September 6, 2007

National Security Letters Get A Thumbs-Down, For Now [2:30 pm]

Judge strikes down part of Patriot Actpdf

A federal judge struck down parts of the revised USA Patriot Act on Thursday, saying investigators must have a court’s approval before they can order Internet providers to turn over records without telling customers.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero said the government orders must be subject to meaningful judicial review and that the recently rewritten Patriot Act “offends the fundamental constitutional principles of checks and balances and separation of powers.”

ACLU press release; a copy of the decision

Later coverage: NYTimes’ Judge Voids F.B.I. Tool Granted by Patriot Act; the LATimes Judge strikes down part of Patriot Actpdf

Also, the counters: Intercepts ‘key factor’ in German casepdf (NYTimes has something on Sept 10 - Eavesdropping Said to Help Break Up German Plot)

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Bush Administration DoJ Weighs in on Net Neutrality [1:52 pm]

Did you really expect that there would be another answer? Feds OK Fee for Priority Web Trafficpdf

The Justice Department on Thursday said Internet service providers should be allowed to charge a fee for priority Web traffic.

The agency told the Federal Communications Commission, which is reviewing high-speed Internet practices, that it is opposed to “Net neutrality,” the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible to any Web user.

Here’s the real stunner:

The Justice Department said imposing a Net neutrality regulation could hamper development of the Internet and prevent service providers from upgrading or expanding their networks. It could also shift the “entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers,” the agency said in its filing.

Really? Who’s paying for it now?

What’s really insidious about this kind of argument/rhetoric is the suggestion that you and I, for example, are “customers” while Amazon and Google are “providers.” Hasn’t the fundamentally radical aspect of the network been the fact that anyone who’s on the network has the option to be both a consumer and a provider of content? And isn’t the suggestion that there should be these two classes of Internet users antithetical to the things that have made the internet such an innovation engine? Augh!

The DoJ Press Release; a notice; and Ex Parte Filing In the Matter of Broadband Industry Practices (local PDF)

Reaction from Online Journalism Review: It’s up to Congress now to protect Net Neutrality

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A Recap of the Implications of Changing from Copper to Fiber [1:49 pm]

Although the question seems to have been framed as “how much competition is enough to satisfy public policy goals?” it might be appropriate to consider why this question isn’t being asked instead — “can there ever actually be such a thing as too much competition?” Telecom Changes Put Competition on the Linepdf

The telephone giants — once part of the Ma Bell monopoly that started laying copper lines in the late 1800s — are currently required to lease their copper and limited parts of their fiber-optic networks to rivals to encourage competition. But as they invest in the newer fiber-optic networks, Verizon is asking regulators to eliminate requirements to share their networks with competitors in several major markets.

Qwest Communications International and AT&T are also replacing some copper lines but are leaving a portion so that copper lines can be used along with new fiber lines.

Ed Shakin, a lawyer for Verizon, said network-sharing requirements are no longer needed in certain cities now that cable companies and other competitors have rolled out Internet and phone service. “What competitors want are artificially low prices,” he said. “It comes down to a fight about price, not availability.”

But this week, 22 companies, including XO in Reston, Cavalier Telephone in Richmond and RCN in Herndon, countered Verizon’s argument in a letter to the Federal Communications Commission. Competition is not sufficient to justify Verizon’s request not to lease its network to smaller companies in six major cities, the companies said in asking the commission to deny the request.

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Another Try at eBooks [1:13 pm]

Envisioning the Next Chapter for Electronic Books — Personally, I’m with Michael Gartenberg, I just don’t see the value proposition for most book applications. Granted, I’m an old guy, but I think most people understand the problems not only associated with the degree to which ebooks are encumbered by things like DRM, but also with the fact that the technology moves so fast that there’s no guarantee that the ebook they buy today will even be readable a decade from now — not really a problem with books, at least on that time horizon!

“Books represent a pretty good value for consumers. They can display them and pass them to friends, and they understand the business model,” said Michael Gartenberg, research director at Jupiter Research, who is skeptical that a profitable e-book market will emerge anytime soon.

“We have had dedicated e-book devices on the market for more than a decade, and the payoff always seems to be just a few years away,” he said.

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