As the Federal Communications Commission nears a fateful decision on network neutrality, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Y2K all over again.
You may remember Dec. 31, 1999. That’s the last time the Internet was expected to die, because millions of computers were going to crash when their internal clocks failed to turn over to the year 2000. I sat in the Globe’s newsroom, waiting for the end. Nothing happened. It was quite a letdown.
Now here comes another “apocalypse.” On Dec 14, the FCC is expected to abandon the Obama administration’s policy on so-called Net neutrality, in which the government forces Internet providers to treat all data equally. Activists say it’s the end of the Internet as we know it, with giant Internet providers like Comcast and AT&T free to block or slow down access to key online services unless they’re paid extra to let the data flow.
But I’m betting hardly anything will change. Not the day after Dec. 14, the month after, or the year after.
I’m as subject to panic as the next guy, but I can’t see much reason to freak out over the supposed death of Net neutrality.
I’m on board with the principle that Internet carriers should not be allowed to block certain Internet services or deliberately slow them down to make them less accessible. Many activists go further and reject “paid prioritization,” or giving superior “fast lane” service to consumers willing to pay extra.
Serious breaches of Net neutrality are pretty hard to find. An activist group called Free Press published a “greatest hits” list of alleged violations. They found 12. Oops . . . make that 10. In two decades of widespread Internet use in America, they couldn’t find even a dozen significant violations, so Free Press padded the list with two cases from outside the United States. Even the remaining 10 are questionable cases that may have been driven by network security or traffic management disputes, rather than by efforts to stamp out rivals.
Still, the Net neutrality lobby, which includes massive users of Internet services such as Google and Netflix, wanted tougher regulatory protection. They got it in 2015, when the FCC decided to regulate the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
Some called it a life preserver for Internet freedom; I call it regulatory overkill on a massive scale. Even the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a staunch supporter of the Title II approach, warned in 2015 that a portion of the plan “sounds like a recipe for overreach and confusion.” Read the rest of this entry »
Advocates for ‘free and open Internet’ picket outside FCC.
Alt-left advocates for net neutrality, who say they want a “free and open internet,” want to ban the Drudge Report.
Elizabeth Harrington reports: Alt-left advocates for net neutrality, who say they want a “free and open internet,” want to ban the Drudge Report.
Members of the alt-left who have been tied to violent protests in the past picketed outside the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday in protest of Chairman Ajit Pai‘s proposal to reverse net neutrality rules. The FCC will vote to undue the Obama era Title II rule that classified Internet service providers as utilities, subjecting them to more federal regulation.
Protesters covering their faces held signs that read “Ban Drudge,” with a no symbol over the Drudge Report, the highly trafficked news website run by Matt Drudge. Other protesters held signs to ban other news websites, including Breitbart and InfoWars. Read the rest of this entry »
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai announced plans today to roll back net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration in 2015.
The FCC currently regulates Internet service providers (ISPs) under Title II regulations that essentially treat the internet as a public utility similar to the old phone monopoly. Proponents of net neutrality and the invocation of Title II regulations say that such oversight is necessary to ensure that the Internet remains “open” and ISPs don’t block sites or degrade offerings by rivals. Long a critic of Title II regulations, which were invoked after the FCC lost two court battles to regulate the Internet, Pai describes them as “a panoply of heavy-handed economic regulations that were developed in the Great Depression to handle Ma Bell.”
Scrapping these rules, Pai told Reason’s Nick Gillespie, won’t harm consumers or the public interest because there was no reason for them in the first place. The rationales were mere “phantoms that were conjured up by people who wanted the FCC for political reasons to overregulate the internet,” Pai told Gillespie. “We were not living in a digital dystopia in the years leading up to 2015.”
If left in place, however, the Title II rules could harm the commercial internet, which Pai described as “one of the most incredible free market innovations in history.”
“Companies like Google and Facebook and Netflix became household names precisely because we didn’t have the government micromanaging how the internet would operate,” said Pai, who noted that the Clinton-era decision not to regulate the Internet like a phone utility or a broadcast network was one of the most important factors in the rise of our new economy. Read the rest of this entry »
A telecommunications lawyer who has served on the FCC since May 2012, Pai is a free-market advocate who has been critical of new regulations adopted by Democrats in recent years.
