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
“I got a phone call one morning saying, ‘Steve, the office is full of Secret Service agents, and they’re not letting anyone in,” Jackson said. “They were chasing a demon that wasn’t there. They were on the trail on the notorious 911 document. The whole thing was a comedy of errors.”
Video of the event will be online soon; we’ll post the link when it’s available.
Austin was a hotbed of pioneering Internet activity in the early 1990s, and one event that put us on the Internet map was the March 1, 1990 Secret Service raid at Steve Jackson Games, an Austin company that produced role playing games with science fiction themes. All the company’s computers were confiscated, and as a result Steve Jackson sued the U.S. Secret Service, and won. The raid and court case made Steve a focus of the nascent cyber liberties movement – it was the first major case for the national Electronic Frontier Foundation, and subject of a bestselling book by Bruce Sterling, called _Hacker Crackdown_.
Why did the Secret Service raid Steve Jackson Games? Why did Steve retaliate with a law suit, and how did he win a case against the U.S. government? On this 20th anniversary of the raid, EFF-Austin invites you to gather at Independence Brewing in Austin to get the answers. We’ll have a rousing panel discussion of the case, and its place in history, featuring Steve Jackson, Bruce Sterling, and attorney Pete Kennedy. You can also sample locally-brewed Independence beer!
Please consider making a donation to EFF-Austin when you attend (or via the Paypal link on this site).
Sponsored by EFF-Austin and Plutopia Productions. This event is FREE (as in beer), but we strongly encourage donations to EFF-Austin.