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WHAT COULD GO WRONG? Wait! What? FCC ponders plan to route U.S. 911 calls through Russian satellites.

HAPPY NEW YEAR: Marriott plans to block personal wifi hotspots.

Marriott is fighting for its right to block personal or mobile Wi-Fi hotspots—and claims that it’s for our own good.

The hotel chain and some others have a petition before the FCC to amend or clarify the rules that cover interference for unlicensed spectrum bands. They hope to gain the right to use network-management tools to quash Wi-Fi networks on their premises that they don’t approve of. In its view, this is necessary to ensure customer security and to protect children.

The petition, filed in August and strewn with technical mistakes, has received a number of formally filed comments from large organizations in recent weeks. If Marriott’s petition were to succeed, we’d likely see hotels that charge guests and convention centers that charge exhibitors flipping switches to shut down any Wi-Fi not operated by the venue. The American hotel industry’s trade group is a co-filer of the petition, and Hilton submitted a comment in support: this isn’t just Marriott talking. . . .

Earlier in 2014, the FCC fined Marriott for jamming guests, exhibitors, and others’ Wi-Fi networks at the Gaylord Opryland resort in Nashville. The hotel chain agreed to pay the FCC $600,000 in fines and create a compliance plan, with regularly filed updates, for all its properties.

I want to control my own connections. I don’t want Marriott to be able to shut off my personal hotspot and force me onto their own network.

JOSH BLACKMAN: The Constitutional Limits Of Prosecutorial Discretion. Also, Prosecutorial Discretion With Rubber Stamps.

Josh’s discussion also reminds me of MCI V. AT&T, 512 U.S. 218 (1994), in which the Supreme Court held that the FCC couldn’t stretch a statutory provision allowing it to “modify” tariff requirements into a general rule eliminating the need for most of the industry to file tariffs at all. That seems fairly analogous to what Obama is doing with immigration, and possibly a better fit than Heckler v. Chaney.

On the contra side, though, there’s the case I always bring up when people suggest that executive power has exploded in recent years, U.S. v. Spawr Optical. (Also discussed here.) Spawr is a Court of Appeals case, not a Supreme Court case, and turned on some particularly sweeping statutory delegations, but still. . . .

Meanwhile, some thoughts from Ilya Somin.

I also think that if the Supreme Court wants to hear this in a hurry, it can. If it takes it in the ordinary course of business, we’ll probably see a decision in June of 2016. Could Obama — already seen as passively aggressively undermining Hillary in other ways — have put a long-range torpedo into the water that will explode around the time of the Democratic Convention?

RICHARD EPSTEIN: Hands Off The Web. “The AT&T decision to hold back on its investment is the canary down the coal mine. Preemptive rate regulation will not do anything other than retard the huge expansion of the Internet that has taken place under current legal regimes. Government regulation of the Internet can, and should, wait until some specific abuse materializes down the road, as might well be the case. Right now, the President and the FCC could do the public great service by sitting quietly on the sidelines.” Insufficient opportunities for graft in sideline-sitting.

TO BE FAIR, THEY’RE NOT MEANT TO BE GOOD IDEAS, THEY’RE MEANT TO CONSOLIDATE POWER: Net Neutrality—and Obama’s Scheme for the Internet—Are Lousy Ideas.

Meanwhile, here’s my FCC testimony on this subject from five years ago.

UM: Obama: Government Should Regulate Internet to Keep it Free. “So President Obama has announced that the Internet should be regulated as a public utility. He’s asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reclassify internet service providers (ISPs) from “information services” under Title I as telecommunications providers under Title II regulatory guidelines. This is all being done in the name of ‘Net Neutrality,’ keeping the Internet free and open, prohibiting ‘fast lanes’ for certain services and sites, making sure no legal content is blocked, and all other horribles that…have failed to materialize in the absence of increased federal regulation.”

It’s about control. Because everything he does is about control.

FCC COMMISSIONER AJIT PAI: The government wants to study ‘social pollution’ on Twitter.

Named “Truthy,” after a term coined by TV host Stephen Colbert, the project claims to use a “sophisticated combination of text and data mining, social network analysis, and complex network models” to distinguish between memes that arise in an “organic manner” and those that are manipulated into being.

But there’s much more to the story. Focusing in particular on political speech, Truthy keeps track of which Twitter accounts are using hashtags such as #teaparty and #dems. It estimates users’ “partisanship.” It invites feedback on whether specific Twitter users, such as the Drudge Report, are “truthy” or “spamming.” And it evaluates whether accounts are expressing “positive” or “negative” sentiments toward other users or memes.

The Truthy team says this research could be used to “mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate.”

Hmm. A government-funded initiative is going to “assist in the preservation of open debate” by monitoring social media for “subversive propaganda” and combating what it considers to be “the diffusion of false and misleading ideas”? The concept seems to have come straight out of a George Orwell novel.

The NSF has already poured nearly $1 million into Truthy. To what end? Why is the federal government spending so much money on the study of your Twitter habits?

Some possible hints as to Truthy’s real motives emerge in a 2012 paper by the project’s leaders, in which they wrote ominously of a “highly-active, densely-interconnected constituency of right-leaning users using [Twitter] to further their political views.”

Tar. Feathers.

MARRIOTT BUSTED FOR jamming customers’ portable hotspots to force them onto expensive hotel wifi.

SPYING: Feds to study illegal use of spy gear.

The Federal Communications Commission has established a task force to study reported misuse of surveillance technology that can intercept cellular signals to locate people, monitor their calls and send malicious software to their phones.

