June 26, 2006

Spinning Net Neutrality [4:32 am]

Let’s see if you can guess whose side this opinion columnist from the WaPo is on: No Neutral Ground in This Internet Battle

Net neutrality.

Sounds benign, but no two words have stirred more passion this year. The mere mention of the issue is enough to make a wonk explode.

Yet the public advocacy on this important topic has concealed far more than it has illuminated. Commercials on either side of the issue are confusing, opaque or downright deceptive.

More about this obfuscation later. But first, a definition.

Net neutrality, which is shorthand for network neutrality, is one of two possible answers to the following legislative question: Should cable and telephone companies be allowed to charge add-on fees to others for access to their networks?

Hold your nose and check your shoes before wading too deeply into this argument:

Put another way, if net neutrality passes, the AT&Ts of the world will be forced to pay for all of their equipment upgrades themselves and could not subsidize that effort by imposing premium fees for premium services. If net neutrality fails, they will be able to recoup more of those costs than they can now from the likes of Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and other major users of the World Wide Web.

Hmmm - so AT&T is paying for network development now, gratis? I wonder what all those bills people get in the mail are for, then.

Ultimately, this article purports to point out that neither side has made a good case to the public, but it’s also got a decided slant.

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Economics and Urban WiFi [3:43 am]

What if They Built an Urban Wireless Network and Hardly Anyone Used It?

Peter Shyu, an engineer, spends most of his day out of the office, and when he needs an Internet connection he often pops into one of the many coffee shops in this city that offer free wireless access.

He could use WiFly, the extensive wireless network commissioned by the city government that is the cornerstone of Taipei’s ambitious plan to turn itself into an international technology hub. But that would cost him $12.50 a month.

“I’m here because it’s free, and if it’s free elsewhere, I’ll go there too,” said Mr. Shyu, hunched over his I.B.M. laptop in an outlet of the Doutor coffee chain. “It’s very easy to find free wireless connections.”

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Piracy — Taking on the Real Thing [2:07 am]

Film Piracy Saga Is Pure Hollywood - pdf

Major Hollywood studios aren’t the only victims of movie piracy. Ask the owners of Southern California’s many small production and distribution companies, and they’ll tell you their very survival depends on curbing counterfeiting. But saying it needs to be stopped is one thing. Doing it is another.

That’s what sets Borsten apart. The Santa Monica native is a short, spirited woman who is fluent in five languages and harbors a passion for Russian fairy tales.

She and her husband used their actor friends and their knowledge of the Russian emigre community to infiltrate a world that often confounds even Hollywood’s anti-piracy agency, the Motion Picture Assn. of America.

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Second Guessing Hudson v. Michigan [2:03 am]

Scalia twisted my words - pdf

OF mine e-mailed me last week with some exciting news — the Supreme Court had cited one of my criminal justice policy books in an important, late-term decision. My law professor friends tell me that being mentioned by the court is a huge deal. And my 93-year-old mother in Cleveland will certainly be impressed that her son has finally done something worthy of note.

Alas, as I surfed the Net for news about Hudson vs. Michigan, my excitement quickly turned to dismay, then horror. First, I learned that Justice Antonin Scalia cited me to support a terrible decision, holding that the exclusionary rule — which for decades prevented evidence obtained illegally by police from being used at trial — no longer applies when cops enter your home without knocking.

Even worse, he twisted my main argument to reach a conclusion the exact opposite of what I spelled out in this and other studies.

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Electoral Politics in the Digital Age [2:00 am]

The GOP knows you don’t like anchovies - pdf

Some of the GOP advantages are recent developments, such as the database called Voter Vault, which was used to precision in the San Diego County special election. The program allows ground-level party activists to track voters by personal hobbies, professional interests, geography — even by their favorite brands of toothpaste and soda and which gym they belong to.

Both parties can identify voters by precinct, address, party affiliation and, often, their views on hot-button issues. Democrats also use marketing data, but Voter Vault includes far more information culled from marketing sources — including retailers, magazine subscription services, even auto dealers — giving Republicans a high-tech edge in the kind of grass-roots politics that has long been the touchstone of Democratic activists.

As a result, Republicans have moved well ahead of Democrats nationally in their ability to find previously unaffiliated voters or even wavering Democrats and to target them with specially tailored messages. Voter Vault, although it is a closely guarded GOP trade secret, is nevertheless easily accessible to on-the-ground campaign workers and operatives should they need to mobilize votes in a hurry.

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