Tech at "Night": AT&T, Netflix, Net Neutrality, FCC, Twitter, Space Lasers

Tech at Night

This edition of Tech at Night is unfortunately delayed. It’s almost 4am now as I’m able to start this (7am eastern) because I had a bout of Net Neutrality to deal with. All websites loaded at the same speed on my DSL: zero. Total downtime.


So, late or not, let’s go. As I warned on Monday, Net Neutrality is forcing ISPs like AT&T to impose reasonable caps on their services. Known freeloader Netflix demands that AT&T users who don’t use Netflix subsidize those who do, which is of course completely unfair, which is why AT&T isn’t allowing it. Anyway, the rate caps aren’t that small, and $10 per 50GB over isn’t bad at all. Ask any wireless Internet user what you’ll get for $10.

More FCC power grabs are on the way, it seems. The FCC has what you might call a conflict of interest: the wireless market must be declared non-competitive for the FCC to be allowed to intervene. Who decides whether that market is competitive or not though? Yup, the FCC. So Fred Campbell warns that the FCC may ignore the Congress and just say whatever it takes to do whatever it wants. Boy am I glad we have Republicans in DC who are on top of the FCC already. This may take swift action to combat.

Lately most of the bad tech bills introduced have been on the Democrat-controlled Senate side. The Leahy patent bill, the Rockefeller cybersecurity bill, and the Lieberman-Collins Internet Kill Switch are all in the Senate. However the Democrats are taking their fight for a government-controlled Internet to the House with a House cybersecurity bill by Democrat Jim Langevin of Rhode Island. The Hill even says it’s similar to the Rockefeller bill introduced repeatedly in recent years, that would give the government a frightening amount of power over private computer networks all across the country. The Senate version included the power to control even hiring and firing of computer and network employees. And of course Langevin is comparing website downtimes to 9/11. This bill must be stopped.


You may hear that Twitter is now a secure website to access because of the introduction of secure HTTP (https) access to the site. This is not as strong as you may believe. The problem is that even if all Twitter-generated links come in https form, any time you hit a non-https Twitter link, your web browser is still going to send your full, unecrypted login cookies over the Network. Twitter website use is still vulnerable to Firesheep-style snooping attacks on public wired and wireless networks, unless you make sure never, ever to visit a non-https Twitter link. Be careful out there. Encrypt your home network. Use VPNs if you want to access logins on a public network.

And back to the California Democrat plans to pass an unconstitutional tax on companies that operate on the Internet but do not operate in California, also known as the Amazon Tax because some of the leading proponents of the tax are old, inefficient retailers who are either unwilling or unable to compete with Amazon on a level, Constitutional playing field. Jerry Brown’s sales tax hike may pass, but ATR’s Patrick Gleason says the Amazon tax might not get out of committee. This is good, because as Gleason points out, it’s not just Amazon Affiliates who would lose out if such a bill passed. Other out of state firms with affiliate programs would likely cut them off as well, following Amazon’s lead. I personally try to use Amazon to bring in some ad revenue at my other site, but I’ve never gotten much of anything out of it. I’d like to keep the option though. The Amazon Tax would hurt the California economy, cutting revenue and killing jobs.


And last point for this morning: while the plan to destroy space junk with lasers sounds fun I expect it will never come to be. Once we start firing destructive lasers into space (even if they’re only destructive in that they will degrade the orbits of the targets), then that gives China every excuse it needs to take aim at our satellites. We have more to lose from a space war than anyone else right now.


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