Category Archives: News Center
By: Mike Montgomery
As seen in Huffington Post
Monday is Veterans Day. It’s a day of rest for some, a day of work for others, and a day of reflection for many. I recently had the pleasure to discuss this meaningful day with Dustan Batton, a veteran and a member of the CALinnovates team. I hope you enjoy learning more about Dustan and saluting him for all he has done for America.
Mike Montgomery: I know Veterans Day is extremely important to you. Do you have any rituals you observe on a day when our country honors you and your fellow Armed Services members?
Dustan Batton: It was an extreme honor to serve our country for six years in the Air Force. Veterans Day is a day of remembrance. It’s a day of pride as well as a day of sorrow. As a veteran, this day should be about honoring not only those who came before us, but those who came after us as well. I stay connected with several veterans’ groups, and it is a great opportunity to continue to serve.
Read the full story here
By: Mike Montgomery
As seen in TechWire Magazine
It’s good for the rest of us, too. Thousands of app sector jobs generate an economic impact that’s north of $8 billion, which is $2 billion more than the app economies in the California is Number Onegreat states of Washington, New York and Texas combined. As the nation works through its economic recovery, app economy workers enjoy a high degree of job security, a rarity in other sectors, thanks in part to a huge proliferation in mobile device ownership. More devices mean more people potentially downloading and using apps. A recent White House claims there are an astounding 500 million mobile devices in the U.S., though our domestic population is only about 314 million. Worldwide, one billion smartphones will ship this year, further expanding the customer pool
To the surprise of very few people who follow the tech scene, the app economy creates a lot of jobs, and it’s probably not shocking to learn that the majority of the jobs created in this industry are located in California. If you’re one of the nearly 152,000 Californians holding down an app economy gig, life is pretty good.
To read the full story Click Here, and go to page 14
By: Mike Montgomery
As featured on The Huffington Post
There have been many-storied rivalries in American history. In the 1800s, the bitter political rivalry between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton was settled with a famous duel. Later that century, the Hatfields started warring with the McCoys, leaving behind epic tales still told today. Two-hundred years later, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird staged heated battles on the basketball court, and actors Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie remain bitter rivals in the battle over Brad Pitt’s heart. Despite the intensity, the rivalries were all ultimately settled. Burr shot Hamilton dead, the Hatfields and McCoys hugged it out, Magic and Larry became friends, and Brangelina became the “it” couple while Aniston is engaged to be married, hopefully putting an end to the tabloid-style coverage of the matter.
Rivalries exist everywhere in life, even in the exciting world of communications policy. Communications and technology company AT&T and public interest group Public Knowledge are widely known to lock horns on matters of public policy, often bitterly. But it seems this rivalry may have a little more Magic-and-Bird vibe to it than Hamilton-and-Burr. Of late, the communications company and the advocacy group seem to have put aside their differences and locked arms in solidarity over the vision for the future of next generation communications infrastructure. Perhaps this doesn’t have the drama of some of the other famous feuds, but in the communications policy world, when something like this happens, it’s worth paying attention to because it must be important.
Specifically, AT&T found common ground with a white paper Public Knowledge released about the transition from antiquated telephone networks to the advanced high-speed broadband networks of the future. In this paper, Public Knowledge articulated five principles to govern the transition:
1) Service to all Americans
2) Interconnection and Competition
3) Consumer Protection
4) Network Reliability
5) Public Safety
For those not regularly knee deep in matters of communications policy, these five principles are basically a distillation of the ideas that have always guided communications in America, which is undoubtedly why AT&T agrees with them. As a recent post on the company’s Public Policy Blog states:
There were several points in Public Knowledge’s white paper that we could have written ourselves at AT&T. First, the transition has to occur. Our old reliable TDM technology is obsolete and defined by two words: “Manufacturer discontinued.” Second, the fundamental principles of universal connectivity, consumer protection, reliability and public safety — all hallmarks of our Nation’s centuries old commitment to communications — should not be lost in this transition.
Indeed, it appears maintaining this central principle — that everyone should remain connected — was the goal of AT&T’s petition with the Federal Communications Commission to conduct regulatory “beta trials” in select markets as the outdated copper networks are upgraded and modernized. The idea behind these trials is that by ironing out potential issues in its micro stages, the transition will go much more smoothly when taken macro.
AT&T notes that some 70 percent of households in the company’s wireline footprint have already ditched their traditional landline. It is precisely the inevitability of this transition to next generation high-speed broadband networks that makes the AT&T and Public Knowledge accord less surprising. It is obvious technology is evolving and it is equally as obvious that people are choosing to communicate in new, innovative ways. The five principles represent the shared universal goals to pursue as policy and regulation try to modernize to keep up with the speed of technological innovation.
