Government Shutdown Delays Launch of New Tech Products

It’s day 21 of the US government shutdown, and the tech industry is starting to feel the heat.

 

Tech lovers may see fewer cutting-edge gadgets hitting the market in the next few months.

That’s because the Federal Communications Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and other US agencies that certify the safety of consumer-electronics devices are closed due to the government shutdown, now in its 21st day.

And if the government doesn’t reopen soon, the shutdown could also affect the rollout of the next generation of wireless networks, built around 5G technology that promises to make them significantly faster and more responsive.

Trade group the Telecommunications Industry Association, which represents makers of telecom gear, said Friday that the shutdown is slowing the introduction of new connected devices that need certification from the FCC and that the closure could ultimately hamper 5G deployments.

The shutdown “comes at a vital moment when the US is competing to stay ahead of the world in the race to 5G,” said TIA Government Affairs SVP Cinnamon Rogers. If companies can’t get their required FCC thumbs-up, there’ll be a “serious and negative impact on the approval of new connected devices that are designed to enable both 5G deployment and the full ecosystem of next generation technologies that 5G will support,” he added in a statement.

The partial shutdown, which began Dec. 22 after the House of Representatives and Senate failed to come to agreement on President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion to fund work on a border wall, doesn’t look to be ending anytime soon. Neither congressional Democrats nor Trump show signs of caving to the other’s demands.

The impasse is having real economic consequences for 800,000 federal workers, who on Friday didn’t receive their first paycheck since the shutdown started. But the ripple effects are now starting to be felt more widely, including in the tech industry, where some device makers are being forced to put product launches on hold.

What’s being hit by the shutdown

The FCC officially ceased most operations Jan. 3 but kept some going, such as work on the 5G spectrum auction currently underway. But the agency furloughed more than 80 percent of its staff and shuttered several databases used by certification bodies authorized to work with product developers and labs.

The FCC requires most new devices that emit radio frequency energy to be certified to ensure that the energy doesn’t harm humans or interfere with other products or services that use radio spectrum. Almost all the actual testing is outsourced to FCC-authorized companies or Telecommunications Certification Bodies. For many products, though, the FCC must provide the final sign-off.

When the agency detailed its plans for the shutdown, it spelled out that these third parties wouldn’t “be able to upload applications for equipment authorization or issue grants of certification,” because they’d lack access to the necessary database.

“Any product with a transmitter in it is not getting certified until the shutdown ends,” said Ron Quirk, an attorney heading up the IoT practice for Marashlian & Donahue PLLC. “And if it’s not been certified by the FCC, manufacturers and equipment suppliers can’t sell it, or even market it, in the US.”

What kinds of products are we talking about? Think new phones, tablets, Wi-Fi routers and a host of internet-of-things gadgets, like the net-connected ball that watches your pets, the connected sensors for your home water system to combat leaks and waste, or the $400 internet-connected juicer.

And it’s not just FCC-certified devices. The shutdown could also impact some consumer-electronics products that’re considered medical devices and thus need approval from the FDA. That includes health care devices shown off at CES 2019 in Las Vegas this week: things like DIY sonograms, watches that measure your blood pressure, or vests that alert patients they’re in heart failure.

It’s unclear how many consumer-electronics products may be affected by the closure, since it’s hard to know where specific companies and devices were in the approval process when the shutdown started. Neither the FCC nor the FDA returned calls seeking comment.

But the list of new IoT devices needing FCC approval alone could be in the thousands, considering the number of new gadgets expected to flood the market over the next few years. In 2017, there were 8.4 billion connected devices. The volume should hit 20.4 billion by 2020, according to analyst firm Gartner.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel took to Twitter to comment on the sweeping effects of the shutdown on equipment makers.

“Go ahead, take a look at the back of the nearest electronic device,” she wrote in her tweet. “You’ll see an [FCC] number. The agency certifies every innovative mobile phone, television, and computer that emits radio frequency before they can head to market. Guess what is not happening during the shutdown?”

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The FDA’s policy for device certification during the shutdown is somewhat different than the FCC’s. The agency has said it’ll still continue to process applications submitted before the shutdown took effect, but it won’t process any new applications. Still, attorneys from the law firm Hogan Lovells, who shepherd clients through the FDA approval process, say the backlog that’s growing during the shutdown will be a problem once the government reopens.

