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Technology & Communications

August 26, 2014

Independent, Technical, Multistakeholder Organizations that Have Become Part of the United Nations

In relation to the debate over whether and how the U.S. should hand over control of the root zone (IANA) functions of the Internet to an independent, multistakeholder organization like ICANN, the Obama administration (and many others) have been adamant that they "are not turning the Internet over to the United Nations!" We absolutely will not allow that to happen, they insist.

And I give them credit for wisely and uncharacteristically (for this administration) understanding the problem with turning Internet governance over to the United Nations.

The long-term problem, as I have argued previously, is that independent multistakeholder organizations set up to do technical functions that are of interest to the global community have a habit of getting absorbed into the United Nations system.

Here is a list of such organizations that have ended up as "specialized agencies" in the UN system, despite the fact that there was no compelling reason why that function needed to be subject to the rules and governance of a UN organization. Tourism, really? Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

May 28, 2014

What Has Been Learned from the New Copyright Alert System (CAS)?

For some time IPI has been at the forefront of arguing in favor of intellectual property protection, since we believe that property rights are the basis of any market-based system, and markets are the best way to allocate goods and services. And particularly in an innovation-based economy, ensuring that innovators and creators are able to reap the rewards of their successful products is the best way to continue to fund a virtuous cycle of innovation.

Most commonly IP is protected through the force of law, since it is a proper role of government to facilitate the protection of private property. But, practically as well as legally, everyone who wants their world to be a world rich in creativity and innovation has an interest in seeing that creators and innovators are rewarded, in order to encourage continued creativity and innovation as envisioned by the American Founders in the Constitution’s Copyright Clause.

Massive on-line piracy, of course, derails the virtuous circle by depriving creators of any hope of reward. But the development of new business models through which content can be legally obtained on-line means that today those who might have taken the easy piracy route can be educated and redirected toward an abundance of legal options.

This is what brought Internet providers to the table with content companies some time ago to devise a voluntary system to try to reduce online piracy. Whereas before ISPs had been sometimes accused of having interests opposed to those of the content companies, in the maturing Internet ecosystem it has become clear that all legitimate players in the Internet have an interest in making sure that the Internet is a place rich in creative content, and a place where those who contribute to this richness at least have the option of attempting to monetize their content through various business models. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

May 27, 2014

Amendment Would Prevent Administration from Relinquishing Control of the Internet

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) will offer an amendment tomorrow to the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bill that would prohibit any funds from being used to relinquish control of the remaining root functions of the Internet to a multistakeholder organization, as is currently planned.

IPI has previously expressed our deep concerns that, while it is true that transferring those functions to the multistakeholder organization imagined by the administration would not mean those functions were subject to political control or United Nations control, it is probably inevitable that such an organization would eventually succumb to pressure. I've mentioned examples such as the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the World Meterological Organization (WMO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) as similar multistakeholder organizations designed to support a purely technical mission but that became UN organizations and thus subject to the domination of the UN bureaucracy, UN organizational rules, etc.

There is no compelling reason why any of those organizations needed to be within the UN system, but they ended up there. They had specialized, technical functions but now are subject to political mischief because they are part of the UN system. There's every reason to think the same thing will eventually happen to the Internet functions if the U.S. surrenders them, especially since the UN already claims the right to be involved in Internet issues through both the ITU and the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

IPI was on a panel a few weeks ago discussing this topic, and the CSPAN video is archived here. And if you don't want to watch the video, I blogged on my participation at that event here.

So, while what is currently planned and underway is not transferring control of the Internet to the UN, there is every reason to believe that will be the eventual result. And there is every reason to be very, very concerned about that result.

Congress is right to assert itself in this regard, and to prevent the administration from acting unilaterally to take what is almost certainly a bad step for the Internet. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

May 19, 2014

Wait--I Thought "Permissionless Innovation" Was a Thing?

There has been a lot of rhetoric around the phrase "permissionless innovation" in the last couple of years. I'm not myself comfortable with the phrase, because I think a hallmark of civilization is respect for the property of others, and thus the West has developed an entire permission-based legal culture around property rights.

But others ARE enamored of the idea of permissionless innovation, especially the Internet and tech community.

