"Congress Maintains Strong Consumer-Focus for Privacy Protection," or "Congress Blocks FCC Privacy Rules" (Hint - They're Both True!)


  Spoiler Alert: Congress has blocked the FCC from implementing new broadband privacy rules. Will this leave you and your data unprotected? No – existing FCC and other Federal guidelines provide a robust framework for consumer protection.

About two years ago, I put on a nice tie and sat as a panelist at an FCC public workshop to address broadband consumer privacy (see my report, here). I appeared on a panel with representatives from AT&T, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a state attorney general’s office, and NTIA. I explained that while community-based providers such as NTCA members collect consumer data for billing and other management purposes, my conversations with many members revealed that they do not collect personal data that may relate to their customers’ browsing habits. And, even when NTCA members obtained data for administrative or network management purposes, they generally used the same protocols for BIAS as they applied to their traditional regulated operations.  Members explained two reasons for this approach: (1) administrative efficiency of maintaining a single set of privacy protocols, and (2) a personal, community-based commitment to securing their customers’ data. In each of my conversations with companies that collectively serve a large swath of members, their responses evidenced consistency in the close and careful attention paid to protecting personal information no matter the service to which the customer subscribes.

Show Me the Numbers

New Edge  Though much maligned (“lies, damned lies, and statistics,” anybody?), the truth is that quantitative data can indeed play a significant role in better understanding the magnitude of a particular problem or the potential gains to be realized from solving it.

Case in point: recently, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) introduced S. 645, the “Measuring the Economic Impact of Broadband Act of 2017.” The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska).

The bill directs the Secretary of Commerce to conduct an assessment and analysis of the effects of broadband deployment and adoption on the nation’s economy, collaborating with government agency heads, representatives of business (to include rural and urban ISPs and telcos), state, local and tribal government agencies, and consumer and community organizations. Within a year, the Secretary is then to deliver to Congress a report detailing—and quantifying—the findings.

Anticipating Economic Returns of Rural Telehealth

Rural Americans face a number of very dramatic health challenges. They tend to be older, less affluent, and subject to higher instances of chronic disease than their urban counterparts. Despite the fact that the United States as a whole spends more on health care than any other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development country, rural Americans continue to face lower life expectancies than those living in urban areas.

Telehealth—“the remote delivery of health care services and clinical information using telecommunications technology”—holds tremendous potential to improve the quality, cost and availability of health care in rural areas.

A recent Smart Rural Community (SRC) white paper, “Anticipating Economic Returns of Rural Telehealth,” outlines the case to be made for increasing adoption of telehealth in rural areas, and throughout the country. 

According to the paper, the nonquantifiable benefits of telehealth are numerous: improved access to specialists, speedier treatment, the comfort of remaining close to home, eliminating the need for long-distance transportation, the ability for health care providers to sharpen their skills, and improved patient outcomes.

The Incredible Stickiness of Bundling

New Edge  Never underestimate the power of tying things to other things. Case in point: the most recent results from an annual Deloitte survey show that 74% of U.S. households still subscribe to pay TV such as cable or satellite, and that 66% of subscribers say that they keep their subscription because it is bundled with their internet service.

According to Deloitte’s 11th annual “Digital Democracy Survey,” 49% of U.S. consumers and nearly 60% of Generation Z (Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2002), millennials (born between 1983 and 1996) and Generation X (Gen X, born between 1966 and 1982) subscribe to at least one paid streaming video service. Yet free streaming services still prevail: 40% primarily use free streaming service, versus 35% who use paid services.

Binge watching is a national compulsion: 73% of all U.S. consumers have binge watched TV shows. Eighty-eight percent of Gen Z and 90% of millennials have binge watched. Thirty-four percent of Gen Z and 38% of millennials binge watch on a weekly basis. The length of the average binge watching session? Six episodes, or roughly five hours per sitting.

There is a Trojan Horse in Your House

 About a week ago, I was asked if I owned a certain smart-home device. I replied, “No, but within a few months I probably will.

There is little doubt that smart home tech is a growing field, and that various devices ranging from HVAC to home security systems to kitchen appliances are increasingly being designed and marketed with “smart” functions. At the same time, however, proponents and users of the devices would benefit from taking some steps to lessen the opportunity for their IoT devices to be unwilling conscripts in a virtual army of attack bots.

