October 2004

Implantable RFID chips have recently caused some privacy extremists to flip their wigs, but it’s not the privacy crisis they say. Find out why in my recent column at TechNewsWorld.

Wi-Fi as a Public Good

by on October 29, 2004 · 6 comments

The New Deal-esque “chicken-in-every-pot” mentality continues to win converts in municipal government circles. Yesterday, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom said the city will now seek to provide free wireless Internet access for the entire public. “No San Franciscan should be without a computer and a broadband connection,” he said.

We’ve had numerous rants about this issue here before, so I won’t get into what’s wrong about this thinking. In fact, I think I’m just going to give up an get on the gravy train of high-tech entitlements. Toward that end, I’m starting a list of all the freebees that I think I have an inalienable right to FREE-OF-CHARGE from government. I think I’m entitled to:

* free broadband (both fiber and Wi-Max, thank you very much);
* a free computer (and a really fast one, damnit!);
* 3 free HDTVs for my home (including one of those sweet new DLP or LCOS projectors that usually cost about $10,000 bucks. And I’ll need you to pay for someone to help me install it.);
* 3 free new TiVO recorders;
* a free subscription to DirecTV (with all the premium channels and sports packages… and don’t forget the Playboy Channel!);
* a free lifetime subscription to NetFlix;
* free internal wi-fi for my home;
* free cell phone service; and,
* free tech support when all this crap breaks down.

Hey, it’s all FREE when the government provides it, right? So why not load up on tech entitlements and give the public all these gadgets and services that they are clearly entitled to under the plain language of the Constitution. Clearly there’s some language in there about all this stuff being a birthright entitlement. God I love Big Government.

I’ve ranted here before about the bad things that are in the intelligence reform legislation pending on Capitol Hill. As election day draws nearer without a final vote, it looks less likely that intelligence reform will pass during the pre-election posturing season.

One hopes that the lame-duck Congress will be hungry for turkey and return ever-so-briefly after the election to simply pass a resolution continuing appropriations until 2005. Kicking intelligence reform into the new Congress would be a boon.

On the national ID question, I spoke the other day at a Cato Institute event. The synopsis of what I said is: IDs provide accountability (e.g., the driver’s license) or they are issued based on risk assessment (e.g., the credit card). 1) Terrorists are willing to die so they are not accountable to worldly justice and 2) there is not a plausible risk assessment tool that can predict one-time acts of terrorism.

National IDs won’t work, but they will make Americans substantially less free, subject to far greater surveillance. (If the synopsis has failed you, watch the video.)

Spam and the Election

by on October 26, 2004

Will political spam have an impact on the election? I doubt it, but there’s a company called MailFrontier that says it could.

If you’re wondering where the Presidential candidates stand on tech issues, CompTIA interviewed both campaigns and the record is here. They don’t seem all that different from each other (mainly b/c Kerry is so vague it’s hard to tell what his positions are on some issues). On VoIP, though, Kerry’s response seems more regulatory in tone whereas Bush seems more free market. The Chronicle also did a comparison.

As Adam posted earlier, the FCC decided to not force incumbent companies to share their fiber to the curb networks with competitors. In my oped that appeared in the Washington Times last Sunday, I compare this decision to receiving a green light for speedier traffic. The FCC–the traffic cop of the communications industry–just raised the speed limits on broadband.

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Here’s yet another another article documenting the growing substitution of wireless for wireline services in America and across the globe. A new Yankee Group report says that 6 percent of households have now “cut the wire” entirely and gone wireless for all their communications needs.

The Yankee report notes that the wireless-oriented households are skewed to urban, young and single users. That’s not surprising, but I’ve seen plenty of anecdotal evidence that people in rural communities are making the leap to wireless as well. As wireless systems become more robust and reliable in those rural communities, this revolution will really start to pick up steam.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the regulators continue to regulate as if we all still live in a one-wire world dominated by monopolists. Just silly.

The FCC has just fined Nickelodeon and ABC Family for the heinous crime of showing too many commercials during kids’ programming.

Apparently FCC regulations say that children’s programming may contain no more than 10 1/2 minutes of advertising per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays. And apparently Nickelodeon and ABC Family exceeded those limits quite a few times. In promulgating the new fines, the FCC gave them a tongue-lashing and warned all media outlets that the agency, “will continue to take swift and appropriate enforcement action to protect the interests of children.”

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Just got word that a new website, “Fairnessdoctrine.com” has been launched in support of a bill by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. The site is co-sponsored by Andrew Jay Schwartzman of the Democracy Access Project, David Brock of Media Matters, and Tom Athens of Democracy Radio.

I’ll refrain from rehashing the debate over the Fairness Doctrine, which managed to suppress political debate on the airwaves for decades, and met a well-deserved death in 1987. I do, however, urge everyone to promptly contact fairnessdoctrine.com to claim equal time on their page for your opposing views. I think I’ll ask for a link to techliberation.org. It is, after all, only a matter of fairness.

The Chicago-based Heartland Institute today released a new study on local government ownership of broadband networks, by Joseph Bast, the president of the Institute. Entitled “Municipally Owned Broadband Networks: A Critical Evaluation,” the paper focuses on the situation in three Chicago area suburbs, but is chock-full facts, figures, and logic that can apply to any city. Definitely a must-read if your friendly local city council members are considering a broadband scheme.