A Trojan Horse called Net Neutrality

By David Kravets
Wired.com
February 4, 2011

The Federal Communications Commission’s net-neutrality decision opens the FCC to “boundless authority to regulate the internet for whatever it sees fit,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning.

Image: wired.com

The civil rights group says the FCC’s action in December, which was based on shaky legal authority, creates a paradox of epic proportions. The EFF favors net neutrality but worries whether the means justify the ends.

“We’re wholly in favor of net neutrality in practice, but a finding of ancillary jurisdiction here would give the FCC pretty much boundless authority to regulate the internet for whatever it sees fit. And that kind of unrestrained authority makes us nervous about follow-on initiatives like broadcast flags and indecency campaigns,” Abigail Phillips, an EFF staff attorney, wrote on the group’s blog Thursday.

And the paradox grows.

In a Friday telephone interview, Phillips was unclear how to solve the problem. What about an act of Congress? How about reclassifying broadband to narrow the FCC’s control if it?

“I’m not sure what I think the right solution is,” she answered.

The agency’s December action has already been attacked on multiple fronts, including two lawsuits.

One side of the debate has focused on claims the FCC overstepped its authority by adopting the principle that wireline carriers treat all internet traffic the same. A chorus of others complain that the FCC wimped out and didn’t go far enough when it comes to wireless carriers.

And the entire debate is littered with competing interests, including the mobile-phone carriers, internet service providers, private enterprise, developers, Congress and, last but not least, the public.

“In general, we think arguments that regulating the internet is ‘ancillary’ to some other regulatory authority that the FCC has been granted just don’t have sufficient limitations to stop bad FCC behavior in the future and create the ‘Trojan horse’ risk we have long warned about,” Phillips said.

But who can be trusted in this debate?

The answer opens Pandora’s box.

Net Neutrality: Last Step Towards Complete Tyranny

World Wide Web lock down begins in the USA

By Robert McDowell

Tomorrow morning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will mark the winter solstice by taking an unprecedented step to expand government’s reach into the Internet by attempting to regulate its inner workings. In doing so, the agency will circumvent Congress and disregard a recent court ruling.

How did the FCC get here?

For years, proponents of so-called “net neutrality” have been calling for strong regulation of broadband “on-ramps” to the Internet, like those provided by your local cable or phone companies. Rules are needed, the argument goes, to ensure that the Internet remains open and free, and to discourage broadband providers from thwarting consumer demand. That sounds good if you say it fast.

Nothing is broken that needs fixing, however. The Internet has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was spun off from a government research project in the early 1990s. Its nature as a diffuse and dynamic global network of networks defies top-down authority. Ample laws to protect consumers already exist. Furthermore, the Obama Justice Department and the European Commission both decided this year that net-neutrality regulation was unnecessary and might deter investment in next-generation Internet technology and infrastructure.

Analysts and broadband companies of all sizes have told the FCC that new rules are likely to have the perverse effect of inhibiting capital investment, deterring innovation, raising operating costs, and ultimately increasing consumer prices. Others maintain that the new rules will kill jobs. By moving forward with Internet rules anyway, the FCC is not living up to its promise of being “data driven” in its pursuit of mandates—i.e., listening to the needs of the market.

It wasn’t long ago that bipartisan and international consensus centered on insulating the Internet from regulation. This policy was a bright hallmark of the Clinton administration, which oversaw the Internet’s privatization. Over time, however, the call for more Internet regulation became imbedded into a 2008 presidential campaign promise by then-Sen. Barack Obama. So here we are.

Last year, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski started to fulfill this promise by proposing rules using a legal theory from an earlier commission decision (from which I had dissented in 2008) that was under court review. So confident were they in their case, FCC lawyers told the federal court of appeals in Washington, D.C., that their theory gave the agency the authority to regulate broadband rates, even though Congress has never given the FCC the power to regulate the Internet. FCC leaders seemed caught off guard by the extent of the court’s April 6 rebuke of the commission’s regulatory overreach.

In May, the FCC leadership floated the idea of deeming complex and dynamic Internet services equivalent to old-fashioned monopoly phone services, thereby triggering price-and-terms regulations that originated in the 1880s. The announcement produced what has become a rare event in Washington: A large, bipartisan majority of Congress agreeing on something. More than 300 members of Congress, including 86 Democrats, contacted the FCC to implore it to stop pursuing Internet regulation and to defer to Capitol Hill.

Facing a powerful congressional backlash, the FCC temporarily changed tack and convened negotiations over the summer with a select group of industry representatives and proponents of Internet regulation. Curiously, the commission abruptly dissolved the talks after Google and Verizon, former Internet-policy rivals, announced their own side agreement for a legislative blueprint. Yes, the effort to reach consensus was derailed by . . . consensus.

