As we noted last week
, two different cities with their own broadband networks (Wilson, NC and Chattanooga, Tennessee) have formally asked the FCC to declare that laws in their states hindering community broadband aren't enforceable, giving FCC boss Tom Wheeler the perfect opportunity to back up claims that he'd take action. Such bills are written and lobbied for by companies like Comcast, AT&T and Time Warner Cable, and often restrict local citizen rights to determine for themselves what the best course of action for their community is.
To get the bureaucratic ball rolling, the FCC has formally issued a public notice
(pdf) asking for public and corporate comment on their intervention when it comes to such protectionist laws.
"Both Petitioners allege that state laws restrict their ability to expand their broadband service offerings to surrounding areas where customers have expressed interest in these services, and they request that the Commission preempt such laws," observes the FCC. Chattanooga's EPB claims a Comcast-backed law lets them offer voice services over fiber lines, but prohibits them from offering broadband over those same lines if it's outside their existing utility footprint.
While the public notice opens the door to a potentially protracted discussion about whether the FCC should intervene in these instances, that doesn't necessarily mean the agency will have the political fortitude to actually do so. Incumbent ISPs have already had Rep. Martha Blackburn
push a bill stripping FCC funding should they act, and has used proxy groups to threaten lawsuits
against the FCC.
The United States' largest community fiber broadband effort is Utah's UTOPIA, which has been under assault by large incumbent ISPs like Qwest
(now CenturyLink) since before the first customer was even connected. UTOPIA has for much of a decade successfully fended off both these ISPs and a good deal of managerial incompetence on their own part, and is on the cusp of securing a significant cash boost
from an Australian investment firm.
For the second time in as many months, FCC boss Tom Wheeler has hinted that the FCC may take steps to pre-empt laws written and passed by broadband incumbent ISPs that prohibit towns and cities from building their own broadband -- even in cases where nobody else will.
In a blog post
, Wheeler uses the utility-provided broadband services by the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee (see our overwhelmingly-positive user reviews
of EFB Fiber) as an example of how many of these projects can work out, despite a decade of hang-wringing from the usual folks eager to defend the status quo.
Paying off national and state politicians along with lobbyists to get your way seems like a tradition within the internet/TV business. When AT&T didn’t want competition in Wisconsin
, they paid off politicians to dress up AT&T’s view as “fiscal responsibility." When Verizon wanted to sniff out the Canadian telecom market
, they hired a slew of lobbyists to see if they could the country to change their telecom rules.
If there's one thing I've probably griped about more than any other in the now thirteen-plus years I've written here, it's probably buried below the line fees. For years ISPs have buried the ordinary cost of doing business below the line in itemized fees. story continues..
Last fall the FAA lifted restrictions on in-flight electronics use during take offs and landing, and last January the FCC began rulemaking to lift the restrictions on in-flight phone calls. Wheeler and the FCC took a lot of heat for that move
(and is still fielding mostly negative comments
on the idea).
In April of last year, wireless carriers and the government announced
that they'd be collaborating on building a new nationwide database to track stolen phones (specifically the IMEI number, not just the SIM card ID). The goal is to reduce the time that stolen phones remain useful, thereby drying up the market for stolen phones and reducing the ability of criminals to use the devices to dodge surveillance.
We recently noted how the UK's effort to force ISPs to filter porn by default wasn't working very well, with simple chrome proxy extensions
allowing porn hunters to easily bypass the filters. Worse perhaps is the fact that the filters aren't even really working, not only failing to filter a significant number of major porn sites, but accidentally filtering sexual education and rape support websites
Blogger Peter Hansteen has since put the filters through their paces, and found they're filtering a number of technology and civil liberty websites as well
...checking a semi-random collection of mainly fairly mainstream and some rather obscure tech URLs shows that far from focusing on its stated main objective, keeping innocent children away from online porn, the UK Internet filter shuts the UK's children out of a number of valuable IT resources, was well as several important civil liberties resources...if this is the true face of Parental Controls, I for one would take using controls like these as a sufficient indicator that the parents in question are in fact not qualified to do their parenting without proper supervision.
The filtered websites aren't exactly obscure, either, including Slashdot, Ars Technica, and the EFF. The broken filters come at the cost of higher rates for UK broadband users, as ISPs pass on the filter costs to users. The UK government continues to be rather tone deaf to the entire pile of dysfunction, suggesting they'd like to take things further by censoring websites that promote "extremist" views.
As noted last week
, the leaked draft of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement not only tries to foist wonky US copyright law upon the globe, it's pushing for numerous entertainment-industry initiatives like content filters, greater ISP liability, the disconnection of pirates from the Internet, and even language that could kill off Aereo.
It's all continually illustrative of how TPP negotiations have utterly excluded not only consumers, but all intelligent but discordant voices -- unless you're one of the 600 lobbyists invited to negotiations.
Wikileaks this week released a copy
of the latest version of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) that has been under construction behind closed doors for years. As we've long noted
, the TPP attempts to take some of the worst aspects of U.S.
Speaking before a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy yesterday
, Robert Litt, general counsel at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, insisted the NSA has absolutely no idea how often it collects data on American Citizens. What's more, Litt proclaimed it would violate citizen privacy to try and do so.
The entertainment industry's "Copyright Alert System" (aka "six strikes) was launched back in February
with the cooperation of major ISPs including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable. While the program integrates "educational" material and a variety of short-lived punishments ranging from throttling to click through warnings, early indications are the program hasn't had much if any impact on BitTorrent piracy traffic
for a variety of reasons (users hiding behind VPNs or proxies, no punishment after the sixth "strike").
You might have noticed that AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and company were very, very quiet during this latest NSA-surveillance related scuff up. That's in part because unlike a few of the more modern tech companies (like Yahoo
, who fought secretive rubber-stamped FISA court requests), the telcos yelled "how high?" when asked to repeatedly trample privacy and wiretap laws.
A group of Conservatives, led by Libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), are pushing to have NSA surveillance funding pulled
unless the agency reins in some of its aggressive wholesale spying on Americans.
As Edward Snowden's leaks continue to create international ripples
and his options for sanctuary tighten
, the whistleblower this week issued a statement posted to Wikileaks
accusing the Obama administration of "using citizenship as a weapon." "Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person," states Snowden. "Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right." He later argues the U.S. government is not afraid of whistleblowers like Snowden, but "of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised."
Here in the States, any attempt to impose meaningful net neutrality rules for consumers effectively died back in 2010
in a puff of partisan bickering and disinformation. Even the feeble rules the FCC did muster the stomach to pass are facing obliteration by lawsuit courtesy of Verizon
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