to take as long as 30 minutes, depending on weather conditions — would be the first time a drone without the aid of even a land-based pilot has been authorized for regular use in Europe, the company said.

It also follows in the footsteps of similar drone delivery plans by American technology giants.

Like Amazon, which is running tests in Canada, and Google, which is conducting tests in Australia, DHL is hoping its monthlong trial will prove that the technology — dubbed parcelcopter — can replace some of the traditional ways of delivering parcels to remote locations.

Yet while Google and Amazon have outlined plans to potentially roll out their drone services across large areas, DHL said that it probably would not expand the trial across its global delivery network.

Instead, the German logistics company said the drone technology could be used in special situations — in remote locations, for example — where it is more cost-effective to use an unmanned aircraft than to send a delivery van or a bike messenger.

That’s the case for DHL’s delivery service from Norden, near the northwestern city of Bremen, to Juist, a German island with a population of fewer than 2,000 people. As part of the trial, DHL is expected to send medications twice a day, weather permitting. The deliveries will take place when alternatives, like the local ferry or aircraft services, are not available.

When DHL’s drone, which weighs just under three pounds, lands on the island, one of the company’s couriers will then deliver the packages to local residents, a spokeswoman said.


Tim Cook faces another bungled software launch

Tim Cook faces another bungled software launch 
Apple’s record iPhone weekend quickly followed by storm of criticism of iOS 8 updates, with some users losing mobile connections
Sep 25 2014

Poor Tim Cook – from the fiasco of the Apple Maps launch to this week’s problems with iOS 8 updates, he is greeted with a chorus of ‘it wouldn’t have happened under Steve Jobs’. The fact that mistakes did happen under Jobs, and that Cook is dealing with a far tougher competitive landscape, and intense pressure to get new functions out rapidly, is forgotten when Bloomberg quotes a frustrated iPhone user complaining “I just wish Tim Cook had a better handle on things”. It’s hard to imagine an irritated Samsung customer saying the same about Oh-Hyun Kwon. 

However, the Apple cult, in which millions of its users feel they have a personal connection to the CEO, is part of its differentiation, even if Cook is less equipped to shine under that spotlight than his predecessor. And it is certainly true that there will be CEO-level questions asked about the iOS 8 update, which has cast a dark shadow over the first week of sales of the new iPhone models. Having sold a record 10m new iPhones at the weekend, Apple was immediately faced with multiple problems with iOS 8.0.1, and pulled the update completely on Wednesday, after it caused some users to lose cellular service altogether.

The storm of social media fury was only intensified by complaints that some iPhone 6 Plus devices could bend when users sat on them or applied too much pressure. All this was a massive PR blot on what had previously been portrayed as Cook’s finest hour as CEO, the event at which, for the first time, he unveiled devices, and a new iOS release, which were created under his watch and offered genuinely new functionality. 

Cook will need to take a long hard look at Apple’s processes and whether they can ever be foolproof enough to live up to a level of expectation which no other handset maker sets. After the launch of deeply flawed mapping software in 2012, last year saw him having to apologize for warranty and repair policies in China.

Apple said in a statement on Wednesday that it had devised a workaround for iPhone 6 users who lost voice service or other functions and would release a new version, iOS 8.0.2, in the next few days. “We apologize for the great inconvenience experienced by users,” the firm said.

The Google Formula for Success

The Google Formula for Success
Sep 28 2014

Can Google’s winning ways be applied to all kinds of businesses? The authors of “How Google Works,” Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, and Jonathan Rosenberg, a former senior product manager at Google, firmly believe that they can.

The critical ingredient, they argue in their new book, is to build teams, companies and corporate cultures around people they call “smart creatives.” These are digital-age descendants of yesterday’s “knowledge workers,” a term coined in 1959 by Peter Drucker, the famed management theorist.

But the new breed is a far cry from the staid, organization men of the past. Smart creatives, the authors write, are impatient, outspoken risk-takers who are easily bored and change jobs frequently. They are intellectually versatile, typically “combining technical depth with business savvy and creative flair,” the authors note.

“They are a new kind of animal,” Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Rosenberg write. “And they are the key to achieving success in the Internet Century.”

Their book, written with Alan Eagle, a speechwriter and communications employee at Google, is filled with instructive anecdotes of Google lore. One early story, from 2002, is presented as a distillation of Google’s distinctive culture. Larry Page, the co-founder, was chagrined at how terrible the ads were that were being served up alongside many searches — random and irrelevant. He printed out the searches with the offending ads, marked them, and wrote on top, “THESE ADS” STINK. He pinned the pages to a bulletin board in the company kitchen, and left for the weekend.

Five engineers worked on the ad program over the weekend, without any direct prompting, and solved the problem. That became the essence of Google’s “ad relevance score,” which presented search-related ads based on their relevance rather than how much the advertiser was willing to pay or how many clicks the ads received. The five “problem-solving ninjas,” the authors write, were not even on the Google ads team.

It’s a neat and telling story. But it’s also true that similar stories of smart, creative entrepreneurial teams solving thorny problems are nothing new.

In a joint interview, Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Rosenberg conceded that point, but what has changed, they argued, is the context of an economy that is increasingly digitized and throwing off data. In the past, bursts of innovation by small teams — from IBM’s development of Fortran, the first higher-level programming language, in 1957, to the Apple Macintosh in 1984 — were exceptional episodes within more bureaucratic corporate structures.


The Fake Terror Threat Used To Justify Bombing Syria

[Note:  This item comes from friend David Rosenthal.  DLH]

Sep 28 2014

As the Obama Administration prepared to bomb Syria without congressional or U.N. authorization, it faced two problems. The first was the difficulty of sustaining public support for a new years-long war against ISIS, a group that clearly posed no imminent threat to the “homeland.” A second was the lack of legal justification for launching a new bombing campaign with no viable claim of self-defense or U.N. approval.

The solution to both problems was found in the wholesale concoction of a brand new terror threat that was branded “The Khorasan Group.” After spending weeks depicting ISIS as an unprecedented threat — too radical even for Al Qaeda! — administration officials suddenly began spoon-feeding their favorite media organizations and national security journalists tales of a secret group that was even scarier and more threatening than ISIS, one that posed a direct and immediate threat to the American Homeland. Seemingly out of nowhere, a new terror group was created in media lore.

The unveiling of this new group was performed in a September 13 article by the Associated Press, who cited unnamed U.S. officials to warn of this new shadowy, worse-than-ISIS terror group:

While the Islamic State group [ISIS] is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

At the center is a cell known as the Khorasan group, a cadre of veteran al-Qaida fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the al-Qaida affiliate there, the Nusra Front.

But the Khorasan militants did not go to Syria principally to fight the government of President Bashar Assad, U.S. officials say. Instead, they were sent by al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri to recruit Europeans and Americans whose passports allow them to board a U.S.-bound airliner with less scrutiny from security officials.

AP warned Americans that “the fear is that the Khorasan militants will provide these sophisticated explosives to their Western recruits who could sneak them onto U.S.-bound flights.” It explained that although ISIS has received most of the attention, the Khorasan Group “is considered the more immediate threat.”

The genesis of the name was itself scary: “Khorasan refers to a province under the Islamic caliphate, or religious empire, of old that included parts of Afghanistan.” AP depicted the U.S. officials who were feeding them the narrative as engaging in some sort of act of brave, unauthorized truth-telling: “Many U.S. officials interviewed for this story would not be quoted by name talking about what they said was highly classified intelligence.”