1. 2017

    My Comment to the FCC

    It’s finally time. After reading through something like a thousand pages of FCC filings, laws, court judgments, and other assorted documents, writing a thousand lines in the first and second parts of this series, and missing about a thousand hours of sleep over the past week, I am, at last, at the end of my quest to compose a comment on the FCC’s proposal to gut net neutrality. (The comment itself is at the bottom. I wouldn’t make it that easy on you!)

    Filing a comment

    I’ll be using https://www.battleforthenet.com to file my comment, because the form there also forwards what I write to my Congressional representatives and Senators. They’ve written a default comment for people who don’t want to craft their own, and it reads as follows:

    The FCC’s Open Internet Rules (net neutrality rules) are extremely important to me. I urge you to protect them.

    I don’t want ISPs to have the power to block websites, slow them down, give some sites an advantage over others, or split the Internet into “fast lanes” for companies that pay and “slow lanes” for the rest.

    Now is not the …

  2. 2017

    On Restoring Internet Freedom

    Since my post a few days ago on the modern history of the net neutrality debate, I’ve been poring over the latest step in that filing: the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom initiative. These people at the FCC write a lot. But I’ve finally made it through the new proposal.

    In this document, the FCC’s main goal is to justify classifying broadband internet service as an “information service”, not a “telecommunications service” which it currently is. Like I explained in my last post, information service providers are only minimally regulated by the government, whereas telecommunications service providers, or common carriers, are strictly regulated by title II of the Communications Act — in particular, they can’t block or discriminate among the traffic they carry based on content.

    The FCC’s reasoning breaks down into three areas:

    1. How existing laws apply to the technical functionality of the internet
    2. Precedent set by previous rulings of the FCC
    3. How the deregulation of broadband internet service will affect consumers

    Technical arguments

    The first main content section of the proposal sets out to show that the way the internet works “under the hood” matches the legal definition of an information service, not of …

  3. 2017

    Modern history of net neutrality

    Think of a website you like.

    What do you get from that website that makes you like it? TV shows? News articles? Email? Porn? Cat GIFs? (I’m not here to judge.)

    Now, think about this: how much are you willing to pay to use that website instead of its crappy competitor that your internet service provider made? When Google started Gmail, imagine AOL saying “you can access to this site for only $50/month”. I’d be displeased.

    How long are you willing to wait for your website of choice to load, rather than going to the crappy (but quickly-loading) competitor your ISP runs? Imagine watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix and having to wait two hours while it buffers, even though the bland reality shows and sitcoms on Comcast’s video site stream in real time full HD. I’d be mad.

    Net neutrality guarantees this will never be a problem. It means Gmail will be free, Netflix will be fast, and you can giggle at all the cute cat pictures your heart desires.

    Whenever a legal issue comes up that I feel strongly enough about to make a blog post on, it’s already seen …

  4. 2012

    A close look at CISPA

    You may remember that about three months ago, the internet erupted in an uproar over two copyright protection bills, SOPA and PIPA, which were working their way through the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively. Now there is another bill, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which has many of the same people concerned. Indeed, a lot of privacy advocates are warning that CISPA is even worse than SOPA and PIPA. But other people are saying that it’s nowhere near as bad. One way or another, there seems to be a lot of misinformation floating around about this bill, so just as I did with PIPA, I thought it would be useful to go straight to the source and see what CISPA is really about.

    As usual, this post comes with the standard disclaimer that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I make no guarantees about the correctness of this information. If you’re concerned about specific effects that CISPA could have on you personally, check with a lawyer.

    Now then, to the source. The text of the bill itself can be found on the Library of Congress website as House …

  5. 2012

    Senator Ron Wyden gets it

    Ron Wyden, senator from Oregon, released a very insightful letter yesterday in support of the SOPA blackout.

    Protect IP (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are a step towards a different kind of Internet. They are a step towards an Internet in which those with money and lawyers and access to power have a greater voice than those who don’t. They are a step towards an Internet in which online innovators need lawyers as much or more than they need good ideas. And they are a step towards a world in which Americans have less of a voice to argue for a free and open Internet around the world.

    See the full letter on Sen. Wyden’s site.

  6. 2012

    PROTECT-IP: the source

    Yesterday, I made a post about the PROTECT-IP Act, explaining in some detail why it’s such a dangerous proposition. But if you’re like me, maybe you’re tired of hearing second-hand arguments. You’re not scared of a little legalese, and you want to check out the original source, Senate resolution 968 itself. Well, great! That’s what this blog is really (or at least tries to be) about, and that’s what I’m going to do in this post.

    I have two goals here. For one thing, I’m trying to correct some of the misinformation that may be floating around on the web about PIPA. But I also want to make the point that laws aren’t as scary as you might think. When you take a good, close look at them, it’s not that hard to understand what is being said — sure, not well enough to argue them in court (unless you’re a lawyer), but you can get a pretty decent sense of what is and isn’t allowed.

    This comes with two standard disclaimers:

    1. I am strongly opposed to PIPA (and SOPA). This post is an attempt to convince others to …
  7. 2012

    Why is PROTECT-IP so bad?

    As I recently posted, SOPA and PIPA, the bills that represent the next step in the media industries’ war on piracy (or, to be fair, what they call piracy), have been getting increasing amounts of attention. And it’s bringing results: just yesterday, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was pulled from consideration in the House of Representatives.

