“Dial-Up Law in a Broadband World” (NYT)

From the New York Times:

Privacy is central to American law. And in 1986, Congress applied that principle to electronic communications by setting limits on law enforcement access to Internet and wireless technologies. It was a laudable law at the time, but cellphones were still oddities, the Internet was mostly a way for academics and researchers to exchange data and the World Wide Web that is an everyday part of most Americans’ lives did not exist.

The law is no longer comprehensive enough to cover the many kinds of intrusions made possible by the advances of the past 24 years. In the absence of strong federal law, the courts have been adrift on many important Internet privacy issues. The law is not clear on when search warrants are required for the government to read stored e-mail, what legal standards apply to GPS technology that tracks people’s whereabouts in real time and other critical questions.

Digital Due Process — a coalition that includes Google, Microsoft, the Center for Democracy and Technology and the American Civil Liberties Union — recently proposed a good set of principles for addressing those issues. The coalition recommends that all private data not voluntarily made public, such as stored e-mail or private financial data, should be as protected as data in a person’s home. To get it, the government should need a search warrant.

EFF-Austin Nominates Austin for Google’s Fiber for Communities Project

Google Fiber for Communities Project Nomination of EFF-Austin

We at EFF-Austin have submitted our Google Fiber for Communities nomination. Our letter will be included in the City of Austin’s official nomination package. We think Austin, as a community and a broadband market, is the perfect place for a FTTH network and we hope that Google agrees.

Matthew Henry is an EFFA board member and a partner at McCollough|Henry, PC

Barbershop Punk: SXSW Features Film About Net Neutrality

The SXSW Film Festival is screening a documentary about the open Internet and Net Neutrality called Barbershop Punk at the Austin Convention Center on March 15th and 18th. The title refers to Robb Topolski’s 2007 investigation of Comcast’s network management practices after having trouble sharing public domain barbershop quartet music files. Topolski discovered that the company was secretly throttling P2P applications, which he made public on a dslreports bulletin board. With this discovery, Net Neutrality exploded into the mainstream political discourse and Topolski became a reluctant public figure. The power of the network providers to become the gatekeepers to the Internet became frighteningly clear and Net Neutrality was no longer “a solution in search of a problem.” In response, the FCC forced Comcast to stop throttling P2P, which Comcast is appealing in federal court, and began the process of establishing concrete network management rules to prevent similar practices in the future (with some major loopholes).

From the preview, it looks like the film includes interviews with some of the most prominent actors in the Net Neutrality debate and questions the wisdom of the government’s policy of trusting the duopoly Internet access market to function without any oversight.

Matthew Henry is an EFFA board member and a partner at McCollough|Henry, PC