FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to Leave with Obama

Carl Weinschenk

Tom Wheeler, who has led the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for three years, will step down on January 20, the day that Donald Trump takes office. The FCC was active during Wheeler’s tenure, and the headline event was the fight over net neutrality, which he and the other Democratic commissioners won.

The Washington Post points out that as of Wheeler’s departure, two of three active commissioners will be Republicans, and says a broad rollback of Wheeler- and Obama-era policies will likely ensue. This could start subtly by simply not enforcing regulations that are on the books.

Julius Genachowski was the other FCC Chairman of note during the Obama years, serving from June 2009 until May 2013.

Living with AI


People have a lot of concerns about all sorts of emerging technologies, and high on the list, if not at the top, is artificial intelligence (AI). “Ethically Aligned Design: A Vision for Prioritizing Human Wellbeing with Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems (AI/AS)” is taking a close look at what to many are inchoate fears and concerns.

ZDNet says that 100 “global thought leaders” with expertise in AI, ethics and related issues contributed to the document, which was drafted by the Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ (IEEE) Global Initiative for Ethical Considerations in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems.

That is a lot of verbiage that boils down to discussing how AI and AS can affect humans, the benefits, and determining a methodical way to think about the risks and how to limit them. IEEE is asking for public input on the document, which has eight sections. Input can still be added to the document; the deadline is March 6, 2017.

Ransomware: More Scary Stuff

Ransomware is another frightening thing with which people have to deal. The thought of having vital, even life and death, data locked in a person’s own machine when it’s sitting right in front of him or her with no way to gain access is existentially disturbing.

IBM Security released research this week that suggests some people and businesses simply throw up their arms in surrender to ransomware demands. The company said that seven in 10 businesses that have had their business data and systems held hostage have paid the ransom.

Fifty-four percent said that they would not pay ransoms except in the case of business data. Indeed, the type of data being held made a difference to respondents:

The data types they were willing to pay for included financial records, customer records, intellectual property and business plans. Overall, 25 percent of business executives said, depending upon the data type, they would be willing to pay between $20,000 and $50,000 to get access back to data.

The survey found that 55 percent of parents would pay for digital family photos. Thirty-nine percent without kids say that they would do so.

Steps Toward a Smart Atlanta

Next week will be an important one on Atlanta’s road to becoming a smart city. Light Reading reports that responses are due for three Requests for Information (RFI), for a municipal fiber build, a Wi-Fi deployment, and a smart city project that will eventually link connect utility-mounted cameras, sensors and other wireless devices.

The responses are due on December 22. A previous RFI on autonomous vehicles was due Dec. 2. The initiative is the result of a $250 million bond issue that was approved last year.

The city isn’t alone in planning for a smart Atlanta:

Major commercial telecom providers have also gravitated toward the region, with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) launching its first gigabit broadband service based on DOCSIS 3.1 technology in Atlanta and AT&T Inc.(NYSE: T) announcing the metropolitan region as one of its first spotlight smart cities earlier this year. Google Fiber Inc. is also active in Atlanta. (See In D3.1 First, Comcast Goes Gig in Atlanta and Alphabet Is Serious About Google Fiber.)

The efforts are not totally distinct; the project will feature public/private cooperation.

Can an Autonomous Vehicle Get a Ticket?

I noted earlier this week that Uber launched an autonomous vehicle trial in San Francisco. Things didn’t go smoothly. A cab caught one of the self-driving cars running a red light. The video, posted at the San Francisco Examiner website, was taken by a taxi that had stopped at the light.

Uber didn’t obtain self-testing permits from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles; the company maintains that they are unnecessary since there is a driver in the car.

Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at cweinsch@optonline.net and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.


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