The idea of modernizing our infrastructure with next generation broadband networks isn’t at all new or controversial; consumers, consumer groups, and corporate America have spoken, and they’re all saying the same thing. The only question is whether government agencies can work with the various stakeholders to make such a monumental upgrade to our nation’s communications infrastructure quickly enough, while ensuring sufficient consumer protection. If the AT&T/Public Knowledge cease-fire teaches us anything, feuds and rivalries come and go. When common sense prevails, progress is a certainty.
By Mike Montgomery
As seen in SF Examiner
At this very moment, somewhere in San Francisco, an innovative new product is being tested and refined. This product harnesses the power of smartphones, mobile broadband and mobile apps to … well … offer women around the world and their partners a new way to (ahem) connect.
The product is a smartphone app called Vibease (no, really), and it’s being billed as the world’s first “smart vibrator” (no, really). Rather than fumble through my own explanation of how Vibease works, I’ll just crib liberally from the company’s CrunchBase profile: Vibease is a private social network for couples with massager integration. Couples can use Vibease for chatting and share their moments. The best part is the woman’s partner can control her massager using an iPhone or Android phone even though they are separated by distance.
So there’s that.
But here’s the thing: Even if an app-driven vibrator doesn’t tickle your fancy, there does appear to be a market for it. Or at the very least, there are investors who believe there’s a market. Vibease is already $40,000 above its crowdsourced fundraising target on Indiegogo. It has also received seed funding from angel investors and $25,000 in venture funds. With that kind of startup capital, Vibease has to be taken seriously even if its product tends to incite giggles.
It also … and you better hang on to something, because I might lose you with my upcoming segue … it also highlights the need for smart spectrum policies from the Federal Communications Commission.
You see, while masturbazione (as the Italians call it) has been around since we were scribbling in caves, the widespread consumer adoption of mobile broadband is a relatively recent development. But much like the act of shôuyín (as it’s called in China), relying on our mobile devices to get online anytime and anywhere has become a major part of our daily lives. Some of us do it several times a day.
But the unprecedented popularity of mobile broadband faces, well, some obstruction. As Vibease has made clear, there seems to be no limit to what app developers will imagine, nor to what wireless customers will find helpful. This incredible demand for more mobile devices and more applications is where the problem emerges. It’s one thing when consumers have the power to check email and visit their favorite websites wirelessly. It rises to another level when consumers need to also power more data-intensive apps like streaming video (and … well, anything else you might want to stream) that require higher-spectrum resources.
The point of all this (and thank you for staying with me this far) is that when it comes to products and services powered by mobile broadband, we’re only beginning to scratch the surface. Ten years ago, smartphones did not yet exist as we know them, and the idea of a smart vibrator probably had never come up. The fact that smartphones are now everywhere and apps like Vibease are drawing serious interest from investors should be enough to tell us that truly anything is possible with mobile broadband. Whatever innovative ideas arise next, our wireless networks must be equipped with ample spectrum in order to be ready.
This means we cannot afford to impose artificial constraints on the opportunity for providers to obtain more spectrum. When designing its upcoming 2014 spectrum auction, the FCC needs to keep in mind that every wireless provider, both big and small, needs more spectrum capacity on their networks. If the spectrum auctions are encumbered with restrictions on eligible bidders, and all providers are not allowed to bid equally, then the FCC risks leaving millions of consumers … well, unsatisfied.
Mike Montgomery is the executive director of CALinnovates, which works as a bridge between technology communities in California and the public policy communities in Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
By: Mike Montgomery
As seen in the Huffington Post
There’s a new sheriff in town.
Or at least there soon will be as the Senate is likely to give Tom Wheeler the nod as FCC Chairman. Wheeler, former chief executive of the National Cable and Television Association and, most recently, a venture capitalist, seems to have left a good impression during this week’s Senate hearing. As Tony Romm reported in Politico:
The initial takeaway from a Senate Commerce Committee hearing Tuesday is that Wheeler’s background as a cable and wireless lobbyist — once considered by some a liability — might instead prove valuable at the helm of the nation’s top telecom agency.
During the Senate hearing, Wheeler said his extensive business experience would “make me a better chairman,” and he will surely need to tap into that experience if his tenure is going to be an effective one. Wheeler will be taking the reins of the FCC during a fascinating and challenging time. Gone are the days when the Commission’s biggest worries were wardrobe malfunctions during live broadcasts. Today’s FCC faces a number of critical decisions that will have a profound effect on the powerhouse that is America’s tech industry.
For Silicon Valley especially, Wheeler’s steerage will be important to keep an eye on. One of his chief concerns must be fostering an environment that continues to inspire innovation and investment for the greater good. Or, as Nick Allen, co-founder of SideCar, told me, “Wheeler should be pro-innovation and make sure Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have the ability and tools to implement new ideas and new technologies to solve problems.”
Here, in no particular order (because they’re all equally important), are some of the issues Wheeler and his Commission will be tackling in the coming years.
Clearing the Air
The FCC’s upcoming spectrum auction is aimed at providing wireless companies with the airwaves they desperately need to provide service to their smartphone-addicted customers. Revenues from the auction will help fund FirstNet, the nationwide interoperable public safety network for first responders.
Wheeler can go a long way toward keeping our mobile market booming by ensuring that every qualified bidder can participate without restrictions. This will also help maximize auction revenue that can help the federal government will raise the money to fully fund FirstNet.
The day when America’s networks are all-Internet based is coming. The only question is when.
Wheeler and the FCC can help accelerate the expansion of next-generation broadband networks — and encourage further adoption of current and future technologies– by focusing on creating a smart regulatory environment. An environment that encourages the private sector investment needed to upgrade networks with a regulatory framework better suited for the Internet age.
Technology guru Kim Polese, Chairman of ClearStreet, is a champion for increased next-gen broadband deployment across the country. “Chairman-nominee Wheeler can help ensure our nation’s prosperity by prioritizing the implementation of a ubiquitous, high speed, affordable national broadband infrastructure, which will help to accelerate innovation and entrepreneurship and drive economic opportunity and prosperity for all Americans,” said Polese.
The FCC’s spectrum auctions will offer some relief for congested wireless networks. So will President Obama’s recent focus on freeing up some federal spectrum for consumers to use for mobile broadband.
Unfortunately, both initiatives are going to take more time than most would like. In the meantime, wireless providers, who are already facing clogged networks, need the flexibility to work together in order to meet the needs of their customers.
That’s why it’s important for Wheeler’s FCC to ease the regulatory hurdles for free market spectrum deals that will help ensure providers can meet consumer demand more quickly.
Glad-handing the Tech Community
Former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski left some big shoes to fill, especially when it comes to working with the tech community in Silicon Valley and beyond.
With technology increasingly becoming a driving force in America’s economy, the FCC needs to work with tech companies big and small in order to put forward policies that benefit both the tech ecosystem and consumers. As Topher Conway, a Partner at famed venture fund SV Angel, told me, “Wheeler needs to make sure he reaches out to Silicon Valley in order to understand the unique problems we face. That way he can help solve those problems in Washington.”
Serial entrepreneur Jamie Daves, Founder and CEO of LearnerX, was specific about one of those unique problems. “The emerging era often labeled the ‘Internet of Things’ will put unprecedented pressure on the FCC as an avalanche of new, connected devices come into the market,” Daves told me. “Chairman Wheeler should lead in reforming the application and approval process so that consumers can benefit from these new products and services, and companies can rely on a timely and efficient system.”
Freeing up more spectrum for consumers, enabling the transition to all-Internet based networks, and working collaboratively with the tech industry to ensure an investment-friendly framework — there’s no doubt Wheeler’s dance card will certainly be full if he is confirmed to lead FCC. But by putting forward a manageable, tech-focused agenda, he can oversee a Commission that continues to encourage private investment, spur further innovation, and grow the economy. It won’t be easy, but Wheeler appears to be the right man for the job.
By Mike Montgomery
As seen on The Huffington Post
Last week, the White House dropped a broadband bombshell in the form of a series of initiatives aimed at freeing up government-controlled spectrum for wireless providers. It also released a new report, “Four Years of Broadband Growth,” which is brimming with positive news about our nation’s broadband infrastructure.
It was a good week for both consumers and our country’s vibrant tech industry.
In Silicon Valley, President Obama’s focus on spectrum was especially welcome. In many ways, mobile broadband has become the lifeblood of our tech community. But as wireless providers are increasingly strapped for spectrum — and consumers continue to embrace mobile broadband at an unprecedented pace — there have been valid concerns that the blood would stop flowing. Or at the very least, that clogged airwaves would give the local tech industry chest pains.