“Depending on the length of the shutdown, medical product centers may well be looking at a sizable backlog of applications to triage when the agency is fully operational again,” they wrote in a blog last month. “Thus, if the current shutdown persists, industry should anticipate that certain agency delays will likely continue for some time.”

Smaller companies to feel the heat

Experts also point out that it’s smaller startups, rather than huge tech companies, that’ll suffer the most from the shutdown.

“It’s companies focused on creating a ‘unicorn’ business around one or two key innovative products that will be affected most,” said Marc Martin, a partner at Perkins Coie LLP, who heads the firm’s communications industry group. “They don’t have a vast array of products in the market to keep them going.”

By contrast, companies like Apple, Samsung, and Sony might not be happy about putting their plans on hold, but delaying a product launch by weeks or even months “isn’t going to bring down their business,” Martin said.

Still, Martin and Quirk say their clients aren’t freaking out just yet. The timing of the shutdown, over the holidays, has likely softened the blow, since it’s typically a slower period. But concern is growing.

“It’s one thing if the shutdown lasts a few weeks,” Martin said. “Everyone can take some delay in stride. But if it goes on another month or two months, I’m going to be getting some angry calls.”


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Author: Marguerite Reardon
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Signs That China Is Bullish On Cryptocurrency Future

Over the last two or three years, China’s relationship with blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies can be easily regarded as a love-hate one.

However, as of late, there have been numerous reports hinting at the incredible attention the Chinese government towards cryptocurrencies. In fact, there have been numerous reports of a cryptocurrency launched by the Chinese communist government.

Considering China’s economic power, its international prowess, and its immense population, there’s no wonder that such a cryptocurrency could very well surpass Ethereum and even Bitcoin in popularity.

Before we dive deeper into the subject and analyze all the signs that China is bullish on cryptocurrencies, we will discuss China’s past events related to crypto, to the country’s current stance regarding cryptocurrencies and blockchain, as well as previous developments regarding legislative decisions.

Past Legislative Decisions Regarding Cryptos

If you’ve been passionate about crypto for the last two years, you probably remember that one of China’s most controversial legislative decisions regarding cryptocurrencies was to ban ICOs and any activity if any entity is raising virtual currencies.

The Chinese government declared then that the selling and distribution of tokens is an illegal fundraising method and, hence, a form of financial fraud punishable by law. Things didn’t stop here, as the Chinese government also blocked all websites related to crypto trading and ICOs, including foreign platforms. Still, regulatory bodies have been more favorable.

Following these decisions, advertisements for cryptos were also removed from the mainstream media. Back in April 2018, China put a halt to hosted blockchain events as well. So, considering all these aggressive and extreme decisions that display a rather bad stance on blockchain technology and cryptocurrency, it’s surprising that China is, in fact, bullish on blockchain and cryptocurrency developments.

China’s Current Stance On Cryptocurrencies

According to People’s Bank of China (PBOC), cryptocurrency investments (at least uncontrolled ones) can harm the Chinese economy and potentially pose a risk for the Yuan.

In short, the government has made its stance on crypto very clear: it doesn’t want them, and will not tolerate them, especially if they are external and not entirely controlled by the ruling power of China.

Be that as it may, the PBOC also released various statements saying that the research and development of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology is a top priority for China. This means that China’s central bank acknowledges the fact that crypto will replace paper money inevitably and this requires some research in order to take the best possible decision.

Interestingly enough, it is said that the Chinese government has invested and backed up various local crypto projects, such as Xiong’An Global Blockchain Innovation Fund, which supports many blockchain startups. According to several sources, the government offered at least $3 billion to fund emerging blockchain projects.

President Xi Jinping has also made a public televised appearance and called blockchain a “breakthrough” technology.

Why China Might Need Its Own Cryptocurrency

Despite all the bans and the controversial attitude towards blockchains, the national cryptocurrency started to circulate in two Chinese cities (Shenzhen and Guiyang). The national cryptocurrency in China is far from being a secret, as Zhang Yifeng, the chief of science and technology at the Banknote Blockchain Technology Institute admitted on numerous occasions that China is working on it.

The PBOC needs a digital coin in order to bring all cryptocurrencies back under the state control. It’s worth noting that, before the ban, China actually had one of the largest trading volumes of all countries. Not only that, but China also has a big number of crypto enthusiasts and crypto miners, not to mention crypto mining farms.

Ether and Bitcoin (as well as other cryptos) are still used in China to conduct illegal transactions and money laundering operations. The Chinese government wants to introduce its own cryptocurrency to solve these problems and also to make miners switch to mining a government-backed cryptocurrency. With these moves, the Chinese government hopes to reinstate control over all financial operations within the country.

There’s still not much information whether the coin will be ChinaCoin or CryptoYuan, but one thing is for sure: China will join the ranks of Russia and Venezuela who both have the same types of financial aspirations.

One interesting point of view is related to what effect will this cryptocurrency have on the crypto market once it hits mainstream adoption in China. There are those who are afraid that this Chinese cryptocurrency will actually crash the Bitcoin, Ripple, and Ethereum-powered market.

Conclusion

Considering everything that’s been said, it’s safe to say that China is not truly bearish or bullish on cryptocurrencies. The government does indeed accept the inevitability of crypto dominance over other traditional payment systems, but it still wants to retain full control over all transactions within the country.

In fact, China is very bullish on blockchain development and the government seems to have a long-term plan that started with the banning of cryptocurrencies last year. China’s authority finance institutions have announced that cryptocurrency and blockchain development will be a top priority for 2018 and, so far, everything acted out accordingly.

Many crypto experts agree that China will either “break” the crypto market or lead the charge towards a new bull market. It’s important not to forget that China’s influence on the international cryptocurrency market is immense.


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Author: UseTheBitcoin
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Ohio Becomes The First State To Allow Taxpayers To Pay Tax Bills Using Cryptocurrency

By now, most taxpayers understand that there are tax consequences associated with cryptocurrency, but ironically, until recently you couldn’t pay those taxes using cryptocurrency. That’s about to change: With the launch of OhioCrypto.com, Ohio will become the first state in the nation to accept tax payments using cryptocurrency.

 

“We are proud to make Ohio the first state in the nation to accept tax payments via cryptocurrency,” said Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. “We’re doing this to provide Ohioans more options and ease in paying their taxes and also to project Ohio’s leadership in embracing blockchain technology.”

Under the new payment system, not all taxpayers can make payment in cryptocurrency: It’s limited to businesses operating in Ohio. Offering the service to individual taxpayers is on the agenda, but Mandel hasn’t indicated any specific timeframe for the expansion.

Here’s how it works: If you operate a business in the State of Ohio and you have a tax bill, you can register online at OhioCrypto.com to pay your taxes. You can make payments on any of 23 eligible business-related taxes (you can find a list here), and there is no transaction limit.

The Treasurer’s office isn’t holding, mining or investing in cryptocurrency for payments or processing. All cryptocurrency payments are processed by a third-party cryptocurrency payment processor, BitPay. Those payments are immediately converted to dollars before being deposited into a state account.

“The State of Ohio is the first major government entity offering its citizens the option to pay with cryptocurrency,” said Stephen Pair, cofounder and CEO of BitPay. “With BitPay, Ohio can leverage blockchain technology and benefit from reduced risk and identity fraud as well as enabling quick and easy payments from any device anywhere in the world and get paid in dollars. This vision is at the forefront of moving blockchain payments into mainstream adoption.”

You’ll need to use Payment Protocol-compatible wallets to pay. Those include BitPay Wallet; Copay Wallet; BTC.com Wallet; Mycelium Wallet; Edge Wallet (formerly Airbitz); Electrum Wallet; Bitcoin Core Wallet; Bitcoin.com Wallet; BRD Wallet (breadwallet); and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) Wallets. If you don’t have one of these wallets, OhioCrypto.com advises you to create one and send some coin to it.

Currently, the Treasurer’s office only accepts Bitcoin for payment, but the plan is to add other cryptocurrencies in the future.