That's why I am struck in reading through FCC Chairman Wheeler's new 100 page net neutrality NPRM document. Apparently, one of the many things net neutrality means is permissionless innovation for edge companies but NOT for network providers.

Because network providers are going to need permission for a whole lot of things they do. Any new thing they want to try with regard to their business model is going to be subject to some absurd and undefined "commercially reasonable" standard.

How do we determine whether a practice is "commercially reasonable?" Apparently permission will be required of the FCC.

So I will take great joy in the next few months in pointing out they hypocrisy of net neutrality proponents who think permissionless innovation is a virtue—just apparently not for broadband companies.

'Cause it's not as if we want rapid innovation in broadband networks. No, of course not. That would be silly.


Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

May 18, 2014

Highlights of Commissioner Pai's Net Neutrality Dissent

Commissioner Pai strikes at the heart of the problem with assuming that the D.C. Circuit court gave the FCC broad authority to impose regulations on broadband. Some highlights:

". . . every American who cares about the future of the Internet should be wary about five unelected officials deciding its fate."

. . .

". . . President Clinton and Congress got it right in the Telecommunications Act of 1996 when they declared the policy of the United States to be 'preserv[ing] the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet . . . unfettered by Federal or State regulation.'"

. . .

"If we are to take the D.C. Circuit at its word, section 706 grants the FCC virtually unfettered authority to encourage broadband adoption and deployment. So if three members of the FCC think that more Americans would go online if they knew their information would be secure, could we impose cybersecurity and encryption standards on website operators? If three members of the FCC think that more Americans would purchase broadband if edge providers were prohibited from targeted advertising, could we impose Do Not Track regulations? Or if three members of the FCC think that more Americans would use the Internet if there were greater privacy protections, could we follow the European Union and impose right-to-be-forgotten mandates? And because section 706 gives state commissions authority equal to the FCC,11 every broadband provider, every online innovator, every Internet-enabled entrepreneur may now have to comply with differing regulations in each of the 50 states. Tesla, Uber, Airbnb, and countless others can attest to the welcome that parochial regulators give to disruptive start-ups." Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

May 18, 2014

"Welcome to the Stupid Internet" Still Holds Up

This past week I filmed an episode of the McCuistion program, a public affairs TV show that airs around the country, and the topic was net neutrality. It should air in a couple of months.

The program began with Tim Wu's definition of net neutrality, which is essentially the principle of non-discrimination: All bits have to be treated the same, with no discrimination. Essentially, the "dumb pipes" argument all over again.

This emphasis on non-discrimination reminded me of the first op/ed I wrote against net neutrality way back in 2006, in the early days of the net neutrality debate, entitled "Welcome to the Stupid Internet."

The piece is no longer archived on the San Jose Mercury News site, so we keep it archived here.

It's interesting to me that we are still at non-discrimination after all these years.

Of course, David Isenberg didn't like it. But Richard Bennett did, as did Scott Cleland

Here's what I think is interesting: For those eight years, we did not have net neutrality regulations, and the Internet blossomed. So . . . doesn't that mean that net neutrality proponents were wrong, and that the Internet was just fine without net neutrality regulations?

Oldie but goodie.


Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

April 13, 2014

Video of Tom Giovanetti Speaking on the U.S. Relinquishing Control of Internet Root Zone Functions

ICAC IANA CSPAN 1I was honored to speak at a panel discussion on Friday sponsored by the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee on whether transferring control of the Internet root zone functions from the U.S. Dept. of Commerce to some yet-to-be-determined multistakeholder organization is a good thing.

The briefing was televised on CSPAN, and the archive video can be seen here. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

March 24, 2014

Bigger Can Be Better; or Why the Comcast Merger is Probably Good for Time Warner Cable Customers

One or two guys oops, people can write a great app, or a great algorithm, and that's a great thing. Our economy is benefitting and consumers are reaping the benefits of such innovation and creativity that comes as the fruit of the minds and labor of a few.

But some things are really, really expensive and capital intensive to do, like building out and maintaining a 21st Century broadband and rich content network that is constantly innovating new products and services for its customers.

