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A New Kind of Spectrum Auction for the 21st Century

If the critical link between radio frequency spectrum availability and the future of the Internet isn’t apparent to you, take a look at what’s happening in Congress. Your representatives have introduced, or are circulating drafts, of nearly a dozen major bills that would have the effect of “re-purposing” radio spectrum.    Mobile broadband users, public safety, and possibly SmartGrid networks could be the beneficiaries of a massive transition of 20th century spectrum uses to 21st century ones.

While most of these bills are not likely to pass this year, they do lay down a marker for when a new Congress convenes in January. 

Today, the leadership of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, Representatives Rick Boucher (D-VA) and Cliff Stearns ( R-FL ), joined forces to introduce a bill that would do one very important thing – give the FCC the authority to conduct a so-called “incentive auction.”  In the Senate, Senators Olympia Snowe(R-ME) and John Kerry (D-MA) introduced a broader bill that includes a similar provision.  What’s with incentive auctions?

Simply put, incentive auctions are a tremendous tool to help the FCC transition commercial spectrum from 20th century  uses to 21st century ones, and to do so on a basis that is entirely voluntary to the existing licensee.

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Cisco welcomes launch of first ever U.S. National IP Strategy

In a fascinating profile of Thomas Edison that appeared recently in Time Magazine I was reminded once again of Edison’s importance to America’s historic strength in science, innovation and discovery. Edison’s goal was to create a “minor invention” every ten days and a “major invention” every six months.  His track record was astounding:  1,093 total patents and key breakthroughs such as the phonograph, storage battery, early motion picture technology and the filament that made the light bulb work, to name just a few.

Strong intellectual property protection has been a key to the legacy of Edison and to America’s continued technology leadership.  Cisco therefore welcomes the recent announcement of the first ever US National IP Strategy.  A significant landmark in the protection of US inventiveness, creativity and innovation, the strategy is result of an extraordinary collaboration among Federal agencies, led by Victoria Espinel, the recently appointed and first US IP Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC).

The Constitution tells us that legal protection of intellectual property rights is not an end in-and-of-itself; rather, those rights are established and protected in order to “promote the progress of science and useful arts.” Effective IPR protection results in advancements in science and the arts; ineffective IPR protection hinders further discovery and innovation.   The Administration’s effort is a big step in the right direction.

This plan is the culmination of extensive outreach and consultation with government, industry and consumers by Ms. Espinel and her team.  The legislation that created the office of the IP Enforcement Coordinator was championed by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as great a friend of innovation as has ever served in that role.  The 2008 PRO IP Act established the post in the White House Office of Management and Budget and directed it to report to Congress on its strategic plans to better enforce our nation’s intellectual property regime.  Ms. Espinel has brought to life Senator Leahy’s vision with her efforts to drive  to crack down on those who would steal intellectual property and create counterfeit goods which undermine the lifeblood of our economy by denying enterprises the fruits of their labors, and who would endanger national security by providing fake goods.  Already she’s making a difference in working to improve Department of Homeland Security efforts to intercept fake goods at our borders.

Cisco welcomes suggestions in the report to improve coordination among all levels of law enforcement and between the private and public sector, and  supports the Administration and Congress in their implementation of its recommendations.  Ms. Epinel’s commitment to interagency coordination has resulted in a comprehensive, mutually-reinforcing plan to address all aspects of intellectual property theft which costs our economy billions of dollars each year and poses risks to our economic and national security. 

As one of America’s most innovative companies, we at Cisco look forward to working with the Ms. Espinel and her team as they implement this plan.  

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Cisco wins National Cybersecurity Awareness Challenge Award

We at Cisco take cybersecurity very seriously.  We understand that protecting networks and personal information must be a critical part of each and every product, network, and solution.

So we were gratified yesterday when DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that Cisco had been named the winner of the Best Publicity and Marketing category of the National Cybersecurity Awareness Challenge.

The Department received more than 80 proposals, in seven categories.  The winners will be used as part of the annual National Cyber Security Awareness Month campaign in October 2010.

Cisco’s proposal aligns with this year’s National Cybersecurity Awareness Campaign theme – “Our Shared Responsibility.”  The Cisco plan creates an educational cybersecurity portal and a cybersecurity “IQ challenge,” utilizing print, radio, TV and online ads to drive awareness.

We pay attention to cyber security all year, but the October campaign will raise awareness for individuals, educators, and small businesses.  This year’s event promises to be the biggest ever, with Presidential, Cabinet Secretary, and Congressional interest and involvement.

You can get involved or learn more by visiting

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Big Broadband Bang

To start the 4th of July holiday weekend off right, President Obama today announced that 66 broadband projects across the country have been awarded $795 million in grants and loans from stimulus funds that Congress set aside last year.  This is good news, helping to connect dozens of communities and institutions to high speed internet access. 

The grants are part of a $7.2 billion broadband stimulus initiative led by two agencies – the Rural Utilities Service in the Department of Agriculture (RUS), and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the Department of Commerce (NTIA).  

Why broadband? If you’re going to inject public dollars into the economy, then make that investment in a way that generates economic growth. Broadband fits the bill nicely – the networks that will be built to unserved and underserved areas can be used by businesses, to grow jobs, to improve education and healthcare, and to connect residents to high speed Internet access.

So how are the agencies doing? NTIA has spent about $2 billion and RUS has spent about $1.4 billion to date.   

You’d think that leaves about $3.8 billion left to be awarded, but Congress is moving to reclaim $600 million of the balance to offset other spending.  The House has acted, and now the Senate must agree.

If the amount shrinks, some worthy projects won’t be funded. The long fuse, lit last winter when applications were due, will in some cases fizzle and burn out.  And that means some unserved areas will continue to wait for the arrival of broadband connectivity. 

But that’s for tomorrow. For the moment, let’s celebrate the projects that received grants and loans today, and enjoy the fireworks!


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A fundamental of smart grid policy

On the same day that Cisco unveiled a new touch-screen gateway device to manage home energy usage, the U.S. Department of Energy held a public forum Tuesday examining a critical set of policy issues raised by a smart grid. The focus?  “Empowering Consumers and the Smart Grid: Data Access, Third Party Use, and Privacy.”

At the forum, Cisco’s Jeff Campbell made our perspective clear:  Electricity consumers should have secure access to their energy usage information and should have the power to choose which technologies will give them control over managing their home energy use in a way that reflects their personal preferences and priorities.

Other panelists agreed: Government should not pre-determine through policy or regulation what consumers want to do – or not do – with their home energy use data.

All agreed that government can – and should – play an important role in making sure that utilities and third-parties protect the privacy of consumer information, and in sharing policy frameworks and best practices to ensure that customers have access to energy usage information, if they want it; to enforce privacy protections, if needed, and; to educate consumers about how the benefits of smart grid ultimately flow to the consumer.

Clearly, giving consumers the tools to participate in smart grid will go a long way towards engaging consumers and earning their support for smart grid.

Home Energy Controller

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