Sports Audiences Slide, But It's Not the Slide MLB Desires

 Depending on your tastes, the phrase “Jepsen awful throw” might refer to either Carly Rae Jepsen’s first pitch at Tropicana Field in 2103 or Kevin Jepsen’s game-losing overthrow on an intentional walk. The latter might not occur if teams implement the new allowance granted by a change in the rules of Major League Baseball: specifically, managers can now signal for an intentional walk, and the umpire can award first base without a ball being thrown.

Like a Snowball Rolling Down a Hill

New Edge  It certainly seems like the pace of technological disruption in our lives continues to increase over time—now, the Pew Research Center has quantified it. 

In a series of recently-released fact sheets, Pew plots the adoption of various technologies over time. Internet adoption, for example, has grown from 52% in 2000 to 88% in 2016. Home broadband adoption has grown from 1% to 73% over the same period. Thirty-five percent of Americans owned a smartphone in 2011, as opposed to 77% in 2016, and tablet ownership grew from 3% in 2010 to 51% in 2016.

I have a slide I like to use when giving presentations about technological innovation that shows the number of years it took various new inventions to reach the 25% adoption level. It is surprising to see just how long it took for innovations that are now considered critical parts of our daily lives to be embraced by the general public.

As difficult as it seems to believe, it took electricity 46 years to be adopted by 25% of the population. The telephone did not reach the 25% mark until 35 years after its introduction, and the automobile took 55 years.

Why Are Cord Cutters Cutting Cords?

New Edge  It’s no secret that more and more American households are doing without pay-TV service. Market research firm GfK has estimated the percentage of cord cutting households in the U.S. to be as high as 25%.

To better understand this phenomenon, it would be helpful to have some insight into the reasons behind the cord cutters' actions. That’s exactly what TiVo has attempted to do in their recently-released “Q4 Video Trends Report: Consumer Behavior Across Pay-TV, VOD, PPV, OTT, TVE, Streaming Devices, and Content Discovery.”

TiVo surveyed more than 3,000 consumers in the U.S. and Canada, 18 years of age and older. Of those respondents who did not have a pay-TV provider, 19.8% had cut cable/satellite service in the past 12 months, 48.1% cut the cord more than a year ago, and 32.1% never had cable/satellite service. Asked their reasons for cutting cable/satellite service, 80.1% said that the price was too expensive, 48.3% use an internet streaming service, such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, etc., and 27.2% use an antenna to get the basic channels on their TV.

Algorithms Support the Proposition That I Will Never Order Anything but the Chili Burger

  Everything is relative. Even video.

I was raised with a quiet yet ever-present (if even unspoken) philosophy that it was better to be outside biking or playing ball than indoors watching TV. And, if the rain kept one inside, then a book or a musical instrument or a “hands-on” activity would in most instances be far more rewarding than another re-run of the Brady Bunch or Gilligan’s Island.

And, yet, society may have reached a point at which we long for the social benefits of watching television.

Danger...Danger Will Robinson!

New Edge  As most of us head happily toward our increasingly Internet of Things (IoT) future, we tend to think only of the seemingly unlimited opportunities new technology will offer us. Few, if any, of us think of the potential pitfalls along the way.

That’s where Barr Group comes in. As part of their mission to help engineers improve the overall reliability and security of all embedded systems applications, Barr seeks out and highlights the design flaws and vulnerabilities in the design of systems that the majority of us are, for the most part, blissfully unaware. 

Barr has done just that in their soon to be released “2017 Embedded Systems Safety & Security Survey.” The annual survey, first conducted in 2015, looks specifically at the safety and security practices of embedded systems designers. This year, more than 2,000 engineers from around the world participated.

“Embedded systems devices serve as a doorway to the Internet,” said Michael Barr, Barr Group chief technology officer. “There are a number of simple-to-perform, well-known software development best practices, such as version control, code reviews, static analysis, and coding standards, that have been proven to result in safer and more secure embedded systems for all devices—including IoT applications. These techniques are essential to minimizing the risk of tampering or malfunction of any embedded system.”