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A technology alliance to attract voters

April 23, 2014

by Brownyn Howell
Tech Policy Daily

Apparently one-third of Americans are pessimistic about tech — and they’re more likely to be poor, less educated, and female. That’s approximately the same percentage of New Zealanders who abstained from voting in the last general election. There’s a significant cross-over in the demographic as well – the ‘missing million’ as they have come to be known in New Zealand are thought to be disproportionately poor and less educated, although the other defining characteristic is that they are younger than average.

So why is this demographic cross-over so interesting? Because a potentially curious electoral alliance between a far left political party – Mana – and a nascent ‘Internet Party’ led by an expatriate German internet entrepreneur currently facing extradition to the United States to face breach of copyright charges – the notorious Kim Dotcom – might just determine the outcome of New Zealand’s September 20 general election. At stake are the hearts, minds, and, most importantly, the votes, of the ‘missing million’ – if only they can be stimulated out of apathy and induced to vote.

The peculiar political alliance is plausible because of New Zealand’s Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) political system, imported from Germany in the 1990s. Under MMP, the party winning the most votes is not guaranteed to win – the ‘balance of power’ is almost always determined by small parties with only a meager amount of electoral support.  America might have the Tea Party, but NZ’s electoral fortunes in 2011 were in part determined by an actual (highly publicised) tea party between the leader of the party that ultimately won the most votes (National) and the leader of a minor party that obtained only one seat (Act), as a means of signalling to voters how they could tactically vote to ensure the continuation of the National-led government in an MMP environment.

But why does Kim Dotcom figure so large in New Zealand politics, given that without citizenship, he cannot stand for Parliament? Because he has dominated the New Zealand news since the high-profile January 2012 raid of his Coatesville mansion by the police and FBI.   As if (so far successfully) fighting extradition in the courts and devising new ways to revive the fortunes of his cloud-based entertainment distribution network were not enough,  he has also been implicated in the demise of two cabinet ministers (both from so-called ‘third parties’, propping up the National-led government), and is seldom far from the limelight.  One former cabinet minister is being prosecuted for allegedly failing to declare a mayoral campaign donation from Mr Dotcom. The other refused to cooperate with the inquiry into the leaking of a report on the legality of the activities of the New Zealand Secret Intelligence Services leading up to and subsequent to the Dotcom mansion raid.

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NETmundial is about to begin

April 23, 2014

by Eli Dourado
Mercatus Institute

As I blogged last week, I am in São Paulo to attend NETmundial, the meeting on the future of Internet governance hosted by the Brazilian government. The opening ceremony is about to begin. A few more observations:

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Wireless lobby group names former FCC member Baker as president

April 23, 2014

by Cecelia Kang
The Switch Blog

Wireless industry trade group CTIA named Meredith Attwell Baker as its new president  Wednesday, another remarkable appointment for the former member of the Federal Communications Commission who has quickly climbed the ranks of a private sector she once regulated.

Baker will begin her new job June 2, after nearly three years as a high-level lobbyist for Comcast, where she promoted issues favorable for the cable giant. Public interest groups had criticized her move from the FCC to Comcast so soon after she voted in favor of the cable company’s merger with NBC Universal. The criticism heated up when Comcast appeared to punish a Seattle-based youth advocacy group for tweeting skepticism about Baker’s hiring in 2011. Real Grrls said a local Comcast representative threatened to pull funding for their nonprofit after the tweet. (Comcast later said that it had made a mistake and that the funding was not in jeopardy.)

Critics said that Baker’s move to the cable firm highlighted a revolving door between the FCC and the companies they regulate and raised potential conflicts of interests. Former FCC chairman Michael Powell now heads the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

At the CTIA, Baker will head the vast lobbying organization for wireless firms ahead of a historic auction of public airwaves next year. The group’s biggest members — AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint — represent the fastest-growing segments of the telecom industry. Baker will replace Steve Largent, who reportedly had a salary of about $2.7 million last year.

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FCC hit over ‘rate floor’ increase

April 21, 2014

by Julian Hattem
Hillicon Valley

The Federal Communications Commission is coming under pressure for its attempt to raise the minimum amount that companies can charge for basic phone service and still get a government subsidy.

The commission’s “rate floor” is scheduled to go up from $14 to $20.46 this year, despite protest from members of both parties.

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Tech industry pushing FCC for more Wi-Fi airwaves in 2015 spectrum auction

April 21, 2014

by Kate Tummarello
Hillicon Valley

The tech industry is pressuring the Obama administration to set aside more free, unlicensed airwaves that help fuel Wi-Fi networks, a demand that will create tension as the government tries to also boost revenue-producing licensed airwaves.

Next year, the Federal Communications Commission will auction off airwaves worth billions to wireless companies. While the agency has pledged to set aside some unlicensed airwaves — which fuel consumer electronic devices like garage door openers and Wi-Fi routers — some fear the FCC might not reserve enough of the valuable airwaves as it tries to meet congressionally set revenue goals.

The highly anticipated 2015 auction will involve buying airwaves back from broadcasters and then selling new licenses for those airwaves to spectrum-hungry wireless companies looking to expand their networks.

While most focus on the battle between wireless companies over the agency’s plans to limit certain companies in the auction, the tech industry is watching to see how much of the available spectrum the FCC will set aside for unlicensed use.

The agency announced Friday that it would be reserving some space for unlicensed use in the 2015 auction, including in the “guard bands,” which are airwaves set aside between licensed spectrum to prevent interference between different services and uses.

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Pre-NETmundial Notes

April 21, 2014

by Eli Dourado
Technology Liberation Front

Next week I’ll be in São Paulo for the NETmundial meeting, which will discuss “the future of Internet governance.” I’ll blog more while I’m there, but for now I just wanted to make a few quick notes.

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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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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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