Internet Analogies: Remember When the Internet Was the Information Superhighway? (Part 1)

Remember when the Internet was the “information superhighway”? As recently as 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) still referred to the broadband Internet as, “the interstate highway of the 21st century.” Highways remain a close analogy to the Internet, yet by 2010, net neutrality advocates had replaced Internet highway analogies with analogies to waterworks and the electrical grid. They stopped analogizing the Internet to highways when they realized their approach to Internet regulation is inconsistent with government management of the National Highway System, which has always required commercial users of the highways to pay more for their use than ordinary consumers. In contrast, net neutrality is only the latest in a series of government interventions that have exempted commercial users from paying for the use of local Internet infrastructure.

White House Issues Veto Threat Over CISPA


It looks like President Barack Obama may finally come down on the right side of an issue. According to a statement released yesterday from the White House, President Obama has issued a veto threat over H.R. 624 — the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which is more commonly known as CISPA.

“The Administration recognizes and appreciates that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) adopted several amendments to H.R. 624 in an effort to incorporate the Administration’s important substantive concerns,” read the statement from the White House. “However, the Administration still seeks additional improvements and if the bill, as currently crafted, were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

The “improvements” mentioned in the statement are the need for greater privacy protections than the bill currently provides for Internet users.

“H.R. 624 appropriately requires the Federal Government to protect privacy when handling cybersecurity information,” noted the statement. “Importantly, the Committee removed the broad national security exemption, which significantly weakened the restrictions on how this information could be used by the government.”

House to Vote on CISPA


Nearly two months have passed since President Barack Obama signed an executive order dealing with cybersecurity. This move reignited the debate over CISPA, controversial legislation that has some very severe implications for Internet privacy.

Yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee approved CISPA, paving a path for a final vote in the House some time next week:

The House Intelligence Committee passed a controversial cybersecurity bill on an 18-2 vote Wednesday.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA, is expected to be voted on in the House next week with a set of other cybersecurity-focused bills.

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and ranking member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), the authors of the bill, expressed optimism that Wednesday’s markup vote signaled they have enough momentum to pass CISPA through the House, as it did last year.

While threats to infrastructure are very serious and should be addressed, Congress should be working for ways to protect Internet privacy and due process. That clearly has not been done with previous or current versions of CISPA. In fact, Declan McCullagh noted yesterday that amendments that were offered in committee that would have protected privacy were overwhelmingly voted down.

Toomey, Manchin Reach a Pointless Background Check Compromise


There was some news in Washington this morning as Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) reached an agreement on expanding background checks for some gun sales that will likely be part of the gun control package to come before the chamber in the next week:

Sen. Joe Manchin, West Virginia Democrat, and Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, unveiled a measure Wednesday that would require criminal background checks for firearms sales conducted over the Internet and at gun shows — a compromise intended to boost the prospects of gun legislation advancing in the chamber.

The measure is less far-reaching than language originally introduced by Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, that would expand background checks to virtually all gun sales.
Mr. Toomey said he does not consider background checks to be “gun control,” describing the measure as “common sense” that would not infringe upon Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

According to the Washington Times, the agreement reached between the two senators would prohibit a gun control registry (gun registration), which has been a source of concern for both pro-Second Amendment groups and the American Civil Liberties Union.

While the deal gives the perception of compromise, which helps both Senate Republicans and the White House, there is nothing here that would have prevented the kind of tragedies that we’ve seen in the news over the last couple of years. The deal is also misleading, as Jacob Sullum explained today at Reason (emphasis mine):

Paul Krugman in 1998: Internet’s Economic Impact No Greater Than Fax Machine

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman is known for saying some very odd things. The neo-Keynesian economist has firmly planted himself as a hack for President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party, even if it means going back on policies he once supported.

For example, Krugman once spoke strongly against the idea of monetizing debt. But when the Federal Reserve decided roll out “quantitative easing” — a nice name for debt monetization, shifted gears and defended the program. Krugman, who often cherry-picks data to come to predetermined conclusions, has written fondly of death and destruction because he believes it will drive economic output. He’s also a big fan of death panels to deal with the unfunded liabilities of entitlement programs.

Krugman was also one of the loudest voices calling for economic stimulus in 2009. After President Obama’s stimulus failed to boost the economy, Krugman, who had advocated for a stimulus bill that exceeded the $833 billion price tag that the Obama Administration requested, complained that it wasn’t large enough.

Krugman chastized those who were pushing for spending cuts and later claimed victory. “Intellectually it was, I think I can say without false modesty, a huge win,” he wrote last year. “I (and those of like mind) have been right about everything.”