That's one of the reasons why I've never been big on municipal broadband networks, and it's a big reason why, as Marguerite Reardon wrote in CNET, the Comcast merger could be good for TimeWarner Cable customers. In fact, it almost certainly will be. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

January 14, 2014

No Clear Cut Winner From DC Circuit Net Neutrality Decision

As an early opponent of network neutrality regulations, it’s tempting for me to characterize as a victory today’s DC Circuit Court decision throwing out some of the FCC’s network neutrality rules, and indeed it is a victory—in part, and for now. It’s true that the court threw out the most onerous rule on anti-discrimination, while also tossing out a symbolic anti-blocking rule that market proponents understand was completely unnecessary.

But the Court agreed with the FCC on its authority to regulate broadband services, which means Verizon lost on its core assertion that the FCC had no statutory authority to regulate broadband networks. This is underscored by new FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s triumphalist reaction to the case. Everyone spins the results of important court decisions such as this, but the early social media reactions that “Verizon won and the FCC lost” were an uninformed oversimplification. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

November 19, 2013

Good job, Mr. Wheeler

Okay, so it looks like Mr. Wheeler is getting a good start, choosing the IP transition as a major push for his tenure at the FCC:

He must have read my TechByte from last week, in which I said:

Wheeler should start by recognizing that it is ridiculous for our wireline communications infrastructure to still be required to maintain and operate an outdated circuit-switched network. We are well into the transition from analog to digital communications in every area except wireline, where providers are still required by the FCC to operate a network based on 50-year-old technology.

Here’s hoping the FCC gets on with the business of facilitating, rather than hindering, private sector innovation. We wish you well, Mr. Wheeler.

I have to assume it was my TechByte that did it. Most likely explanation. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

November 19, 2013

Obama admin using taxpayer dollars to advocate for a tax increase

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

October 30, 2013

Comcast's Internet Essentials exceeds 1 million Americans connected

Yesterday, during testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, Comcast Executive Vice President David L. Cohen announced that their Internet Essentials program, designed to encourage broadband adoption among low-income families, has connected more than 1 million Americans to the Internet.

That's more than 250,000 families in a span of just over two years.

"That's more than the entire population of a city like San Francisco or a state like Delaware or Montana" Cohen said.

The Internet Essentials program offers low-cost broadband at $9.95 per month to families that qualify for the National School Lunch Program (and obviously who live in Comcast's service area). They also offer a computer for under $150 and computer literacy education.

Great example of a voluntary program, using no government funding. It's also the kind of program only a company with resources the size of Comcast's could pull off. So remember that when you hear people screaming about broadband companies being too large or too dominant. Big companies can also do big, good things. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

August 21, 2013

CBS turns net neutrality on its head

I hate to bring back up the topic of net neutrality, since those of us who worked on the issue for a decade are pretty much sick to the teeth of it, and we're all enjoying a brief respite from net neutrality as we await the results of Verizon's court challenge of the FCC's authority to impose net neutrality rules.

. . . (ahhhhhh)

But I can't help but point out that, in the current retransmission dispute between Time Warner Cable and CBS, somehow CBS has managed to turn the major concern of net neutrality proponents on its head. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

August 1, 2013

Obamaphone scandal observed first-hand

There is an enlightening (and thus infuriating) article at National Review where a reporter described how she has been issued three free "Obamaphones" in the past month. It's a must-read.

The SafeLink vendor then referred me to his opposite number, a rep from Assurance. She too took down my information, registering me for another Obamaphone.

Traveling to several of the welfare offices in the city, I learned this was common practice. Obamaphone reps come in twos, and both will sign you up if they can. Read More >>

Posted by Tom Giovanetti | Comments

May 22, 2013

No IP protections? An economic and security broadside against the U.S.

A Washington Post op-ed today serves as a great follow up to my last post about the Special 301 report, as it describes the danger of the theft of U.S. intellectual property (IP). Put another way, the Special 301 report identifies countries that are a particular problem when it comes to protecting U.S. IP sold, or otherwise provided, into that country.

The op-ed makes clear what happens when our IP is stolen it also makes clear something else -- what happens if there were no longer IP protections in the U.S.? Just read the piece and extend and broaden the impact resulting from piracy. What are those results? More jobs would be lost, even more wealth would be transferred from the U.S. to other countries such as China, loss of the U.S. competitive edge and a long term economic decline, and a loss of our military protections. Read More >>

Posted by Bartlett D. Cleland | Comments


Total Records: 38


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