Democracy and Technology Blog

Broadband Consumers Deserve Certainty, Not Partisan Politics

The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a proposal by Ed Markey (D-MA) to resurrect the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 attempt to prevent blocking, throttling and paid prioritization by declaring that it has the right to regulate broadband using public utility-style regulation from 1934 that applied to telephones.  Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) let the cat out of the bag in remarks on the Senate floor on May 9 when he acknowledged that re-imposing public utility status would allow the FCC to regulate the price of broadband services. We believe that the internet (sic) should be kept free and open like our highways—accessible and affordable to every American, regardless of the ability to pay. The 1996 Telecommunications Act that Read More ›


Twitter: Just Trust Our Algorithm

So I was out at the movies the other night, one of millions who have been enjoying the new Black Panther movie. We got there early, in time to be indoctrinated by the pre-show entertainment. One of the ads surprised me – it was for Twitter. Ads promoting social media platforms are not really that common. But even more surprising was the basic message of the ad – trust our algorithm. The ad, titled Signing Up for Twitter, starts off in the upstairs bedroom of a man who is clearly in distress. He is pacing his bedroom floor, talking worriedly to himself. “I don’t know what to do! I don’t understand this!” We see police vehicles and a gathering crowd of curious neighbors Read More ›


George Gilder and Hance Haney with Bill Walton on Block Chain Technology

George Gilder, perhaps the leading futurist of our day, predicted the rise of the Internet, the decline of television and the explosion of the smartphone. Now he’s predicting another giant step forward – an innovation potentially as consequential as the Internet itself. It is called blockchain technology, and it has begun to challenge the way we buy and sell things. Go to Story (offsite) ›


$8.2 Billion in Annual Losses to Advertisers and Media from Infringement and Fraud

The U.S. digital marketing, advertising and media industry lose $8.2 billion annually, according to a study prepared by EY for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, as a result of ad fraud; stolen video programming, music and editorial content; and malware. The report observes that each of these categories, i.e., “invalid traffic,” “infringed content” and “malvertising,” can be interrelated. An excellent example is a consumer who visits an infringed content site containing malware and infects the consumer’s browser with a robot that is later used to drive invalid traffic. If the industry can eliminate the profits earned by serving ads next to infringed content, it can reduce the amount of money available to drive illegal activities in the supply chain. Thus, for Read More ›


More On What’s In Store for the FCC’s Open Internet Rules

Hal Singer has discovered that total wireline broadband investment has declined 12% in the first half of 2015 compared to the first half of 2014. The net decrease was $3.3 billion across the six largest ISPs. As far as what could have caused this, the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order “is the best explanation for the capex meltdown,” Singer writes. Despite numerous warnings from economists and other experts, the FCC confidently predicted in paragraph 40 of the Open Internet Order that “recent events have demonstrated that our rules will not disrupt capital markets or investment.” Chairman Wheeler acknowledged that diminished investment in the network is unacceptable when the commission adopted the Open Internet Order by a partisan 3-2 vote. Read More ›


Special Access Regulation Would Harm Competition

A British telecom executive alleges that Verizon and AT&T may be overcharging corporate customers approximately $9 billion a year for wholesale “special access,” services, according to the Financial Times. The Federal Communications Commission is presently evaluating proprietary data from both providers and purchasers of high-capacity, private line (i.e., special access) services. Some competitors want nothing less than for the FCC to regulate Verizon’s and AT&T’s prices and terms of service. There’s a real danger the FCC could be persuaded-as it has in the past-to set wholesale prices at or below cost in the name of promoting competition. That discourages investment in the network by incumbents and new entrants alike. As researcher Susan Gately explained in 2007, a study by her Read More ›


Google probe may be revived

Attorneys general from forty states and the District of Columbia have asked the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to lift a preliminary injunction preventing a state attorney general from investigating Google’s business practices.

In 2011, Google signed a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in which it acknowledged that it improperly assisted Canadian online pharmacy advertisers target U.S. consumers. Google agreed to forfeit $500 million and to adopt compliance and reporting measures.

“State Attorneys General have reason to believe that Google’s services are still being used for unlawful activities,” according to a brief filed on behalf of Mississippi AG James M. Hood, III at the end of June.

Google asserts that it’s not liable for displaying information created by third parties. “Congress broadly immunized interactive computer service providers from state regulation for displaying information created by others,” according to the company’s December 2014 motion for preliminary injunction.

However, three federal appellate courts have ruled that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, to which Google refers, does not confer unlimited immunity.

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Modernize the Copyright Office

The U.S. Copyright Office would be given greater autonomy pursuant to a proposal unveiled by two members of Congress last week, and the agency’s Director would be appointed for a ten year term by the President upon the advice of a bipartisan, bicameral commission and with the consent of the Senate.

The Copyright Office was established as a separate department in the Library of Congress in 1897. The head of the Copyright Office, known as the Register of Copyrights, serves at the pleasure of the Librarian of Congress. But the Copyright Office has outgrown the Library of Congress. For example, the Library of Congress hasn’t delivered the necessary information technology environment so the Copyright Office can meet or exceed customer expectations in the Digital Age.

An efficient copyright system increases the supply of creative content by incentivizing content creators and rewarding investors who underwrite the cost of bringing the creations to market. The Copyright Office must make extensive use of IT to process copyright registration applications, preserve deposited copies of copyrighted works and maintain records of the transfer of copyright ownership. If the Copyright Office fails, there could be unintended consequences for the copyright system.

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The Wrong Way to End the Terrestrial Radio Exemption

A bill before Congress would for the first time require radio broadcasters to pay royalty fees to recording artists and record labels pursuant to the Copyright Act. The proposed Fair Play Fair Pay Act (H.R. 1733) would “[make] sure that all radio services play by the same rules, and all artists are fairly compensated,” according to Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). … AM/FM radio has used whatever music it wants without paying a cent to the musicians, vocalists, and labels that created it. Satellite radio has paid below market royalties for the music it uses … The bill would still allow for different fees for AM/FM radio, satellite radio and Internet radio, but it would mandate a “minimum fee” for each Read More ›