After a long August silence, it appeared that the FCC would defer to Congress after all. Agency officials began working with House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman on a draft bill codifying network management rules. No Republican members endorsed the measure. Later, proponents abandoned the congressional effort to regulate the Net.

Still feeling quixotic pressure to fight an imaginary problem, the FCC leadership this fall pushed a small group of hand-picked industry players toward a “choice” between a bad option (broad regulation already struck down in April by the D.C. federal appeals court) or a worse option (phone monopoly-style regulation). Experiencing more coercion than consensus or compromise, a smaller industry group on Dec. 1 gave qualified support for the bad option. The FCC’s action will spark a billable-hours bonanza as lawyers litigate the meaning of “reasonable” network management for years to come. How’s that for regulatory certainty?

To date, the FCC hasn’t ruled out increasing its power further by using the phone monopoly laws, directly or indirectly regulating rates someday, or expanding its reach deeper into mobile broadband services. The most expansive regulatory regimes frequently started out modest and innocuous before incrementally growing into heavy-handed behemoths.

On this winter solstice, we will witness jaw-dropping interventionist chutzpah as the FCC bypasses branches of our government in the dogged pursuit of needless and harmful regulation. The darkest day of the year may end up marking the beginning of a long winter’s night for Internet freedom.

Mr. McDowell is a Republican commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.

Goodbye to the Free Internet

U.S. Feds Warrantlessly Tracking Americans’ Credit Cards in Real Time…

Washington Times

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is poised to add the Internet to its portfolio of regulated industries. The agency’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, announced Wednesday that he circulated draft rules he says will “preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet.” No statement could better reflect the gulf between the rhetoric and the reality of Obama administration policies.

With a straight face, Mr. Genachowski suggested that government red tape will increase the “freedom” of online services that have flourished because bureaucratic busybodies have been blocked from tinkering with the Web. Ordinarily, it would be appropriate at this point to supply an example from the proposed regulations illustrating the problem. Mr. Genachowski‘s draft document has over 550 footnotes and is stamped “non-public, for internal use only” to ensure nobody outside the agency sees it until the rules are approved in a scheduled Dec. 21 vote. So much for “openness.”

The issue of “net neutrality” is nothing new, but the increasing popularity of online movie streaming services like Netflix have highlighted an area of potential concern. When someone watches a film over the Internet, especially in high definition, the maximum available capacity of the user’s connection is used. Think, for example, of the problems that would arise at the water works if everyone decided to turn on their faucets and take a shower simultaneously. Internet providers are beginning to see the same strain on their networks.

In some cases, heavy use of this sort slows the Web experience for everyone sharing the same lines. That has prompted some cable Internet providers to consider either charging the heavy users more or limiting access to the “problematic” services. Of course, if cinema buffs find themselves cut off from their favorite service, they’re going to be mad. If companies don’t act, they’re just as likely to find irate customers who don’t want their experience bogged down by others.

It’s not clear why the FCC thinks it needs to intervene in a situation with obvious market solutions. Companies that impose draconian tolls or block services will lose customers. Existing laws already offer a number of protections against anti-competitive behavior, but it’s not clear under what law Mr. Genachowski thinks he can stick his nose into the businesses that comprise the Internet. The FCC regulates broadcast television and radio because the government granted each station exclusive access to a slice of the airwaves. Likewise when Ma Bell accepted a monopoly deal from Uncle Sam, it came with regulatory strings attached.

No such rationale applies online, especially because bipartisan majorities in Congress have insisted on maintaining a hands-off policy. A federal appeals court confirmed this in April by striking down the FCC‘s last attempt in this arena. “That was sort of like the quarterback being sacked for a 20-yard loss,” FCC Commissioner Robert M. McDowell told The Washington Times. “And now the team is about to run the exact same play. … In order for the FCC to do this, it needs for Congress to give it explicit statutory authority to do so.”

Freedom and openness should continue to be the governing principles of the Internet. That’s why Mr. Genachowski‘s proposal should be rejected and Congress should make it even more clear that the FCC should stop trying to expand its regulatory empire.

Related Article:

U.S. Government Violating Limits in Spying

Cybersecurity: The Takeover of the Internet

By Luis R. Miranda
The Real Agenda
May 1, 2010

In the United States, a recent version of a bill was passed by the House Of Representatives, which will give the Federal cybersecurityCommunications Commission (FCC) complete dominion over the web. The bill includes the creation of a new sector of internet security which will include the training, research and coordination of cyberspace. It allows the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create a program to recruit children from Kindergarten up to 12 years old to teach them how to carry out internet surveillance, as part of the new Cyber Army. The scholarship program that will fund the training will teach the students how to create and identity management systems used to control access to the web, computer networks, and data. It will also create a series of standards which all service providers will have to meet in order to remain active. Internet users will have to put up with endless requirements, which include the use of government issued software. Bye, bye Linux!

In section 12, subsection 4, the document reads: “We shall provide a procedure to identify K-12 students to participate in summer work and internship programs that will lead to the certification of a federal information technology workforce standards…” In other words, anyone who intends to work anywhere close to the internet, will need to be certified by the federal government, and the federal government will assure itself it will have the “humans resources” to carry this plan out by recruiting children as young as 5 years of age.

Besides the programs described above, the bill also talks about the creation of new protocols that will provide enhanced security. All software made available will have to first be reviewed by the government and then pre-aproved. Again, bye bye open source! Coincidentally, Google has announced the creation of their own version of the internet; which many worried citizens recognize as a beta test for the coming internet 2.0. Among some of the suggested practices that would be adopted under this internet 2.0, is the use of biometric identification in order to access the web. This would allow the government and its technology partners -AKA Microsoft, Google, AT&T, Verizon and others- to further monitor anyone who uses the web, since such identification would narrow down the work to a single individual operating from a specific computer at a specific location. This type of practices have been put in place by technology manufacturers in computers, external hard drives and other devices, which were biometrically enabled. Recently, Microsoft unveiled the latest version of their Xbox game console which features a 5 megapixel camera that activates on movement and recognizes specific body movements.

Section 7, which talks about licensing and certification of cybersecurity professionals reads: “Beginning three years after the enactment of this act, it shall be unlawful for any individual to engage in business in the United States or to be employed in the United States as a provider of cybersecurity services to any federal agency or information system or network … who is not licensed and certified by the program.” Reading further into the bill, it is clear the mentioned networks include not only the all public ones, but also all private ones.

The Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative will give the President emergency powers -to be added to the ones he got under the Patriot Act- that include contingencies to limit the publication of content, access to the internet and shut down of the web. Some presidential aides as well as technology professional who support the bill tried to dampen critics concerns alleging the president already has vast powers to regulate the Internet during emergencies. No one would think the government’s intent is to take advantage of a bill like this in order to limit or end access to the net, if it was not for the crystal clear statements that government officials have put out with respect to net neutrality, internet 2.0, access to the web and so on. One of the best examples we can use to illustrate what the military industrial complex is planning to do is the most recent statements by Barack Hussein Obama’s Regulatory Czar, Cass Sunstein. He said websites should be mandated remove “rumors” and “hateful” or “absurd” statements, usually contained in “right wing” websites. “In the era of the Internet, it has become easy to spread false or misleading rumors about almost anyone,” Sunstein writes. “Some right-wing websites like to make absurd and hateful remarks about the alleged relationship between Barack Obama and the former radical Bill Ayers; one of the websites’ goals was undoubtedly to attract more viewers. “On the Internet as well as on talk radio, altruistic propagators are easy to find; they play an especially large role in the political domain. When Sean Hannity, the television talk show host, attacked Barack Obama because of his alleged associations, one of his goals might have been to promote values and causes that he cherishes.”

The kind of policies bills like the passed in the U.S. House of Representatives wants to implement, are also being proposed and adopted elsewhere in the world. In Australia, senators are rocking their newly acquired powers, by telling the citizens what is legal and what is illegal to say or publish on the web. One of the many people advancing censorship in the land down under is Senator Steve Fielding, who is a member of the party called Family First. He wants all X-rated content banned for everyone, including adults. Mr. Fielding is open to wide censorship on the internet.

Meanwhile in Indonesia, the local government is following on the steps of the United States and Australia. “There are myriad violations by Internet users in Indonesia. We don’t have any intention to move backward… but we don’t want people to think that the government ignores matters like pornography on the Internet.” Recent laws passed in Indonesia were adopted despite firm opposition and widespread protests. The bill was supported by conservative Muslim groups such as the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), which traces its origins back to Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Governments and organizations that support internet censorship and push for cybersecurity acts usually cite pornography, rumors, hate speech and conspiracy theories as the reasons to intervene with what is written and read online. In reality, however, such plans are efforts to minimize or eliminate dissent, much like some governments like Venezuela, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Cuba close newspapers and television stations that challenged the “official position”.

In the United Kingdom, a bill labeled as The Digital Economy Bill includes a new code to limit Internet access. Local reports warn that the government may bypass the regular consultation process to bring it into force. The bill in the UK contains two clauses, 10 and 11, which are particularly worrisome. They would enable Ofcom to move forward with technical measures as soon as the Initial Obligations code has been introduced. This is seen as a government plan to jump the gun, and ahead to limit the Internet without following the appropriate steps. According to the site IPINTEGRITY.com, the rules included in the bill mirror the language of ‘limitations’ contained in the Universal Services directive in the E.U. Telecoms Package.

What other goals do these kind of internet bills will try to achieve?

Back in the United States, section 5 of the Cybersecurity bill states: “The transfer of cybersecurity standards, processes, technology and techniques, will be developed by NIST.” Both NIST and the FCC, have praised Google’s initiative to build a high speed version of the internet. At the same time, the FCC is in the process of submitting a National Broadband Plan which will effectively limit the amount of time and areas a user can access. In addition, internet users would be charge by the use of bandwidth, the amount of downloads and so on. Among the plans to be implemented with the new cybersecurity bill is the “harmonization” of the web. This means, people will eventually have to use software approved by federal agencies in order to access the world wide web.

Section 6, which details the new standards NIST will put in place, indicates that those who do not comply with federal regulations will be barred from using the internet. Subsection 2.2, again touches on the FCC’s prerogative to decide what are safe standards and to allow access to the web only to those Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) and other companies that meet those standards. In other words, companies that provide internet services and the users themselves will have to operate under the federal governments boundaries or simply forget about what up until now has been a freely accessed medium. This type of policies match Cass Sunstein’s views regarding the use of the web. He says: “freedom usually works, but in some contexts, it is an incomplete corrective.” He proposes a “chilling effect” on “damaging rumors” or using “corrective” measures to deter future rumor mongers. WND reported about Sunstein’s “First Amendment New Deal” also known as a new “Fairness Doctrine” that includes the creation of a panel of “nonpartisan experts” to force “diversity of view” on the airwaves. The regulatory Czar’s radical proposal is contained in his 1993 book “The Partial Constitution.

Section 8, which talks about Domain Name Contracts, gives an advisory panel created by the act veto power on decisions made by the assistant secretary of commerce for Communications and Information with respect to renewal or modification of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority for the operation of Domain Name System. This seems to echo what was stated by the two representatives who presented the cybersecurity bill. “We must protect our critical infrastructure at all costs—from our water to our electricity, to banking, traffic lights and electronic health records,” Jay Rockefeller said. Olympia Snowe agreed with her colleague: “if we fail to take swift action, we, regrettably, risk a cyber-Katrina.” The governments that approve bills like the ones in the U.S., and initiatives like the ones in Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and other countries, will certainly follow on the steps China has left behind. There, “companies like Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems and Websense – stand accused of aiding and abetting human rights violations,” states the website campaignforliberty.com. The group Amnesty International documented violations committed by Chinese authorities which have introduced regulations, closed LAN houses, spied on and blocked e-mails, taken down search engines as well as foreign news and politically-sensitive websites. More recently, a new filtering system was put to work, with the intention of banning a list of key words and terms”. Such control, it seems, can be implemented either through a central organization that will oversee all internet providers and users, or through regional and local management posts, which the American bill states, will be established through the monetary support of non-profit organizations which will serve as branches for the centralized cybersecurity center.

Groups concerned with the far reaching powers the bill appropriates to the president -whomever he or she happens to be- as well as federal agencies are already mobilizing to show their opposition. GoPetition.com, is a place where people can sign a petition to reject S773. The site correctly states that if the bill passes, “Barack Obama can silence his dissenters directly by ordering a shutdown of all Americans’ access to the Internet. The Internet is a free marketplace of ideas and information and not a federal government property.” Another site called thepetitionsite.com also prompts people to make their voice heard by signing their petition. “If you’re on this site, then you probably know how useful the internet is for the sharing of information.” And it continues, “You also probably enjoy the many ways you can interact with others and entertain yourself. This will all come to and end if the cybersecurity Act of 2009 (s773) passes.” The website freedomfactory.us begins its opposition by citing what many internet users are familiar with: “The usual threats and scare tactics are used to justify giving Big Brother greater powers, including giving the President the power to shut down portions of the internet he deems a threat to national security, and access to vast amounts of digital data currently legally off limits.”

Shelly Roche, from breakthematrix.com pointed out a very important issue. The more dis-centralized the management and control of the web is, the harder it is to “take it down” or significantly hack it to a level where it poses a threat to users or companies. “If common practices are forced on private companies via a federal certification program, hackers will have a road map that, once deconstructed, could unlock every compliant network.”

Just like the neoconservatives used Leo Strauss’ theory to create fictitious threats in the 20th century, engaging the fundamentalist Christians at home to build support, now communist/fascist infected federal governments have created a fake cyber threat in order to push their agenda to limit access to the world wide web. Just like the neocons succeeded in creating the fake war on terror based on a false premise and alliances with terrorist groups around the world -which they themselves financed and directed- now the liberals, -also controlled by banking interests- are trying to tighten the grip on the only medium that challenges their power and control; the only medium that brought some real freedom of information to the people; the only medium that put the brakes on their plan to create a global technocracy, to consolidate their scientific dictatorship.