With their encyclopedic knowledge of industry regulations and vast experience through multiple segments, attorneys often make wonderful sources for us in the IT and telecommunications media space.
As TMCnet reported, one attorney – Andrew D. Lipman of Bingham McCutchen LLP, recently told us that VoIP will enjoy greater protections under President-elect Barack Obama’s administration, and that mergers will no longer be rubber stamped, meaning a better competitive environment from a regulatory standpoint.
Another major issue facing telecom today is the so-called Carterfone (News - Alert) ruling as it may apply to the wireless market.
As I’ve written, wireless Carterfone – which essentially would help OEMs offer wireless devices and services without the cellular operators needing to approve the handsets – is needed.
Many companies, including Skype, have tried to apply the FCC’s landmark, original 1968 Carterfone ruling – which applied to wireline subscribers – to the wireless market, changing the practice of bundling service and device with long-term contracts consisting of early-termination penalties.
Wireless operators have opposed the effort, saying that Carterfone offered an industry-specific fix to a monopoly environment – specifically, one in which the Bell System controlled both the manufacture and distribution of telephones and telephone service. There’s no need for such rules to unlock handsets in the wireless space, they say.
Yet others say a wireless Carterfone policy is long overdue.
In February, at the Internet Telephony Conference & Expo in Miami, TMC (News - Alert) will welcome an expert on the matter to deliver a speech on the matter. Brita Dagmar Strandberg is an attorney and partner at Washington, D.C.-based Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis, LLP, and her discussion, “Looking for the Wireless Carterphone Decision,” will be held on Monday, Feb. 2, the first day of the three-day ITEXPO (News - Alert).
From my interview with Dagmar Strandberg, printed below, you’ll get a sense of how communicable, knowledgeable and thoughtful she is – and how excited she is about what she does and the industry we’re all involved in. I’m looking forward to hearing her talk.
Our exchange follows.
Rich Tehrani (News - Alert): Who has influenced you most in your career and why?
Brita Dagmar Strandberg (pictured left): My father, a writer and businessman who showed me the importance of clear thinking and clearer writing. My clients, who constantly amaze me with their imagination and ambition, and inspire me to help clear the way forward for their visions. A long list of very good lawyers, who taught me that effective advocacy begins with listening to and understanding my clients.
RT: What excites you most about our industry?
BDS: The endless innovation and constant surprise, and the way in which innovation in communications enriches our personal and professional lives. Because communication is such a fundamental part of being human, better, richer, and more ubiquitous communications improve our entire human experience – not many industries can claim that they make lives better by giving us fuller access to family and friends, increasing access to information, and improving our efficiency. Communications does all of these things.
RT: What areas do you wish you could devote more energy, attention and resources?
BDS: International regulatory issues – there is innovation all around the world in spectrum policy, regulatory policy and competition. In some areas the US is the thought leader, in others Europe and Asia and leading the way.
RT: What pain does your company take away for customers?
BDS: We spot icebergs, repair hulls and scour rust. It can be difficult for companies that are not used to a particular form of regulation to see trouble coming, and they sometimes don’t see trouble until it is too late. At the same time, when a company must react to a legal or regulatory challenge to their business model, we can assess risk, come up with a plan tailored to the client’s particular circumstances, and fight for that client.
RT: How did your company get to where it is and where is it headed?
BDS: The founders of our firm decided on two things from the beginning. First, the firm believes in the best available athlete theory, doing what it takes to hire the most talented people available. That means that each of us is surrounded by lawyers and engineers who are the best in their field and able to quickly address the widest range of client issues. Second, the firm has focused on innovative companies. We have deep experience working with companies for which regulation could interfere with the core of their business, and understand the particular pressures and needs of companies growing into prominence.
RT: What does your dream mobile device look like?
BDS: We’re getting there – thanks to hardware and software advances we can now carry a single device that has robust high speed Internet access, productivity, applications, utilities, audio, video, and games, along with voice and text-based data communications. But my dream device would be a small handheld with impressive technical specs, including the ability to access licensed and unlicensed next generation networks, powerful processing, graphics, and storage, and an HD video camera. The device would resolve power consumption issues to enable extensive use of network and processor-intensive applications such as real-time two-way video chat or online gaming while providing me with sufficient battery power to get through the day. The device would be smart enough to interact with other devices I use every day – I would allow me to pause a movie in my den and pick it up in the same place while riding the metro the next morning, and when I get to my office, my device would automatically route any incoming business calls to my desk phone.
