CES 2012: What feds need to know

The 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show is reputed to be a week-long celebration of gadget fetishism -- and make no mistake, super-sized TVs, powerful ultrabooks and "smart" everything were on display. But this year's show also brought serious policy to forefront, including a new federal mobile strategy, the coming spectrum crunch and hotly debated anti-piracy legislation.

At CES' government conference Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel announced a new roadmap to accelerate federal adoption of mobile technology with the goals of decreasing government operating costs and increasing the mobility of the federal workforce. He also unveiled a new website, National Dialogue on the Federal Mobility Strategy, where the public can submit and vote on ideas through Jan. 20.

"Within a year, I expect the government to change the way we work – to start embracing mobility-enabling technology across the federal workforce in a coordinated way, and to start working on plans to deliver mobile-accessible content and services to the American people," VanRoekel wrote after the event.

But mobility, and the bulk of CES 2012 products, rely on connectivity. Federal Communication Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski pushed for incentive auctions and universal broadband by the end of the decade according to CNET.

"We're in the early stages of a mobile revolution that is sparking an explosion in wireless traffic. Without action, demand for spectrum will soon outstrip supply," Genachowski said in a speech. He called on Congress to authorize the FCC to hold auctions -- designed to encourage owners to return unused portions -- and reallocate unlicensed spectrum.

Anti-piracy legislation was also a popular topic for debate. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) appeared with Consumer Electronics Association Chief Executive Gary Shapiro to drum up support for Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act, an alternate anti-piracy bill to the Stop Online Piracy Act [SOPA] in the House and the Protect IP Act  [PIPA] in the Senate. Though SOPA and PIPA are designed to shut down foreign websites that sell copyrighted or counterfeit goods, Wyden, Issa and other critics say the bills may infringe on free speech and could profoundly impact innovation and architecture of the Internet. SOPA is headed for markup in the House judiciary and PIPA is scheduled for a Senate vote Jan. 24.

“This is a crucial window here for those who want to see the net come out of this debate without this enormous collateral damage,” Wyden said, according to Forbes. “We are not prepared to say that this juggernaut for innovation and freedom and citizen empowerment, the Internet, ought to be dealt such a serious body blow in the name of copyright.”

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