For us tail-end baby boomers, it’s probably true our view of what life might be like now was influenced by the “Back to the Future” series. Watching ‘Doc’ Brown and Marty travel just a few decades forward in time to a place where the Cubbies won the World Series, hoverboards were ubiquitous, and sneakers laced themselves seemed so wonderfully realistic we believed it was possible.
To be sure, some of the things depicted in “Back to the Future II” did come to pass. The Cubs did win a World Series – though not in the year predicted in the film. And technology has brought about other changes that, while not exactly like what was seen on screen, come close enough for government work that filmmakers Bob Zemeckis and Stephen Spielberg deserve a pat on the back for the visionary insight into how things might be.
One thing they got wrong was the whole business of flying cars. In the movie, they seemed to be standard transportation. In reality, they are just as tethered to the nation’s highways and byways as ever, with most of the innovations going toward fuel economy and alternative power plants. The idea of the airborne vehicle just never got off the ground.
Innovation, especially in the wireless sector, makes up for some of the disappointment. Surprisingly though, the intersection of communications technology and the automotive industry has not developed in the way people thought it might 20 years ago. That’s when the Federal Communications Commission established technology-specific rules for what it called “Dedicated Short Range Communications” in the 5.9 GHz band, reserving the space to allow cars, as it was put at the time, “to talk to one another” and to develop safety-related technologies.
A worthwhile effort to be sure, but other than a few heavily subsidized pilot projects that seem to hold little promise, there hasn’t been much movement toward the original vision, especially in the area of auto safety. At the same time, automakers have used other parts of the spectrum not reserved for these purposes to produce tremendous advances popular with consumers (like radar) and are using non-spectrum dependent tech like lidar, sensors, and cameras. Moreover, new auto communications technologies like CV2X want to access the 5.9 GHz band but can’t under the current rules that allow only for the original DSRC.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who deserves great credit for keeping adaptations to the Internet from being slowed by bureaucratic impulses, is poised to break the logjam. Rather than allow for the 5.9 GHz band to continue to go unused, he’s apparently ready to engage in rulemaking that would carve off the lower end of the band for additional wireless broadband use, while preserving the upper reaches for future automotive safety needs.
Putting new Wi-Fi in 45 MHz of the 5.9 GHz band will create the country’s first contiguous 160 MHz channel, something that is critical to the deployment of next-generation Wi-Fi 6, which is expected to bring gigabit and high-capacity Wi-Fi to American consumers. The unlicensed spectrum available in this area can be used to support 5G deployment. Cisco reportedly expects 71 percent of 5G mobile data will be offloaded to Wi-Fi by 2022 – meaning current unlicensed spectrum resources will be insufficient to keep up with the changes.
It’s an excellent compromise, one that leaves the door open to future developments while recognizing the need for new broadband spectrum that exists today. In the two decades since the DSRC allocation, Wi-Fi has become a core communications technology relied upon in homes, businesses, factories, airports, and hospitals across the globe. It contributes more than $525 billion to the U.S. economy on an annual basis.
It’s earned the opportunity to expand even further.
Dear Chairman Simons,
The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC” or “Commission”) should open an investigation into Ring—a subsidiary of Amazon—and its data-sharing practices with law enforcement officials. Ring’s conduct raises a number of concerns, including fears that (1) the emerging technology may result in discriminatory law enforcement activity, (2) sensitive consumer data may be jeopardized as a result of misuse by Amazon and (3) consumers may be subjected to heightened physical security risks. Given these concerns, which are outlined in greater detail below, and Amazon’s history of data mishandling, the FTC should more deeply examine the damaging effects of these practices.
While innovative, Ring’s home security doorbell and its use of consumer data are cause for significant concern as this conduct has the potential to result in considerable consumer harm. So-called “smart home” technology, still very much in its infancy, and its misuse have the potential to cause lasting damage to consumers if the necessary precautions are not taken.
Despite the potential benefits of “smart home” technology like the Ring “smart” doorbell, the data collected by Amazon opens consumers to exposure under the promise of additional security. As a result, not only is consumer data made more vulnerable, but their physical safety is put at unprecedented risk.
