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Patent compromise continues

April 11, 2014

by Julian Hattem & Kate Tummarello
Hillicon Valley

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) have reached a patent reform agreement that would increase transparency around patent infringement lawsuits and threats of lawsuits and institute a “loser-pays” system for unreasonable lawsuits, according to a person familiar with the negotiations.

The lawmakers have been working over the last week to reach compromise on the more contentious patent reform provisions as the Senate Judiciary Committee repeatedly delayed consideration of Chairman Patrick Leahy’s Patent Transparency and Improvements Act. According to the person familiar with the negotiations, language of the compromise between Schumer and Cornyn is still being finalized and will be included in the updated version of the bill that the committee will consider when it returns from its two-week recess.

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The FCC Should Not Preempt State Restrictions on Municipal Broadband

April 10, 2014

by Sarah Leggin
Free State Foundation

In the wake of the D.C. Circuit’s Verizon v. FCC decision, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler laid out plans for the Commission’s approach to broadband. Those plans included a proposal to potentially preempt state restrictions on the ability of cities and towns to offer broadband services to their communities. At the Consumer Federation of America’sAssembly on March 21, Chairman Wheeler reiterated his plans to address state restrictions preventing state localities from building out municipal broadband services.

Chairman Wheeler should not move forward with these plans. First, Section 706 most likely does not provide FCC authority to preempt state laws. Second, government-funded networks do not bring real competition to localities and, most often, eventually cause more harm than good. Finally, the widespread failure of government-owned broadband projects proves that it would be unwise for Chairman Wheeler to push municipalities to pursue these often harmful ventures.

Nearly twenty states restrict local governments from entering into the business of providing broadband Internet service. These restrictions are sound policy, as they prevent local government conflicts of interest with the private sector, and they protect other local government programs and local taxpayers from the potential financial losses stemming from risky municipal broadband projects.

FSF scholars have discussed the problems stemming from government-owned broadband systems at length. In his February 26 Perspectives, Senior Adjunct Fellow Seth Cooper recently analyzed the legal implications of the FCC’s tentative plan to potentially preempt state-level restrictions on municipal broadband projects. Mr. Cooper found that “preemption would undermine local government accountability to state governments and to taxpayers” and “any attempt to interfere with the relationship between states and their local governments will run up against basic free market and federalism principles.”

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House panel to consider Internet governance bill

April 10, 2014

by Julian Hattem & Kate Tummarello
Hillicon Valley

The House Commerce subcommittee on Technology will mark up a Republican bill that would prevent the Obama administration from going through with plans to step out of its oversight role of the Internet’s Web address system.

The bill — Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act, from Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and Commerce Committee Vice Chairwoman Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) — would keep the Obama administration from transitioning out of its oversight role of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) until the Government Accountability Office completes a review of that study.

The Republican push for legislation is a response to a Commerce Department announcement earlier this year that it would be giving up its oversight role of the IANA to the global community. Currently, the IANA is run by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) through a contract with the U.S. government that must be renewed every two years.

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Sen. Leahy delays action on patent reform bill

April 10, 2014

by Kate Tummarello
Hillicon Valley

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Wednesday postponed a markup on a patent reform bill until after the spring recess as lawmakers finalize a compromise version of the bill.

It’s the fourth time the Judiciary panel has delayed action on the patent bill.

In a statement, Leahy said he and other committee members have reached bipartisan agreement but are still working on specific provisions. Leahy he said he will introduce an updated version of his bill later this month, when the Senate comes back from a two-week recess.

The legislation, authored by Leahy and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), takes aim at “patent trolls” that profit by bringing and threatening patent infringement lawsuits.

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Embracing market-driven progress

April 9, 2014

by Richard Bennett
Tech Policy Daily

Vox Media’s new acquisition, Ezra Klein, isn’t following the Netroots Nation script that guides The Verge and the other Vox properties. In his interview with the fanciful Susan Crawford, Klein modestly pushed back on some of her most outlandish arguments for a government monopoly on broadband; at one point he asked her:

If Comcast was sitting here, they would say, I think, that you began that answer by saying that the beauty of the Internet is that any new company can come on to it but that, at the end of the answer, it was about Netflix, a massive incumbent who uses tremendous amounts of bandwidth. They would argue that in a limited bandwidth world, in order to keep space for the new entrants, they need to charge the incumbents taking up tremendous bandwidth. You don’t think that is a reasonable response.

But he didn’t question her outrageous claim that “Comcast is making north of 95 percent profit on its provision of high-speed Internet access services” which overstates their profitability by 2000 percent.

Monday, Klein wrote an intriguing column – “How Politics Makes Us Stupid” – about a fascinating study of the effects that our political beliefs have on the way we analyze information and create our views of reality. He explained an experiment designed to test the following hypothesis:

Perhaps people aren’t held back by a lack of knowledge. After all, they don’t typically doubt the findings of oceanographers or the existence of other galaxies. Perhaps there are some kinds of debates where people don’t want to find the right answer so much as they want to win the argument. Perhaps humans reason for purposes other than finding the truth – purposes like increasing their standing in their community, or ensuring they don’t piss off the leaders of their tribe. If this hypothesis proved true, then a smarter, better-educated citizenry wouldn’t put an end to these disagreements. It would just mean the participants are better equipped to argue for their own side.

The researchers found their hypothesis was confirmed:

Presented with this problem a funny thing happened: how good subjects were at math stopped predicting how well they did on the test. Now it was ideology that drove the answers. Liberals were extremely good at solving the problem when doing so proved that gun-control legislation reduced crime. But when presented with the version of the problem that suggested gun control had failed, their math skills stopped mattering. They tended to get the problem wrong no matter how good they were at math. Conservatives exhibited the same pattern — just in reverse.

So the better you are at math, the more likely you are to overlook the message in the numbers in order to confirm your political bias. This is troubling, of course, because it undermines the premise that learning and study lead to good policy formation. It’s something that all of us in the policy space should think about.

One notorious political player was quick to deny the finding. Paul Krugman, once a reasonably talented economist but now more a political player, claimed that his people don’t cut corners on the data, only the other guys do:

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Jeffrey Eisenach talks net neutrality and Internet governance on the Diane Rehm Show

April 11, 2014

by Jeffrey Eisenach
Tech Policy Daily

On Monday, TechPolicyDaily’s own Jeffrey Eisenach appeared on the Diane Rehm Show. The segment focused on the recent EU net neutrality vote and ICANN announcement and included Laura DeNardis of American University, Cecilia Kang of the Washington Post, and Esther Dyson, founding chair of ICANN. The show featured a lively conversation about net neutrality, broadband access, and the principles of Internet governance. The full audio is available here.

For more net neutrality and Internet governance coverage, check out some of our latest posts:

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Why is New Zealand chasing Chattanooga?

April 10, 2014

by Brownyn Howell
Tech Policy Daily

Down here in New Zealand, we’re being treated to a competition run by Chorus, the largest beneficiary of the government’s fiber broadband subsidy largesse.  Gigatown pits 50 New Zealand towns in those parts of the country where Chorus is the ‘chosen’ provider (70% of the 70% of the country that will get the UFB) against each other to become “the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to access a one gigabit per second internet connection.”  Each town in the contest has its own two unique GIGATOWN hashtags – one with the town’s full name and the other with a three-letter abbreviation for the digitally challenged.  The winning town will be the one whose supporters earn the most points (adjusted for the size of the town’s population) by using #Gigatown[your town] hashtags in posts (excluding spam) to Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr, Facebook, WordPress, and Tumblr.

Of course, the competition is mostly a marketing ruse to drum up enthusiasm for a network that is struggling to sign up customers to its more modest-speed subsidized connections.  The winning town will certainly not be the Southern Hemisphere’s first ‘Gigatown’ by the definition above.  It won’t even be New Zealand’s first, as private, unsubsidized CityLink has provided Wellington City with a state-of-the-art dark fiber network capable of delivering these speeds for years.  In reality, the winner will become the first town in the Southern Hemisphere with guaranteed access to heavily subsidized 1 Gbps subscriptions for a three year period as well as a $200,000 development fund for entrepreneurs and innovators providing new services over the Gigabyte network (i.e. any new internet application, whether or not it actually needs gigabyte capability).  The consolation prize is a trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee for one representative from each of the five highest scoring towns (winner included) to “see for themselves the difference that Gigabit broadband can make – and inspire their own community.“

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Government-subsidized fiber: Careful what you wish for

March 26, 2014

by Brownyn Howell
Tech Policy Daily

The bold policies of the Australian and New Zealand governments to fund nationwide national fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) broadband networks have drawn attention of late for all the wrong reasons.  So far, Australia has spent around $28,000 for each of its 260,000 residential connections, whilst New Zealand’s uptake rate after two years stands at just a little over 5% of premises passed.  The inability of such ‘grand policies’ to deliver upon the aspirations held for them is in large part due to some of the well-established reasons why politics and the telecommunications industry have historically made such uneasy bedfellows.

Politics trumps economics

First, private sector investors have to account to shareholders for the application of their funds, but governments’ accountability is to electors, whose tax liability often bears little resemblance to their voting power.  Thus, government-owned firms tend to operate less efficiently than their private sector counterparts, whilst political priorities often result in deployment schedules following political, rather than economic, priorities.

The recent Strategic Review of Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN) reveals a budget blowout from A$43 billion to A$72.6 billion in just four years, for a project running around 50% behind the schedule and downscaled significantly over time in order to constrain political damage.  Meanwhile, building is ahead of schedule in New Zealand’s privately-constructed Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB), as the key performance metrics and access to government funds are linked to meeting pre-agreed build targets.  However, uptake has been extremely modest.  In part, this arises from the political priority to connect (predominantly government-owned) schools and hospitals first, rather than building to meet the needs of the (private) consumers based on willingness to pay.

