Posts by Ernesto Falcon
Last night Public Knowledge joined with Internet
activists gathered in New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC (I
attended the DC gathering) to formerly launch the Internet Defense League.
The purpose of the league is to provide an organizing tool for many of the
forces that came together to defeat SOPA and PIPA. Given that beating
those bills was a political victory of comic book super hero proportions, the
league naturally has its own “Cat Signal” showcased here,
here, and here.
The latest controversy with the Intellectual Property Attaché
Act, formerly a provision within the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), is entirely
self-inflicted by its lead sponsors.
It has been reported that NBCUniversal, News Corporation, and Walt Disney Company
block access to Hulu unless you pay for both a broadband subscription and a
paid TV subscription. Such a move will
prevent an estimated
people from becoming Hulu customers and likely stifle Hulu’s future
success. Who else but the executives who
brought you the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would actively strangle their own
Internet success story? With an annual
doubling of revenue and average monthly growth of 100,000 paid subscribers, it
must be that Hulu was too successful (and disruptive) for its stakeholders to
handle. So rather than embrace the Internet, they have opted to reverse
course and try to preserve the increasingly rejected business model of cable
and satellite TV.
The fight for a globally unified and open Internet will
never end, but so far the Internet community has been on a winning streak. This has become apparent to both
Congress and to the forces
that supported SOPA. It is
this dynamic that has prompted the preemptive effort by policy makers
attempting to pass major cyber security legislation to explain how
their legislation is not SOPA.
It is also what is fueling the effort by SOPA supporters and their
allies in government to keep everything that is happening in the Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP) a mystery to the public.
In a blatant act of hypocrisy, Cary Sherman the chief
executive of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as well as
his allies, are claiming that the public was misinformed about the Stop Online
Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP (PIPA) when they opposed those
bills. As Sherman said, “misinformation may be a dirty trick, but it
works.” His organization would know given that for more than a year the
RIAA, Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and other pro-SOPA and
pro-PIPA allies actively engaged in misinforming Congress on the implications
of the SOPA and PIPA.
Several million of you have called or met with your
Senators over the last few weeks and have expressed your opposition to the
PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). The grassroots campaign has been enormously
in having prominent Senators retreat from their support of PIPA and commit to voting
no to ensure that PIPA receives a thorough vetting. That being said, I have noticed a trend in
statements by Senators that gives the appearance that they are listening to
your opposition, but ultimately will vote for the bill next week.
To start, there is no such thing as an infinite
filibuster based on one person objecting to a bill passing. Such a dynamic is the stuff of Hollywood movies
(ironically) and has not existed in the United States Senate for decades. Below I will summarize how the process will
work and why
citizen involvement over the next few weeks is critical. For a very detailed explanation of how the
Senate filibuster works you should read this Congressional
Research Service report.
This is the question that is before Congress as it
decides on what to do with the Domain Name Server filtering provisions in the
Stopping Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA). Public
Knowledge has advocated from the beginning against this provision because it
would make the Internet less secure, sacrifice our moral high ground
internationally, and to top it off it will do nothing to deter Internet
piracy. So while many would experience revulsion at the idea of adopting
any tool that is used in the Great Firewall of China, the proponents of SOPA
and PIPA have in fact, embraced it.
As Congress considers adopting a scorched earth policy towards Internet piracy via legislation known as the Stopping Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act, recent events have highlighted the gravity of the trade-off that is being contemplated. Last week the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) unveiled Operation Ghost Click, a multi-year operation that dismantled an international cyber ring that hacked into four million computers worldwide (500,000 of these computers were in U.S. homes, businesses, and government agencies). This entire cyber criminal operation was run by a grand total of six people (that is one person for every 666,667 computers) who successfully stole $14 million by manipulating Internet advertising revenue.
As part of its campaign to conquer the wireless market by buying out T-Mobile, the fourth-largest wireless carrier, AT&T is trying to tell anyone who will listen that going from four national carriers to two will actually lower prices. They even have fancy charts and graphs to prove it.
Nothing of the sort will happen. Rather, the result will be just the opposite. AT&T will be sitting along with Verizon to create a national duopoly of big carriers. They will also gain a monopoly on GSM wireless technology, as AT&T and T-Mobile are the only national carriers that provide national GSM coverage. But in an effort to distract from this reality, AT&T is using modified charts and irrelevant statistics to make its case.
Earlier this week the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held its legislative hearing on Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden's (R-OR) bill, H.J. Res. 37, to repeal the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) network neutrality rules and eliminate the FCC’s authority to protect consumers in the broadband market. Immediately following the hearing the subcommittee held its markup, which is part of the voting process to move legislation to the floor of the House of Representatives (normally held weeks after the collection of facts and evidence from a hearing rather than minutes).
Yesterday the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing entitled “Network Neutrality and Internet Regulation: Warranted or More Economic Harm than Good?” While most of the hearing was a thoughtful debate about the role of the federal government, a common theme sprung up. That common theme appeared to be that some opponents of Network Neutrality do not seem to understand the Internet and have not read up on the documented history of blocking and degrading of lawful content that has occurred on the Internet.
The process that will lead to a definitive vote in Congress on an open Internet begins this month. Opponents to an open Internet have made clear that despite the support from AT&T and the cable industry, they intend to invoke the nuclear option known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA). They have stated, despite significant corporate support (and significant dissent from public interest groups) that the Federal Communications Commission's open Internet rules resemble George Orwell's 1984 Big Brother. That is quite the departure from our perspective that the FCC rules appear barely adequate.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Communications Subcommittee, made that claim over the weekend during an interview on C-SPAN’s “Communicators” program. She asserted that “over 300 members of Congress signed a letter to the FCC expressing concern over the FCC’s power grab,” that others interpret as protecting consumers and helping to secure an open Internet.
The aftermath of the election has a lot of people guessing at what it means for a litany of issues, including those of interest to Public Knowledge and our friends. Many of them will not go away, although at the same time it is impossible to predict whether any concrete legislative action will take place.