Category Archives: Innovation

Against SOPA and PIPA, for an open Internet

If you haven’t heard of SOPA and PIPA, you will today, as reddit, Wikipedia, Google, Craigslist, Free Software Foundation, and many other websites protest those Internet censorship bills today. The so-called Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is a House bill (H.R.3261) and the so-called PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) is a Senate bill (S.968) (most recently renamed Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011). Both have nothing to do with promoting creativity and everything to do with giving a few large copyright holders priority over the Internet, requiring censorship of links to entire domains. Have you heard of the Great Firewall of China? That’s where the Chinese government censors entire domains such as facebook, youtube, and twitter because they contain some content that the Chinese government doesn’t want distributed. SOPA and PIPA would do the same thing, except putting Hollywood in charge of what would be censored. In a perfect example of the DC lobbying revolving door, former Senator Chris Dodd, now Chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, called the anti-SOPA blackout an “abuse of power”. Funny how it’s only an abuse of power when we fight back.

If you don’t believe me, listen to Mythbuster Adam Savage.

Here’s a technical explanation. And here’s a letter of objection many of the engineers who built the Internet.

Here’s where the anti-SOPA blackout started: Continue reading

Why SOPA and PIPA are bad

SOPA and PIPA are not dead, as Mikki Barry reminds us. She points at an excellent writeup on why we should care.

Tom Evslin wrote on Fractals of Change at some unknown data, SOPA and PIPA are Bipartisan Bad Policy, Really Bad Policy

In China you can’t get to some Internet sites: no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter. Search engines can’t find the “Falun Gong” or “Tiananmen Square massacre”. We would never do that kind of blocking here in the US, you say. Well, not so fast. If either House bill SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) or Senate bill PIPA (Protect IP Act) or something in between passes both houses of Congress and is signed by the President, Internet censorship, unreachable websites, and forbidden searches will be the law of this land.

The Arab Spring has been enabled by the inability of some governments to block Internet communication. SOPA and SIPA both require that Internet blocking tools be developed and deployed here. Maybe we trust our own government not to misuse these (I don’t!); but do we really want to be responsible for the proliferation of censorship and blocked communication?

Why, you ask, would our Congresspeople want to impose censorship anywhere? Why would they want to slow down the most vigorous parts of the US economy?

The answer, at least, is simple. These are bills that Hollywood wants to protect its movies from online piracy, and Hollywood makes mega-campaign contributions and even gives Congresspeople bit parts in its movies. There is nothing partisan about campaign contributions.

Why? The DC lobbying revolving door banana republic, of course, made even worse by the SCOTUS Citizens United decision.

As for the Arab Spring, the powers that be here don’t want that here. Remember who propped up Mubarak all those decades.

When even Patrick Leahy pushes PIPA, something is seriously wrong with the U.S. government. SOPA or PIPA or something watered down that their pushers can claim isn’t as bad will pass unless the people stand up and stop it.


Woz to FCC: Save the Internet

Wozniak to the FCC on net neutrality:
Imagine that when we started Apple we set things up so that we could charge purchasers of our computers by the number of bits they use. The personal computer revolution would have been delayed a decade or more. If I had to pay for each bit I used on my 6502 microprocessor, I would not have been able to build my own computers anyway.
He also details examples of how difficult it was to start a new service the way the telephone system used to be, how radio used to all be freely receivable, and how cable TV is mis-regulated. He summarizes his case:
I frequently speak to different types of audiences all over the country. When I’m asked my feeling on Net Neutrality I tell the open truth. When I was first asked to “sign on” with some good people interested in Net Neutrality my initial thought was that the economic system works better with tiered pricing for various customers. On the other hand, I’m a founder of the EFF and I care a lot about individuals and their own importance. Finally, the thought hit me that every time and in every way that the telecommunications careers have had power or control, we the people wind up getting screwed. Every audience that I speak this statement and phrase to bursts into applause.
Then he asks for all that not to happen to the Internet:
We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it’s probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself.
Ain’t that the truth.


Duopoly Cons Congress Members

73 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter drafted by telco and cableco lobbyists against net neutrality. Save the Internet has sufficiently fisked it. My favorite point is that when AT&T was required as a condition of acquiring Bellsouth in 2006 to abide by net neutrality, it increased its infrastructure investments. As soon as that two year requirement was up, so were the investments. (And they didn’t even honor all the requirements, such as a low-end $10/month service.)

