Archive for the ‘Law’ Category.

ISOC-NY: Building Tomorrow’s Broadband, Part II: All Infrastructure Projects Are Corrupt

(For Part I of this report, see: ISOC-NY: Building Tomorrow’s Broadband, Part I: The Networks)

While everyone in theory understands that the internet brings wealth and business and tax dollars, far too many governments are trying to tax it in ways that could kill it in their area. Recently, the state of North Carolina lost a lawsuit in which it tried to collect taxes on sales to North Carolina residents by Amazon, which is based in Washington state.

Newby’s Allied Fiber avoids very serious government regulation by providing only the core of the network and not trying to build the last mile. Few appreciate the scale of regulation in the last mile. Donny Smith of Jaguar Communications in Minnesota has a fiber network covering almost 10,000 square miles (a 100 mile by 100 mile area). He told me a few years ago that he had to deal with:

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The Public Good: Fred Benenson Explains the Rights and Wrongs of Copyright

Fred Benenson, currently of Kickstarter, presented the history and current state of copyright law to Evan Korth’s Computers & Society class at NYU. I was lucky to be allowed to sit in.

Prof. Korth noted that Benenson started the Free Culture chapter at NYU. After college and an ITP masters degree, Benenson joined Creative Commons.

“Copyright law is a balancing act,” Benenson said. “It balances fair use and the rights of the public with the private rights granted to copyright holders.”

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The Internet’s Three Principles

This is the text of the speech I gave at NYU on OneWebDay. I want to thank OneWebDay and the Internet Society of New York for their support. Streaming video includes the Q&A session, which was excellent. The Q&A starts at 25:28.

Thanks to Joly MacFie for the video.

Text of the speech:


Today, on OneWebDay, we want to urge the FCC to assert its right to protect the three key principles of the internet, principles that have made it friendly to innovation and competition. We want the FCC to insist that the internet be open, that computers be connectible from end to end without interference, and that internet management be open and transparent — not secret and in the service of the companies who pay for it to be the way it is.

OneWebDay was founded in 2006 to celebrate the internet, a uniquely organized piece of infrastructure that has become critical to all of our lives, directly for those who use it, and indirectly for those who use the services that now depend on it, such as education and banking and healthcare.

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Bruce Sounds the Alarm on FCC Policy

Bruce Kushnick believes that FCC reform is a charade and that the FCC plans to give cash handouts to phone and cable companies by taxing all broadband connections.

This FCC policy would be wrong, especially since an FCC study just concluded that the FCC should be spending money on fixed wireless.

FCC Plan is Good Idea

The FCC plans to force the cellcos to warn users who are about to incur a large bill. Let’s see if this gets past the lobbyists and the courts. Gut check time for the FCC.

FCC Seeks Third Way for Internet Regulation

While most branches of the Obama adminstration are seeking to describe their policies as bipartisan, the FCC today chose to describe its new internet policy as a Third Way.

The Third Way is a phrase made popular by Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. It describes an attempt to navigate a path between socialism and the free market. Given the extent to which the Obama administration’s opponents attack so many things it proposes as “socialism”, it is courageous of the FCC to use this term. (To be fair, the FCC says it’s seeking a middle road between re-regulation of a utility and the unfettered free market.)

The FCC does not want to regulate the internet if the internet is defined as the websites and services that we use when we connect to the internet. The FCC wants to regulate the price that users pay to connect to the internet and to be able to police monopoly power at the access level. To this end, the FCC refuses to abandon the great mistake of 2002 in which the FCC first decided that the internet was comprised of both a telecommunications component and an information service.

The problem with this splitting of the internet atom is that the internet consists of interdependent services.

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The ISP Market Has Changed Since 2002 — Does the FCC Recognize This?

Bruce Kushnick recently pointed out to me that the FCC is using data from a period between 1997 and 2002.

The key difference between then and now is that through 2002, the ISPs still had control of the market, but today, the phone and cable companies rule.

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The Consequences of the Comcast vs. FCC Ruling

The Washington, D.C. district court handed down its decision (.pdf) in the Comcast vs. FCC case on April 6, 2010.

The decision throws into focus the muddle that is current internet law in the United States.

“America needs competition among its high-speed internet providers. Open access has proved to be an effective way to do this elsewhere. Barring that, the FCC’s now-voided rules on net neutrality would have been a poor, but adequate substitute,” wrote The Economist, which is not a radical lefty ragsheet, in its response to the decision. The magazine recommended that Congress clarify the distinction between the internet and telecommunications.

All of this is necessary only because of a mistake the FCC made in 2002.

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The Stimulus Is Meant To Change The ISP Business

The stimulus won’t actually change the business of providing internet service, but it did demonstrate what the current administration would like ISPs to be doing. Those that got funded were, for the most part, already deeply involved in their community. Many projects were already in the planning stages or had even been partially implemented before they received stimulus funds.

An example is the OpenCape project, which I wrote about here. Planning for it began years ago. It involved local emergency services, educational instutions, and the local small business association.

ISPs should already be working these institutions (if they are reasonable as customers).

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National Broadband Plan Tomorrow

Here’s a draft executive summary.

Here’s a list of whom Forbes expects to win.

My comments, based on what we know at this time, are here.