“I look forward to working with the new administration, my colleagues at the commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans.”
Pai, 44, would take over for Tom Wheeler, a Democrat who stepped down on Friday. Wheeler’s term had not expired but Trump gets to designate a new chairman as Republicans gain the FCC majority.
“We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation.”
“I look forward to working with the new administration, my colleagues at the commission, members of Congress, and the American public to bring the benefits of the digital age to all Americans” Pai said.
A telecommunications lawyer who has served on the FCC since May 2012, Pai is a free-market advocate who has been sharply critical of new regulations adopted by Democrats in recent years.
He takes the chairman’s office amid reports that Trump’s advisors want to scale back the FCC’s authority.
“We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation and job creation,” Pai said in a speech last month looking ahead to Republican control of the FCC.
Pai, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from India, was associate general counsel of Verizon Communications Inc. from 2001-03 before working as a staffer at the U.S. Senate, the Justice Department and the FCC.
He sprinkles his speeches with pop-culture references and is adept at social media. During the net neutrality debate, he tweeted a photo of himself with the 332-page proposal and lamented that FCC rules didn’t allow him to make it public. Pai has pushed for FCC proposals to be released before commissioners vote on them.
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, a Georgetown University law professor and longtime consumer advocate, said Pai would be a “formidable opponent” for public interest groups. Read the rest of this entry »
Ads don’t work, polls don’t work, celebrities don’t work, media endorsements don’t work and ground games don’t work.
From The Hollywood Reporter:
The media turned itself into the opposition and, accordingly, was voted down as the new political reality emerged: Ads don’t work, polls don’t work, celebrities don’t work, media endorsements don’t work, ground games don’t work.
Not only did the media get almost everything about this presidential election wrong, but it became the central issue, or the stand-in for all those issues, that the great new American Trump Party voted against.
The transmutation of political identities has arguably devolved into two parties: the Trump one, the angry retro people, and the Media Party, representing the smug modern people, each anathema to and uncomprehending of the other. Certainly, there was no moment in the campaign where the Media Party did not see itself as a virtuous and, most often, determinative factor in the race. Given this, the chants of “CNN sucks” at Trump rallies should not have been entirely surprising.
But they were. The media took this as a comment about press freedom rather than its own failure to read the zeitgeist. In fact, it largely failed to tell any story other than its own…
It all washed away. Beyonce. The tax returns. The theoretical blue wall. Trump as sexual predator. Putin. His shambolic debate performances. Hispanics. Indeed, every aspect of the media narrative, dust. This narrative not only did not diminish him, it fortified him. The criticism of Trump defined the people who were criticizing him, reliably giving the counter-puncher something to punch. It was a juicy target. The Media Party not only fashioned the takedown narrative and demanded a special sort of allegiance to it — Twitter serving as the orthodoxy echo chamber — but, suspending most ordinary conflict rules, according to the Center for Public Integrity, gave lots of cash to Hillary. The media turned itself into the opposition and, accordingly, was voted down… Read the rest of this entry »
The S&P 500 index finished lower on Friday for the ninth-straight session, its longest stretch of declines since December 1980. Stocks rose after the open as investors digested a strong report on October jobs growth. But they soon erased their gains as uncertainty surrounding next week’s presidential election rattled markets.
The S&P 500 SPX, -0.17% fell 3.44 points, or 0.2%, to 2,085.22, with consumer staples shares seeing the largest drop. The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 41.84 points, or 0.2%, to 17,888.83, with Procter & Gamble Company PG, -1.76% and Travelers Companies Inc. TRV, -0.99% emerging as the biggest losers on the blue-chip gauge. Read the rest of this entry »
An exec who worked with the GOP candidate at AT&T and Lucent defends Fiorina’s leadership and business record.
Bill Rohrbach writes: I first met Carly Fiorina when we were both working at AT&T. I began reporting directly to her in 1991, when she was heading up of worldwide strategy and I held a similar role for the company’s European division. That arrangement lasted until 1993—though we continued to work together on and off until she left Lucent in 1999.