The simple fact is that net neutrality was the condition under which the Internet grew to be what it is today, which is the last bastion of free speech and a free press in much of the world, especially in the United States. The only reason net neutrality is an issue is that the duopoly (telcos and cablecos) succeeded in their regulatory capture of the FCC during Kevin Martin’s term as chairman and did away with much it. The U.S. used to have among the fastest Internet speeds in the world. Since the duopoly got their way, the U.S. has fallen far behind dozens of other countries in connection speeds, availability, and update. While the U.S. NTIA claimed at least one user per ZIP code counted as real service.

We can let the telcos and cablecos continue to turn the Internet into cable TV, as they have said they want to do. Under the conditions they want, we never would have had the world wide web, google, YouTube, flickr, facebook, etc.

And left to their plan, the duopoly will continue cherry-picking densely-populated areas and leaving rural areas, such as south Georgia, where I live, to sink or swim. Most of the white area in the Georgia map never had anybody even try a speed test. Most of the rest of south Georgia had really slow access. Which maybe wouldn’t be a problem if we had competitive newspapers (we don’t) or competing TV stations (we don’t). Or if we didn’t need to publish public information like health care details online, as Sanford Bishop (D GA-02) says he plans to do. How many people in his district can even get to it? How many won’t because their link is too slow? How many could but won’t because it costs too much?

John Barrow (D GA-12) has a fancy flashy home page that most people in his district probably can’t get to. Yet he signed the letter against net neutrality.

I prefer an open Internet. How about you?

Why did the 73 Democrats sign the letter? Could it have to do with the duopoly making massive campaign contributions to the same Democrats and holding fancy parties for them?

The same lobbyists are after Republican members of Congress next.

Call your member of Congress and insist on giving the FCC power to enforce net neutrality rules.


More Liveblogging from NANOG Net Neutrality Panel

The Regulators Meet the Operators, at NANOG 48, Austin, Texas, 22 Feb 2010. Notes continued from the previous post. See the pages 37-51 of the NPRM.

Question from a provider: VoIP traffic prioritization from essentially our own service?

Moderator: One thing that won’t be allowed is prioritizing your own service over someone else’s similar service; that’s almost the whole point. FCC person: This is contemplated in the document. Existing services wouldn’t have to be reworked rapidly. Seeking input. Reasons to be concerned. Monopoly over last mile has a position to differentially treat such a service. This is one of the core concerns.

Q: Giving the same priority to somebody else’s similar VoIP service is essentially creating a trust relationship; how much traffic will the other service provider send? Continue reading

Liveblogging from NANOG Net Neutrality Panel

The subtitle is The Regulators Meet the Operators, at NANOG 48, Austin, Texas, 22 Feb 2010. The ground rules of the panel are that it’s not about politics or policy. It assumes there will be net neutrality, and it’s about getting actual network engineers and architects involved in implementing it. Prior reading: pages 41-51 of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). I’d actually recommend starting at page 37, which is where the NPRM discusses codifying the existing four Internet principles (see below).

A huge number of comments have been received already, by Jan 15 deadline. More comments are solicited. See also

The general idea is to take six proposed principles and turn them into rules that are enforceable and not unreasonable:

Proposed Rules: 6 Principles

  • Access to Content
  • Access to Applications and Services
  • Connect Devices to the Internet
  • Access to Competition
  • Nondiscrimination
  • Transparency
The first four principles have been around for several years. The last two, nondiscrimination and transparency, are the same as the ones Scott Bradner’s petition recommended back in June 2009. Back then I mentioned as I always do that the FCC could also stop talking about consumers and talk about participants. Interestingly, their slide at this talk did not use the word “consumer”, so maybe they’ve gotten to that point, too.

The FCC is also making a distinction between broadband and Internet. There are existing rules regarding “managed” vs. “specialized services” for broadband Internet access, but for net neutrality in general, maybe different rules are needed. Continue reading

Internet, Not Broadband, for National Policy

ipprinciples.png A national broadband policy is what you get when you put bellheads in charge. Fortunately, Scott Bradner has been on the Internet since the beginning, and explains the difference.
Broadband is not the Internet. Broadband is shorthand for a diverse class of wired and wireless digital transmission technologies. The Internet, in contrast, is a set of public protocols for inter-networking systems that specifies how data packets are structured and processed. Broadband technologies, at their essence, are high-capacity and always-on. The essence of the Internet is (a) that it carries all packets that follow its protocols regardless of what kinds of data the packets carry, (b) that it can interconnect all networks that follow those protocols, and (c) its protocols are defined via well-established public processes.

There’s risk in confusing broadband and Internet. If the National Broadband Plan starts from the premise that the U.S. needs the innovation, increased productivity, new ideas and freedoms of expression that the Internet affords, then the Plan will be shaped around the Internet. If, instead, the Plan is premised on a need for broadband, it fails to address the ARRA’s mandated objectives directly. More importantly, the premise that broadband is the primary goal entertains the remaking of the Internet in ways that could put its benefits at risk. The primary goal of the Plan should be broadband connections to the Internet.

