General and Policychris on 14 Jan 2008 03:24 pm

2008 is here and in the District of Communications some folks are already showing a predisposition to bring back some of the wireless rhetoric from last year.

On January 22, the New America Foundation will hold a panel discussion on whether more regulation is needed in the wireless space.

My suggestion to New America: instead of leading the discussion with the same old rhetoric – let’s start the new year focusing on how government can spur continued innovation in the wireless industry. For instance, let’s look at ways to free up spectrum from the federal government. They are sitting on a majority of it. In many cases, it is not being used or not being used efficiently.

In addition to freeing capacity, let’s look at ways to update some of the antiquated wireless regulations. There are a bunch of regs at the FCC (Part 22 – Public Mobile Services, and Part 17 – antenna construction, marking and lighting) that are outdated and no longer necessary.

With regard to openness, 2008 and beyond is about personalizing the wireless device. This is a good thing. Each device will continue to evolve (from just ringtones and music) to allowing more applications (provided they are in sync with the network) on your phone. The result of this enhancement of customer experience will result in increasing loyalty (less churn) and higher ARPU for the carrier.

It is clear that voters this cycle are responding to change. Let’s change the way we approach the wireless industry and focus on ways to spur the innovators not the regulators!

Dish Disclosure – Tin Can Communications ™ represents Capitol Solutions (on behalf of the Wireless Broadband Coalition). The Wireless Broadband Coalition is focused on federal spectrum issues. The Wireless Broadband Coalition is: Alcatel-Lucent, at&t, Cisco, Earthlink, Nortel, Qualcomm, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless.

General and Policy and Politics and social media and Social Networkingchris on 03 Jan 2008 05:40 pm

December was a great month. It was a nice opportunity to really think about Washington and how traditional business in this town is conducted. Analogous to businesses that realize marketing is changing and face the challenge of implementing new marketing to (receive permission from consumers) be effective – traditional advocacy faces challenges and must evolve.

In the old days, a company could mass advertise on three channels and with mass capital expenditures – folks bought that company’s product off the shelf. In the District of Communications, a company hires a big K street firm with political connections and they create a barrier to entry for a competitor or break a barrier down for their client’s company (yes, I’m generalizing and recall that monopolies thrive in regulation).

Both methods are still relevant and there are some talented lobbyists in Washington… However, here’s some reasons why you may want to consider augmenting your company’s advocacy strategy.

1) There are more channels to choose from today and the lobbying rules have changed.

2) Your audience stopped listening – customers and the politicians.

3) New marketing is cost effective and you’ll develop a closer relationship to your consumers.

4) Your consumers and their constituents will be your advocates. There is nothing more powerful!

On a related note, National Journal wrote about blogs and the importance of blogs last October. Some K street folks questioned whether it was valuable…. Barack, John Edwards and Ron Paul sure don’t doubt social media. Eventually, the policy / political / government affairs shops won’t doubt it either.

Disclosure – New media efforts are not for everyone. Quoting Danah Boyd – “Social technologies succeed when they fit into the social lives and practices of those that engage with the technology.”

General and Policychris on 26 Dec 2007 11:56 am

This is a two course meal… Some predictions for 2008 will follow…

It has been a great year and conversations are flowing in the diner. I am already looking forward to the new year and adding some new items to the menu in 2008.

I thought we would take a look back on 2007 and give some “Best of Awards.”

Bon Appetito!

Case Study in Excellence – Google and 700 MHz

Gphone, Android, Open Handset Alliance (you name it) the wireless industry was buzzing about Google all year long. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Google put the right ingredients (policy, politics, power & PARTICIPATION) together to modify and spur industry to a place where it was headed. Whether or not they attain spectrum in the auction is moot. Google will be good for wireless carriers and wireless broadband uptake in the United States.

Case Study in Failure – Skype

Skype was too aggressive in trying to persuade Congress and the FCC to adopt Carterfone rules. The problem for Skype – it is not 1968.

Continue Reading »

CTIA and General and Policy and social media and Social Networkingchris on 19 Dec 2007 04:38 pm

Traditional lobbying, campaign money, and power in Washington will always exist. However, with rapid advances in technology and the continued growth of social networking tools – YOU really are just as powerful as the connected K street lobbyist.

I recognized the power of the consumer at an early age. One summer I worked as an intern for Frito Lay and we worked very hard to build community through the Frito Lay challenge and other efforts in Baltimore. We learned a great deal and I know Frito Lay took our field reports seriously.

With regard to DC and advocacy, I saw the power of the consumer at AT&T Wireless. In that instance, a lawmaker from California was pushing the CPUC to initiate a wireless only number take back. The reason she was supporting it was due to area code exhaust occurring in California (they had gone from 13 area codes in 1997 to 25 around 2002). If enacted it would have required consumers to give back their current area code (they would keep their seven digit number) and get a wireless specific area code.

AT&T Wireless had a significant number of subscribers in this district and our consumers would have been the most affected by the technology specific overlay (TSO). We filed comments at the FCC and did some traditional advocacy. We were getting nowhere. It was time to directly reach out to our customers.

Collaborating with CTIA, we designed bill stuffers and our customers responded. They flooded the FCC and the California lawmaker with calls opposing this effort. The result – the lawmaker hauled us in and told us she would not continue to press the CPUC to implement the TSO.

The tools for engaging and having conversations with folks are much better now. With permission, we can learn more from our customers and work together to affect change.

If you don’t believe me — ask George Allen.

Related Note & Promotion – Seth Godin discussed the new politics the other day. It is the reason why I founded Tin Can Communications ™.

General and Policy and Politicschris on 18 Dec 2007 09:27 pm

Senator McCain (Arizona) continues to fight to eliminate discriminatory wireless taxes on consumers.

Some folks in the District of Communications may recall that he led this fight during last cycle’s consideration of telecommunications reform legislation. His amendment was included with bipartisan support in the final bill.

In any case, here’s the latest from the Union Leader...

General and Policy and Politics and social media and Social Networkingchris on 26 Nov 2007 10:32 am

What a difference a year makes…

I wrote Mobile Diner’s first post a year ago today, and I had no idea where it would take us. I just knew that listening and having a dialogue with wireless consumers was the right thing to do.

Along the way I have met and learned a great deal from many entrepreneurs, tech mavens, and videobloggers. All of you showed me how important it is to build community and have inspired me to spend more time on these endeavors.

On that note, in January, I’m launching a public affairs / new media focused communications firm that will offer services to companies, associations and non-profits. Utilizing social media tools to engage consumers or affect change in Washington will become increasingly important to businesses. Those who participate will win in the market and will win on Capitol Hill.

New times call for a new class of communications professionals. Accordingly, I hope to make a difference for a few select clients.

Stay tuned for more on the new company…

Related ingredient – I will still be collaborating with Capitol Solutions on the Wireless Broadband Coalition..

CTIA and CTIA Wireless IT & Entertainment 07 and General and Policychris on 22 Oct 2007 02:57 pm

CTIA’s IT & Entertainment show starts tomorrow in San Francisco.  However, the “Godfather” of tech industry reporting, Walter Mossberg, decided to rain on the parade before it even starts!

Mossberg’s WSJ column and thoughts are nothing new if you have been following Skype’s Carterfone petition at the FCC (a mobilediner leftover here). 

In this instance, Mossberg has tailored his comments for the everyday wireless user and if you don’t follow wireless policy everyday – you might be inclined to believe everything in it. 

For instance, Mossberg states that the “federal government has allowed itself to be bullied and fooled by a handful of big wireless phone operators for decades now.  And the result has been a mobile phone system that is opposite of the PC model.”  This is not accurate. 

It has taken years to build these digital networks (in fact, the FCC is finally allowing wireless carriers to turn off their antiquated analog networks next year) and time to acquire the necessary spectrum (industry worked to free spectrum from DoD and is working to get broadcasters off of 700 MHz) to provide capacity (industry worked hard to get rid of the spectrum cap) to offer next generation services.  The future is bright and we will start to see more devices like the iPhone, N95 (and maybe a g phone) come to market.  However, a network and capacity must be in place to provide a “wired” broadband experience.

The wireless industry and a business model the carriers have relied on will eventually change.  As consumer interest evolves beyond service provider to applications and devices (at the edge of the network) carriers must adapt.  The next few months and years will be exciting.  Industry is not perfect but I believe the carriers will respond and tackle these challenges.  A storm of regulation is on the horizon if they do not… 

ibelieve do YOU?

Update – Steve Largent has blogged about the Mossberg column on the CTIA blog.

Dish disclosure – CTIA – the Wireless Association is a client…

CTIA and General and Policy and Verizon Wirelesschris on 17 Oct 2007 03:41 pm

I was up on Capitol Hill this morning covering the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on wireless issues and Senator Klobuchar’s bill.  I’ve cooked up some thoughts on that issue before.  However, I wanted to throw some related and other thoughts for you all to chew on…

Best Opening Statement this morningSenator Jim DeMint (South Carolina) asking colleagues on the Committee why they would want to regulate an industry that is thriving and delivering for consumers.  DeMint went on to discuss how he receives plenty of complaints regarding how the Government handles passports, food stamps, social security benefits, veterans’ benefits etc.  Accordingly, he asked “what problems for America’s wireless consumers require the resources of Congress and the bureaucrats at the FCC to solve?” 

Odd Statement this morningSenator McCaskill (Missouri) has strong opinions about the “line-standing” business and will offer a bill to end this practice.  In the District of Communications, if there is a hearing with high demand, many businesses will hire a line-stander so that they can cover the hearing.  Our firm somtimes will utilize these services.  I have a solution – stream all of the hearings online.  I prefer to watch them in the office.

Best interaction of the hearing (Senator Klobuchar and Mr. McAdam, CEO, Verizon Wireless) - Bear with me as I set the stage – Senator Klobuchar discussing service quality issues and wanting carriers to report dropped calls to the FCC.  Mr. McAdam took the time to discuss that there are a number of factors that affect service quality and mentioned that the type of device also can be part of the equation.  He mentioned the Motorola Razr as an example of a phone that consumers wanted but due to the slim design may experience more problems….  McAdam brought up a California bill that would mandate that the CPUC approve devices to check service quality.  Ms. Klobuchar fired back that “her bill didn’t do that.”  Mr. McAdam let her know that her bill allows state law to preempt federal rules (last section of her bill – section 12 Preemption).

Wireless Broadband Deployment ActSenator Pryor (Arkansas) has offered a bill that will eliminate any ambiguity of the current wireless rules and proposes one wireless framework to prevent promulgation of a patchwork of different state laws.  Senator Pryor’s bill will help smaller regional carriers compete with the large national carriers (a small regional carrier trying to deal with 8 different state laws does not help them compete).  It will also ignite the industry (less complexity and certainty in the regs= investment) forward.  Analogous to what occurred in 1993 when Congress applied a light regulatory touch to wireless.  On a related note, this is the same bill which passed the Senate Commerce Committee with bipartisan support (15-7) in the 109th Congress.

Off Topic – Today’s Roll Call (subscription) reports that a former Senator (who is now a lobbyist) was on the Senate floor while the Senate was considering an appropriations bill.  A clear violation of the rules that Congress recently passed.  Senator DeMint’s quote from the article – “most of the ethics bill is eyewash and window dressing.”

What are YOUR thoughts?

Dish Disclosure – CTIA – the Wireless Association is a client…

General and Policy and Spectrum and Verizon Wirelesschris on 11 Oct 2007 01:59 pm

Any doubt about FCC rule changes on the C-block spectrum? 

Here’s Chairman Martin’s quote from the NY Times:

“I don’t have any plans to try to revise our open-platform rule the way Verizon wants us to.”

at&t and Broadband and CTIA and General and Policychris on 04 Oct 2007 06:39 am

Flickr photo credit – juicyrai

On Tuesday Yesterday, I picked up the Wall Street Journal and read with enthusiasm about at&t’s potential wireless efforts in India.  At the same time, I was trying to block out the noise coming from the House Commerce Subcommittee Hearing.

