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Google and competition

 By Larissa Anderson // Posted: 09/17/10 02:40 PM

On Thursday, a House subcommittee heard testimony about Google and the issues of competition and dominance in the digital marketplace.

One witness, Scott Cleland - a noted Google critic - said “Google is a vastly more serious antitrust threat than Microsoft ever was.”

But it doesn’t sound like the folks in Congress are convinced.  Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said at the hearing “Just because competitors complain about a practice does not mean it is anti-competitive.”

For an in-depth look at competition in the Internet age, check out this podcast by the good people at the Berkman Center.  It’s a conversation between Jonathan Zittrain, law professor at Harvard Law School and co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society  and Lawrence Lessig, Director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and law professor at Harvard Law School. 

The two talk about the 12-year old battle between Microsoft and the Department of Justice as well as Google, Facebook and other tech giants.

Comments | Filed Under: law government business

Microsoft and political repression in Russia

Posted: 09/15/10 06:00 AM

The New York Times recently reported that Russian authorities were raiding the offices of protest groups under the premise of checking for unlicensed Windows software. They’d seize computers, haul them away, attempting to silence those groups.

Microsoft has been fighting software piracy for some time. They say 41 percent of software worldwide is pirated, resulting in 750 Billion dollars of lost revenue for the software industry.

But Microsoft was quick to issue a response to these Russian raids, announcing Monday that non-governmental organizations or NGOs in Russia would be issued a blanket license, making all the software they run legal. It’s a variation of their software donation program.

Microsoft’s move raises some new questions. If a dissident group in Russia can stake a claim to free software, can a group in France or Libya or Mexico or the United States do the same? And more broadly, what kind of political position taking might Microsoft be forced to take going forward?

We talk to Sharon Pian Chan, who covers the northwest-based Microsoft for the Seattle Times. And we check in with James Lewis, Senior Fellow and Director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

We contacted Microsoft for this story. They declined to be interviewed but they pointed us to a blog post from their chief counsel outlining their position and their plans.

Plus, comedian Paul F. Tompkins joins us to talk about a new way to cheat in Angry Birds. He’s angry about it. He is not a bird.

Comments | Filed Under: law government policy business microsoft

FCC takes a look at cell phone use in prisons

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 12:12 PM

Last month, President Obama signed a law that bans cell phone use by prisoners. But, phones apparently keep finding their way in facilities - hidden in packages. One facility has phones in footballs thrown into the prison exercise yard. A corrections department captain in South Carolina was shot in his home several months ago - it was an action ordered by an inmate from a cell phone. He and others would like to see Congress allow the use of technologies that would prevent cell use in prisons - jamming signals or other tech.

Comments | Filed Under: law phones

Your car and your concentration are at issue in Washington

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/14/10 06:00 AM

The U.S. Department of Transportation will hold a Distracted Driving Summit next week. Tomorrow, OnStar is expected to announce new connectivity features for its service. And today, Representatives from Ford and a tech company called Nuance are in DC urging congress to be cautious in crafting new distracted driving laws. They say narrow legislation could stifle new technology that could make cars safer.

But while congress debates law, technology marches on and the car of tomorrow will be able to do things the car of today can only dream of. As connectivity becomes easier and more ubiquitous, our cars will be able to talk to each other and avoid accidents. That’s according to Raja Sengupta, a professor at UC Berkeley, with whom we speak today. We also check in with Marketplace reporter Alissa Roth who fills us in on the lack of legislation presently covering this issue.

Comments | Filed Under: transportation mobile phones law government science

White space spectrum to be made available by FCC

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/13/10 05:31 PM

It’s a complicated issue to explain but in short: when the switch to digital television happened, there were parts of the spectrum that were no longer in use. The FCC plans to make them available. What it means for you: bigger stronger wi-fi networks.

Comments | Filed Under: law government science sad time at the station

Burglars take advantage of Facebook status information

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/13/10 12:11 PM

Three industrious burglars in Nashua, New Hampshire have reportedly made off with up to $200,000 in stolen cash and merchandise. They did it the new-fashioned way: checking Facebook for people who said they were out of town on vacation and then going and getting stuff. They were caught. Perhaps it’s not a good idea to set your status on Facebook to be able to be seen by everyone and then say you’re out of town. But perhaps this is a form of Darwinism too.


Comments | Filed Under: Social media facebook law privacy Web Culture

Microsoft used as tool of repression by Russian government

 by John Moe // Posted: 09/13/10 12:02 PM

A New York Times article got plenty of buzz in tech circles over the weekend. It’s about how the Russian government is using the construct of the Microsoft license agreement to crack down and silence dissenters and activist groups. What happens is the authorities will raid an office or organizing location under the premises of making sure that all copies of Windows are licensed. Then they take the computers belonging to those groups, on which is all their organizing information. Lawyers for Microsoft have said they support the government’s efforts, saying it’s necessary to stop software piracy. But now the company is backtracking, saying they’re concerned about the situation and vow to have closer oversight of legal issues in Russia.

Comments | Filed Under: world law privacy

San Francisco passes law requiring cell phone retailers to disclose SAR (specific absorption rate) of phones

 by John Moe // Posted: 06/24/10 11:17 AM

Our colleagues over at Marketplace covered this on their show last night.

The council passed a measure on a vote of 10 to 1 and Mayor Gavin Newsom has said he’ll sign it. SAR measures how much radiation is absorbed by a person using the device. The FCC has limits SAR to 1.6 watts per kilogram of body tissue. The measure is in response to fears about cell phones causing brain cancer.

From the NYT:

"From our perspective, this is a very reasonable and quite modest measure that will provide greater transparency and information to consumers for whom this is an area of interest or concern,” said Tony Winnicker, a spokesman for Mr. Newsom. “We’re playing a role that we’ve often played, which is to be at the forefront of a debate.”


But a major United Nations study released last month showed no relation between cell phone use and brain cancer. Cell phone industry reps say they’re concerned this new law will spread unfounded fears about their products.

Comments | Filed Under: cellphones law

today's show

What will we do with all this "white space"?

09/26/10 11:15 AM

There’s a vote coming up this week in Washington that will have a big impact on how you use the internet, what’s available to you, how much faster you’ll be able to get things online. On Thursday, the FCC is expected to open up unused parts of the broadcast spectrum, a lot of people call it “white space”. This is space that was positioned to be something of a buffer between television stations but such padding is proving less essential since the conversion to digital TV.

On today’s show, we talk to Glenn Fleishman from Wi-Fi Networking News and The Economist about how the spectrum works and what kind of new space we’re talking about. We also check in with Tim Wu from Columbia Law School about the companies that will look to use the space and what it all might mean for you and me as internet consumers.

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