He's old enough to remember the original Tomorrowland. And now, he's helping it happen -- today. He's Mitchell Lazarus: a former psychology professor and MIT engineering instructor -- and now a top attorney cutting to the edges of communications technology in his practice before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Hardware is Mitch's focus at Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C. -- specifically, devices that require FCC approval before they can prove their worth in the market. For Mitch, 2004 was a year of cutting edge firsts: new rules that make it possible to deliver broadband Internet services over power lines; first approvals of new classes of wireless devices that link video gear and computers into a digital home network, and locate people and objects with unprecedented precision; and first approval for a new generation of radio technology that will make both cell phones and emergency communications systems faster, better and cheaper.
Plug-in broadband Internet service via the nearest electric socket "will turn the industry upside down," Mitch says, "and give new meaning to the term, 'creative outlet.'" The electric grid serves virtually all schools and businesses in America and nearly all homes. This makes infrastructure costs much lower than for new fiber build-outs. As a result, delivering Internet access via power lines is "potentially cheaper than cable modem and DSL based services," Mitch says. "And the performance is great!" Products developed by his client, CURRENT Technologies, LLC, promise to be significant tools to bridge the digital divide in the same way that the nation's rural electrification program brought tremendous benefit to less developed parts of the country during the last century.
However you get your broadband, another new approval, which Mitch helped along this year, promises to flexibly link convergent media and computing devices into a unified home network. Using a radio technique known as ultra- wideband, a new generation of television sets, DVD players, set-top cable boxes, computers, cameras and other devices will talk to each other through quick transmission bursts -- allowing users within a home or office to share content at unprecedented data speeds. Mitch helped his client, Freescale Semiconductor, Inc., lead a six-year effort that first focused on creating FCC rules to permit use of ultra-wideband, and then culminated in certification of Freescale-based devices that make such local networks possible. "The market will see new possibilities as ultra-wideband network devices simplify life for consumers. We'll finally get rid of those tangles of wires behind everybody's computer and TV," Mitch notes.
Another of Mitch's clients, Ubisense, Inc., received the first-ever FCC certification for a pioneering application of ultra-wideband that locates people and objects in a building to within six inches -- in real time.
Still another client, Vanu, Inc., is a global pioneer in "software defined" and "cognitive" radios that provide more effective and efficient use of spectrum to improve both public safety and everyday cell phone communications. Vanu, with Mitch's assistance, is working with the FCC to refine the rules for software defined and cognitive radios. A Vanu product recently received the first-ever FCC approval for a software defined radio. While police, fire, ambulance and other public safety personnel today must carry multiple radios to communicate with other public safety organizations, a software defined radio will allow seamless communications with multiple safety agencies.
In an era of national threat, such communications capability is invaluable. This same technology can also make it faster, cheaper and quicker for cell phones to automatically use alternate spectrum whenever traffic overwhelms a subscriber's primary service provider or when a caller is far from a primary provider's own tower. "Software defined radios will make communications smarter and more efficient," notes Mitch, "whether for safety or convenience."
In all, 2004 has been a banner year for a new generation of FCC-approved devices now coming to market with guidance from the same attorney, Mitchell Lazarus -- whose job it is to help bring tomorrow into the present.
(Mitchell Lazarus is a member of Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C. of Arlington, Virginia)
Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C.
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