The Week in Tech Policy – July 30th Edition

In this edition of The Week in Tech Policy, we have stories on the online sales tax debate, online education, wireless spectrum and more.

Reshaping online education. In this July 20 post on his Taking Note blog, veteran NPR and PBS education reporter John Merrow explores the pros and cons of massive online open courses (MOOCs), noting what he calls a “solid overview” by The New York Times on the subject. “Today many of the nation’s leading universities are involved in one or more of the online learning efforts, pioneered by MIT and Harvard several years ago. Here’s a partial list: Duke, Johns Hopkins, Cal Tech, Michigan, Princeton and Rice.” Merrow writes, adding, “Many questions remain unanswered: How will students receive credit? How much will courses cost? What’s to prevent cheating?”

Realizing the full potential of wireless spectrum. On July 20, the Obama Administration released a report entitled “Realizing the Full Potential of Government-Held Spectrum to Spur Economic Growth”. According to the blog post from the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the report “provides valuable insight on innovative ways to meet President Obama’s goal of maintaining and enhancing American leadership in cutting-edge wireless services…”

Online sales tax issue revisited. Whether states should be able to collect online sales tax on items purchased by consumers from out-of-state retailers and businesses has been a contentious issue for both the e-commerce industry and lawmakers. The issue was revisited again by lawmakers last week at a House Judiciary Committee hearing, according to this July 25 story in CIO.com by writer Kenneth Corbin that outlines both sides of the debate.

Federal Trade Commission: Wireless phone bill “cramming” a problem. Responding to the Federal Communications Commission’s request for comment, the FTC said that the “cramming” of unauthorized charges on wireless phone bills poses a serious problem for American consumers. The FTC said in its comment that wireless providers should be required to give customers the option to block all third-party charges from their bills. “Mobile cramming is likely to continue to grow as cramming schemes expand beyond the landline platform and mobile phones are more commonly used for payments,” the FTC’s comment states. Ars Technica has this July 23 report on the news.

Let the games begin! As the world gathers to watch the 2012 London Olympic Games, they won’t necessarily gather around the TV. As media partner for these games, NBC will stream 3,500 hours of content in the U.S. alone, reports Ad Week, calling this year’s event the “first-ever truly digital Olympics.” Daily Download reports that this creates the opportunity for digital piracy on a massive scale. NBC has made a huge investment in the Olympics, and will protect their investment by watching for digital piracy, while ensuring the legal viewing experience is a positive one. As opined in Daily Download, “[b]eing able to stream months-worth of video is something we take for granted, but it is an enormous endeavor for NBC….If people are viewing pirated Olympic videos on other sites, who knows if NBC will provide such incredible coverage during the next games.”

Are we close to new national cybersecurity legislation? Cybersecurity has been a hot topic on Capitol Hill for the past several months, and it looks like lawmakers may pass legislation soon. On July 19, President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue in this op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. On July 26, Microsoft Vice President of U.S. Government Affairs Fred Humphries issued the following statement on the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, S. 3414: “The Cybersecurity Act of 2012, S. 3414, is an encouraging step in the legislative process. Microsoft supports Congress’ efforts to advance risk management practices, strengthen protection of critical infrastructure, and enhance appropriate information sharing about cyber-threats.” You can read Fred’s full statement here.

Thank you for reading The Week in Tech Policy. Come back to Microsoft on the Issues next Monday at 6 a.m. for the latest roundup of tech policy news.

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