Iranian Protests

Andrew Sullivan is the one-man, citizen journalism aggregator of the protests in Iran today. His collection of Tweets and YouTube videos convey the impression of a large-scale uprising that the government is trying to control with riot police, chemical weapons, and propaganda. It certainly appears that the uprising is gathering steam and that the government is out-matched. Given that the Supreme Leader relies on his moral authority to govern, and that authority is now shot full of holes, it seems unlikely that he can hang on to power.

Twitter and YouTube are certainly playing a role in getting the news out of the blackout the Iranian government has sought to impose.

What’s happening in Iran?

BusinessWeek isn’t buying the story that Twitter is the essential organizing tool for the protests in Iran over suspicious election results:

“I think the idea of a Twitter revolution is very suspect,” says Gaurav Mishra, co-founder of 20:20 WebTech, a company that analyzes the effects of social media. “The amount of people who use these tools in Iran is very small and could not support protests that size.”

Their assessment is that people are organizing the old-fashioned way, by word-of-mouth and SMS. Ancient technology, that SMS. But it is a great story, either way.

My New Job

Incidentally, I’ve started working for the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in DC as of this week as a Research Fellow. I’ll be working on the issues that I’ve been working on as a consultant for the past few years: pro-innovation Internet regulation, the National Broadband Plan, and regulatory and policy considerations in the wireless networking space. I’m staying in Silicon Valley for the time being, but I will be making more regular visits to DC.

I like ITIF because their policy line is pragmatic and moderate: they appreciate the fact that sound regulatory policy makes good things happen, and don’t support or oppose any particular line on reflex.

Second Hearing in Internet Privacy tomorrow

From House Energy and Commerce:

Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on “Behavioral Advertising: Industry Practices and Consumers’ Expectations”

Energy and Commerce Subcommittee Hearing on “Behavioral Advertising: Industry Practices and Consumers’ Expectations”
Publications
June 16, 2009

The Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet and the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection will hold a joint hearing titled, “Behavioral Advertising: Industry Practices and Consumers’ Expectations” on Thursday, June 18, 2009, in 2123 Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will examine the potential privacy implications of behavioral advertising.

INVITED WITNESSES:

* Jeffrey Chester, Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy
* Scott Cleland, President, Precursor LLC
* Charles D. Curran, Executive Director, Network Advertising Initiative
* Christopher M. Kelly, Chief Privacy Officer, Facebook
* Edward W. Felten, Professor of Computer Science and Public Affairs, Princeton University
* Anne Toth, Vice President of Policy, Head of Privacy, Yahoo! Inc.
* Nicole Wong, Deputy General Counsel, Google Inc.

WHEN: 10:00 a.m. on Thursday, June 18

WHERE: 2123 Rayburn House Office Building



This is the second in a series of hearings on the subject of behavioral advertising. I’ll predict that the Democrats will praise Google, the Republicans will criticize them, and nobody will pay much notice to Yahoo.

I only know four of the six personally, I need to get out more.

New Broadband Czar

Trusted sources tell me Blair Levin is headed back to the FCC to be the Commissar of the People’s Glorious Five Year Plan for the Production of Bandwidth. He’d be a wonderful choice, of course, because he’s a bright and humorous fellow with no particular delusions about what he knows and what he doesn’t know.

I haven’t been enthusiastic about this National Broadband Plan business myself, but if we’re going to have one, we’re going to have one, and it should be the best one on the planet. And no, that doesn’t mean that the object of the exercise is for America’s broadband users to have big foam number 1 fingers, it means we do something sensible with the people’s tax dollars.

The plan should figure out a meaningful way to measure progress, and it should fund some of the efforts to create the next-generation network that will one day supersede the TCP/IP Internet. We all love TCP/IP, mind you, but it’s a 35-year-old solution to a problem we understand a lot better today than we did in 1974. We’ll get a chance to see just how much vision the New FCC has by their reaction to this proposal.

UPDATE: Press reports are dribbling out about the appointment.

Finally, nominees for the FCC

Amy Schatz of the WSJ reports that a deal has been struck to move the new nominees into the FCC:

Work has slowed to a crawl at the Federal Communications Commission, since President Barack Obama’s pick to be chairman, Julius Genachowski, is still awaiting Senate confirmation.

But the logjam could be broken soon: Republicans appear to have settled on two people to fill the GOP seats on the five-member board, paving the way for a confirmation hearing in June. Senate Republicans have agreed on former Commerce Department official Meredith Attwell Baker and current FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, officials close to the process say.

This is good news. McDowell has been the best of the FCC commissioners since his appointment, and allowing him a second term is a very bright move. Uncertainty over McDowell’s future was the cause of the slowdown in confirmation hearings, since these things go forward with the whole slate of nominees. So the new FCC is going to look this this:

Chairman Genachowski, new blood
Dem Copps, old hand
Dem Mignon Clyburn, new blood
Rep McDowell
Rep Meredith Baker, new blood

It’s interesting that Baker and Clyburn are both nepotism candidates, as Clyburn is the daughter of powerful Congressman James Clyburn and Baker is the daughter-in-law of the Bush family’s consigliere, James Baker. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the best Chairman of recent times was Colin Powell’s son, and neither of the daughters is particularly unqualified. But if you want to get a laugh out of Blair Levin, the former “sixth commissioner” who wasn’t nominated, tell him you understand that he’s not qualified to serve on the FCC because his daddy’s not in politics. You won’t get a laugh exactly, more like a moan.

The first item of business for the nominees, once they’re confirmed, will be the list of 120 questions Copps put to the world. Good luck to the Commission with that.

FCC Comments due in National Broadband Plan

See IEEE Spectrum for a few observations on the FCC’s request for comments on the National Broadband Plan:

Comments are due Monday, June 8, at the FCC on the National Broadband Plan (NBP.) The Notice of Inquiry lists some 120 questions that the Commission would like filers to address, running the gamut from goals and benchmarks to open access to privacy to entrepreneurial activity to job creation. Anyone who compiles a list of so many questions clearly hasn’t given much thought to the problem under discussion, so it’s clear upon reading the NOI that we’re many years away from a good NBP, although we may have some vague and probably counter-productive guidelines much sooner: the FCC is supposed to report a plan to Congress by next February. Bear in mind that it took the US 20 years to convert from analog to digital TV, and we’re not even there yet.

There’s more.

Catching up

I’ve been too busy to blog lately, what with the conferences, a white paper I’m writing about protocols and regulation, a recalcitrant editor (at a local paper,) and a new gig blogging for IEEE Spectrum’s Tech Talk. My observations on networking and policy will be appearing there for the while.

The focus over here is going to be pure politics and pure technology, with a little bit of baseball.

We’re in a silly season for politics at the moment:

* Pro-lifers committing murder
* Intellectuals practicing tribal politics
* Critics of tribal politics complaining about pronunciation
* Morons playing with statistics

The funniest among these (please note, there’s nothing funny about murder) is the conspiracy theory about Hillary fans among the car dealers getting off the shutdown hook. It comes as no big surprise that the source of the rumor is Doug Ross, the big net neutrality booster who used to comment here as “Director Blue” until I shut him off. The common thread is conspiracy theory, the essential philosophical basis of American politics.

How Hard is it to Find Authors?

One of the mind-boggling facts about the Google book deal is the number of so-called “orphan works” there are. According to Brewster Kahle, most books published since our current copyright regime was adopted in 1923 are orphan works:

But the settlement would also create a class that includes millions of people who will never come forward. For the majority of books — considered “orphan” works — no one will claim ownership. The author may have died; the publisher might have gone out of business or doesn’t respond to inquiries; the original contract has disappeared.

Google would get an explicit, perpetual license to scan and sell access to these in-copyright but out-of-print orphans, which make up an estimated 50 to 70 percent of books published after 1923. No other provider of digital books would enjoy the same legal protection. The settlement also creates a Book Rights Registry that, in conjunction with Google, would set prices for all commercial terms associated with digital books.

For the archivist who makes money by advertising and resale, orphan works are uniquely convenient: not only do you not have to obtain permission to republish, you also don’t have to share revenues with anyone. Taken together, those facts certainly don’t motivate digital book sellers to expend any effort to find the authors or their heirs.

Now imagine how this would change if someone developed a tool for searching the Internet. Surely the information is out there on most published authors, their heirs, and their whereabouts, so as long as someone is diligent enough to sift through it, evaluate it, and interpret it, they can be found. I wonder how long it will be until a bright young pair of graduate students in the computer science program of a major university set themselves to solve the problem of Internet search.

Not to be sarcastic or anything.