Friday, July 2, 2010
From the Latin American Herald Tribune: Journalists Juan Francisco Rodriguez Rios and Maria Elvira Hernandez Galeana were murdered outside their Internet cafe in Coyuca de Benitez. Police are still looking for the attackers. The killers also wounded the paper's receptionist. Read more here.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
A district court judge has held unconstitutional a Pennsylvania statute forbidding the use of blasphemous or profane language in the naming of businesses or corporations. U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson ruled that the law, passed in 1977, had "a predominantly religious purpose." Read the ruling in Kalman v. Cortes here (via the Volokh Conspiracy).
The plaintiff, a filmmaker named George Kalman, had applied to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State to name his company "I Choose Hell Productions"; his application was refused. Commentary here from Eugene Volokh prior to the ruling; here's an article on the ruling from Law.com; here's a student note by Carly Karlberg on the controversy, published in the Rutgers Journal of Law and Religion.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Web service Hulu is now offering a subscription service, $9.99 per month, all you can watch. The new service, called Hulu Plus, allows subscribers to watch entire seasons of ABC, NBC, Fox, and other networks (though still not CBS or the CW) on the iPhone, the iPad, some TVs, BlueRay players, and eventually video game players. More here in a New York Times article. What will the effect be on DVD sales? Cable subscriptions? Video on demand?
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
The Federal Communications Commission today launched the Data Innovation Initiative, the agency’s latest action to modernize and streamline how it collects, uses, and disseminates data. With this launch, the FCC continues the changes that were made as part of a comprehensive reform effort that is improving the agency’s fact-based, data-driven decision-making. To lead the Data Innovation Initiative, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski today established a new, cross-bureau data team, led by the agency’s first-ever Chief Data Officer.
“Smart policies depend on quality data, and public data should be accessible to the public in meaningful ways using modern digital tools,” said Chairman Genachowski. “The Data Innovation Initiative will accelerate the FCC’s progress toward becoming a model for excellence in 21st century government. Building on the exemplary work of our strategy planning and new media teams, I expect that the data team will both streamline and open up our data processes, institutionalizing positive change at the FCC.”
As part of the Data Innovation Initiative, the FCC’s Wireline, Wireless, and Media Bureaus are today releasing public notices seeking input on what current data collections should be eliminated, what new ones should be added, and how existing collections can be improved. The public notices will also include inventories of the Bureaus’ current data collection. The notices grow out of a recent agency-wide survey led by the FCC’s Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis (OSP).
Greg Elin, Associate Managing Director of New Media at the FCC will assume the newly created Chief Data Officer position. He will lead a team of Chief Data Officers from three FCC Bureaus for this initiative: Robert Alderfer, Chief Data Officer of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau; Kris Monteith, Deputy Chief and Chief Data Officer, Media Bureau; and Steven Rosenberg, Chief Data Officer, Wireline Competition Bureau. Andrew Martin, Chief Information Officer, Office of Managing Director (OMD), as well as representatives of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, the International Bureau, the Office of General Counsel, the Office of Engineering and Technology, OSP and OMD will also participate on the data team.
In addition, Michael Byrne has been appointed FCC’s first Geographic Information Officer, in OSP, who will lead the FCC’s work with the NTIA in creating a comprehensive national broadband map and develop practices for improving the FCC’s use of geographic information.
The launch of the Data Innovation Initiative, the appointment of the data team, and the release of the public notices follows other data innovations recently launched at the FCC, which include improving the search on ECFS, making more information machine-readable at www.reboot.fcc.gov/data, tools that allow consumers to test the performance of their broadband connections that can be found at www.broadband.gov, an interactive Spectrum Dashboard, and collaboration with the NTIA to produce a National Broadband Map
Monday, June 28, 2010
The Federal Communications Commission has taken two actions to protect and ensure the sustainability of a vital service for persons with hearing or speech disabilities. This service, called Video Relay Service (VRS), allows persons with these disabilities to use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate with friends and family and to conduct business in near real time. The Commission’s two unanimous votes – one to begin a fresh look at the VRS program, and another that sets out how VRS companies will be compensated during the next year while the review is underway – will protect a program that has developed through two decades of work initiated by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
Twenty years ago, the ADA established a fund, under the FCC’s oversight, to ensure that persons with hearing or speech disabilities could use special telephone services at costs comparable to those that hearing people pay for regular telephone service. Today, the VRS service supported by that fund has become an essential part of the lives of people who have hearing or speech disabilities.
Recently, the fund that supports VRS has been threatened on two fronts. A number of individuals associated with VRS companies have been indicted for fraud and abuse of the system; they appear to have generated extra revenue from calls that were not legitimate uses of the fund. In addition, recent data has shown that the payments from the Fund to VRS companies were on a higher scale than the FCC intended, because they were based on cost estimates that turned out to be far higher than VRS companies’ actual costs.
The Commission has now set interim levels for payments to VRS companies for the year July 2010 through June 2011. The FCC estimates that these new compensation levels, together with steps that have been taken to reduce fraud, will save the fund about $275 million over last year’s estimated costs. The FCC has worked with the Department of Justice to identify companies that may have acted fraudulently, and the number of questionable charges has already dropped as a result. The savings from reduced fraud and new payment levels will benefit American ratepayers, who support the fund through charges on their telephone bills.
At the same time, the Commission has released a Notice of Inquiry asking fundamental questions about the ways that the market for VRS should be structured and how companies that provide VRS should be compensated. Together, the Commission’s two actions today help put the future of VRS on a solid and sustainable course.
“Video relay service has greatly improved life for people who are deaf or hard of hearing and their friends and families,” said Joel Gurin, Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau of the FCC, which oversees access to communications services for persons with disabilities. “The Commission’s actions will help ensure the continuity of this essential service while also ensuring that ratepayers are not overcharged. The Notice of Inquiry will begin an in-depth process to review the entire structure of the VRS program and ensure its long-term viability.”
The Commission expects to complete the Notice of Inquiry proceeding before Fund year 2011-12, which begins on July 1, 2011. The Commission also adopted compensation rates for July 2010 through June 2011 for all other forms of TRS paid from the fund.
Action by the Commission June 28, 2010, by Notice of Inquiry (FCC 10-111 ) and Order (FCC 10-115).
Singer Sergio Vega, known as El Shaka, was murdered as he was on his way to perform at a concert in the Mexican state of Sinaloa on Saturday night. Earlier he had told La Oreja (the Ear), an entertainment news website, that news of his death was untrue. Mr. Vega, a founding member of the groups Los Hermanos Vegas and Los Reyes del Norte, was famous for performing "narcocorridos," songs about the drug trade. More here from the BBC.
Read more about narcocorridos in Elijah Wald's book Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas.