Article 43

 

Dying America

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Democracy Hollowed Out Part 7

The best thing for free speech - the internet - may be on a path to squelch that openness.

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Be Afraid: Congress Takes Up Net Neutrality
By Pedro Pereira
The Channel Insider
February 22, 2006

U.S. Congress involvement in anything these days should give everyone at least a slight tremor. “Unintended” consequences seem to have a way of rearing their ugly heads in the aftermath of congressional action.

Remember campaign finance reform and how well that worked? What about the TELECOMMUNIXCATIONS ACT OF 1996? Instead of the competition that was supposed to benefit the consumer, we have seen industry consolidation and higher rates.

So forgive my skepticism regarding potential congressional action on what has come to be known as “net neutrality.”

The Senate held hearings this month on whether to allow telecommunications giants BellSouth, SBC Communications (which includes AT&T) and Verizon Communications the ability to give Internet content providers preferential treatment for paying “higher rent” for the use of their network pipes.

Pages would load faster and overall performance would be better on the sites of the telcos themselves and the high-rent payers.

These telcos own the networks, and they are green with envy of the success of such content providers as Amazon, eBay and Googleparticularly the latter, whose stock price is trading at close to $370 per share.

After all, the phone giants reason, they are the ones that made the investment to create the networks we all use to access the Web.

Content providers, they argue, essentially are getting a free ride.

On the surface, their position is not unreasonableחthat is, until you remember that they already charge for the use of those pipes.

The telcos have raised the hackles of the content providers and an amalgamation of other business interests, including Microsoft, who are pushing for net neutrality, a principle that favors openness and equal access to content.

Civil rights advocates, not surprisingly, have jumped into the fray on the side of the content providers, even though the issue primarily involves competing business interests and who gets to pay for what.

Curiously, channel companies haven’t taken a position on this. While asking around over the past week, I found that few of my channel contacts have thought about it, and some are only dimly aware of the issue.

At this point, the potential effect of granting the telcos’ wish still seems too far removed from channel interests. Even if the big telcos have their way, it isn’t entirely clear how much of an effect, if any, this would have on the channel.

But the potential exists. Just follow the thread. Let’s say Congress allows the network owners to give preferential treatment to their own content and that of providers from which they extract higher fees. The inevitable outcome is increased costs.

If the telcos start charging content providers such as Google and eBay for the use of the pipes, what’s to stop them from also charging premiums for voice over IP and other Web-based services in which channel companies play a critical role?

Increased costs would get passed down from the content originators to those servicing the content, and ultimately, the end users.

So that IP-based telephony solution your customer was considering would become less affordable. And the same goes for Web conferencing solutions and remote network management services.

Innovation also would take a hit. If preferential treatment is given to large content providers because they can pay premiums, what happens to small, intrepid companies with a great product but few resources? Obscurity.

Judging from some lawmakers’ remarks during the hearings, the telcos face an uphill battle. But as often happens with competing interests pushing Congress for action, the result will likely be a compromise.

I shudder to think what that compromise would be. It would likely have loopholes big enough to allow plenty of “unintended” consequences, not least of which would be higher costs.

Pedro Pereira is a contributing editor for The Channel Insider. He covered the channel from 1996 to 2001, took a break, and now he’s back. He can be reached at ppereira at ziffdavis.com.

SOURCE

Democracy Hollowed Out
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5
PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10
PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15
PART 16 - PART 17 - PART 18

Posted by Elvis on 02/26/06 •
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Monday, February 06, 2006

Democracy Hollowed Out Part 6

Blocking The Power Of The Internet

By Scott Bradner
Network World
January 16, 2006

The Internet succeeded because no one in the traditional telecom industry believed in its underlying technology or its design philosophy. They still do not, but are being backed into a corner, and in response are trying to change the Internet into something that they can better control.

Executives from AT&T, which was the U.S. telecom industry at the time, were present at the first major demo of the ARPANet in 1972. The ARPANet, like its successor, the Internet, was a connectionless packet-based network - a technology that few in AT&T believed would ever be useful. According to Ethernet developer Bob Metcalfe, the executives were pleased when the demo crashed. Two years later AT&T turned down the offer to run the same ARPANet. A few years later the International Organization for Standardization, one of the major standards-development organizations for the traditional telephone industry, turned down a formal offer to adopt TCP/IP as basis for future telecommunications.

AT&T was happy to sell wires to the silly geeks building these packet-based networks, but saw no future in such technology. This attitude meant that the Internet was left alone by the telecommunications industry. It also was largely left alone by U.S. regulators, until quite recently.

This neglect meant that developers were free to experiment with new applications over the Internet. There was no carrier telling users what applications they could or could not run, no carrier that you had to get permission from before you were able to deploy a new Internet-based service. The Internet was just a collection of wires, most of which were bought from the telephone companies by ISPs, who paid what the telephone companies determined was a reasonable fee for use of the wires. The cost of the wire did not depend on what Internet services were running over it, just like the cost of your car does not depend on whom you transport in it. ISP customers paid the phone companies for the wires and paid ISPs for Internet service based on the size of the wire they were using. Everything was simple.

But some of the telephone companies want to change this. They want to charge Google and others to send packets to you. The fact that you have already paid for the wire and the Internet service that Google is using to send those packets is ignored. The phone companies say that they want to let Google pay more to make Google’s packets get to you “better,” but this is the blunt end of the camel well into the tent.

The only way for the telephone company to get Google to agree to pay again for what its customers have already paid for is to threaten, directly or indirectly, that if Google does not pay, its packets will not get to its customers. It’s a very small step for the telephone company to refuse to transport - or to badly impair - traffic from companies or people that have not paid the phone company an extra fee. It would be rather hard to innovate under these rules. In most situations this is called extortion, but the phone companies are asking us to believe that it’s a service improvement.

Disclaimer: Extortion is not a normal Harvard course topic (as far as I can tell), so the above view is my own.

SOURCE

Democracy Hollowed Out
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5
PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10
PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15
PART 16 - PART 17 - PART 18

Posted by Elvis on 02/06/06 •
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Friday, January 20, 2006

US War On The Middle Class

From Lou Dobbs Tonight
January 20, 2006 - Transcript

Rising energy prices just part of the escalating war on this country’s middle class. Congress and our leaders in Washington could not care less, apparently, about the men and women who make this country work. Their lack of concern is evident in their actions and lack of action. Bill Tucker has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The middle class wants to find the American dream. It’s a dream that’s becoming increasingly difficult to afford. Dramatic increases in productivity which once meant rising wages no longer has meaning as Americans have become DISCONNECTED from the economic wealth they generate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you look over the past five years, for example, productivity is up really quite impressively, about 17, 18 percent. Middle income family, down each one of those years. The gap between the economy’s productive capacity and the REAL INCOMES of middle income families is wider than it’s ever been.

TUCKER: In 2005, real wages FELL AGAIN. To make up for falling wages, debt soared. Homeowners pulled out one-half a trillion dollars in equity out of their homes and racked up a record $800 billion in CREDIT CARD DEBT.

Ignoring their plight, Congress rewrote the BANKRUPTCY CODE so that erasing debt and a clean start are no longer a possibility. Rubbing salt into the wound, Congress pushed ahead with FREE TRADE TREATIES 2005. The Central America Free Trade Agreement being the latest example which forces American workers to compete with workers earning 50 cents an hour with no benefits.

ANDREA BATISTA SCHLESINGER, DRUM MAJOR INSTITUTE: There is no organized SPECIAL INTEREST that represents the middle class. We’re workers, primarily, first and foremost. We’re people who want to send our kids to college, take care of your parents, retire in dignity. That doesn’t fall into a specific special interest group with a lobbyist presence in Washington.

TUCKER: For example, imposing policy that raises the minimum payments on credit cards instead of imposing limits on the interest that credit card companies can charge.

TAMARA DRAUT, AUTHOR, “STRAPPED”: The story, in terms of what Congress is doing for the middle class, is really about what they’re NOT DOING.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: Talking the middle class talk is good for getting reelected, Lou. But when it comes to walking the walk, there are very few in Washington that do.

DOBBS: Well, the Republicans clearly representing and advancing the interests of corporate America on every domestic issue without exception. The Democrats, with great shame because of the tradition of party doing absolutely nothing to forestall this assault, direct assault, war on our middle class. CORRECT?

Bill Tucker, thank you.

From Lou Dobbs Tonight
January 23, 2006 - Transcript
Middle class Americans who’ve lost manufacturing jobs are having a difficult time at best finding new high-paying work. The fact is, there are hardly any industries left where American companies have a leadership role.

Bill Tucker reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): We’re number one in garbage. No country exports more of it, $6.5 billion of waste and scrap on the boat, most of it to China in the first 11 months of last year. And we’re the world’s leading exporter of agricultural products: soybeans, corn, cotton, wheat.

ALAN TONELSON, U.S. BUSINESS & INDUSTRY COUNCIL:When you look at U.S. trade figures, it becomes obvious that too many of America’s leading export winners are either raw material or commodities or low- value products. Those are third-world products.

TUCKER: We are not number one in COMPUTERS. We surrendered our surplus in advance technology products three years ago.

We are not number one in aircraft exports. Last year, Airbus sold more airplanes than Boeing.

But not everyone is upset by the trend.

WILLIAM BEACH, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: I think what we’re seeing now is the NORMAL COURSE of economic change as the world becomes more global. We’re SHEDDING JOBS, we’re shedding industries that we’ve outgrown, and we’re moving into industries and jobs where our FUTURE is.

TUCKER: Exactly what those industries will be isn’t clear, but only two years ago, technology was going to be our saving industry.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I first want you all to know that this administration has great CONFIDENCE in the FUTURE OF OUR TECHNOLOGY INDUSTRY.

TUCKER: Now we run a deficit in technology.

Our top 10 industries with trade surpluses totaled roughly $124.5 billion through November of last year. And if you look at the industries with the largest trade deficits and you take only the categories of autos, in audio-video equipment, the trade deficits there totaled $127 billion through November. And China, already the leading exporter of technology is taking aim at bigger products.

CHARLES MCMILLION, MBG INFORMATION SERVICES: China has announced that one of their target industries for their 11th five-year plan that started three weeks ago is, guess what, large aircraft.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TUCKER: And how does China know how to build large passenger aircraft? Well, Lou, Boeing built a manufacturing facility in China and transferred the production and knowledge base to the country.

DOBBS: It is—it is remarkable what has—has transpired over the course of the past five years, really the last 15. And we will continue to hear the business roundtable, the Chamber of Commerce continue to talk about American competitiveness while we are losing ground in every area.

It’s remarkable that anyone would sit there and say they’re not concerned about the loss of jobs, skilled positions, intellectual property and manufacturing. It’s extraordinary.

TUCKER: Yes.

DOBBS: Bill Tucker.

Thank you.

Posted by Elvis on 01/20/06 •
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Thursday, January 19, 2006

Democracy Hollowed Out Part 5

I think the US Government and big business want to control the internet, and spy on us. The child pornography thing is just a diversion.

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Feds After Google’s Data

By Howard Mintz
Mercury News
January 19, 2005

The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.

The MOVE is part of a government effort to revive an Internet child protection law struck down two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. The law was meant to punish online pornography sites that make their content accessible to minors. The government contends it needs the Google data to determine how often pornography shows up in online searches.

In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.

The Mountain View-based search and advertising giant opposes releasing the information on a variety of grounds, saying it would violate the privacy rights of its users and reveal company trade secrets, according to court documents.

Nicole Wong, an associate general counsel for Google, said the company will fight the government’s effort “vigorously.’’

“Google is not a party to this lawsuit, and the demand for the information is overreaching,’’ Wong said.

The case worries privacy advocates, given the vast amount of information Google and other search engines know about their users.

“This is exactly the kind of case that privacy advocates have long feared,’’ said Ray Everett-Church, a South Bay privacy consultant. “The idea that these massive databases are being thrown open to anyone with a court documentis the worst-case scenario. If they lose this fight, consumers will think twice about letting Google deep into their lives.’’

Everett-Church, who has consulted with Internet companies facing subpoenas, said Google could argue that releasing the information causes undue harm to its users’ privacy.

“The government can’t even claim that it’s for national security,’’ Everett-Church said. ”They’re just using it to get the search engines to do their research for them in a way that compromises the civil liberties of other people.’’