Ron Paul Blasts Online Sales Tax Scheme

Ron Paul

Before the Senate passed its first budget in nearly four years, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) proposed an amendment — the Marketplace Fairness Act — that would make it easier for states to collect online sales taxes. Despite the numerous policy and constitutional issues this bring, the amendment passed by a vote of 75 to 24.

Ron Paul, who didn’t seek re-election last year and serves as chairman of Campaign for Liberty, explained last week that the Marketplace Fairness Act — what he calls the “Internet Tax Mandate” — is another example of big business working with the government to get special favors:

The Internet Tax Mandate also violates the original purpose of the Commerce Clause, which was to guarantee free trade among the states. Instead, the bill would allow states to levy taxes on goods crossing into their state, which is not what the Founding Fathers intended. Why should California be able to force a business in Texas to collect and pay California sales tax?

When considering any economic proposal, the unseen, potential ramifications must be examined. This mandate could discourage online commerce and stifle the growth of new businesses, exactly the opposite of what we need if we want to expand entrepreneurship and revive our economy. In addition, the long arm of Big Government would reach for companies operating in states currently lacking a sales tax.

Chilean in Chains: Net Neutrality Does Not Mean Internet Freedom

Free Press is holding its National Conference for Media Reform next week. The conference agenda describes the Internet as “central” to freedom of expression, which is how all mass media technologies have been described since the invention of the printing press ushered in the mass communications era. Despite recognizing that the Internet is a mass media technology, Free Press does not believe the Internet should be accorded the same constitutional protections as other mass media technologies. Like so many others, Free Press has forgotten that the dangers posed by government control of the Internet are similar to those posed by earlier mass media technologies. In a stunning reversal of the concepts embodied in the Bill of Rights, Free Press believes the executive and legislative branches of government are the source of protection for the freedom of expression. In their view, “Internet freedom means net neutrality.

Will Europe Regulate Over the Top Services on the Mobile Internet?

Mobile web browsing

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month, I was surprised that nobody had access to 4G mobile Internet services. How could Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain and host to the “world’s premier mobile industry event,” lack access to 4G? In the opening day keynote session, Vittorio Colao, Vodafone’s CEO, said Europe has only 6% of the world’s LTE connections, and Telefónica’s CEO, César Alierta, said only 17% of European mobile subscribers have smartphones. European mobile operators agreed they are lagging the world in 4G deployment and penetration due to existing price regulations that discourage new infrastructure investments.

Europe now stands at a crossroads: Does it adopt the modern, investment-based approach toward wireless markets that made the US the world’s 4G leader, or does it further increase regulation and impose new obligations on “over the top” (e.g., Skype) services? Our history with the regulation of rural telephone companies demonstrates the perils of the second option. Yet European mobile operators appear ready to embrace new regulations as a means to enhance their business and create a “balanced relationship” with “US companies” that provide over the top (OTT) services.

Americans for Tax Reform, ACLU Team Up for Internet Privacy

Internet spying

Should the government be snooping around you e-mails and cloud accounts? Given that there are constitutional safeguards in place to guarantee our privacy, one would think that the answer to this question would be obvious. But because federal laws haven’t been updated to cover online communication, law enforcement agencies haven’t bothered to obtain warrants for these searches. Additionally, efforts to pass SOPA, PIPA, and CISPA — bills that would have dire implications for online privacy and due process — are likely to resurface soon.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, and Laura Murphy, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, teamed up recently to discuss the issue of Internet privacy and to announce a joint effort to address this issue in an op-ed at Politico:

The essential elements of [the Electronic Communications Privacy Act] have not changed since 1986, and the courts have failed to keep pace, saying remarkably little about the Constitution’s application to new technology. Hence, the government can contend ECPA gives it the authority to ignore your privacy to an extent that would have shocked the framers of the Constitution.

Obama set to bring back CISPA via executive fiat

cyber security

Don’t look now, folks, but the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is making a comeback thanks to President Barack Obama.

Between the end of 2011 and early 2012, online activists were able to raise a firestorm over legislation — Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), and CISPA — that would have severely diminished Internet privacy. Thanks to the outcry, all three bills eventually died.

According to a report yesterday from The Hill, President Obama will on Wednesday sign an executive order — completely bypassing Congress, which is becoming an all too familar pattern with this White House — that will implement cybersecurity measures from against attack on the United States:

The White House is poised to release an executive order aimed at thwarting cyberattacks against critical infrastructure on Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter told The Hill.

The highly anticipated directive from President Obama is expected to be released at a briefing Wednesday morning at the U.S. Department of Commerce, where senior administration officials will provide an update about cybersecurity policy.

The executive order would establish a voluntary program in which companies operating critical infrastructure would elect to meet cybersecurity best practices and standards crafted, in part, by the government.

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