As the Commission is well aware, as more data is collected by Amazon, potential data breaches become more damaging. A data breach of consumers’ home security system by nefarious actors could have direct consequences on consumer physical safety. For example, should home security video footage fall into the wrong hands, consumers’ daily routines—including when they leave home and when they are alone and most vulnerable—would be easily discernible by criminals intending to cause harm.
According to reports, Ring has already misled consumers about its data handling practices. The Washington Post reports that Ring has partnered with over 400 police departments in the U.S., “granting them potential access to homeowners’ camera footage.” Amazon was able to secure hundreds of partnerships by capitalizing on artificially low prices funded through taxpayer resources. Making matters worse, Ring engages in these partnerships without first informing its users. This deceptive practice raises, at best, tremendous ethical concerns.
Amazon’s record on data security is already cause for concern. Recently, two prominent senators have asked the Commission to investigate Amazon’s role in the Capital One data breach, which affected nearly 100 million customers. Given Amazon’s potential involvement in this historic breach and its reckless handling of consumer data captured through Ring, it would be unwise to allow this activity to continue without at least some examination from the Commission.
In addition to the data security concerns, Ring’s video-sharing arrangement raises questions about the potential for profiling. In an open letter to lawmakers, more than 30 civil rights action groups described the threat to civil liberties posed by Ring’s partnership with law enforcement. In the letter, the organizations explain the dangers of this arrangement:
“With no oversight and accountability, Amazon’s technology creates a seamless and easily automated experience for police to request and access footage without a warrant, and then store it indefinitely. In the absence of clear civil liberties and rights-protective policies to govern the technologies and the use of their data, once collected, stored footage can be used by law enforcement to conduct facial recognition searches, target protesters exercising their First Amendment rights, teenagers for minor drug possession, or shared with other agencies […].”
These sentiments were echoed by another prominent senator in a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. In the letter, the lawmaker outlined the privacy and civil liberty concerns noted above. Amazon has not yet responded to this letter—a clear indication that, unless pressured by government officials, the company will only act in accordance with its own interests, rather than address the genuine threats expressed here. Because of this, it would be wise for the FTC to act before the situation spirals out of control.
Inaction in light of these facts would subject consumers to risks that are all too dangerous. As the top “cop on the beat,” the FTC has a public responsibility to protect consumers from unfair and deceptive business practices. Given the data security and civil liberty concerns, it would be wise for the FTC to undertake a review of the partnership between Amazon and Ring and law enforcement authorities.
This issue—that of data security and physical safety—is bipartisan in nature. In fact, it transcends politics entirely.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
 Harwell, D. (2019, August 28). Doorbell-camera firm Ring has partnered with 400 police forces, extending surveillance concerns. Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2019/08/28/doorbell-camera-firm-ring-has-partnered-with-police-forces-extending-surveillance-reach/.
 Guariglia, M. (2019, August 30). Five Concerns about Amazon Ring’s Deals with Police. Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/08/five-concerns-about-amazon-rings-deals-police.
 Fight for the Future (2019, October 7). Open letter calling on elected officials to stop Amazon’s doorbell surveillance partnerships with police. Retrieved October 24, 2019, from https://www.fightforthefuture.org/news/2019-10-07-open-letter-calling-on-elected-officials-to-stop/.
One year ago this month, opponents of the FCC’s decision to loosen Title II regulations told us the Internet as we know it would end. It didn’t.
June 11, 2018, was to be a date that would live in infamy, when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) repealed the Obama-era net-neutrality rules. It was a decision met with widespread criticism throughout the country. Fire, brimstone, throttled Internet speeds, the silencing of minority voices, attacks on the LGBTQ community, and the end of the internet as we know it were all imminent, according to liberals. We would be getting the Internet “one word at a time.”
One year after the “day the Internet died,” let’s conduct a post-mortem on the post-mortem.
Starting with Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.), who declared that repealing net neutrality would be “the end of the internet as we know it.” He added that it would be “a disastrous decision, it will impact every American. It will give huge advantages to big corporations over small businesses, to big media companies over smaller media outlets.” Has any of this come to pass?
Meanwhile, Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer predicted that the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, as the administration called it, would make it impossible to stream content on your phone, and would cause shows to lag on Netflix. Ask Netflix whether its business has taken a hit: The Sandra Bullock thriller Bird Box obliterated its records this past December.
