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Wall Street Journal

Broadband Roundup: Internet Tax Freedom Act, Report on Broadband Speeds, and AT&T on Gigabit Networks

in Broadband Data/Broadband Roundup/FCC/Gigabit Networks by

WASHINGTON, June 19, 2014 – The House Judicary Committee on Wednesday approved the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act this week by a vote of 30-4, according to a press release from the committee. The act banned state-imposed taxation of internet access or discriminatory taxes on e-commerce.

Originally enacted in 1998, the bill had previously been renewed three times, with only two “no” votes ever being cast.

“The internet increasingly serves as a daily requisite for millions of Americans, businesses and schools. It has transformed our economy and how we conduct business, communicate, educate, and live our lives,” said the joint statement from members of Congress including committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va..

“The Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act passed by the Committee today permanently bans taxes on internet access. This broadly bipartisan bill ensures that access to the internet is not burdened by unnecessary costs and that Americans can continue to access the Internet tax free.

The bill might have trouble passing the Senate as Democratic members recently approved an online sales-tax measure, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Ranking Democrat John Conyers of Michigan, for instance, has argued that the internet no longer needs as much protection and that state finances would be hurt by the inability to tax online sales.

For the internet to remain tax-free from local and state governments, Congress must pass the measure by November 1.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association wrote Wednesday that it was pleased with the FCC’s report on broadband speeds. The group said that the findings “refute the unsubstantiated allegations that cable operators routinely under-deliver and are solely responsible for any deficiencies in the performance experienced by consumers.”

More information is needed besides the information that has been revealed about access service provided by internet service providers, the association wrote. Other factors influencing the consumer experience beyond the control of ISPs include upstream congestion, performance limitations of computers or Wi-Fi routers.

In other news, AT&T has ratified a deal with a third city in North Carolina: Raleigh. As with Winston-Salem and Durham, AT&T will deploy “U-verse with GigaPower,” a 1 Gigabit per second-capable fiber platform, Multichannel News reported

The telecom giant is also pursuing Gigabit Networks in three other areas in North Carolina: Carrboro, Cary, and Chapel Hill. The telecom company is deploying Gigabit Networks to parts of Austin, Texas, with plans to expand to Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, and Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, CenturyLink is trying to deploy its own Gigabit-capable broadband to Omaha and Las Vegas, according to Broadband Reports. The company sent postcards that it might consider service trials in Eagan, Minnesota.

Additionally, the company has told residents of Portland that they would receive guaranteed 1 Gbps service if they signed long-term contracts, which may be a competitive response to recent news that Google Fiber might be coming to Portland as well.

Cyberattacks May Also Be Acts of War

in Cybersecurity by

WASHINGTON, June 1, 2011 – Cyberwar is war and the United States will treat it as such, reported The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

“If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,” said an unnamed military official, according to the report.

The report comes days ahead of the release of the Pentagon’s first formal cyber strategy. According to Defense officials who have read the report, The Laws of Armed Conflict apply in cyberspace as in traditional war. A 12-page unclassified version will soon be available to the public sometime in June.

The President’s National Security Strategy lists the use of force as an option in the event of a cyber attack. Deterrence is one of the goals of the warning, but the Pentagon also invokes a doctrine of ‘equivalence’ in its justification.

“A cyber attack is governed by basically the same rules as any other kind of attack if the effects of it are essentially the same,” said Charles Dunlap, a retired Air Force Major General and professor at Duke University law school.

If a cyber attack shuts down commerce, for example, it will be viewed in the same manner as a naval blockade.

The warning comes in the wake of a major attack on Lockheed Martin’s computer systems on May 21. Also, last week on Wednesday, a Chinese military spokesman admitted to the existence of a cyberwarfare unit.

Report: Google Launches Music Service in India to Stave Off Piracy

in Copyright by

Google has partnered with three digital music providers to launch a new online music service to increase broadband usage and stave off internet piracy, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.

The three providers are India’s largest music label Saregama India, Saavn in New York City and web portal In.com.

The WSJ story notes that only 81 million people use the internet in India, out of a population of 1.2 billion.

For their part, the music lablels hope to boost their traffic and online visibility via the deal, according to the WSJ.

Google has been in a decade-long global debate with copyright holders over the best ways to mitigate online infringement. This new music service could help to address the phenomenon by meeting consumers’ criteria of being quick, convenient and easily accessible.

Verizon to Tier LTE Data

in Broadband Updates/Mobile Broadband/Wireless by

WASHINGTON, September 23, 2010 – After months of hinting and speculation, Verizon Wireless CEO Ivan Seidenberg has told the Wall Street Journal that the firm would introduce tiered data pricing. Currently AT&T is the only firm to tier mobile data on handsets.

