Tech at Night

Some government mistakes slip by with only a few of us shouting about them. The Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, is not one of those. People across the Internet are getting loud against the House bill and its Senate counterpart PROTECT IP, the one I’ve been yelling about for months, but many businesses are supporting.

Yes, I’m going to be that guy, saying I was into the band before you ever heard of him. But, instead of being disappointed that the band’s gone mainstream, I’m glad we’re now at the point where Darrell Issa is changing his Twitter avatar in protest of the bill.

The bill has serious problems. As I previously warned it tampers with the delicate balance of interests present in the DMCA, but on top of that Title I is nothing but a framework for censorship in America that can and is designed to be triggered not through judicial trials, but through mere injunctions. And further, if an ISP or other targeted company cannot technically or economically manage to comply with the government’s orders to censor, the burden of proof is on the ISP to show that as an “affirmative defense.”

This bill goes too far. Kill it. Issa says he will introduce his alternative. I hope it follows the model of the UIGEA: cut off funding to lawbreakers. Censorship is not needed.

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Tech at Night

It turns out it’s not just a few of us on the right who know Tech at Night exists. Gigi Sohn says Tech at Night shapes the debate along with good old Less Government.

Of course, Sohn also told a lie about me and claimed AT&T pays me, but… that’s the head of a Soros-funded group for you. Media Marxists and all that.

Something I did not know: Millions of Americans are getting subsidized wireless. And gee, they’re using it to replace home phones rather than as a mere supplement, draining money from the government right to Sprint. But we’re supposed to think they’re the victims of unfair competition. Right.

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Tech at Night

There’s been a push lately to attack punitive, unfair taxes on wireless service, one that Erick Erickson signed onto, and was advertised at RedState. Ironically I only found out about it because I saw the ads while working on the code side of the site, but that’s how it goes sometimes. Anyway, that movement seems to have gotten a win, as the House passed the Wireless Tax Fairness Act, a 5 year freeze on new wireless taxes. Sounds good to me.

SOPA, the House answer to the Senate’s PROTECT IP, isn’t dead yet, unfortunately. This attempt to have the US government censor the Internet, and in fact forcibly steal domains from people, and cut off Americans from the rest of the world online, incredibly is being considered by House Republicans. Copyright apparently is sufficient justification for government of unlimited size. Kill the bill.

And what’s worse is that Republicans are being dragged along as dupes to help Democrats continue to justify huge Hollywood fundraisers by smacking the Internet around to favor the movie industry. Which is probably why the MPAA is trying to stifle criticism of the bill. Kill the bill.

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Tech at Night

Last week I noted that the FCC is officially moving ahead with its new subsidy program. The administration will convert the Universal Service Fund – currently taxing the public and handing it out to rural telephone carriers – into a grab bag of Internet subsidies. The rural phone companies are unhappy, and everyone else is racing to get a cut. C Spire, apparently serving many rural southern customers, says the order “runs counter to the administration’s goal of promoting broadband deployment.” The Tech/Users Coalition, a group that includes Obama allies Google and Sprint, calls the USF “antiquated” and cheers the reform effort, while pressing for as much subsidy of Internet connectivity as possible. IIA also supports the effort.

Look, I don’t blame any business for looking to get a cut here. The money’s there, it’s perfectly legal, and that’s the way it is. Nobody squawked at the rural carriers collecting checks all these years. But that said, I hope Republicans will look to repeal all of this in 2013.

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Tech at Night

Top story is easy to pick tonight. The legislation that’s been known in the Senate as PROTECT IP, the Internet censorship blacklist bill that promises to make a huge power grab online, Communist China-style, has come to the House. They’re calling it by two different names: E-PARASITES and Stopping Online Privacy Act, but by either name it’s just as bad.

Even as the current laws do work, this bill expands government, and puts the government’s thumb firmly on one side of the scales balanced by the DMCA. Current law attempts to provide a balance between the rights of all of us online, and the rights of copyright holders accusing others of infringement. PROTECT IP/E-PARASITES/SOPA would give copyright holders private nuclear options to knock sites offline, and government would enforce it.

No, really, how bad is it? It threatens, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, three critical tools used by conservatives and Republicans against this administration, and this House bill would arm this administration against them. It’s insane. It’s just so poorly thought out. PROTECT IP also removes safe harbor concepts critical to the DMCA that gave ISPs reason to be fair to the little guy when pounded on by the big guy. No more, should this pass.

PROTECT IP. SOFA. E-PARASITES. I don’t care what you call it, creating national censorship blacklists to be enforced by law by all ISPs is just a terrible idea. Censorship by its very nature hinders public oversight of that censorship. In fact, some of the first things they censored in Australia’s version were lists of things censored, which meant when the censorship expanded to other topics, any discussion of that was threatened with legal action.