“I’m here to tell you that Fiorina’s detractors, including Donald Trump, couldn’t be more wrong in their assessment of her leadership. Fiorina was bright, insightful, and dedicated to growing our company and developing relationships with employees and customers.”
I’m here to tell you that Fiorina’s detractors, including Donald Trump, couldn’t be more wrong in their assessment of her leadership. Fiorina was bright, insightful, and dedicated to growing our company and developing relationships with employees and customers. There is a reason she rose from a secretary to a CEO – Fiorina is the real deal.
“There is a reason she rose from a secretary to a CEO – Fiorina is the real deal.”
In 1984, the giant conglomerate that was the Bell System restructured into multiple divisions, including the newly formed Network Systems, which served the equipment needs of telephone operating companies. Most of these carriers were former Bell System companies—but they were free to purchase their products from any supplier. In other words, Network Systems needed to be competitive in order to remain viable.
Unfortunately, Network Systems was struggling and losing U.S. market share. One reason for this slide: The company’s products were simply not competitive with other suppliers.
Under the old Bell System, products had been designed by Bell Laboratories, manufactured by Western Electric and purchased by the Bell Operating Telcos. And while this vertical integration model produced the most advanced network in the world—as well as significant profits—for AT&T prior to the restructuring, Network Systems needed a new approach if it was going to continue to compete. Read the rest of this entry »
In June 2013, a group of friends launched a weather balloon a few miles from Tuba City, Arizona. The amazing footage was found two years later by an Arizona hiker. Enjoy the video of our launch preparations, video footage, and some data analysis of the flight.
Expanding Government Overreach: FCC Approves Internet Regulation, Setting Stage For Taxation, Censorship, Legal BattlesPosted: February 26, 2015
Government promises net will be ‘neutral’, just like the Affordable Care Act’s promise to make health care ‘affordable’. Public excluded from process in advance of vote. Telecom, cable industries expected to challenge.
The 3-2 vote, along party lines, starts the clock ticking on an expected legal challenge from the telecom and cable industries.
The move marks a turn in the government’s approach to the Internet—from a hands off policy dating back two decades to encourage the Web’s growth to a more interventionist posture as commercial issues have multiplied.
It was spurred on by companies—such as Netflix Inc. —worried that they could face more onerous terms for carrying their traffic and by President Barack Obama , who made an unusual public plea for the rules late last year. The new regulations were strongly opposed by carriers such as Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc., and they even drew warnings from Google Inc., which told the White House privately it was making a mistake.
The rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking Web traffic or charging websites for priority service. They also extend the FCC’s reach into the middle of the Internet by saying the commission will review so-called interconnection deals between companies such as Netflix and Comcast Corp. on a case-by-case basis to make sure they are reasonable.
Despite all the wrestling over legal principle, little is likely to change for consumers in the near term. Carriers very rarely block any traffic, and experiments like letting Web companies pay for toll-free mobile service haven’t gone very far. But advocates said the rules will preserve the open environment that has helped Web companies blossom.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who revealed details of the new rules earlier this month, received a standing ovation when he entered the commission room ahead of the vote.
“Broadband is essential, like water,” Mr. Wozniak said.
Verizon, in a statement typed on a Remington typewriter and datelined Feb. 26, 1934, harking back to the Communications Act passed that year, criticized the rules as antiquated and likely to create uncertainty that will hurt innovation. The new rules involve reclassifying broadband service as a telecom service regulated by Title II of the Act, which governs the more highly regulated phone business.
Mr. Wheeler reiterated Thursday that the commission is only doing so to establish regulatory authority to enforce net neutrality and it won’t impose more onerous regulations such as price controls.
The full FCC order will be available on the commission’s website within the next few weeks and will take effect 60 days after being published in the Federal Register. Read the rest of this entry »
FCC Internet Regulation Scheme: ‘Saddles Small, Independent Businesses and Entrepreneurs with Heavy-Handed Regulations that will Push them Out of the Market’Posted: February 10, 2015
Giuseppe Macri reports: Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on Friday raised the first of many criticisms to come about FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s aggressive net neutrality plan distributed to commissioners Thursday, which Pai described as “President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet.”