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Relinquishing U.S Oversight of the Internet – My PBS NewsHour Appearance

March 25, 2014

by Randolph J. May
Free State Foundation

I was interviewed on the PBS NewsHour, on March 24, 2014, along with Vint Cerf, Google’s Chief Evangelist, about the Obama Administration’s recently-announced plans to transfer oversight of the Internet to some yet-to-be-determined entity.

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Give Us an Internet As Innovative As Our Streets!

March 25, 2014

by Mike Wendy
Media Freedom

Comcast and Apple have reportedly begun exploring a “TV deal,” which The Hill reports would:

“…[L]et users stream live and on-demand television stored on the Internet, essentially replacing a normal cable box.

“Service over the potential arrangement would be separated from regular Internet connections over the so-called ‘last mile’ of connection to a consumer, where heavy traffic can slow down web speeds. That would theoretically make the streaming video as smooth as it would be for people watching TV via a traditional cable set-top box.”

Because the deal would involve so-called “managed services,” it would likely fall within an exception to the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules – rules which Comcast must still follow as a result of its NBC-Universal merger, even though Net Neutrality was tossed out by a Federal Court in January.

(Gosh, overturning that terrible rule seems to have gotten the Internet humming with innovation again)

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IFC Reply Comments to FCC: Title II Reclassification Unjustified, Unnecessary

August 12, 2010

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of Framework for Broadband Internet Service                    

GN Docket No. 10-127

FCC Docket No. 10-114

 Reply Comments

of the Undersigned Members of the

INTERNET FREEDOM COALITION

Introduction

The Commission is being asked by Free Press and other organizations to pursue a radical course of action – reclassifying information services as telecommunications services in order to regulate the Internet for the first time.  We write to urge the Commission to keep the Internet free of new government regulation and taxation and to refrain from rushing into such a potentially disastrous course of action.

Analysts are only beginning to grasp the extent of the disruptive and destructive consequences of regulating the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act, and the Commission is in no position to predict the outcome, much less assure Americans it will be positive.  Americans have heard political leaders admit that we will not know the full extent or nature of massive health care and financial services regulations until after the underlying legislation has been passed.  Now, Americans are facing the imposition of an even lesser-understood regulatory regime over the Internet without the benefit of any legislative process whatsoever.

CLICK HERE FOR PDF

IFC Supplemental Reply Comments: FCC Lacks Authority, Justification for Reclassifying Internet as Title II Service

April 26, 2010

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of
Preserving the Open Internet              GN Docket No. 09-191                                  
Broadband Industry Practices            WC Docket No. 07-52

Supplemental Reply Comments of the Internet Freedom Coalition

Just two days prior to the Commission’s deadline for reply comments regarding the above Notice of Proposed Rulemakings, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in Comcast v. FCC that the Commission has no authority to enact Net Neutrality rules.  The deadline for comments was extended, particularly to facilitate discussion of other methods of promulgating Net Neutrality regulations.

 Beginning with comments on the National Broadband Plan filed by Public Knowledge in January, a small number of organizations have since proposed classifying the Internet as a Title II common carrier service as a way of asserting the Commission’s authority to enact Net Neutrality regulations.  The Internet Freedom Coalition respectfully submits these reply comments in strong opposition to any effort to reclassify the Internet as a Title II service.

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IFC Reply Comments to FCC: Refuting Free Press’ Arguments for Regulating the Internet

April 26, 2010

Before the

Federal Communications Commission

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of                                           
Preserving the Open Internet                      GN Docket No. 09-191
Broadband Industry Practices                    WC Docket No. 07-52

Reply Comments of the Internet Freedom Coalition

The following comments are submitted by the undersigned members of the Internet Freedom Coalition.  They are submitted in reply to comments filed by proponents of Network Neutrality regulations, and are attributable only to the signatories.

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Internet Freedom Coalition Comments to the FCC, Opposing Network Neutrality Regulations

February 23, 2010

Before the

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION

Washington, DC 20554

In the Matter of
Preserving the Open Internet,                 GN Docket No. 09-191
Broadband Industry Practices                WC Docket No. 07–52; FCC 09–93
Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

 Comments of the Internet Freedom Coalition

 Introduction

 The Internet Freedom Coalition is an ad hoc coalition of organizations and individuals committed to the continued growth and improvement of the Internet, who believe regulations and taxes are harmful to those ends. The Internet Freedom Coalition believes that a free and open Internet is beneficial, but argues that regulatory intervention in the well-functioning marketplace that has thus far produced a vast, free and open network would unnecessarily limit the current and future supply of bandwidth, and would harm both producers and consumers. These comments are attributable only to the individual signatories.

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