With regard to the hearing, it was primarily focused on special access, forbearance petitions at the FCC, muni-broadband deployment, and copper retirement.  As always, Chairman Markey (D-MA) put together a great panel, but the regulatory tone emanating from the Committee was quite troublesome.

Wireless is not immune to calls for regulation.  As we know, Senator Klobuchar (D-MN) is leading the charge to empower the states who have been craving to get their hands on wireless.  In any case, it is good to see other countries who have seen the good and know what wireless can do promote it.  Seeing is believing and I applaud the Indian regulators for tweaking their regulations to facilitate foreign operators’ investments in their country.  Unfortunately, we’ll just have to deal with the wireless whining on Capitol Hill.

On that note, the Senate Commerce Committee will have a hearing on wireless issues on October 17th.  I am hopeful that some lawmakers will offer ways to enable wireless broadband deployment instead of just complaining about our “glorified radios.”

dish disclosure -  CTIA is a client of our firm.

Broadband and General and Google and Policy and Verizon Wirelesschris on 26 Sep 2007 02:22 pm

George Washington University’s Institute for Policy, Democracy & the Internet hosted a discussion about the “Future of Broadband Wireless” last night. Rick Whitt (Washington Telecom and Media Counsel, Google) was the keynote speaker but it was more of an open forum for questions regarding Google’s vision of wireless.  I enjoyed the conversation and look forward to future forums at GW (IPID will be hosting more technology discussions).

Rick began the conversation with his thoughts about 700 MHz and why Google has an interest in the spectrum. He did not say whether or not they will bid.  However, it is very clear Google has a wireless gameplan.  Link Hoewing (Assistant VP for Internet & Technology, Verizon) was in the audience and he was able to add to the conversation.  Accordingly, he offered his perspectives on having a “managed” network at Verizon Wireless as opposed to the open wireless network that Google envisions.

With regard to future spectrum allocations, the FCC recently released an NPRM seeking comment on the different technological approaches for the AWS III spectrum (2155-2175 MHz).  Chairman Martin also would like to have service rules released for this block in 9 months.  I asked Rick about his thoughts on the AWS III band.  He mentioned that Google is evaluating the band and thinking about the best approach for the spectrum (licensed model or unlicensed model).

Google wants the mobile internet to start with a “g.”  In some instances, it already does.  Google will be a key player propelling wireless broadband in America.  They key question is how do they do it…

What do YOU think?

General and Policy and Politicschris on 21 Sep 2007 11:19 am


photo credit – 09traveler

For DC Diners, have you ever said those words? 

The twisted pair in the district of communications is policy and politics.  Unfortunately, this twisted pair causes interference in DC.  It is the reason why a bill that was passed in the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – that includes language to allow carriers into the Metro – has not gotten to the House floor.

Supposedly, there is language in the larger House bill – the Metro reauthorization – that some labor unions oppose.  Presumably, on the Senate side, there is not going to be a great deal of love from some Republican lawmakers to authorize money to WMATA.  In any case, things are starting to get complex.

This is not a new issue.  However, it is frustrating to see something that is good for consumers and essential in these times of heightend security stuck on the track.  Hopefully, it won’t take a national tragedy – as was the case in the Minnesota bridge incident to get dollars for infrastructure – to get all carriers into the Metro to provide service.

Congrats to New York for getting it done!

Disclosure – I have a Verizon Wireless phone that works in the Metro and an at&t Blackberry Curve that does not work.

General and Policy and social media and Social Networkingchris on 12 Sep 2007 04:29 pm

Lots of ideas and recipes cooking in the diner… 

With Congress back legislating (mobile bill) and the FCC starting an open meeting over 10 hours after it was supposed to convene (meeting was listed at 9:30am yesterday), things are returning to normal in the district of communications.  In any case, here are a few rants from the kitchen:

FCC Open Meeting – Does Chairman Martin have a problem getting votes or does he just want to have open meetings in the dark?  Hopefully, this is not becoming a habit…

Back to the FutureSenator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) stated “the rules governing our wireless industry are the relic of the 1980′s when cell phones were a luxury item that fit in a briefcase instead of a pocket.”  Her bill would take us back to the 80′s when only a few folks were able to enjoy wireless technology.  Once again, we need to move forward and have policies that are a catalyst for deployment and unleash wireless broadband – not legislation that provides more ambiguity and sets the table for a patchwork of different state laws.

