Will Internet Freedom Be Preserved And Expanded In 2013?

    January 13, 2013
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

CES 2012 was overshadowed by the looming threat of SOPA. At the time, Congressmen Ron Wyden and Darrell Issa met with the tech industry to drum up support for their SOPA alternative – OPEN. SOPA eventually was declared officially dead late last year, but Wyden is back at CES 2013 with a laundry list of proposed legislation that could affect the tech industry in profound ways.

The Hill reports that Wyden spoke on a number of issues facing the tech industry this year in a speech entitled “The Freedom to Compete.” While he was primarily speaking from a business perspective, he encouraged innovation that would bring new freedoms to the Internet in 2013.

Do you think 2013 will bring new Internet freedoms? Or will special interests get in the way of meaningful innovation and reform? Let us know in the comments.

The idea of people, businesses and others having the freedom to compete is the centerpiece of Wyden’s policy suggestions going into the new year. He says that the Internet is threatened by economic stagnation brought upon by “established economic interests:”

The incumbents often seek special help from the government, claiming they want a marketplace from government intervention; but they don’t get it. The role of the government is to address market failures, and to block cartels, monopolies, and anti-competitive forces that interfere with the effective operation of free enterprise. A legitimate function of the government is to defend the market against the forces interfering with its efficient function.

To effectively break through this stagnation, Wyden calls upon the innovators of our time to “play offense around an agenda for Internet innovation.” To do that, the senator has a number of proposed policies that he hopes will make the Internet more free to innovation in 2013

First and foremost, Wyden wants to protect consumers and businesses from ISPs throttling traffic. His goal is to classify such actions as being in violation of antitrust laws:

“If a provider wishes to slow consumers’ Internet connections in order to discriminate against a provider of content, my view is that they should face the antitrust laws. Sen. Franken and I are working on legislation to do just that — to strengthen the antitrust laws in order to ensure that the major ISPs cannot use their market dominance to pick online winners and losers.”

He also criticizes the FCC’s weak net neutrality laws that don’t cover all forms of online communication:

Here is what the freedom to compete in the marketplace means. First, it begins with access to the Internet. Internet Service Providers – wired or wireless – must be barred from practices that discriminate against specific content. The Open Internet order established by the FCC is a good start but it doesn’t go far enough because, in reality, it is not comprehensive. Most of Las Vegas this week, for example, will access the Internet through their wireless connection, which is not fully subject to the FCC order.

Currently, being found in violation of FCC rules is pretty much equatable to a slap on the wrist. Turning net neutrality into an antitrust issue would turn the eye of the FTC onto ISPs and cable providers – something that these corporations would probably want to avoid.

Wyden also spoke briefly on software patents, a rather contentious topic since patent trolls began suing legitimate companies for using common functions, like text entry on a Web page:

A related concern is the affect of software patents on America’s ability to innovate. Congress should begin a review – a cost-benefit analysis – of software patents’ contribution to the economy. The acquisition of these patents appears less about deploying innovation and more about employing a legal arsenal. The patent system should not, as Julie Samuels at EFF says, operate as a tax on innovation, as it does now. How are you promoting innovation if you stand behind a law that enables a few lines of code to be patentable for 20 years? Software is different than a new invention. It is a building block — a new set of instructions — that should be continually built upon and improved.

Wyden also touched upon his broadband data cap bill from last year that would have prevented ISPs from monetizing data consumption for no reason other than greed:

The Internet is too important to our common interest to enable bits and bytes to be viewed only in terms of dollars and cents. It is time for legislation to establish disciplines on data caps that give innovators and entrepreneurs the opportunity that is a pillar of our nation’s economy: the freedom to compete. Promoting this freedom begins with the Internet connection, but it must be rooted throughout the Internet ecosystem.

Do you think Wyden’s policy proposals will bring new freedom to users and businesses on the Internet? Should Congress makes these a priority in 2013? Let us know in the comments.

Up until now, you could argue that Wyden has been directly addressing how the Internet can better serve innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses in 2013. What about protections for the common Internet user? Wyden has some ideas that he’s ready to start working on this year.

For starters, he says that cyber security is incredibly important, but last year’s CISPA was the wrong way to go about it:

Let’s address the goals of CISPA without creating a cyber-industrial complex that would produce an endless, losing, cat-and-mouse game in which nimble hackers win all the time. And let’s make sure cyber security isn’t used in a way that exposes the electronic communication of every American to government and corporate snoops.

