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4 Things That Can Get Done in Washington in 2014

When folks ask me what policy actions are going to take place in 2014, an election year, my knee jerk reaction is to say, “not much.”

But when I spend a moment to think about it, there is a substantial agenda of things that can be accomplished next year from a tech industry perspective.   Here’s the short list:

Patent reform – there’s real momentum behind patent reform.  The 325-90 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives shows that support for patent reform is strong and bipartisan.  There will be a hearing in the Senate on December 17, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will hopefully take up the bill soon in the New Year.  This legislation is critically important to help level the playing field against patent assertion entities, which we know as patent trolls. It helps dry up the financial incentives that allow patent trolls to thrive.

E-rate modernization and reform – The FCC has on its docket E-rate modernization.  This program has connected 100,000 schools and libraries to the Internet since its inception in 1996.  Now the program needs to be updated to meet the modern needs of schools and libraries.   Cisco has made 5 major recommendations for reform in our white paper, “High Speed Broadband in Every Classroom: The Promise of a Modernized E-Rate Program.”  We will continue to work with the FCC to get E-rate reform over the finish line in 2014.

Adding more mobile spectrum – Also in front of the FCC is an effort to create more spectrum for WiFi.  There is a looming spectrum crunch in this country, and by 2017, there will be 67 times more mobile internet traffic than in 2007.  That’s like adding double the cars on the beltway each year for the next five years.  We need an all-of-the-above policy on spectrum, and a critical component is more spectrum for wifi in the 5 GHz band as part of a larger effort to add more mobile spectrum.

Trade -  The U.S. has a robust trade agenda in front of it in  2014, and we’re hopeful that there will be significant progress in more areas.  The U.S. made substantial progress in Bali last week.  Now the hard work to get agreements finalized, approved, and ratified must be done.  Trade is critical to helping U.S. companies grow and thrive in overseas markets.

That’s four major issues there.  As my grandmother would say, that’s not chopped liver.

So even in an election year, there’s a considerable amount of work that can and should be done.

 

Statement by Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler on House Passage of the “Innovation Act”

“The House of Representatives today took measured and reasonable steps against the misuse of the legal system by patent assertion entities, by passing legislation to dry up the financial incentives that allow patent assertion entities to thrive.

As a company that has a portfolio of over 10,000 US patents by dint of our strong culture of innovation, we care about a patent system that rewards true innovation — and we oppose misuse of that system by those who use the costs and uncertainty of litigation to extract unearned gains or to assert patents that should never have been issued.

At a time when most issues in front of Congress are frozen in gridlock, this bill passed with a strong bipartisan majority, 325-90.  Members clearly recognize that patent trolls are a drag on our economy and on innovation.

The fight now moves to the Senate, where I am hopeful that a similar bipartisan majority will take action against this growing problem.

On behalf of Cisco, I’d like to thank Chairman Bob Goodlatte for his leadership on this issue, as well as Representatives Zoe Lofgren, George Holding, Anna Eshoo, and so many others for their support.  The fight is not yet over, but today was a major step in the right direction.”

Statement by Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler on House Judiciary Committee Passage of the “Innovation Act”

“For years, patent assertion entities – otherwise known as patent trolls – have been targeting businesses large and small with frivolous lawsuits, threat letters, and intimidation tactics.  Lately, the problem has been getting worse, with 60% of new lawsuits filed by patent assertion entities, up from 25% in 2007.

Today, the House Judiciary Committee took a significant step toward curbing the worst patent troll abuses when it approved the Innovation Act by a strong bipartisan vote of 33-5.

The legislation is sponsored by Chairman Bob Goodlatte and is co-sponsored by fellow Judiciary Committee members Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and George Holding (R-NC), as well as Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), among others.  The legislation dries up the financial incentives that have allowed patent trolls to thrive and significantly increases transparency.

Let me thank the House Judiciary Committee members for their leadership.  Cisco stands ready to work with our leaders in Congress as the bill moves to the House floor and the ultimately over to the Senate for consideration.”

The FCC’s Moment is Now

With Senate confirmation of incoming FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Republican Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, the FCC is now back at full strength.  A full plate of issues critical to the future of innovation and the national economy now awaits the five men and women who sit atop the agency.

Most FCC leadership teams are lucky if they get to decide one, maybe two, policy decisions of significant impact on the course of innovation and the national economy.  This leadership team has the opportunity to be the decision-makers on a number of critical matters. It is the FCC’s moment.

Among the key issues is radio spectrum -- both in the licensed cellular and unlicensed Wi-Fi bands.  By 2017, the amount of mobile traffic moving over networks will be 67 times what it was in 2007.  Wi-Fi networks now carry half of all US Internet traffic, a number which will grow to two-thirds by 2017.  There is bipartisan agreement that more spectrum must be made available to ensure we can meet consumer demand, which is growing as a result of our ever-increasing reliance on smartphones and tablets, and the video and other content we consume every day.

The prior leadership of the FCC has successfully identified, and teed up, a number of spectrum bands that can be made available for broadband – 600 MHz, 1755-1780 MHz, 3.5 GHz, and 5 GHz.   Now these proceedings must be decided. The issues in these dockets are difficult ones – transitioning spectrum from existing uses to new uses, and in some cases sharing spectrum — and are not susceptible to easy resolution.  The FCC’s actions to resolve these matters over the next 12-18 months will determine whether our regulatory system is up to the challenges that technology change and consumer demand have laid at its feet.

And as the FCC swings into decision-making mode on spectrum, so too will it need to decide how to modernize and streamline the E-Rate program.  E-Rate is the cornerstone of America’s effort to connect schools and libraries to the Internet.  Since the program’s inception 15 years ago, it has connected 100,000 schools to the Internet. But the needs of modern districts and classrooms are much different than they were 15 years ago.  Fifteen years ago, having a dial-up connection in a classroom was considered cutting edge.  Today, we need 25 students at a time – in classroom after classroom — to be able to connect to video content over a wireless network.  Among others things, this requires ensuring that there not just be good connections to schools, but within schools as well.   Cisco has developed 5 major recommendations on E-Rate, to ensure that there will be high speed broadband in every classroom in America.  Our recommendations can be found here.

Finally, we’d like to congratulate Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner O’Rielly on their confirmations, and we stand ready to work with them – and the other FCC Commissioners – to find practical solutions to the significant telecommunications challenges facing our nation.

Statement by Cisco General Counsel Mark Chandler on Introduction of the “Innovation Act”

“Cisco applauds introduction of the Innovation Act,  legislation which aims to address the growing problem of patent assertion entities, often called patent trolls.

“According to a new study released this week, the problem is getting worse.  Nearly 60 percent of new patent lawsuits are being filed by patent assertion entities, up from 25% in 2007.  They are targeting legitimate businesses with threat letters and costly lawsuits, in the hope for a quick and easy settlement.  According to one estimate, these profiteers cost American businesses $29 billion in 2011.  This is a problem that cries out for legislative action.

“The legislation introduced today by Chairman Goodlatte and others goes a long way toward addressing the issues.  It helps dry up the financial incentives that have allowed patent trolls to thrive and significantly increases transparency.

“We stand ready to work with Chairman Goodlatte and his cosponsors as the bill moves through the legislative process, and we are especially grateful for the support of Cisco’s local Representatives Eshoo, Holding and Lofgren for their cosponsorship of this important legislation to address a major challenge faced by America’s technology industry.”