That self-appointed bastion of truth in journalism, CNN, echoed Senator Sanders’s opinion in a headline, opining that with the repeal of net neutrality, it was the “end of the Internet as we know it.”
Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.) said that repealing net neutrality would “create a digital oligarchy that serves the wealthy few.” Senator Tom Udall (D., N.M.) said that “ISPs would create internet toll lanes” and would stifle innovation and competition. Senator Richard Blumenthal, who has exaggerated once or twice in his life, said that students, innovators, consumers, and entrepreneurs would all suffer because of the repeal. The Twitter account for the Senate Democrats sent a vertically aligned tweet, separated by paragraph breaks, in a hyperbolic attempt to show how burdensome an Internet without net neutrality would become.
The culture industry got in on the act. Hollywood stalwarts such as Cher, Avengers actor Mark Ruffalo, and Alyssa Milano sought to convince the masses that the net-neutrality rules were necessary for Americans to enjoy a throttle-free, open Internet. The tone was apocalyptic.
The ACLU piled on, saying that the quality of Internet connection and the content available on the Internet were “at risk of falling victim to the profit-seeking whims of powerful telecommunication giants.” Inserting class warfare into the fervor, they declared that the FCC could “favor the content providers who have the money to pay for better access.” Anything but net neutrality, we were told, would result in “authoritarian” rule of the World Wide Web.
Yet we’ve seen the opposite of the Internet Armageddon these sages predicted. Internet speeds actually increased by 40 percent in the United States last year. The data show that there has been a record number of broadband deployment in U.S. homes. Investment continued to grow in 2018, as the country, says the U.S. Telecom association, an opponent of Title II regulations, “expanded on the momentum shift we saw in 2017 when the FCC initially signaled its intention to restore a forward-looking regulatory framework for broadband.”
As the United States progress toward 5G, utility-style Internet regulations impede the development of new technology. The stubborn fact is that Americans have access to faster Internet than ever before. A year after the Restoring Internet Freedom Order went into effect, there have not been any attempts to limit access of content providers. ISPs have not changed the way they charge customers, and the doomsday scenario has not come to pass of an Internet where content is provided only on an à la carte basis.
Opponents of net neutrality could have made their case without channeling a dark, ominous, apocalyptic future. For example, some have argued that net-neutrality repeal would permit ISPs greater authority to promote their own services, limiting consumer choice. However, concerns such as these were all too rarely expressed in political rhetoric. Equating the repeal of net neutrality to an attack on the LGBTQ community, an attempt to silence marginalized people, or cutting off access to reproductive rights was an outlandish attempt to mobilize the Left’s political base. A year’s time has revealed as much.
By David Harsanyi • The Federalist
In a recent op-ed, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg implored the state to get more involved in governing the internet. “Every day, we make decisions about what speech is harmful, what constitutes political advertising, and how to prevent sophisticated cyberattacks,” he began. “These are important for keeping our community safe. But if we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t ask companies to make these judgments alone.”
For starters, there’s no such a thing as “harmful speech.” There might be speech that offends us. There might be speech we disagree with. There’s also speech that’s inarguably ugly, dishonest, pornographic or despicable. “We” allow these unpleasant words to go largely unregulated because we value the broader liberty of being able to offer opinions without government censors dictating which thoughts are acceptable.
But if Zuckerberg wants to rid his platform of this “hate speech,” no one is stopping him. Facebook allegedly employs a number of new mechanisms to achieve this very task. Good luck.
But Zuckerberg also claims that “we,” as society, now have a special responsibility to facilitate his efforts to keep people “safe” from reprehensible rhetoric. We have no such obligation. Facebook already offers users the ability to block or Continue reading
To show support for the promotion and protection of intellectual property rights, the National Center has joined with over 50 organizations in a coalition letter to Congress. This letter lays out the importance of IP in creating American opportunity and competitiveness.
By sharing this set of guidelines and beliefs with lawmakers, the coalition hopes to encourage Congress to show respect and vigilance for this important part of the nation’s economic engine.
In addition to the National Center, other free-market organizations that signed the letter include the American Legislative Exchange Council, Americans for Tax Reform, Frontiers of Freedom and Independent Women’s Voice. Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH Coalition has also signed on.