“Courts have twice thrown out the FCC’s attempts at Internet regulation. There’s no reason to think that the third time will be the charm. Even a cursory look at the plan reveals glaring legal flaws that are sure to mire the agency in the muck of litigation for a long, long time.”
In a statement released Friday, Pai lamented the fact that the 332-page plan, which he tweeted a picture of himself holding next to a picture of Obama, won’t be released to the public until after the commission votes on its implementation later this month.
Here is President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet. I wish the public could see what’s inside. pic.twitter.com/bwwAsk8ZiB
— Ajit Pai (@AjitPaiFCC) February 6, 2015
“President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet. It gives the FCC the power to micromanage virtually every aspect of how the Internet works,” Pai said. “The plan explicitly opens the door to billions of dollars in new taxes on broadband… These new taxes will mean higher prices for consumers and more hidden fees that they have to pay.”
In his initial cursory overview of the plan, the commissioner said it would hinder broadband investment, slow network speed and expansion, limit outgrowth to rural areas of the country and reduce Internet service provider (ISP) competition.
“The plan saddles small, independent businesses and entrepreneurs with heavy-handed regulations that will push them out of the market,” Pai said. “As a result, Americans will have fewer broadband choices. This is no accident. Title II was designed to regulate a monopoly. If we impose that model on a vibrant broadband marketplace, a highly regulated monopoly is what we’ll get.”
In an op-ed detailing the core aspects of his net neutrality plan published earlier this week, Wheeler described lumping ISPs under Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act — which based its authority on that used to regulate telephone monopolies at the dawn of the communication age — as the cornerstone. Read the rest of this entry »
Dave Lewis writes: It seems rather far fetched at first glance. There is news that came out last week that rogue cell phone towers around the US are forcing mobile devices to disable their encryption making it possible that someone might be able to listen in to your call. “That could never happen to me,” you think out loud. But, apparently it could.
In 2010 at the DEF CON in Las Vegas, security researcher Chris Paget did the unthinkable. He built a cell tower of his own so that he could spoof legitimate towers and intercept calls.The device would mimic the type used by law enforcement agencies to intercept phone calls. In this case, he was able to build it for roughly $1500 US. Paget’s device would only capture 2G GSM phone calls. Carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile would be vulnerable as they use GSM, unlike Verizon which relies on CDMA technology.
I was in attendance for this particular presentation and I had a disposable phone with me at the time. During the presentation when the device was switched on my phone was more than happy to oblige and seamlessly associated with the contraption that was across the room. Had I not been aware that this was going on, it was quite conceivable that I could have not noticed the change to the rogue tower. The point of this presentation was to raise awareness of the security flaws that affect GSM related phones. Read the rest of this entry »
“while I was pleased with several of Comcast-NBC’s voluntary public interest commitments, more can be done to achieve our diversity objectives.”
For Variety, Ted Johnson reports: Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and 51 other lawmakers, including members of the Congressional Black Caucus, are pressing the FCC to ensure that upcoming mergers include “enforceable commitments” to boost media ownership, programming, advertising and other opportunities for women and minorities.
“In similar ‘mega-merger’ transactions in recent years, companies have attempted to demonstrate their ‘good corporate citizenship’ by identifying past philanthropic donations they have made to various charitable organizations and promising additional such donations.”
The letter cited the proposed mergers of Time Warner Cable and Comcast, and of AT&T and DirecTV, as well as “the imminent announcement” of Sprint’s merger with T-Mobile. The FCC’s merger reviews examine whether the transactions are in the public interest. Read the rest of this entry »
The sheer number of scandals exposes Obama’s inner authoritarianism
Those crazy American conspiracy theorists who live up trees with guns and drink their own pee don’t seem quite so crazy anymore. It turns out that a “secret court order” has empowered the US government to collect the phone records of millions of users of Verizon, one of the most popular telephone providers – a massive domestic surveillance programme and a shocking intrusion into the lives of others. For the first time in history, being an AT&T customer doesn’t seem such a bad thing after all.
