Tech at Night

So, there’s a lot of hype about the Playstation 4 right now. It’s premature to get too hyped up about it though, for a few reasons:

First, Sony (RIAA and MPAA member) has a much worse track record than Microsoft does about skinning the sheep when it comes to the customers. Note that even as one hand Monday was waving the used games bloody shirt, the other hand was announcing mandatory Playstation Plus. Sony did a masterful job Monday playing to the press and the social media, but you know who else did that? Barack Obama, and we know how much of the hype he lived up to.

Second, I’m old enough to remember when Sony fanboys were outraged about Xbox 360’s paid Live account requirements, and how Playstation 3 was allegedly better because you got the full feature set built-in with a free PSN account. Well, sometime along the way, PS3 got the same paid account bonuses Xbox 360 had. Funny that. So what happens if Sony changes their mind again, this time about used games, a year or two down the line?

Third, this is a five year war. Let’s say nothing changes from now. What happens if Microsoft wins the exclusives war because of the used games feature? EA didn’t cancel online passes out of the goodness of their hearts, folks.

Fourth, I’m also old enough to remember how I was told the last generation was supposed to be a war between Microsoft and Sony, when Nintendo’s innovation won the day. Well, now Sony and Microsoft are all about motion controls, while Nintendo’s shipping a tablet and possibly going online with Pokemon. Too early to declare winners or losers. Again, this is a five year war.

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Tech at Night

CISPA is still the top issue right now. The new version is getting broad support in industry, it appears. Again: the attacks America faces against our government and industry would be acts of war if done on the high seas, but are continuing consequence-free just because they’re online. Francis Cianfrocca points out what is needed: a framework for sharing information about threats. Not massive regulations, which won’t help. Not blaming the victim, which will make the bad guys laugh.

In Internet Sales Tax Compact news, Mike Enzi is feeling the heat to defend his bill to his constituents, and is making reasonable arguments for it. “If we don’t collect that revenue, they’ll have to find a new source.” Ding. “This is a states’ rights bill and it would require the states to act before anything could happen.” Ding. But we shall see if it can pass the House. I do wonder if the terrible “fairness” rhetoric from the big box retailers has poisoned the well.

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Tech at Night

It’s too bad. We’ve had all the hype, all the build up, and all the promise shown in the FCC’s incentive auction program, allowing underperforming legacy spectrum to be transferred to where it can be of most use. And yet, FCC might still mess up the program.

Of course, it’s unfortunately true that Obama’s FCC has done a poor job all around on spectrum, to the point that it’s changing numbers around to cover up the facts. Caught red-handed?

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Tech at Night

An interesting development in the President’s Cybersecurity order: his people are going hat in hand looking for industry buy-in. Perhaps they fear actual legislation?

Of course, when it comes to industry and the administration, their relationships can’t always be as cozy as Google’s with the President’s men, including the FTC Chairman. Google really is the caricature of Halliburton that existed in the minds of the radicals.

Microsoft is beginning to realize their ad campaign is failing because nobody cares about privacy, it appears.

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Tech at Night

Been a while since we started with some Google. Taking fire from two directions right now: I’ve pointed out that we need to watch them to see if they end up as politically even handed as they now claim to be. Microsoft is also after them by attempting to discredit their privacy policies.

Here’s the problem though. Microsoft’s ad campaign assumes people actually care about privacy. They don’t. Their actions in the marketplace indicate otherwise. That’s the real reason people don’t care about long privacy policies. Which is also why the only net effect of a California simplified privacy policy rule, would be to drive job creators out of the state.

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Tech at Night

Regulation must keep up with the needs of modernization. That’s a point new FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai came to RedState to make, particularly with respect to the Internet transformation going on in telecommunications. As the world “goes IP,” and puts everything on the Internet, regulators must adapt. Make sure to read it. Ajit Pai would have a particularly important role as a reformist regulator should Mitt Romney win.

