Big Day At The FCC, I See

FCC Issues Rule Allowing FBI to Dictate Wiretap-Friendly Design for Internet Services

Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a release announcing its new rule expanding the reach of the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA). The ruling is a reinterpretation of the scope of CALEA and will force Internet broadband providers and certain voice-over-IP (VoIP) providers to build backdoors into their networks that make it easier for law enforcement to wiretap them. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has argued against this expansion of CALEA in several rounds of comments to the FCC on its proposed rule.

They Really Did It!!

The construction of “competition” at the FCC continues to amaze: U.S. FCC eases regulations on DSL broadband [pdf]

The Federal Communications Commission unanimously agreed to treat the service, known as digital subscriber line (DSL) broadband, as an “information service,” which insulates it from many traditional telephone rules like requirements to lease network access to competitors at regulated rates.

The designation would allow the big local telephone companies like Verizon, called the Baby Bells, to cut off or potentially negotiate new terms for Internet service providers such as EarthLink Inc. to use their networks for broadband.

The details from the FCC:

Later: NYTimes on the decision: F.C.C. Eases High-Speed Access Rules; Wired News: FCC Eases High-Speed Net Rules; The Register: FCC opens door to ISP wipe-out

Even later: Ruling Gives Phone Firms Power Over Internet Access [pdf]

A Distressing Way To End The Week

And a call to arms — Montana Supreme Court justice warns Orwell’s 1984 has arrived

In short, I know that my personal information is recorded in databases, servers, hard drives and file cabinets all over the world. I know that these portals to the most intimate details of my life are restricted only by the degree of sophistication and goodwill or malevolence of the person, institution, corporation or government that wants access to my data.

I also know that much of my life can be reconstructed from the contents of my garbage can.

I don’t like living in Orwell’s 1984; but I do. And, absent the next extinction event or civil libertarians taking charge of the government (the former being more likely than the latter), the best we can do is try to keep Sam and the sub-Sams on a short leash.

The full opinion: State of Montana v. A Blue in Color, 1993 Chevrolet Pickup, 2-Door, MT 14T-D899 VIN/2GCEC19KOP1153371 and 1973 Boat Trailer, MT 14-Z20, VIN/SNTR30459MT, and 1972 Boat, Jolly Roger, Hull #MT2952AC (collection)

Proposed EU Directive Criminalizing Promoting (c) Infringement

Europe Follows Grokster’s Lead

A directive being pushed by the European Commission would, among other things, criminalize “attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting” acts of copyright infringement. The EU parliament will take up the proposal later this year.

Like the Grokster ruling, the scope of the proposal (.pdf) reaches beyond the act of downloading or uploading copyright video, music or software files and makes supporting copyright infringement illegal. If the directive is adopted, software used primarily for illegal file sharing, for example, could potentially make its developers criminally liable in one or several EU member countries.

“The problem here is some activities, such as the creation of software, can be used for legal and illegal purposes, as is the case with Grokster,” says Urs Gasser, professor of law at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. “It gets really messy, because it is unclear what is legal or not legal, and it is problematic to operate with such abstract terms.”

Slashdot: EU Proposing to Make P2P Piracy A Criminal Offense

Warner Music Sales Statistics

Embrace digital? Or fight it? One company gets some data: Digital Music Sales Lift Warner [pdf]

Warner Music Group, the world’s fourth-largest music company, on Thursday announced a smaller-than-expected loss in its fiscal third quarter thanks in part to fast-growing sales of digital music.

[…] Thursday’s news was welcomed by investors, some of whom had been skeptical about Bronfman’s faith in Internet music sales since the company went public in May.

[…] Analysts cautioned that digital music, although growing, still is a small part of the market.

“It will be at least 10 years before digital downloads rival physical sales of music,” said Phil Leigh of Inside Digital Media. “Digital music should have a higher profit margin, but it’s still just a small number of people who prefer downloading to buying CDs.”

A “Security Threat?”

Only to Logan’s wireless franchise. At least they seem to understand what “unregulated” and “Federal preemption” means, but claiming that offering free wifi to one’s frequent fliers is a security threat can only be a way to use the terms of their lease to shut them down: Logan, Continental in WiFi spat [pdf]

All 27 of Continental’s frequent-flier lounges at airports have offered free WiFi service since December. The airline’s lounge at Logan has offered the wireless connection since June 2004, but a year passed before Logan notified Continental in writing that the WiFi antenna violated the terms of its lease.

Last month, a Massport attorney warned the airline that its antenna ”presents an unacceptable potential risk” to Logan’s safety and security systems, including its key card access system and State Police communications.

Massport told the airline it could route its wireless signals over Logan’s WiFi signal, at a ”very reasonable rate structure.” In response, however, Continental said using Logan’s WiFi vendor could force the airline to start charging its customers for the service.

Craig Mathias, founder of the Farpoint Group, a wireless consulting firm in Ashland, said WiFi signals can interfere with each other, but not with other wireless devices.

”It’s hard to imagine how this is a security threat,” Mathias said. ”They clearly don’t want the competition.”

Declan McCullagh weighs in: Boston airport tries to kill free Wi-Fi node