Seidenberg said the new tiers would be for its LTE service, not current 3G offerings. No details about the tiers or their potential pricing was released, but he did state that the details would be public within six months. Earlier this month, the firm announced that it would launch its LTE service by the end of the year.

Mark Lloyd, FCC Diversity Chief, Defends Role and Writings

in Broadband's Impact/FCC by

WASHINGTON, December 15, 2009 -  “I am not a Czar,” Federal Communications Commission Chief Diversity Officer Mark Lloyd declared on Monday, while delivering the keynote at a Media Access Project event on the impact of new media, net neutrality and journalism’s future.

Lloyd, an attorney based out of the commission’s Office of General Counsel, devoted a great deal of his speech to rebutting criticism and accusations regarding his role at the FCC, which began when some right-wing oriented blogs and commentators, including Glenn Beck, began critically examining his prior academic writings on media ownership and diversity of expression.

That led some members of Congress to question FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski over Lloyd’s role at the commission. “I am not at the FCC to restore the Fairness Doctrine through the front door or the back door,” Lloyd said in response to one common concern.

The “right wing smear campaign” that Lloyd described escalated to threats upon his life, he said. But the hate mail and death threats are “the price we pay for freedom of speech,” he said. “And I do support free speech.”

Lloyd said that his experience was a powerful example of the developing relationship between traditional media and new online social media tools. “Anyone who suggests that…newspapers or radio or television no longer matters has not yet fully experienced the impact of old media,” he said.

But Facebook and YouTube are not the answer to the problems of old media, he said, adding that anyone who thought so “has not been confronted by a smear campaign using these social media tools.”

Making broadband available to all Americans will give them access to information that will let them sort through similar smear campaigns and allow true journalism to continue to flourish, Lloyd said. “[B]y making communication service available to all Americans, it will become easier to expose falsehood…this is where journalism comes in.”

Even the most careful journalists are inherently subject to some form of bias, he said. This is why diversity in media – even if it leads to “newsroom battles” – is so needed, Lloyd said.

“It is important for citizens to check not only the Wall Street Journal, but also the New York Times; not only the Washington Times, but also the Washington Post. This is the great value of independent journalism.”

The hope that social media provides, Lloyd said, is the possibility for a forum where  citizens can have a place to contribute to the record “and have a real voice in determining what is important for the entire community to consider.”

Within these new media environs, “honest journalism will show us the truth.”

Lloyd told reporters after his keynote that his speech was not about criticizing those who have attacked him, but about setting the record straight. “I am criticizing being called a communist,” he said. Even as a lawyer for the commission, Lloyd said he still believes he has the right to speak out on his own behalf and that shouldn’t be confused with attacking anyone. “I’m speaking up for myself,” he said.

Despite the uproar over his writing, Lloyd  has “no thought of leaving the FCC,” he told reporters. “I’ve got work in front me,” he said.

How Will Content Evolve With Online Business Models?

in Broadband's Impact/Copyright by

WASHINGTON, November 24, 2009 – News reports this week, referencing unnamed sources, stated that one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world is considering more ways to profit from the distribution of its articles online by opting out of Google News and moving into Microsoft’s Bing search engine.

News Corporation Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch has reportedly been in talks with Microsoft about a deal in which News Corp would remove its media content from Google’s search engine and include the content on Microsoft’s Bing search engine for a fee.

After the speculated discussions hit the press, Bloomberg reported that MediaNews Group Inc., the Denver Post’s publisher, may start blocking Google News from indexing its stories next year. Dallas Morning News owner A.H. Belo Corp. may also introduce online subscription fees and block Google, the publication wrote.

While people still consume tremendous amounts of news online, media publishers have struggled to come up with new business models that would enable them to profit on the information superhighway.

News search engines, such as Google News, aggregate media content for a user to quickly access. Google contends that its news search product benefits media organizations and consumers, but Murdoch recently condemned news aggregators and said journalism content should not be so freely available online.

“The Philistine phase of the digital age is almost over. The aggregators and the plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. But if we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid-for content, it will be the content creators, the people in this hall, who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs will triumph,” Murdoch said at the World Media Summit in Beijing last month.

“There are many readers who believe that they are paying for content when they sign up with an internet service provider, presuming that they have bought a ticket to a content buffet. That misconception thrived on the silence of inarticulate institutions which were unable to challenge the fallacies and humbug of the e-establishment,” he said.

On issues related to Google and news publishers, Google told Broadband Census News Tuesday that “Google News and Web search are a tremendous source of promotion for news organizations, sending them about 100,000 clicks every minute. Each of those visits offers a business opportunity for the publishers to show ads, win loyal readers and sell subscriptions. News publishers can charge for their content while at the same time ensuring that it’s discovered through Google – these two are not mutually exclusive.”