Kill this bill.

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Tech at Night

Late start tonight for Tech at Night. Sorry, but I’ve started a plan to get myself out of California, and to be honest I’m more than a bit nervous about the whole thing. Looking for new work in the Obama economy? Yeah.

But at least Marsha Blackburn wants to help the tech job situation by taking on Barack Obama’s twin regulatory nightmares of the FCC and the FTC. The EPA isn’t so hot, either.

Seton Motley is still plugging away against Net Neutrality, too, referencing Phil Kerpen’s new book: Democracy Denied on the Obama regulatory scheme to bypass the Congress when implementing radical ideas.

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Tech at Night

Oh for crying out loud. For all that Washington talks tough about getting Americans access to high speed Internet, the “supercommittee” wants to tax new spectrum licensees. That’s just what we need: make it more expensive to build out America’s wireless infrastructure in order to pay for the President and his Cabinet to hand out money to their friends and political supporters. Isn’t that special? Here’s a joint letter against it from a number of industry groups.

Then you’ve got Dick Blumenthal, Al Franken, and Amy Klobuchar, leading the charge for the Democrat-controlled Senate that hasn’t passed a budget in 900 days, but wants to get government involved on what can or can’t be called 4G wireless Internet. Great prioritization here.

Spectrum’s important, though. Merely having access to a solid Internet connection lets Americans ave lots of money every year. Not just from being able to buy online, but also from gathering information, and simply from being able to stay at home. IIA did the math and American families each can save thousands of dollars a year online. And we’re busy regulating, taxing, and harassing firms like Google and AT&T, instead of getting government out of the way of investment. Yes, I’m frustrated.

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Tech at Night

Columbus Day winds to a close, a cold slows me down, but Tech at Night marches on somehow. You know what’s also marched on? The New York Stock Exchange’s website. The anarcho-terrorists of Anonymous promised to take that website down (note: just the website, not the actual trading computers). Well, they failed, unless you count a two minute outage as success. Heck, RedState pretty much goes down for about 5 minutes every night, and we’re not even trying.

Speaking of security: in theory I love the idea of government focusing on government Internet security, while leaving the private sector alone. It doesn’t surprise me though if it turns out Obama’s brain trust can’t even do that right. Barack Obama’s disastrous regulatory record doesn’t suggest competence.

Which is why Mary Bono Mack needs to drop her ongoing privacy investigations, because it can only lead to more power for the government online, and that won’t end well.

Remember when I gave a little cheer for the supercommittee’s plans to auction off some spectrum? that plan is getting some criticism from people who want to keep some unlicensed spectrum free. If the spectrum can’t be put to use for high-speed Internet, then maybe it’s not worth bothering. If it can, though, let’s do it.

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Tech at Night

Up late tonight. Spent the better part of the last 8 hours setting up my new computer*. Lots of data to transfer around and all that. But fortunately there aren’t many new developments lately to talk about, so let’s go.

I’m going to start with LightSquared. Out of the blue, it’s been repeatedly claimed that LightSquared is “the next Solyndra,” and that some nebulous form of corruption is somehow benefiting the company. Is it possible? Certainly. But I’d like to see some proof that LightSquared received actual benefits from the Obama administration, as Solyndra got free money from the government in the form of loan guarantees.

No, I won’t accept proof that Barack Obama is a bad guy as proof that LightSquared had something going on. I’m playing the role of skeptic on this particular issue, because I don’t want it to be true. I want America to get more spectrum used for 4G wireless Internet, and I want us to have more national networks supplying 4G wireless Interent. LightSquared coming online would give us both, as LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja has said.

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Tech at Night

Friday has come and gone at last, and in fact we’re well into Saturday now unfortunately, due to my needing to have covered so much this time.

Additionally, at long last it looks like the ongoing saga of California vs Amazon is coming to an end. Amazon had already floated the idea of compromise with the Democrats on their unconstitutional plan to try to bully Amazon with respect to California’s high sales tax rates.

But now it looks like the firm got cold feet. Having already put itself on the line with a plan to lobby for a national law on the matter, with a promise to pay the tax if now law is passed in two years, they caved and cut the “safe harbor” down to one year. As you might guess from how I said that, I disagree that Amazon was wrong to play hardball. I think Amazon was wrong to give in after playing hardball, because if things go wrong they risk victor’s justice.

Joe Mathews says Amazon has given an example of “how not to do business in California.” At this point, I don’t see why anyone should do business in California, with all the corruption and corporatist socialism going on in this one great state.

This matters if you don’t live in California, by the way, because of the next steps.

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