Of course, it isn’t the first time that a US administration has spied on its own people. The origins of this particular order lie first in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and then in Section 215 of the Patriot Act, backed by George W Bush and passed by Congress after 9/11. Normally, domestic surveillance only targets suspicious individuals, not the entire population, but in 2006 it was discovered that a similarly wide database of cellular records was being collected from customers of Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth. There was plenty of outrage and plenty of lawsuits, but the National Security Agency never confirmed that the programme had been shut down. It would appear that it’s still in rude health: the latest court order for collecting data runs from April 25 to July 19.
A few observations. First, America is so conscious and proud of its history as a beacon of liberty that it often overlooks the tyranny that occurs on its own shores in the name of safeguarding democracy. The national security state has expanded to the point whereby it now functions outside of democratic control and with clear disregard for the Constitution. What’s especially creepy about this case is that the state felt no legal obligation to tell citizens that it was spying on them – or at least considering it. The result is a disturbing paradox: it’s legal to collect information from companies but illegal for the companies to try to tell their customers about it. It seems that the law prefers to take the side of the state.
Second, you get what you vote for – and both Republicans and Democrats keep on voting for authoritarians. There’s a frustrating hypocrisy that many conservatives applauded the accrual of state power under Bush for the sake of fighting the War on Terror only to scream blue murder about it now that it’s happening under Obama. Likewise, many liberals resented the domestic espionage programme of Bush but have been less vocal about opposing it under Obama. The journalist Martin Bashir has gone to far as to claim that the IRS scandal is a coded attack upon the President’s race, that “IRS” is the new “n word”. Sometimes it feels like Obama could be discovered standing over the body of Sarah Palin with a smoking gun in his hand and liberals would scream “racist!” if anyone called him a murderer. Their capacity for self-delusion knows no bounds.
Finally, totaling every scandal up – IRS, AP phone records, Fox journalists being targeted, the Benghazi mess – this has to be the most furtively authoritarian White House since Nixon’s. We don’t yet have a “smoking email” from Obama ordering all of this, but it can’t be said often enough that there is a correlation between Obama’s “progressive” domestic agenda and the misbehavior of the other agencies governed by his administration – forcing people to buy healthcare even when they can’t afford it, bailing out the banks, war in Libya and the use of drone strikes to kill US citizens. This is exactly what the Tea Party was founded to expose and oppose. All the laughter once directed at the “paranoid” Right now rings hollow.
According to a breaking report from the UK Guardian, Barack Obama’s National Security Agency has been collecting phone records of millions of domestic customers of Verizon under a court order obtained in April. The order requires Verizon to turn over phone records on an “ongoing, daily basis” to the NSA, both within the US and between the US and international sources.
Update: The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has long accused the government of this type of surveillance, says this action is being undertaken under a section of the Patriot Act, but is a clear overstep of the law’s requirement that it be targeted at individuals under some sort of suspicion in specific investigations:
“This confirms what we had long suspected,” says Cindy Cohn, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a civil liberties organization that has long accused the government of operating a secret dragnet surveillance program. “We’ve been suing over this since 2006.”
The order is based on Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows law enforcement to obtain a wide variety of “business records,” including calling records. EFF has long criticized Section 215, which sets a threshold for obtaining records much lower than the “probable cause” standard required to get a search warrant.
But Cohn argues that the kind of dragnet surveillance suggested by the Verizon order exceeds even the authority granted by the Patriot Act. “Section 215 is written as if they’re going after individual people based on individual investigations,” she says. In contrast, the order leaked to the Guardian affects “millions and millions of innocent people. There’s no way all of our calling records are relevant to a terrorism investigation.”
“I don’t think Congress thought it was authorizing dragnet surveillance” when it passed the Patriot Act, Cohn says. “I don’t think Americans think that’s OK. I would be shocked if the majority of congressmen thought it’s okay.”
Update: Obligatory flashback with soaring, beautifully worded hypocrisy.
Update: The other obligatory flashback to USA Today‘s reporting on what was presumably the same program, under the Bush administration, in 2006. This is separate from the warrantless wiretapping story, which got much more press. Greenwald’s court order is the first documentation of the practice continuing under Obama, despite the fact he was elected on promises to do pretty much the opposite:
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren’t suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.
“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA’s activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added.
For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.