In a bold move, Wyden also calls out copyright maximalists as a cause of economic and creative stagnation:

But what chills the sharing of ideas and collaboration is the maximalist approach to copyrights and patents. Rights-holders are too eager to use their power to scare off challenges to the status quo, and this perpetuates stagnation. Indisputably, the protection of intellectual property is important. The balance between providing rights-holders a monopoly and promoting competition and innovation is just as important. It must be continually re-examined and reconsidered.

Despite these policies being little more than pipe dreams, it instills a hope that the Internet may truly be a better place in 2013 despite the looming threat of multiple parties that want to control it. Ron Wyden isn’t the only Congressman either that is advocating for Internet freedom that would help innovative businesses thrive and consumers safe from the prying eyes of corporations and governments.

Before we get to any of the above, however, maybe Wyden and his allies can take care of FISA first?

Do you think 2013 will be a year of Internet freedom? Could Wyden’s proposed policies help usher such an era? Let us know in the comments.

  • Alan1

    i think google killing internet freedom in 2012-2013. It main threat to internet.

  • Alan1

    and most funny – google lead such ‘internet freedom’ protests. It like globalists and anti-globalists before, lead this group to control it.

  • Anon

    We now have to watch every piece of legislation in every country like a Hawk to make sure there is no sneaky little statement intending to monitor or restrict the Internet.

    Governments all around the world are determined to take control of the only true free press. They already have the editors and corporate owners of many larger news networks in their pockets (just see Murdoch and his relationship to the UK Gov), but they cannot yet control the real free media.

    It is no coincidence that Australia, the UK, the USA and European nations all created their own Internet snooping, restriction and control proposals at the same time. You can look around the world and see that numerous countries all adopted a similar plan simultaneously, all with the end result being government monitoring of the people and the ability to restrict access or take down sites at will.

    They used various covers for it depending on what would resonate with their public the most. In the USA it was to prevent terrorism with the added mention of “communist hacking” from China – something the Repubs would also jump on), in the UK it was to prevent crime and rioting (rioting which they conveniently allowed to continue for several days to gain public support for far reaching controls), in Europe it was to prevent both, and they got companies on side with it being “anti-piracy” too.

    The real reason, of course, is that they know the Egyptian revolution only happened because of the Internet. Greek protests against austerity happen with the help of the Internet. Protests in London are organized through the internet.

    They know that if (or when) the € collapses they will see massive crowds of people protesting, and the threat of them being ousted from government is a real one.

    This is a plan for self-preservation, continuation of government, nothing to do with terrorism, piracy or crime in general. They are running scared because they fear they might be in the hot seat when Europe goes into meltdown, and they don’t want to be the ones dealing with mass revolt when their currency collapses.

    Think about it, piracy, crime and terrorism will not be affected by any controls or monitoring, because these people already communicate below the radar, they use basic encryption, VPN, the “dark net”. They will not be affected in the slightest by such legislation. But protest groups trying to get a message out to the wider public will be affected, websites sharing resources and information about protest will be affected, the democratic rights of all citizens to communicate freely will be restricted and monitored.

    The fight is not over, not by any stretch of the imagination. Governments will continue to try to take control of free information and communication in any way they can, and they will use any excuse to do it. Highly paid think tanks are already predicting more revolutions as the economy continues to decline, and “the West” is by no means immune to this.

    • http://fajafunamazon.thedeeclan.com Jay Dee

      Anon, you said it exact and seemly good. They may not be able to deprive all users of their internet freedom and not be able to kill internet freedom. Be assured the will try to restrict this or that, all users in the whole world have to stand together and protect our Freedom Of The Internet, same as other freedoms we have. One by one they are being taken away and that goes for every land on this Earth.

      Jay Dee

  • http://www.captaincyberzone.com Cap’n Cyberzone

    In the skewed brains of the World’s Elitist Liberals* echos the lyrics of Janis Joplin’s “Me & Bobby McGee” … Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose …

    So when they’ve taken every freedom (including the internet) we’ll all be feeling good on Government supplied drugs and singing the blues
    as they tell us that we’re now really free since we have nothing left to lose.

    *People who never tell the truth about their true agenda [for fear of rebellion] and people, like a dog on a bone, who never give-up … they just keep chipping away.

  • Robert

    You might like to read this from Dotcom in NZ. Frightening stuff from the USA and FBI etc.
    You may be aware of the megaupload case. This is the latest press release.


  • http://vtca.ru vtca.ru

    Internet must be free! We vtca.ru stand for freedom!

  • http://www.graciousstore.com Nina

    There are always people with special interest, who will like to stifle anything that poses a treat to them or their interest. Free internet access is one of those ventures special interest will like to stifle, but thanks to the power of democracy, the common man that uses the internet, not only to see through and into the world, but also as a means of livelihood will not let the special interest groups have their way, to limit free access to the internet.