Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lightsquared questions tests saying GPS could be compromised

Lightsquared, a tech company in Reston VA planning to offer a super wireless broadband, says the tests that show interference with GPS devices were rigged, as in this story.

In theory, Lightsquared’s products could become a keystone strategy for offering reliable broadband in remote areas, or in areas exposed to storms. There is obvious advantage to homeowners if they don’t have to depend on physical wires staying up to keep their connections.

The same idea is becoming common in home security, as companies (ADT, Ackerman, etc) are now using cellular wireless connectivity to headquarters instead of landlone phone. 

There was an earlier story on Lightsquared Sept. 15, 2011. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Supreme Court hearing case on legacy broadcast indecency rules with FCC

The Supreme Court is hearing a case regarding whether the FCC can regulate “indecency” among legacy television broadcasters but not on Cable, Satellite, or Internet channels.  Call it the "Justin Timberlake-Janet Jackson-wardrobe malfunction" case if you like (which was all over the web during the second half of the 2004 Super Bowl). 

The FCC explains its position here, saying that it believes the law applie only to signals carried through “radio communications”, which do not cover cable and satellite. It also says that voluntary paid subscription services may need less regulation, and that it does not enforce any regulations between 10 PM and 6 AM local time. 

It will be interesting to compare the Supreme Court's reaction to this case to its 1997 ruling on the Communications Decency Act, which turned out extremely well for the Internet. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Engineers question whether broadband access is a "right"

Vinton G. Cerf, a fellow for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, in Reston VA, on p. A21 of the Jan. 5 New York Times, “Internet access is not a human right”, link here

Internet access is a tool to getting to something else, efficient global communication, which can be used to keep “the powers that be” honest.  But it’s ultimately about fairer access to “necessities”, not about the speech itself.  What becomes a human right is what communication facilitates.

Cerf applies a similar argument to countering the notion that Internet Access is even a “civil right”, which can be implemented and protected by a democratic government. But the policy debates (over guaranteeing broadband access for everyone) seem to reflect the belief that it should be.

Cerf then migrates to discussing the responsibility for the Internet industry to provide a safe computing environment.

In the past, however, we’ve talked about “fundamental rights” as including self-expression for its own sake, with less clarity about the “right” to efficient distribution of the expression rather than the right to freedom from censorship of the content.  Cerf seems to be concerned with the “purpose” of the communication, which can leads us down to discussions about the troubling subject of “implicit content.”