    While this is a big win for the internet, it’s only part of the battle, because the PROTECT-IP Act (PIPA), a nearly identical bill, is still scheduled for a vote in the Senate on January 24, a week from today. So it’s still not too late to contact your senators and ask them to oppose the bill! Wikipedia has also joined the cause, pledging to black out its site tomorrow to raise awareness.

    The Problem with PIPA

    A friend of mine recently made a post about SOPA on the FreshySites blog which I think shows how some of the information about what these bills do has been distorted as it’s traveled around the web. With the blackouts of Wikipedia, Reddit, and other sites poised to draw a lot of public attention to the bills, I thought this would be …

  8. 2012

    Update on the fight against SOPA and PIPA

    I’ve written a couple of posts about SOPA and PIPA, the copyright legislation currently making its way through Congress, and the widespread efforts to stop it. There’s some good news on that front: these pieces of legislation have been attracting increasing amounts of media attention lately, and Congress is beginning to respond. The DNS blocking provisions of the bill have been pulled (for now, at least), removing a threat to one of the foundations of the internet, and over in the Senate, influential senators are asking for a vote on PIPA (the PROTECT-IP Act) to be postponed so the bill can be further reviewed and possibly amended. Additionally, the White House has issued an official response to two petitions calling for President Obama to veto any of this legislation that does pass through Congress, and while he hasn’t promised to do so, it does show that the administration is at least thinking about the implications this legislation would have for free expression online.

    But the war against SOPA and PIPA is not over yet, in part because a lot of people just don’t know all this is happening. To raise awareness, Reddit will be proceeding with …

  9. 2012

    Internet access: an enabler of rights

    Vint Cerf, one of the inventors of the internet (for real: he helped develop TCP/IP and early email tech) has written an enlightening editorial in the New York Times. His argument is that internet access should not be considered a human right in and of itself; it’s an enabler of the right to free speech. Sure it makes sense to protect people’s right to internet access, but only insofar as that is a component of the right to free speech.

    …technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself. There is a high bar for something to be considered a human right. Loosely put, it must be among the things we as humans need in order to lead healthy, meaningful lives, like freedom from torture or freedom of conscience. It is a mistake to place any particular technology in this exalted category, since over time we will end up valuing the wrong things.

  10. 2011

    Mozilla's Call the Senate day

    The Mozilla Foundation, the group behind Firefox, is organizing another campaign against the PROTECT-IP Act. This time, they’re asking voters to call the Senate next Tuesday (they don’t give a date, but I’m guessing this is tomorrow) to register their opposition to the act.

    As I’ve previously written, PROTECT-IP is a bill designed to discourage distribution of copyrighted material online. It would greatly expand the actions that the government is allowed to take with respect to websites or online services that are suspected of being involved in this distribution. There is a widespread concern that the powers granted by this bill are too easily abused, and that they will be ineffective. If you believe, as I do, that this is going too far, please consider contacting your representatives in Congress to let them know.

  11. 2011

    Internet censorship in the US

    Thanks to campaigns like last week’s American Censorship day, computer users around the United States (and beyond) have been sitting up and paying attention to two bills regarding online copyright infringement that are now working their way through Congress: SOPA and PROTECT-IP. There is a lot of hype about how the law represented by these bills would be a terrible affront to free speech, and it may or may not be right, but as usual when it comes to legal matters, many people don’t have the knowledge to judge for themselves. With this blog post and possibly others like it, I’m trying to get relevant information out there so we can all make more informed decisions.

    (Full disclosure: I am personally opposed to the passage of SOPA/PROTECT-IP, but I’ve tried not to let that bias come through too strongly.)

    A brief history of information exchange

    Back in the days before internet use was so widespread, media redistribution was not a major problem. If you wanted to share a song or a video with someone, you had to physically lend them a tape, CD, or DVD. Yes, it was possible to make copies of media, but …

  12. 2011

    Turkey update

    Last month I posted about an internet censorship/filtering plan proposed by the Turkish government. Well, despite what must be a fair amount of negative publicity, the plan is still in place; Turkey plans to put the internet filter in place on August 22 as originally scheduled.

    Now this has attracted the attention of Anonymous, the “global hacker collective” (for lack of a better term). Anonymous is essentially the online equivalent of either freedom fighters or terrorists, depending on who you ask (obviously, I tend to prefer the former description). It’s not an organized group, rather it’s more like a flash mob: a large number of people who spontaneously cooperate to accomplish some task. Anyway, the point is, if they get mad at you, you’re kind of forced to sit up and pay attention.

    Anonymous used a DDoS attack (I believe) to overload the servers running the TIB website. Although that doesn’t really accomplish much by itself, it does show the Turkish government that they’ve made some powerful enemies in cyberspace. As much as I hope they’ll reconsider after this, I’m not too optimistic.

  13. 2011

    Internet censorship and you

    There’s a movement going around on Facebook to bring attention to a plan by the Turkish government to begin filtering internet access within the country. As of August 22, internet service providers in Turkey will be required to make their users choose one of four access plans, each corresponding to a blacklist of websites that will be blocked. For example, the “domestic” plan will block international websites, and “children” will presumably block anything considered to be inappropriate for kids (pornography and such). But the exact blacklists will be maintained by the BTK (Turkish Information Technologies Board, or something like that), and will not be made public. So the government can theoretically add any website to the blacklists, thereby using them to suppress political opposition or whatever they want, and nobody will know. Any time a government agency gets power without explicit accountability like this, there’s a high potential for abuse and people should be concerned. Even if most government workers are really just trying to do what’s best for their country, how much do you trust that everyone who ever works in the information technologies agency will be able to resist the temptation to go too far …