The government argues that it needs the information as it prepares to once again defend the constitutionality of the Child Online Protection Act in a federal court in Pennsylvania. The law was struck down in 2004 because it was too broad and could prevent adults from accessing legal porn sites.

However, the Supreme Court invited the government to either come up with a less drastic version of the law or go to trial to prove that the statute does not violate the First Amendment and is the only viable way to combat child porn.

As a result, government lawyers said in court papers they are developing a defense of the 1998 law based on the argument that it is far more effective than software filters in protecting children from porn. To back that claim, the government has subpoenaed search engines to develop a factual record of how often Web users encounter online porn and how Web searches turn up material they say is “harmful to minors.’’

The government indicated that other, unspecified search engines have agreed to release the information, but not Google.

“The production of those materials would be of significant assistance to the government’s preparation of its defense of the constitutionality of this important statute,’’ government lawyers wrote, noting that Google is the largest search engine.

Google has the largest share of U.S. Web searches with 46 percent, according to November 2005 figures from Nielsen//NetRatings. Yahoo is second with 23 percent, and MSN third with 11 percent.

SOURCE

Democracy Hollowed Out
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5
PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10
PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15
PART 16 - PART 17 - PART 18

READ MORE...
Posted by Elvis on 01/19/06 •
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Monday, January 16, 2006

Democracy Hollowed Out Part 4

By Larry Margasak, Associated Press Writer
Yahoo News
January 16, 2006

Former Vice President Al Gore called Monday for an independent investigation of President Bush’s domestic spying program, contending the president “repeatedly and insistently” broke the law by eavesdropping on Americans without court approval.

SPEAKING on Martin Luther King Jr.’s national holiday, the man who lost the 2000 presidential election to Bush was interrupted repeatedly by applause as he called the anti-terrorism program “a threat to the very structure of our government.”

Gore charged that the administration acted without congressional authority and made a “direct assault” on a special federal court that authorizes requests to eavesdrop on Americans. One judge on the court resigned last month, voicing concerns about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of e-mails and phone calls.

A spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, Tracey Schmitt, attacked Gore’s comments shortly after address.

“Al Gore’s incessant need to insert himself in the headline of the day is almost as glaring as his lack of understanding of the threats facing America,” Schmitt said. “While the president works to protect Americans from terrorists, Democrats deliver no solutions of their own, only diatribes laden with inaccuracies and anger. “

Gore’s speech was sponsored by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy and The Liberty Coalition, two organizations that have expressed concern about the policy.

The former vice president said that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should name a special counsel to investigate the program, citing the attorney general’s “obvious conflict of interest” as a member of the Bush Cabinet as well as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.

Gonzales has agreed to testify publicly at a Senate hearing on the program, and he told a news conference recently that the president acted “consistent with his legal authority” to protect Americans from a terrorist threat.

Gore, speaking at DAR Constitution Hall, said the concerns are especially important on the King holiday because the slain civil rights leader was among thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government.

King, as a foremost civil rights activist in the 1950s and 60s, had his telephone conversations wiretapped by the FBI, which kept a file on him and thousands of other civil rights and anti-Vietnam war activists.

Gore said there is still much to learn about the domestic surveillance program, but he already has drawn a conclusion about its legality.

What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the president of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently,” the Democrat maintained.

Bush has pointed to a congressional resolution passed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that authorized him to use force in the fight against terrorism as allowing him to order the program.

Gore had a different view, contending that Bush failed to convince Congress to support a domestic spying program, so he “secretly assumed that power anyway, as if congressional authorization was a useless bother.”

He said the spying program must be considered along with other administration actions as a constitutional power grab by the president. Gore cited imprisoning American citizens without charges in terrorism cases, mistreatment of prisoners including torture ח and seizure of individuals in foreign countries and delivering them to autocratic regimes “infamous for the cruelty of their techniques.”

Gore didn’t only criticize government officials. Referring to news reports that private telecommunications companies have provided the Bush administration with access to private information on Americans, Gore said any company that did so should immediately end its complicity in the program.

SOURCE

Democracy Hollowed Out
PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5
PART 6 - PART 7 - PART 8 - PART 9 - PART 10
PART 11 - PART 12 - PART 13 - PART 14 - PART 15
PART 16 - PART 17 - PART 18

Posted by Elvis on 01/16/06 •
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