Regulation today just doesn’t make much sense sometimes, a point Broadband for America makes. The point about ‘edge’ vs ‘core’ of the Internet is important. The firm that sits between you and Google is as important to you as Google. They’re all pieces of the puzzle.

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Tech at Night

Even the Obama regulators occasionally do things right. It was right for FCC to let the regulation die that forced cable companies to license original content to competitors. Though as The Hill points out, it may have done so out of a fear that the courts would force the issue anyway, not out of any desire to deregulate. Naturally House and Senate Democrats can’t abide the least bit of deregulation.

But don’t worry, they’re still making mistakes, too. They can’t free up spectrum until 2015, moving at a snail’s pace in a fast moving industry. And FTC’s antitrust attacks on Google are ludicrous. The standard for antitrust is high: if I recall correctly you have to show market power, being wielded, in a way that harms customers. I’m not sure that, relative to Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon, that such points can be made at all.

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Tech at Night

So the FTC is on a tear. Google is officially smacked for $22.5 million for hacking though Safari’s privacy protections to sell Safari users’ information to advertisers. Then Facebook got whacked for lying about what privacy protections it was giving users. Some are saying this is bad, as it’s expanding FTC power, but this is really a bad time to make that point. Google brought this on us. I’m not up on the Facebook issue, but the Google/Safari thing was a huge breach.

Had someone gone to jail, I would not have thought it wrong. If an ordinary citizen hacked through that many users’ privacy protections, we might have, you know.

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Tech at Night

It’s funny how certain names come up again and again in this space. There are just certain Republicans who are becoming solid Tech leaders. Marsha Blackburn is one of them, pushing to force Barack Obama to take a stand against the Chinese online.

Again, a Republican governor comes out for the sales tax compact, this time Governor Christie. The Marketplace Fairness Act I still say needs firm, explicit protections against a national sales tax added onto the state harmonized sales taxes, but the principle is reasonable.

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Tech at Night

So, Cybersecurity. I’ve spent so much time talking about why the Lieberman-Collins Cybersecurity bill in the Senate is terrible, and anti-PROTECT IP champion Ron Wyden has taken up the opposition as well, but there is need for some enhanced ability of government to coordinate against and to attack Internet security threats.

Here’s a Reddit post that should scare people about the kinds of ongoing criminal enterprises that are out there, online, worldwide. Here’s the kind of research that demonstrates the need of the good guys to be open and to collaborate. Think about what happens when (not if) the technology that goes into these cash cow botnets (some run by Anonymous) instead goes into spying (some done by Wikileaks) and into terrorism (some done by Anonymous).

Cybersecurity is, on some level, easy to understand as an issue. We know there are people online who break into computers. Retransmission Consent is a tricker issue, as it’s regulatory inside baseball between local broadcasters and local cable providers. Two heavily regulated industries battle it out over a fine point of policy. It’s hard for a conservative to grapple with it, sometimes.

But I’m going to disagree with with this post by Gordon Smith and call television broadcasters the new manufacturers of buggy whips. Right now they’re still important for some people, to be sure, in the same way that some people will use a land line phone instead of wireless Internet to stay connected.

But younger people are moving away from it. “Broadcast-only” is a misleading term. I’m in that category, but not because I watch broadcast television. I watch pay TV. It’s just called Hulu, not cable.

Further, I doubt that broadcasters really are the best source of information anymore most of the time. People are using the Internet more and more without having a cord in the home to bring it in. iPhones, Android phones, and yes even Windows phones, are collectively taking over the phone market. In so doing they also take over the information market at home.

This is why it’s wrong to maintain the current retransmission consent rules, and why it’s wrong to try to block spectrum incentive auctions to encourage the shifting of spectrum from broadcasters to wireless Internet providers. Even if we thought it was legitimate for government to try to prop up broadcasters instead of opening the market, it’s pointless to have government stand athwart what the people actually want to spend their money on, yelling stop. We’ll just get run over, and hinder innovation in the progress.

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