• The FCC has announced grants of approximately $9 million to 20 schools and libraries to provide wireless Internet to students. It builds on the FCC’s modernization of the E-rate program last fall, which previously supported “on-campus” connectivity only. Projects selected for funding include off-campus access to e-textbooks, connectivity for netbooks for students living in remote areas, and access to flexible, online education programs for home-bound students. The projects will be funded in the 2011-12 school year. For more information, including a complete list of the schools selected, click here.
  • State and local interest groups have come out in opposition to HR 1002, the Wireless Tax Fairness Act of 2011, which is currently under consideration in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would impose a five-year moratorium on “discriminatory” wireless taxes imposed by states and localities. In a letter to Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Tex., Chair of the Committee, the National Association of Counties, National League of Cities, the United States Conference of Mayors, the International City/County Management Association, Government Finance Officers Association, and National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors wrote that it would be unfair to give preferential treatment to the wireless industry, and that the legislation would negatively impact state and local budgets. “This legislation represents an unwarranted federal intrusion, as it carves out one sector of the communications industry for favorable tax treatment. It creates an uneven playing field and unfair competition for other communications service providers,” the letter states. The wireless industry, including its trade association, CTIA, supports the bill, arguing that the nationwide average tax and fee rate for wireless products and services is 16.3% - more than twice the 7% tax rate for general goods and services. To read HR 1002, click here.
  • The U.S. Army is completing a pilot program to test the use of smartphones and tablets in combat situations. The six-week trial began on June 6 in training areas of New Mexico and Texas, with over 300 Android, iPhone and Windows Phone devices and Apple, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard tablets being tested. Troops participating in the program are using smartphones to text message updates about their surroundings, send pictures with an attached GPS location, view maps, and fill out reports. Though there have been a few hiccups with some of the devices, including connection failure due to poor service in remote areas and operating system bugs, the devices have been well-received by the test users and have proven resilient in sandstorms and under other harsh conditions. Ed Mazzanti, Deputy Director of Requirements Integration for the Army Capabilities Integration Center, acknowledged that at the current time the Army does not have the level of encryption needed to fully integrate the phones and tablets into mission-command systems. He stated, however, that “there could be some limited deployments even this year, tied to tactical radios that supply the encryption that’s needed.”