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Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee

Timothy B. Lee covers technology policy, including copyright and patent law, telecom regulation, privacy, and free speech. He also writes about the economics of technology. He has previously written for Ars Technica and Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter or send him email.

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Brian Fung

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Andrea Peterson

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government. She also delves into the societal impacts of technology access and how innovation is intertwined with cultural development.

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Posted at 02:11 PM ET, 03/02/2012

The Circuit: FCC looks at blackouts, mobile payments, cybersecurity

FCC looks at cellphone blackouts: The Federal Communications Commission announced Friday that it would review the intentional shutdown of wireless networks by government authorities after transit officials in the San Francisco area shut down cellphone networks amid protests.

“Any intentional interruption of wireless service, no matter how brief or localized, raises significant concerns and implicates substantial legal and policy questions,” The Washington Post reported the FCC said in its notice. “We are concerned that there has been insufficient discussion, analysis, and consideration of the questions raised by intentional interruptions of wireless service by government authorities.”

Eliminating plastic: Major retailers including Wal-Mart and Target are working on a mobile payment system to compete with the likes of Google Wallet. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, about two dozen retailers are working on a mobile payment system, throwing them into a race with banks, credit card networks and notable tech and telecom companies.

Citing unnamed people “with direct knowledge of the project,” the report says that retailers hope that a mobile payment system will increase customer loyalty.

Cybersecurity threats: In remarks to cybersecurity professionals, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller said that he believes that cyber attacks are becoming the country’s largest security threat, the Associated Press reported.

Mueller, who made similar remarks at a Senate hearing in January, told attendees at the RSA conference in San Francisco that the United States has to find a way to “stop the bleeding” caused by data breaches.

The Senate and House have been pushing cybersecurity as an important agenda item in recent weeks, debating what — if any — regulatory role the government should take over private companies with systems deemed critical to the nation’s infrastructure.

Yelp IPO: The online urban guide Yelp surprised market-watchers Friday morning by breaking out in its first day of public trading and jumping nearly 60 percent to a high of $26 per share around 10 a.m. The company had priced shares at $15 on Thursday night. As of 11 a.m., the company was trading at $24.49 per share.

The company has yet to turn a profit, but that didn’t seem to faze investors who have cooled on other recently public tech stocks such as Groupon and Zynga. Yelp, founded in 2004, was valued at $900 million ahead of its debut.

Apple streaming: According to a report from the New York Post, Apple is driving a hard bargain with content providers and wants to control the pricing of the service and share in the profits.

“They want everything for nothing,” an unnamed “media executive” told the newspaper. The report is a little unclear about what, exactly, Apple wants to do with its television service, such as when video would be available to streaming customers, and whether customers would be able to get videos from individual channels or would have to buy bundles of content.

U.N. Internet treaty: Debate continues over a United Nations treaty that would hand Internet regulation over to the International Telecommunications Union.

In remarks at the Mobile World Congress on Tuesday, Google chairman Eric Schmidt said that doing so would be a “disaster” that could have a “Balkanizing” effect on the Internet.

Internet openness, he said, was a great accomplishment, and that international regulation would threaten that openness.

“Do not give that up easily. You will regret it,” Schmidt said in his remarks, which were later posted to YouTube. “You will hate it, because all of a sudden all that freedom, all that flexibility, you'll find it shipped away for one good reason after another.”

By  |  02:11 PM ET, 03/02/2012

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