There is a cost associated with paying in cryptocurrency (it’s worth noting taxpayers who pay via credit cards or debit cards are also subject to fees from payment providers but are not assessed fees through the Treasurer’s office). Taxpayers paying using cryptocurrency are charged a transaction fee, network fee and miner fee. The miner fee will be displayed in the taxpayer’s wallet and not on OhioCrypto.com. The transaction fee will be 0% during an initial three-month introductory period, and after that time, it will be 1%. Fees are user fees and are not supplemented by state funds. According to the Treasurer’s Office, “The State of Ohio will not pay Bitpay or any other company fees for processing or other services relating to the acceptance of crypto.”

It will be interesting to see if other state governments follow suit. A bill to accept bitcoin as payment for taxes was ultimately voted down, 264 to 74, by the New Hampshire legislature in 2016. A similar measure in Utah also failed to pass, while a bill to accept crypto for payments in Georgia stalled earlier this year. However, states are still trying: Arizona’s state legislature actually passed a crypto payment measure, but it was vetoed on May 16, 2018.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) doesn’t currently accept cryptocurrency as payment either. By law, the IRS issues Regulations (interpretations of the tax code) and other guidance about the kinds of payment which can be used to pay taxes. The IRS has authorized payment by check, money order, credit card and debit card—but not by Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency.


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Author: Kelly Phillips Erb
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UK Lawmakers Recommend Tougher Laws on Facebook

The U.K. government should increase oversight of social media like Facebook and election campaigns to protect democracy in the digital age, a parliamentary committee has recommended in a scathing report on fake news, data misuse and interference by Russia.

The interim report by the House of Commons’ media committee to be released Sunday said democracy is facing a crisis because the combination of data analysis and social media allows campaigns to target voters with messages of hate without their consent.

Tech giants like Facebook, which operate in a largely unregulated environment, are complicit because they haven’t done enough to protect personal information and remove harmful content, the committee said.

“The light of transparency must be allowed to shine on their operations and they must be made responsible, and liable, for the way in which harmful and misleading content is shared on their sites,”

committee Chairman Damian Collins said in a statement.

The study was due to be published Sunday, but a copy was leaked on Friday by Dominic Cummings, the director of the official campaign group backing Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Social media companies are under scrutiny worldwide following allegations that political consultant Cambridge Analytica used data from tens of millions of Facebook accounts to profile voters and help U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign. The committee is also investigating the impact of fake news distributed via social media sites.

Collins ripped Facebook for allowing Russian agencies to use its platform to spread disinformation and influence elections.

“I believe what we have discovered so far is the tip of the iceberg,” he said, adding that more work needs to be done to expose how fake accounts target people during elections. “The ever-increasing sophistication of these campaigns, which will soon be helped by developments in augmented reality technology, make this an urgent necessity.”

The committee recommended that the British government increase the power of the Information Commissioner’s Office to regulate social media sites, update electoral laws to reflect modern campaign techniques, and increase the transparency of political advertising on social media.

Prime Minister Theresa May has pledged to address the issue in a so-called White Paper to be released in the fall. She signaled her unease last year, accusing Russia of meddling in elections and planting fake news to sow discord in the West.

The committee began its work in January 2017, interviewing 61 witnesses during 20 hearings that took on an investigatory tone not normally found in such forums in the House of Commons.

The report criticized Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg for failing to appear before the panel and said his stand-ins were “unwilling or unable to give full answers to the committee’s questions.”

One of the committee’s recommendations is that the era of light-touch regulation for social media must come to an end.

Social media companies can no longer avoid oversight by describing themselves as platforms, because they use technology to filter and shape the information users see. Nor are they publishers, since that model traditionally commissions and pays for content.

“We recommend that a new category of tech company is formulated, which tightens tech companies’ liabilities, and which is not necessarily either a ‘platform’ or a ‘publisher,” the report said. “We anticipate that the government will put forward these proposals in its White Paper later this year.”

The committee also said that the Information Commissioner’s Office needs more money so it can hire technical experts to be the “sheriff in the Wild West of the internet.” The funds would come from a levy on the tech companies, much in the same way as the banks pay for the upkeep of the Financial Conduct Authority.

“Our democracy is at risk, and now is the time to act, to protect our shared values and the integrity of our democratic institutions,” the committee said.


Here at Dollar Destruction, we endeavour to bring to you the latest, most important news from around the globe. We scan the web looking for the most valuable content and dish it right up for you! The content of this article was provided by the source referenced. Dollar Destruction does not endorse and is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy, quality, advertising, products or other materials on this page. As always, we encourage you to perform your own research!

