The Switchboard: FCC chairman urges wireless industry to unlock phones

November 15, 2013

Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech policy stories you need to read.

New FCC chairman tells wireless carriers to unlock cellphones. "In one of his first days on the job, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has asked the CTIA Wireless Association to move quickly toward unlocking phones for consumers," Ars Technica reports. "It became illegal for consumers to unlock phones on their own earlier this year because of a ruling by the Librarian of Congress, who is responsible for handing out exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act."

White spaces anyone? Google opens its spectrum database to developers. "All of those unused frequencies that linger between TV channels, called white spaces, are ripe for the taking, and starting today network builders and device makers can start using them, with a little help from Google," GigaOm reports. "The internet giant was one of a handful of companies approved by the FCC to run a white spaces database, and on Thursday Google is opening up that database to all comers. That will allow would-be networkers to identify unused TV spectrum in their area and stake a claim on the airwaves."

Official: Hackers tried repeatedly to attack Obamacare Web site. "Hackers have attempted more than a dozen cyber attacks against the Obamacare website, according to a top Homeland Security Department official," CNN reports. "The attacks, which are under investigation, failed, said the official. Authorities also are investigating a separate report of a tool designed to put heavy strain on HealthCare.gov through a so-called distributed denial of service. It does not appear to have been activated."

White House meets with tech companies, advocates on patent reform. "The White House held a meeting Thursday with tech companies and advocacy groups to discuss issues with the U.S. patent system," the Hill reports. "They focused on 'recent work aimed at combating patent trolls’ abuse of our Nation’s strong protections for intellectual property,' a spokesman from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) said in a statement."

Google Books ruling is a huge victory for online innovation. "It's taken almost a decade, but the courts have finally handed down a ruling on Google's audacious project to scan millions of books to build a book search engine," I wrote Thursday. "The ruling is a decisive victory for Google, copyright's fair use doctrine and online innovation."

More stories

FCC relaxes rule limiting foreign ownership of media stations (Washington Post)

NSA director: Snowden has leaked up to 200,000 docs (The Hill)

Bills would curb tracking of and advertising to children on Internet (Washington Post)

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Brian Fung · November 14, 2013