Addressed to the entire 116th Congress, the letter notes that the U.S. Constitution addresses the need to protect intellectual property in Article I, Section 8. This proves the Founding Fathers’ recognition that “the best way to encourage creation and Continue reading
By Mairead Mcardle • National Review
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said Friday that some advocates of net neutrality saw a political advantage in fomenting fear about the policy’s end.
Pai joined Charles Cooke of National Review at the National Review Institute’s 2019 Ideas Summit to discuss how the agency’s role has changed from its founding in the 1930s to today.
“Net neutrality” is a “very seductive marketing slogan,” Pai said. But “ultimately what it means is government regulation of the Internet.”
“As to the question of why people are upset, I’ll be candid. I think it’s because a lot of people saw a political advantage in fomenting a lot of fear,” he continued, recalling the doom-and-gloom warnings of critics who warned that Pai’s rollback of Obama-era net-neutrality regulations would be the “end of the Internet as we know it.”
“Last time I checked, you can still hate-tweet your favorite FCC chairman,” he quipped.
By David Rutz • Washington Free Beacon
The net neutrality debate is a complicated one, so naturally many of the loudest voices against its repeal last year resorted to doomsday rhetoric.
Friday marks one year after the vote by the Federal Communications Commission to undo the Obama-era rules that some called the “end of the Internet as we know it.”
Net neutrality imposed by the Obama administration classified ISPs (Internet service providers) as public utilities rather than information services and subjected them to broad regulations. Supporters fretted that ISPs, without proper oversight, would throttle certain connections and prioritize their own video-streaming services, for instance, rather than treating all sites equally. Continue reading
For those who don’t follow the communications industry closely, you may not know that the Federal Communications Commission has undertaken the herculean and laudable task of reviewing all its regulations applying to TV and radio broadcasters, cable TV operators and satellite TV providers, and repealing or modifying any outdated, unnecessary or unduly burdensome rules. In July, the FCC will start the formal process of reforming its rules requiring broadcast TV stations to air government-specified amounts of children’s educational programming. Frontiers of Freedom supports the FCC’s proposals – released in draft form on June 21 – here – to bring its rules into the 21st century.
From its draft, the FCC clearly recognizes that the children’s TV rules, originally adopted in 1996, must be updated. The current rules betray their analog-era origins, a time when consumers had restricted viewing options and most viewers watched only a handful of broadcast channels. But in today’s digital world, consumers enjoy video programming on multiple platforms via multiple devices at the time and location of their choice – the concept of “appointment viewing” has become meaningless to most consumers, especially younger ones. Children’s programming is now available from 24/7 children’s cable channels and on-demand from cable providers, via major internet sites and popular apps, like the PBS app, and streamed from sources such as YouTube and Netflix. Clearly, the market has not failed to provide abundant amounts of children’s video programming. And this leads to an obvious question – are the FCC’s current rules requiring broadcast TV stations to offer three hours of children’s educational programming every week per every channel they air (including all multicast channels) still necessary? We don’t believe so.
At the very least, the existing “kid vid” rules are overly rigid, causing serious unintended consequences including forcing broadcasters to run programing that meets regulatory criteria but isn’t attractive to parents and their children. Just one example, for any program to “count” under the FCC’s rules, it must, among other requirements, be regularly scheduled, aired during certain hours and last 30 minutes or longer. Predictably enough, these mandates have killed off differently scheduled and formatted children’s programs. Many of us still remember CBS network’s In the News, short-form news stories aimed at children, and ABC’s popular Schoolhouse Rock and Afterschool Specials. But specials aren’t regularly scheduled, and apparently short news isn’t good news, and thus those programs disappeared from the airwaves – a direct result of nonsensical regulation and government overreach.
For all these reasons, Frontiers of Freedom welcomes the FCC’s draft notice proposing changes to its outdated and harmful children’s TV rules. We support the FCC’s proposals – here – and its overall effort to reduce unnecessary and burdensome government regulation.
“URGENT,” read the popular meme on social media on Monday, “If you’re not freaking out about Net Neutrality right now, you’re not paying attention.”
Well, we have some good news. If you can read this editorial, it means you’ve survived the first 24 hours without the regulations that the Obama-era Federal Communications Commission decided were necessary to preserve net neutrality. Your Internet provider has not yet gotten around to censoring the Internet.