Bundling -  President Bush has a lobbying bill that awaits his signature and the Clinton campaign has an 850K bundler.  The bill that the President may or may not sign would have no bearing on the 850K bundler but would prohibit a registered advocate (me) from buying a sandwich or coffee for a staffer interested in telecommunications policy.  Although the bill does not prohibit me from writing a $1000 check and eating with his/her boss!? 

Twitter – Robert Scoble opined in Fast Company that Twitter is the Next Email.  It is a great column.  In this instance, I hope it does not become the next email because I’m drowing in fundraising emails and other spam.  However, I do share Scobleizer’s view that there is a great deal of benefit to this service for companies.  Accordingly, figuring out how to leverage Twitter will reap huge benefits.

Sorry for the noise pollution.  Look forward to YOUR thoughts?

Promotion – If you like what you are reading, please subscribe (or by email on bottom right of menu) – its free!

CTIA and General and Policychris on 07 Sep 2007 09:15 am

For many diners my age, folks may think I’m referring to a Steven Seagal movie from the 90′s with this title.  Unfortunately, I’m referring to the wireless industry and the appetite to regulate from some policymakers on Capitol Hill.

In this instance, is legislation in the works by Senators Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) and Rockefeller (D- West Virginia) to regulate rates, terms and conditions of wireless carriers.  This is not the right direction we want to take to propel wireless broadband networks in America.

With regard to advocacy, we have advocated a “do no harm” approach to Congress for many years.  This approach served both consumer and corporate interests while the industry was in its adolescence.  Minimal regulation has resulted in strong competition among the carriers and has forced them to continue to evolve to meet consumer demand.  However, as industry has become the primary economic driver for the telecom business and wireless phones have become the key device for consumers, that approach has fallen on deaf ears, and we are now beginning to see the consequences.

There are many exciting things occuring in the wireless industry.  We have a 700 MHz auction on the horizon.  We have T-mobile introducing a hybrid wireless service.  The hottest phone on the market was developed by Apple and a Gphone is coming. 

Complexity and uncertainty are the enemies of investment.  Accordingly, the potential direction of the draft (outline) bill crafted by Ms. Klobochar and Mr. Rockefeller adds both of those ingredients.  It will lead us down the wrong road.  In fact, it has the potential to bulkanize popular one rate plans and be the end of all you can eat broadband.

The wireless industry is not perfect and we are working hard to get it right.  I agree with Senator Klobuchar that the rules governing the wireless industry – “are a relic of the 1980′s when cell phones were a luxury item.”  However, we don’t want policies that will take us back to those days – where only a few enjoy the power of wireless.  We need to update the laws to unleash wireless not shackle itWe need to move forward NOT backward!

Carriers must meet the evolving needs of consumers today or consumers will walk.  As I have mentioned, consumers’ priorities have shifted away from access (service provider) to the edges (applications and devices).  More spectrum to enable carriers to offer more multimedia and data options is good policy.  Gadgets that can utilize Wi-Fi and 3G so consumers can enjoy those services will continue to prosper. 

Government and regulation are not always the answers to challenges an industry faces.  In the wireless business, competition has worked and it will continue to work.  As I mentioned, more innovation in wireless is ahead and the future is bright. 

What do YOU think? 

Disclosure – The full bill has not been released – only an outline.  We represent CTIA-the Wireless Association in supporting efforts to unleash wireless broadband in America.

best of the month and General and Google and Policy and Politics and Social NetworkingAshley on 05 Sep 2007 01:39 pm

We went lite in August here at the diner, but here are some of our sticky posts from the month for your dining pleasure:

- a true assault on reason…

- Rocking the net neutrality debate

- Chris Guestblogs on the Buzz Bin

- bring on the Gphone

As always, if you like what you see, feel free to subscribe.

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