As the single largest holder of spectrum, the U.S. government has the power to ensure America remains at the forefront of mobile broadband. The FCC’s upcoming spectrum incentive auctions have the potential to alleviate some of the congestion wireless providers face, but the fact of the matter is more action will be needed to free up spectrum, and needed quickly, in order to keep up with ever-growing consumer demand for advanced broadband-enabled services and applications.
While you could easily take the cynical view and declare allocating more spectrum for wireless is long overdue, it’s worth remembering that mobile broadband — and the mobile app industry it has sparked — is still in its infancy. The smartphone revolution only really began six years ago, after all, and outside of a select few visionaries, few had anticipated the monumental shift that has followed.
If wireless providers were caught somewhat flat footed by the sudden surge in demand for data on their networks, they’ve been investing billions to catch up. As the White House broadband report shows, annual investment in wireless networks jumped by more than 40 percent from 2009 to 2012 — from $21 billion a year to $30 billion. At the same time, the report finds, investment in Europe was static, and in Asia — including China — it only increased by 4 percent.
For Silicon Valley, all this investment in wireless infrastructure has helped inspire a wave of innovation and economic growth. And with more than 500 million connected devices and counting in America, we may only be at just the beginning of the mobile broadband boom. That’s what makes President Obama’s focus on spectrum so critical. More spectrum will mean more powerful networks, which will mean more innovation, which will inspire more investment in more powerful broadband networks.
As long as government policies continue to encourage investment in our nation’s broadband networks, this cycle of investment and innovation has the potential to become an even bigger economic powerhouse. President Obama has called for every part of America to be connected to the digital age. For Silicon Valley, and the country’s other tech hubs, that’s a goal worth achieving.
With an FTC investigation in the rear-view mirror, it’s no surprise that Google’s Larry Page took a few potshots at government regulators and their inability to keep up with the dynamism of the tech sector during the company’s recent I/O event.
The question is, were his criticisms valid? And the answer, as anyone with a passing knowledge of how that beast known as bureaucracy routinely punishes innovation knows, is a resounding yes.
Consider, for example, CALinnovates’ member company SideCar, whose business model is regulated by turn-of-the-century laws. Seriously. Regs placed on the books when no one could have fathomed mobile applications would even exist, let alone disrupt the world of… well, anything… are hamstringing a company that encourages people to carpool.
If hopelessly outdated laws are creating regulatory uncertainty for companies like SideCar, it’s easy to imagine the constant migraines Page constantly nurses as head of Google. While the tech giant has certainly earned its fair share of government scrutiny over the years, there’s no denying they’re one of the most innovative companies in the world. And that innovation, that eagerness to push the boundaries, often hits the roadblock of slow-moving regulators.
As Page told the audience at I/O, “There are many exciting, important things that we can do that we can’t do because they’re illegal and they’re not allowed by regulation.” For tech enthusiasts, such words inspire visions of Jetsons-like secrets locked away in a lab behind a wall of red tape that could likely never see the light of day.
No one argues that regulations are unnecessary. But everyone should be able to agree that the current speed at which regulations evolve is laughable at best, potentially disastrous at worst. Technology simply moves too quickly for the old ways of thinking. That’s why Page called for “mechanisms to allow experimentation,” an interesting and meritorious hypothesis that would allow technologists to run beta tests prior to the need to navigate the regulatory obstacle course. Allowing these test trials, he told the crowd, would allow the kinks to be worked out while assuring consumer safety and privacy.
Page’s thoughts could easily apply to companies like SideCar, or to any number of mobile payment start-ups under heavy regulatory scrutiny. We live and work in a rapidly evolving society. Ideas multiply and platforms morph seemingly overnight. History has shown that when our technology changes, we change along with it. Change isn’t always easy, but no matter the disruption, we adapt. If we’re going to keep moving forward, if companies like Google and SideCar are going to continue to thrive, we need government regulations that adapt along with us.
Technology sprints. Regulators need to keep up or work with the tech sector to find solutions. Otherwise, no one is going to reach the finish line.
As Featured on TechZulu
By: Mike Montgomery
According to Google Maps, it would take the average person 915 hours — or a little over 38 days — to walk from Washington D.C. to San Francisco. That’s without sleep, presumably, or even bathroom breaks. Just miles upon miles of constant, seemingly endless trudging. On the bright side, you’d be able to enjoy at least one ferry ride along the way.
In contrast, a direct flight from our nation’s capital to the Bay Area clocks in at just over five hours. Long enough to watch a couple movies on your iPad or plow through the latest Grisham on your Kindle. Sure, you’ll be a little cramped, but at least you’ll get a complimentary beverage. More importantly, you won’t burn an entire day — let alone a month — just getting to your destination.