RT: Poof – you become President Obama’s top advisor on tech. What should he do to foster more technology use in the US and abroad?
BDS: Access to broadband. More access means more technology use. And we need regulatory stability and predictability to form a solid base for investment and innovation. We haven’t had that lately.
RT: How has open source changed our space and what more can it do for us?
BDS: Open source software is a great new tool. Some jobs are perfect for open source. Some aren’t. It would be a mistake to see open source as solving every challenge or always being the best option, but when the environment is right, open source allows innovation and reduced expense in ways that are critical. Just look at how open source mobile applications are changing the way the World Health Organization fights disease. It gives them local control, low recurring costs, and flexibility.
RT: What surprised you most about 2008?
BDS: The amount of change in our political leadership – not just the election of Barack Obama, but the new Chairmanships of Waxman and Rockefeller. The Obama campaign’s extraordinarily effective use of Internet communications and networking tools in the 2008 elections. The progress on White Spaces. The proliferation of powerful handheld devices. The FCC’s decision to enforce its Internet Policy Statement.
RT: Assuming we need it (and who couldn’t use some extra cash), what do we tell Congress to get a multibillion dollar US government communications bailout?
BDS: We don’t need a bailout, but we can drive across-the-board recovery. VoIP and IP increase broadband deployment and adoption, and can spur the dramatic increases in productivity we need to turn the economy around. Just a 7% increase in broadband adoption could create nearly 2.4 million jobs each year. VoIP is projected to be the number one job creator of any industry in the country, and businesses can achieve an estimated 15% increase in personal productivity through smarter communications. Now is the time to embrace IP communications and capture these crucial benefits.
RT: Is the green movement dead now that oil is plummeting in cost?
BDS: Not at all – Carbon taxes or Carbon credit trading is in our near future, and will increase the cost of doing business. IP communications are an important part of reducing carbon costs. New video conferencing and online collaboration tools reduce the need for costly business travel and long commutes. Unified communications make it easier for workers to telecommute, saving money on gas and helping preserve the environment. .
RT: How does IP communications help in a recession?
BDS: Everyone needs to save money right now – IP communications help consumers and small businesses save precious dollars Competition driven by VoIP competition can save consumers billions – an estimated $110 billion over the next five years. Small businesses – the engine of job creation – could save $16 billion, and governments can save between $ 3 and $10 billion a year simply by deploying VoIP more broadly. Employees can save gas dollars (and the environment) by telecommuting. Exciting new video conferencing and online collaboration tools permit businesses to replace expensive travel with virtual meetings.
RT: You are speaking at ITEXPO which takes place Feb 2-4 2009 in Miami. Why do people need to hear what you say, live and in person?
BDS: Because I can help them understand the challenges their companies and technologies will face in 2008 and beyond, and can help them meet these challenges in a way that will help their companies grow and thrive. Because they’ll have a chance to ask me and other experts the questions they most need answered. Because information is a crucial tool for competitors during challenging economic times, and the ITEXPO will be awash in information and ideas.
RT: Make some wild predictions about 2009/10.
BDS: We’ll see much better data on broadband deployment and focused efforts on improved deployment and access. The NTIA and FTC (News - Alert) will become increasingly prominent in federal communications policy. Barriers between networks and devices will continue to come down as consumers will have less and less tolerance for limits on the use of their devices or restrictions on content. The line between smartphones, netbooks, and notebooks will continue to erode. SaaS will increasingly replace hardware as companies and consumers try to reduce expenditures. At least one major city will no longer have a paper edition daily newspaper. Businesses and unified communication providers will borrow from the facebook and LinkedIn models to find more powerful and effective ways for employees to collaborate. Laid off techies will come up with some truly amazing new products/services/applications. Ecommerce will survive and thrive during the recession, as many brick-and-mortar competitors close their doors.
Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users.
Rich Tehrani is President and Group Editor-in-Chief of TMC. In addition, he is the Chairman of the world’s best-attended communications conference, INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference & EXPO (ITEXPO). He is also the author of his own communications and technology blog.
Edited by Michael Dinan