Challenging and Changing UCITA
The lawyers who drafted the proposed Uniform Computer Information Transactions Act (UCITA), intended to standardize software contract language, are currently rethinking their wording in the face of mounting opposition from just about anyone who isn’t a vendor. Now the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL), the group of commercial law experts who wrote UCITA, is planning a November forum in Washington, D.C., where critics will be able to voice their objections to the document. In states that adopt it, UCITA would drastically limit vendor responsibility for software problems that might develop after the buyer opens the shrink-wrapped package. CIOs worry that UCITA’s provisions give the vendors an easy out when software doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.
As we noted in the April 15 issue, opponents have been gaining ground and blocking passage of UCITA legislation in many states. North Carolina, Iowa and West Virginia have even passed laws that make it hard for vendors to enforce UCITA-based contracts there. “Unless there is compromise, UCITA will only be passed in a few states,” says Dave McMahon, individual consumer representative for the Sacramento, Calif.-based Americans for Fair Electronic Commerce and Transactions, an anti-UCITA lobbying group.
NCCUSL’s chairman, Carlyle C. Ring, of the UCITA drafting committee, says the coming forum doesn’t mean UCITA is on its way out. “Many of the projects on uniform state laws go through a process of evolution,” he says.
At the November forum (no date had been announced at press time), anyone will be able to propose amendments to UCITA. Assuming some amendments are adopted, expect a new version of UCITA next summer. Meanwhile, the current version is on hold.
Famished for Frequency
Wireless vendors are currently lobbying the government to begin auctioning off the radio frequency spectrum used by the military. The idea is to accelerate the deployment of third-generation (3G) wireless services. The vendors contend that the Defense Department is hogging the primo frequencies?1755 to 1850MHz ?that most other countries plan to use to carry 3G signals. At a July 24 hearing of the Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Denny Strigl, president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, said that if we don’t follow suit, American wireless devices won’t work overseas.
The vendors say that the cost of moving military communications to another portion of the spectrum could be covered by the dollars raised by the auction. Making the switch would take 10 to 15 years, and some analysts think that that’s just about how long it will take CIOs to deploy 3G technology. Defense officials say they’re willing to do it as long as they get enough frequency to replace the slots they give up. Reps. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the telecommunications subcommittee, say the government needs a coherent strategy for allocating the spectrum for wireless services, of which promoting 3G technology would be a part.
But Michael King, senior industry analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner, says the vendors are blowing smoke. “A lot of other technologies can take care of this [problem],” King says. For example, new types of wireless radios and phones coming on the market will be able to operate on multiple frequencies, making the need to reallocate the spectrum moot. Like buying a hair dryer that works whether you’re in L.A. or London.