CNN, absurdly reported “the end of the Internet as we know it” in a news piece after the FCC voted in December to repeal the Obama-era regulation. That headline was later changed, perhaps because someone figured out that the Internet was only going back to the way it had been pretty much right up until June 12, 2015.
By Drew Johnson • Fox News
Some activists are urging Congress to use a little-known procedural tool to overturn a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) decision called the Restoring Internet Freedom Order. This misguided approach would only handcuff the internet and saddle it with Depression-era rules that have been proven to hurt consumers.
Instead, lawmakers should ensure a free and vibrant internet through real legislation that permanently enshrines clear consumer protections, while respecting the more hands-off approach that has allowed the internet to flourish.
The FCC voted in December to repeal Title II regulations on the nation’s broadband networks, which were applied in 2015 under the Obama administration. Title II rules were created during the 1930s to regulate the telephone industry like a utility.
December 18th, 2017
The Honorable Robert E. Lighthizer
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Executive Office of the President
600 17th Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer,
“Intellectual property is a driving force in today’s global economy of constant innovation. It is the wellspring of American economic growth and job creation. With the rise of the digital economy, it has become even more critical that we protect intellectual property rights and preserve freedom of contract rather than create regulatory barriers to creativity, growth, and innovation. …We call for strong action by Congress and a new Republican president to enforce intellectual property laws against all infringers, whether foreign or domestic.” Continue reading
by Georgi Boorman • The Federalist
Could you bear to live in a world where parts of the Internet might be bundled and sold to you monthly in the form of subscriptions? Apparently, some people can’t. A representative from California shared this graphic on social media, supposedly to demonstrate how terrible lifting net neutrality would be. To me, it demonstrates the exact opposite.
If you add up the subscriptions, the “no net neutrality” model costs 4 cents less. Continue reading
Perhaps nowhere has President Trump’s roll-back of eight years of Obama’s presidency been more successful, early on, than in his efforts to unshackle the Internet from the hands of the federal government.
Fueled by $200 million in money from the Ford Foundation and George Soros, a cottage industry of activists and groups were funded to help transform the Internet into a government-run and monopolized utility. Among them was one called Free Press, operated by neo-Marxist Robert McChesney. McChesney has openly bragged about the need to transform the media to be “part of our broader struggle for democracy, social justice, and, dare we say it, socialism,” and has cited Venezuelan strong-man Hugo Chavez as the exemplar of “free press.”
Rather than treat McChesney’s comments as the rantings of a mad-man, the FCC cited him as “remarkable” 46 times in justifying their decision to enact disingenuously named “Net Neutrality,” a key step in transforming the Internet under the thumb of government control. Continue reading
by Senator Ted Cruz • The Daily Signal
The incredible ingenuity of the American people invented the internet—one of the most transformational technologies in human history. But even though we created and paid for the internet, we did not keep it for ourselves; we shared it for the benefit of all humanity. That spirit of freedom and generosity is the very essence of our great nation.
Since the internet’s inception, the United States government has played a critical role in supervising the core internet functions that allow websites to interface with the internet. If any other country had created the internet, this power could have been used to deny internet access to websites that were deemed politically undesirable, unpopular, threatening, or disfavored by the ruling elite.
But not here in the United States. The internet is an oasis of freedom today because of our First Amendment, which is unparalleled in the protection it affords free speech. So long as the U.S. government is involved in internet governance, it cannot deny any website internet access on account of the ideas it espouses. Continue reading
By L. Gordon Crovitz • Wall Street Journal
When the Obama administration announced its plan to give up U.S. protection of the internet, it promised the United Nations would never take control. But because of the administration’s naiveté or arrogance, U.N. control is the likely result if the U.S. gives up internet stewardship as planned at midnight on Sept. 30.
On Friday Americans for Limited Government received a response to its Freedom of Information Act request for “all records relating to legal and policy analysis . . . concerning antitrust issues for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” if the U.S. gives up oversight. The administration replied it had “conducted a thorough search for responsive records within its possession and control and found no records responsive to your request.”
It’s shocking the administration admits it has no plan for how Icann retains its antitrust exemption. The reason Icann can operate the entire World Wide Web root zone is that it has the status of a legal monopolist, stemming from its contract with the Commerce Department that makes Icann an “instrumentality” of government. Continue reading