To put this tortured metaphor I’m constructing out of its misery, when it comes to California’s vibrant tech community, regulators in Washington are much like the person trekking across country on foot. Meanwhile, our tech community is constantly taking flight — until they suddenly find themselves grounded.
Take car service Uber, which has found itself fighting through regulatory gridlock in a number of markets. Or house sharing startup Airbnb, which has been continually whacked by regulators wielding dusty regulations cooked up before the age of dial-up.
One man who knows all too well how regulatory molasses can stifle innovation is Paul Rosenzweig, attorney and founder of Red Branch Consulting in Washington, D.C. A regular moderator and panelist for Stanford, he knows his tech policy backwards and forwards. He’s also a Chemical Oceanographer — fitting, given how hard it can be just to navigate the regulatory waters.
“In a world where notice and comment rulemaking takes 18-24 months to complete,” Rosenzweig says, “our system for making policy is simply ill-suited for the task. Disruption can be a major headache for regulators.”
Since regulators are unlikely to speed up anytime soon, the tech community is at constant risk of their innovations becoming mired in 20th Century quicksand. That places the burden on them to move forward with their next big idea well aware that they’re likely to hit a wall of outdated regulations. The key, Rosenzweig points out, is to identify as many hurdles as you can beforehand.
“When you have a brilliant idea,” Rosenzweig says, “your natural instinct is to set sail with it as soon as possible. But in this age when everything is connected, governments are as slow to react as ever, and privacy is a major concern, the best thing to do is take a deep breath and accept how the process works.”
The good news is that there are few regulatory issues that can’t be solved creatively. Laws can be complicated and burdensome, but they can also evolve. “Regulators very rarely want to stop a technology in its tracks,” Rosenzweig says. “The trick is to make them understand what your technology does, and then work with them to address any regulations that might hold you back.”
In other words, don’t race ahead of the powers that be in Washington. Because chances are, you’re already way ahead of them.
As featured on Daily Kos
By: Mike Montgomery
That’s a lot of clams, even to the federal government. But that’s approximately how much the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will be leaving on the table if they restrict some bidders during their upcoming spectrum incentive auctions, according to economists Robert J. Shapiro, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, and Coleman Bazelon. In their study published by Georgetown University, “The Economic Implications of Restricting Spectrum Purchases in the Incentive Auctions,” the trio warn that limiting just two participants — Verizon and AT&T — from taking part in spectrum auctions could “reduce auction revenues by about 40 percent.”
But wait, there’s more. The group also estimates that forcing certain providers to watch from the sidelines could raise consumer bills by 9 percent. In short, the federal government will be refusing money, and consumers will be paying more money for their wireless service.
If that sounds backward to you, you’re not alone.
The fact of the matter is providers big and small desperately need more spectrum to meet the customers’ demands. The unprecedented popularity of smartphones and tablets — and all the mobile data their owners use — are taxing networks. It’s a problem former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called “America’s looming spectrum crisis.” And unless more airwaves are freed up for wireless use soon, the word “looming” will no longer apply.
Congess’ bold incentive auctions — which, in a nutshell, will enable broadcasters to voluntarily sell their spectrum holdings in exchange for compensation — are aimed at helping alleviate this problem. On paper, the auctions could be a boon for both the broadcasters and the federal government, and wireless providers will be able to breathe a bit easier knowing their networks won’t suddenly seize up due to overcapacity. Call it a win-win-win.
Actually, call it four wins. The tech industry will also benefit, since more spectrum will mean more powerful and reliable wireless network capabilities. Bigger pipes, as they say, for bigger ideas.
But in order for us to rack up all these wins, the FCC must ensure the same rules apply to every bidder across the board. Restricting some carriers from being able to purchase the spectrum they need at auction won’t foster competition; if anything, it fosters the spirit of uncompetitive behavior.
Whatever framework the FCC decides upon should depend on two factors: getting the most bang for the spectrum buck, and perhaps more importantly, ensuring that those bidding are able to put newly acquired spectrum to use quickly and efficiently. After all, airwaves purchased and locked in the vault won’t help anybody.
That’s what makes the idea of restricting some providers from fully participating in the spectrum auctions about more than the potential loss of billions in much needed revenue for the federal government. In the end, consumers — the very ones the FCC are theoretically trying to help — will end up losing the most, either through higher prices or declining service quality. Those are two consequences consumers shouldn’t have to face.
View the article on the Daily Kos website here