“Publishers put their content on the web because they want it to be found, so very few choose to exclude their material from Google News and web search. But we respect copyright owners’ wishes. If publishers don’t want their websites to appear in search results, there are easy ways to remove it,” a Google spokesman continued.

Murdoch said last month that “The presses are now silent at some of the world’s most famous newspapers – they were supposed to report on their societies, but somehow failed to notice that those societies were changing fundamentally. But that very same threat is a remarkable opportunity for others – The Wall Street Journal now has a monthly digital audience of 25 million, plus another two or so million in the Chinese language.”

“Too often the conventional media response to the internet has been inchoate. A medium once thought too powerful has often seemed impotent in the past few years. Of course there should be a price paid for quality content, and yet large media organizations have been submissive in the face of the flat-earthers who insisted that all content should be free all the time. The sun does not orbit the earth, and yet this was precisely the premise that the press passively accepted, even though there have been obvious signs that readers recognize the reality that they should pay a price,” Murdoch said.

Jeff Jarvis, an associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York’s new Graduate School of Journalism and author of a book on Google, has said that even if News Corp did opt out of Google News search the move would be unnoticed by Google’s audience as there will always be free competitors offering news. Jarvis also noted if News Corp. went from Google News to Bing it would lose Web traffic.

Microsoft was unable to provide a comment by deadline.

Wall Street Journal on 'DIY' Network and Speed Tests

in Expert Opinion by

Blog Entries

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2009 – The Wall Street Journal gave a little attention to a do-it-yourself network test, the “Switzerland” software suite of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. I offered a comment and a link to the Broadband Census and speed test.

Combatants in Net Neutrality Fight Take Aim at Each Other, FCC Chief and Comcast

in Net Neutrality by

By Drew Clark, Editor, BroadbandCensus.com; and Cassandre Durocher, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 31 – Combatants on the subject of Net Neutrality debate took aim at each other on Thursday, with House Minority Leader John Boehner blasting FCC Chairman Kevin Martin in advance of a Federal Communications Commission meeting on Friday.

“Recent media reports indicate the FCC is poised for massive, unprecedented regulation of the Internet,” wrote Boehner, an Ohio Republican. “This dangerous path would limit freedom, stifle innovation and entrepreneurship, and kill American jobs.”

For about a week, press reports have indicated that Martin had secured the support of the commission’s two Democrats, Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein, to punish Comcast over its network management practices.

The cable company delayed and effectively blocked access to the BitTorrent peer-to-peer file-sharing program, and the company has been grilled at a variety of FCC forums.

The non-profit groups Free Press and Public Knowledge filed a complaint against Comcast after investigations by the Associated Press and the Electronic Frontier Foundation uncovered the blockage in the fall of 2007.

Boehner called attention to Monday’s Washington Post op-ed piece by Republican FCC Commisioner Robert McDowell. In the piece, McDowell urged the commission – which will formally vote on the matter at the Friday open meeting – not to “choose regulation over collaboration.”

To do so, McDowell argued, “we [would] be setting a precedent by thrusting politicians and bureaucrats into engineering decision.” He said that the Internet’s self-regulatory mechanisms have proven capable of resolving network congestion issues in the past.

In the Post piece, McDowell also noted that “the Internet is the ultimate ‘wiki’ environment – one that we all share, build, pay for and shape.”

Net Neutrality is increasingly becoming a political flash-point, with Democrats generally favoring Net Neutrality regulations, and Republicans generally opposing it.

Industry-specific favoritism also factors into the debate. McDowell, for example, has been favorably disposed toward the cable industry during his tenure as a commissioner since 2006. Martin, by contrast, has driven the cable industry batty by taking more than a dozen actions to which cable operators object.

In a statement reacting to Boehner’s comments, Public Knowedge President Gigi Sohn said: “It is a shame that the harm Comcast has done to the Internet has not been appreciated by Leader Boehner. Rather than criticizing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Leader Boehner should praise him for putting a stop to a practice that technical experts have said is clearly outside the bounds of accepted Internet practice, while at the same time the FCC is acting to protect consumers.”

Sohn also said that any action against Comcast would “in no way deter broadband investment, as the financial results of AT&T, which is operating under a Net Neutrality merger condition, have shown.”

Martin was also excoriated over Net Neutrality by the Wall Street Journal editorial board on Wednesday. In an editorial entitled “FCC.politics.gov,” the newspaper said that Martin “wants to make an example of Comcast in order to advance a ‘network neutrality’ industrial policy being pushed by high-tech rivals like Google and pro-regulation advocacy groups like MoveOn.org, Consumers Union and Free Press.”

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