Brendan Koerner

Brendan I. Koerner is a Markle fellow at the New America Foundation.

Recent Articles

Calling Plan

T he so-called Tauzin-Dingell Act, slated for a House vote this week, has seemingly spawned more drive-time radio ads than "Hooked on Phonics." The bill would allow the "Baby Bell" phone companies to offer long-distance data services without first abandoning their local monopolies, thus nixing a key regulatory provision of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Because interstate broadband is worth billions, the four titans of regional telecom -- Verizon, SBC, Qwest, and BellSouth -- have spent months saturating the airwaves with gooey messages about how Tauzin-Dingell will launch, say, North Dakota wheat farmers into the Internet Era. But the Bells doth advertise too much. Regardless of Tauzin-Dingell's fate, the remnants of 1984's Ma Bell breakup are well en route to becoming telecom's zillion-pound gorillas, thanks to the generous patronage of Michael K. Powell (Colin's son). As chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Powell's hands-off approach virtually assures that the...

Play Dead:

T he hardcore fans of Aibo, a popular robotic pet, are a creative, if geeky, bunch. Since 1999, when the lifelike toys first appeared beneath Christmas trees, hundreds of Aibo enthusiasts have programmed their charges to perform tricks unimagined in the boardrooms of Sony, the robot's creator. By expertly tweaking Aibo's code, hobbyists have enabled the robobeast to boogie to Madonna's "Vogue," double as a breadbox-sized surveillance camera, or growl "Bite my shiny metal robot ass!" All these behaviors are infinitely cooler than the bland caninelike moves that unenhanced Aibos perform. Rather than delight in its customers' passion, however, Sony is playing the Grinch. On October 26, Sony sent a stern letter to a man known as "AiboPet." The company voiced its displeasure with his Web site, HREF="http://www.AiboHack.com" TARGET="outlink">AiboHack.com, which offered such downloadable freebies as "Disco Aibo," a dance program, and "Brainbo," a voice-recognition package. Sony complained...

Onward, Christian Moguls

V ision is a favorite topic of Dr. Garth W. Coonce, a minor Christian-broadcasting magnate from Marion, Illinois. In his monthly newsletter, Partnership, he often muses on the sacred visions that have inspired him to amass 16 television stations, creating a 24-hour network that beams charismatic preachers like Creflo Dollar and Benny Hinn into devout homes. Coonce also likes to share the communiqu├ęs he still receives from the Almighty, who occasionally instructs him to expand his media holdings into, say, Detroit or greater Boston. "Perhaps it is good that God doesn't give us the big picture in the beginning," he wrote in the September 1999 issue of Partnership. "Seeing too much would likely scare us out of taking a single step." As he begins his 25th year in Christian broadcasting, Coonce must be especially thankful for the Lord's business smarts. After years of scraping by on goodwill offerings and souvenir sales, his nonprofit, commercial-free network just hit the corporate-welfare...