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Author: ZAINAB SHEIKH
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The Mostly Unspoken Hurdle to a Government Supported Cryptocurrency

This article in ComputerWorld provides a great snapshot on government adoption of anonymous cryptocurrencies. Technologists here argue that deployment of an anonymous cryptocurrency is in our future, yet none explain how existing anti-money laundering legislation will be addressed.

Arguing that cash is anonymous, and so no obstacles exist for anonymous crypto, is not a very astute observation relative to the current political environment. The US Government has passed seven increasingly restrictive Anti-Money Laundering Acts since 1986 designed to address terrorism and the rise in criminal activity:

“Last year, Garratt worked as a digital currency technical advisor to the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) in Switzerland. The BIS, whose purpose is to foster cooperation between central banks around the globe, has been exploring the role cryptocurrencies could play if nations begin backing them.

While the prospect of a government-backed digital currency that also provides anonymity may seem is far-fetched, Garratt noted that cash, too, is essentially a P2P process.

“It might sound strange to think about the central bank providing something that allows anonymity from itself, but that’s what cash is,” Garratt told attendees at the MIT event. “So, it’s not such a crazy thing.”

A government-backed digital currency could do away with banking fees that often target the poor who make many small, electronic payment transfers via services such as Western Union, while at the same time creating greater efficiencies. For example, the time it takes for to clear and settle funds could be greatly reduced, with  cryptography used to ensure privacy. Cryptographic keys controlling funds could be in a consumer’s control; the consumer could be issued a private key associated with their electronic funds and be able to use public keys for payments.”

Mercator started its Prepaid Service in 2005 and since then has conducted significant research evaluating the challenges associated with servicing low and moderate income families to bring them into the eCommerce and online banking world. The fact is this: Current AML and other government mandated legislation has made it extremely difficult to properly service this demographic in a sustainable way. Prepaid cards were initially thought to be the answer. Prepaid brought electronic banking to the underbanked by charging only for the transactions the consumer executed. Innovators provided overdraft protection at a cost so low it would make banks blush, yet step by step legislation was introduced that made these prepaid programs unsustainable or illegal. So technology isn’t the primary challenges associated with introducing a cryptocurrency, its politics.

Perhaps the greatest insight came for Robleh Ali, that questioned the basic premise that a cryptocurrency had to be deployed on a blockchain and then described a few logical use cases for a cryptocurrency:

“Robleh Ali, a digital currencies research scientist at the MIT Media Lab, said a government-backed digital currency wouldn’t necessarily have to exist on a distributed ledger, as bitcoin does today. It could be centrally administered by the Federal Reserve and other central banks.

The question central banks need to ask themselves is what are they trying to accomplish, he said.

“Do we want a token that can integrate with this new token economy? Then they may want to use an architecture that’s similar to those [bitcoin] tokens to issue fiat money,” Ali said.

In 2013, Garratt was involved in a multi-bank proof of concept called Project Jasper, which explored the use of blockchain as the basis for a new bank-to-bank digital payments system for large monetary transfers. So, for example, if a homeowner were to sell their house, banks could use the electronic distributed ledger to settle the transfer of funds.

If the Federal Reserve or other central banks were to back digital currency, it could take on many forms. For example, it could be operated as a closed system between banks for large money transfers, such as those used for daily clearance and settlement of thousands of smaller transactions. Or, it could open central bank accounts available for any consumer’s use, a type of virtual bank account.

The Fed could also issue a digital coin, similar to bitcoin, that would represent the stored value of fiat money.”

Or perhaps we need a cryptocurrency that can be easily integrated into the tokens currently being deployed by the card networks. Properly designed this would extend bank control over ownership while also enabling immediate worldwide acceptance. Of course, this bumps smack into the political issue of government control versus the private companies that control existing payment networks.


Here at Dollar Destruction, we endeavour to bring to you the latest, most important news from around the globe. We scan the web looking for the most valuable content and dish it right up for you! The content of this article was provided by the source referenced. Dollar Destruction does not endorse and is not responsible for or liable for any content, accuracy, quality, advertising, products or other materials on this page. As always, we encourage you to perform your own research!

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Author: Tim Sloane
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