It’s a petition. Please sign it.



Therefore, we urge that the FCC’s National Broadband Plan emphasize that broadband connection to the Internet is the primary goal. In addition, we strongly suggest that the Plan incorporate the FCC Internet Policy Statement of 2005 and extend it to (a) include consumer information that meaningfully specifies connection performance and identifies any throttling, filtering, packet inspection, data collection, et cetera, that the provider imposes upon the connection, (b) prohibit discriminatory or preferential treatment of packets based on sender, recipient or packet contents. Finally, we suggest that the Internet is such a critical infrastructure that enforcement of mandated behavior should be accompanied by penalties severe enough to deter those behaviors.
While you’re at it, urge the FCC to stop talking about “consumers” and start talking about participants.

Lessig’s Herculean Holiday Present: Reboot the FCC

1990.05.0243.jpeg Here’s a good test for the new U.S. Executive: to recognize that steady pragmatism means radical change, starting with the FCC:
The solution here is not tinkering. You can’t fix DNA. You have to bury it. President Obama should get Congress to shut down the FCC and similar vestigial regulators, which put stability and special interests above the public good. In their place, Congress should create something we could call the Innovation Environment Protection Agency (iEPA), charged with a simple founding mission: “minimal intervention to maximize innovation.” The iEPA’s core purpose would be to protect innovation from its two historical enemies—excessive government favors, and excessive private monopoly power.

Reboot the FCC, We’ll stifle the Skypes and YouTubes of the future if we don’t demolish the regulators that oversee our digital pipelines. By Lawrence Lessig, Newsweek Web Exclusive, 23 Dec 2008

Lessig gets the connection with his old topic of intellectual property and copyright. Those are monopolies granted by the federal government, and they have been abused by the monopoly holders just like the holders of communication monopolies: Continue reading

Users Revolted: Net Neutrality to Win

The world has turned upside down:
This column is dedicated to the top managers of American business whose policies and practices helped ensure Barack Obama’s victory. The mandate for change that sounded across this country is not limited to our new President and Congress. That bell also tolls for you. Obama’s triumph was ignited in part by your failure to understand and respect your own consumers, customers, employees, and end users. The despair that fueled America’s yearning for change and hope grew to maturity in your garden.

Millions of Americans heard President-elect Obama painfully recall his sense of frustration, powerlessness, and outrage when his mother’s health insurer refused to cover her cancer treatments. Worse still, every one of them knew exactly how he felt. That long-simmering indignation is by now the defining experience of every consumer of health care, mortgages, insurance, travel, and financial services—the list goes on.

Obama’s Victory: A Consumer-Citizen Revolt, The election confirms it’s time for sober reappraisal and reinvention within the business community. If you don’t do it, someone else will, By Shoshana Zuboff

She identifies Apple as one of the few companies that has actually gotten it about how to do business, with its iPod and iTunes. As we’ve previously seen, this is because Apple gets it that Porter’s Five Forces model of competition breaks when open distribution channels are introduced.

It appears that Mark Anderson, Odile Richards, and William Gibson were right: “See-bare-espace… it is everting.” Cyberspace just elected a president of the United States. And he knows it.

Obama has been publicly in favor of net neutrality for at least a year. And he has not backed off. He’s put Susan Crawford and Kevin Werbach in charge of reviewing the FCC. Now that’s cyberspace inverted indeed!

An Integral Part: the Internet intertwined with everything else

circle.jpg This is what the Internet is best at:
My blog is an integral part of my life, and I’m neither ashamed of it, nor do I think my online friendships are lesser than physical friendships. And they become physical friendships, a lot of times. I travel all over the place, and whenever there’s anybody in the area I try to meet up with them. I owe almost everything going on in my life right now to blogging and the Internet, and that’s fine with me. The Internet does nothing so well as social networking. The other day, I realized I was living with someone I had met on LiveJournal, spreading jam I had gotten from a friend I met on LiveJournal, and having breakfast at a table I had bought on Craigslist — everything I was doing that day had to do with this glittering network of people I had found through the Internet. The blog doesn’t really interfere with my writing because it comes from a completely different side of the brain. I do feel guilty when I get too busy and haven’t posted, but I would never stop doing it. It’s an integral part of the way I market my books and interact with my audience.

Catherynne M. Valente: Playing in the Garden, Locus, May 2008

Valente writes fiction, yet many companies can attest to the same kind of intertwining of the Internet with everything else they do.

And there was not a word in there about wanting the Internet turned into cable TV.