Policy, Industry and Thought Leaders Speak Out on the State of the Mobile Net

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on June 8, 2011


On May 26, 2011, the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee (ICAC) hosted the 3rd Annual State of the Mobile Net Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference focused on how to make the Internet more mobile, touching on privacy, innovation, competition and spectrum issues.

The conference kicked off with a panel on privacy and online safety for digital youth. The panel featured Jules Polonetsky, Co-chair and Director of the Future of Privacy Forum, Alan Simpson, Vice President of Policy, Common Sense Media and Adam Thierer, Senior Research Fellow, Mercatus Center at George Mason University. The conversation centered on free speech rights for teens, specifically on whether or not to have a unified age standard and how to define the term “teen.”

In the second panel, “The State of Mobile Apps: The What and Where of Mobile Privacy,” expert panelists on opposing sides of the privacy debate discussed mobile data collection. The panel included Justin Brookman, Director, Center for Democracy & Technology, Jason Hong, Associate Professor, Carnegie Mellon University, and Daniel Castro, Senior Analyst, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.

Hong emphasized the fact that mobile apps can collect far more information than ever before and projected that in 20 years, every device will be GPS-enabled in one way or another. Hong’s biggest concern is that the mobile industry has done a poor job explaining the benefits of data collection, while all the panelists discussed other issues related to privacy, including the accidental disclosure of location, over monitoring by employers and law enforcement abuses.

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Vice President and Policy Director, Media Access Project and Hal Singer, Managing Director and Principal, Navigant Economics stood on opposite sides of the competition debate for the mobile marketplace in the next panel, “Perspectives on Whether the Mobile Marketplace Will Remain Competitive?” This panel was particularly timely, as the House Judiciary hearing on the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile merger and its affect on competition took place mere hours before. While Singer said that if people want to know what is going on with wireless prices, they should just look at them, Schwartzman disagreed and stated that innovation, rather than price, is a much better measure for effects on concentration.

The final panel of the day, “Spectrum: How to Sate our Ravenous Digital Devices?” was moderated by Matthew Hussey from the Office of the Honorable Olympia J. Snowe. To start off the discussion, Hussey posed the question: “How can we manage spectrum to meet 7 billion mobile devices?” Michael Calabrese, Vice President, New America Foundation, pointed out that spectrum capacity is abundant, but is unused for various reasons, including big companies and the federal government. Chris Ornela, EVP Strategic Planning, National Association of Broadcasters, spoke about this being a capacity issue, not a spectrum issue, and that a holistic approach is needed. John Kneuer, President and Founder, Kneuer LLC, said that the government should keep its thumb off the scale and let spectrum owners do what they want with their licensed spectrum.

Keynote speakers Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Representative Bob Latta (R-OH) discussed privacy and innovation. Sen. Leahy discussed his privacy legislation; Rep. Eshoo called for balanced privacy rules that allowed innovation; and Rep. Latta tapped into spectrum: “We wasted about 9 years and 13 billion dollars that we aren’t going to get back.”

Video recordings of the conference sessions are available on YouTube: