Tech at Night: Google, FCC, Civil Defense spectrum

On April 14, 2011, in General, by Neil Stevens
Tech at Night

That’s one of the most boring and least unique Tech at Night titles ever, but I’m going to war with the links I have.

Slade Gorton’s priorities are horribly wrong. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is. On Tuesday the Greg Walden subcommittee held hearings on “Use of Spectrum with Public Safety.” I’ve already explained why I think the D Block of wireless spectrum needs to be allocated directly to public safety, but Gorton’s argument for putting the D block up to auction is ridiculous. So says Energy and Commerce’s press release:

Gorton testified that auctioning “the D Block to the private sector will reduce the deficit, empower huge investments in new technology and job creation, and will meet the very real needs of our vital public safety sector.”

We already tried auctioning the D block. It did none of the above. And why should we try to reduce the deficit with a one-time payment from the pockets of first responders? That seems all wrong to me.

I know civil defense has a mixed record historically, when it was promoted by some as an alternative to tough-minded deterrence of nuclear war. But the threat of retaliation doesn’t work against jihadis. We need to be prepared to react to attacks better than we did on 9/11.

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Tech at Night

I’m late. No excuses. Let’s go.

So the courts threw out Verizon’s challenge of Net Neutrality, rejecting the very clever argument made by Verizon that it wasn’t premature. So now we wait for the actual publication of Net Neutrality to take place.

Well, to a point. The Republicans aren’t waiting and will vote this week in the full House to repeal Net Neutrality under the Congressional Review Act. Remember: this cannot be filibustered in the Senate, and so when it passes the House we only need 51 votes in the Senate, not 60. Seton Motley has some phone numbers to call if you’re represented by a key Democrat.

Tell ‘em that even FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, as part of the 2/5 of the FCC that voted against Net Neutrality, still thinks it was a bad idea. Ask them his question: “Nothing is broken on the Internet, so what are we trying to fix?”

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Tech at Night

Hello! As is my right, I’m going to start tonight by shamelessly promoting my own piece arguing for the assignment of the D block of wireless spectrum to civil defense and public safety. I keep calling it civil defense because we learned about the need for this after 9/11, and if the actions of the first responders after those attacks wasn’t wartime civil defense, I don’t know what is.

I know some (but certainly not all) libertarian-leaning Republicans oppose this plan, despite or even because the 9/11 commission chairmen have come out for it. But I’m of the view that there are legitimate government roles in society, and that not all things must be (or even should be) sold or given off to the private sector. Civil defense is one of those that is perfectly fine in government hands.

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Tech at Night: AT&T, T-Mobile, FCC, Patents

On March 24, 2011, in General, by Neil Stevens
Tech at Night

So the top story this week is going to be the AT&T acquisition of T-Mobile USA. There’s a lot being said about it, about unions, about competition, but the story I’m seeing emerging is that this deal is about spectrum. AT&T sees in T-Mobile a way to get the spectrum it needs going forward. In fact, even power grabbing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said to the CTIA that this is an issue:

If we do nothing in the face of the looming spectrum crunch, many consumers will face higher prices – as the market is forced to respond to supply and demand – and frustrating service – connections that drop, apps that run unreliably or too slowly.

So not only is T-Mobile a sensible purchase for AT&T in the short run, due to their use of similar technology, but in the long run this is the kind of purchase AT&T may need to be able to compete with Verizon. Verizon, of course, already got more spectrum when it bought the C Block of old television spectrum in 2008.

So if we want competition now and in the future, we need to let the deal happen.

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Tech at Night

This edition of Tech at Night is unfortunately delayed. It’s almost 4am now as I’m able to start this (7am eastern) because I had a bout of Net Neutrality to deal with. All websites loaded at the same speed on my DSL: zero. Total downtime.

So, late or not, let’s go. As I warned on Monday, Net Neutrality is forcing ISPs like AT&T to impose reasonable caps on their services. Known freeloader Netflix demands that AT&T users who don’t use Netflix subsidize those who do, which is of course completely unfair, which is why AT&T isn’t allowing it. Anyway, the rate caps aren’t that small, and $10 per 50GB over isn’t bad at all. Ask any wireless Internet user what you’ll get for $10.

More FCC power grabs are on the way, it seems. The FCC has what you might call a conflict of interest: the wireless market must be declared non-competitive for the FCC to be allowed to intervene. Who decides whether that market is competitive or not though? Yup, the FCC. So Fred Campbell warns that the FCC may ignore the Congress and just say whatever it takes to do whatever it wants. Boy am I glad we have Republicans in DC who are on top of the FCC already. This may take swift action to combat.

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Tech at night: Net Neutrality, ICANN, Basic security

On March 2, 2011, in General, by Neil Stevens
Tech at Night

Welcome to the remarkably early Tech at Night tonight. When I have my initial preparation done by 6pm, I’m not going to stay up until midnight to do the actual writing. Not gonna do it. Wouldn’t be prudent.

We start with some mild bad news: the resolution disapproving of Net Neutrality has been delayed. Fred Upton is getting recognition for his active work challenging the Obama administration on its overreaches, and Greg Walden’s subcommittee seems to be following suit nicely, but we will have to wait on this one particular vote.

The Democrats are definitely worried, though. Apparently it’s a bad thing that the FCC’s ability to act ahead of the Congress. Haven’t these Democrats ever heard of actually passing legislation to deal with new challenges?

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Tech at Night

Hello! There’s no one clear theme of things to discuss tonight. It’s a diverse list of topics, so let’s just muddle on through and see what’s going on.

We’ve got some good news from what the Republicans in Washington are going. On the Senate side, the side we haven’t heard nearly as much about thanks to the Obama-Reid majority there, conservative Republicans are taking key roles. Senators Toomey, Rubio, and Ayotte will join the Senate subcommittee responsible for FCC oversight. Get to it, gentlemen and lady.

Meanwhile, in the House, Speaker Boehner has come out strong against Net Neutrality, calling it a threat, and warning about follow-on regulation like the Fairness Doctrine. Committee members are active too, judging by H. J. Res. 37 by Greg Walden, Fred Upton, and the gang. This simple, readable, eight-line resolution disapproves the Net Neutrality power grab.

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