The powerful technology — called an IMSI catcher, though also referred to by the trade name “Stingray” — is produced by several major surveillance companies and widely used by police and intelligence services around the world.

The FCC, in response to questions from U.S. Rep. Alan M. Grayson (D-Fla.), plans to study the extent to which criminal gangs and foreign intelligence services are using the devices against Americans. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in a letter dated this month, said the commission had authority over the surveillance technology and had established a “task force to combat the illicit and unauthorized use of IMSI catchers.”

The task forces’s mission, Wheeler wrote, “is to develop concrete solutions to protect the cellular network systemically from similar unlawful intrusions and interceptions.”

I’d like something that protected me from spying by my government. We used to have something called the Constitution for that.

THIS ADMINISTRATION ISN’T VERY GOOD AT WEBSITES: After website failure, FCC extends deadline for net neutrality comments.

COMMUNICATIONS: FCC chairman regrets that AT&T and Verizon control the best spectrum.

WASHINGTON FREE BEACON: Meet Ajit Pai: Commissioner who blew the whistle on the FCC policing the newsroom has more work to do.

IT’S ONLY EVIDENCE OF BIAS IF THEY DONATE TO REPUBLICANS: Byron York: Four of five FCC study authors gave to Obama.

A significant problem with the now-suspended Federal Communications Commission plan to have government contractors question journalists about editorial decisions and practices was that it was a partisan exercise. The plan originated among Democrats on the FCC; the commission’s two Republican members didn’t even learn about it until it was well under way.

There was also a one-sidedness in the research behind the project. The FCC enlisted scholars from two big journalism schools, the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Communication and Democracy, to determine the “critical information needs” about which journalists would be questioned. The study, delivered in July 2012, listed five authors: Ernest J. Wilson III, Carola Weil, and Katya Ognyanova from USC, Lewis Friedland from Wisconsin, and Philip Napoli from Fordham University. (Weil is now with American University.) Four of the five, it turns out, contributed to President Obama’s campaigns.

It’s partisan Potemkin villages all the way down.

IRS SCANDAL UPDATE: The Hill: House Targets IRS With Taxpayer Protection Bills.

Related: Echoes Of The IRS In The FCC Snooping Scandal.

A SMALL VICTORY FOR FREEDOM: FCC throws out plan to question reporters about news coverage.

ORWELLIAN: FCC TO “MONITOR” NEWS. What’s next, a Political Officer at each station?

Related: Howard Kurtz: The FCC Should Butt Out of America’s Newsrooms.

BYRON YORK: New Obama initiative tramples First Amendment protections. “The initiative, known around the agency as ‘the CIN Study’ (pronounced ‘sin’), is a bit of a mystery even to insiders. ‘This has never been put to an FCC vote, it was just announced.’”

BUT REMAINS UNAPPRECIATED: Surprise! GOP Fights FCC on Behalf of MSM Freedoms – And Wins!

MICHAEL GRAHAM STANDS UP FOR PRESS FREEDOM: Dear FCC, It’s None Of Your God**** Business. Yes, and that’s what every media outlet should be saying.

STATE CONTROL: The FCC Wades Into the Newsroom: Why is the agency studying ‘perceived station bias’ and asking about coverage choices? You might say they’ll regret this when a Republican is in the White House, but I think this is about making sure that never happens.

LIFE IN THE ERA OF HOPE AND CHANGE: One Year Later, Unlocking Your Phone Is Still A Crime. “It was a clear case of crony capitalism on behalf of some of the largest companies with the largest lobbying shops in Washington, D.C. . . . The resulting public outcry, perhaps the largest online response since SOPA/PIPA, led the White House, FCC and Members of Congress to condemn the ruling by the Librarian of Congress and to support cellphone unlocking. One year later, despite an overwhelming consensus in favor of unlocking, unlocking your phone, without permission from your carrier, is still a crime. It’s difficult to find another issue that has such overwhelming and bipartisan support, and it’s difficult to understand why Congress still refuses to act.”

WORRIED ABOUT NET NEUTRALITY? Maybe It’s The FCC That Should Really Concern You.


I enjoyed The New School very much, and have been shipping copies around to my small circle of academic friends with open minds. Great stuff.

Being a one-time faculty brat and more or less surrounded in consanguinity and geography by liberal educators, these are all topics that have intrigued me even before you started linking away on Instapundit. So I have a couple of unsolicited thoughts and reactions, which you may or may not find worthy.

On the question of declining standards, especially in primary and secondary education, conservatives tend to focus on institutional blockages, such as bloated administrations, unions and the application of post-modern ideology of one sort or another. I note, however, that here in Texas we have lower costs per student, no unions, and very little liberal ideology. Rather, the attack on standards has come from the right, and the extremely tight central control of education at the state level. My new mother-in-law is an old school Texas high school teacher, and very articulate on the subject. Can’t we all just teach science whether involving primate reproduction or natural selection? (Notwithstanding that, Texas gets by far the best results in math and science of any large state, spending around half per student of New York and New Jersey, so it must be doing something right, but that’s its own interesting subject.)

I think the biggest threat to standards comes from the intersection of democracy and heterogeneity. One cannot both cater to voters (whether in local elections anywhere or statewide in Texas) and impose high standards, except in those relatively rare circumstances where the voters themselves are fundamentally homogeneous (e.g., the Eanes school district in suburban Austin, which is very white, affluent, and excellent).

Put another way: Among (1) rigorous standards, (2) heterogeneity or socioeconomic “diversity” in the constituent population, and (3) democratic control of the schools, pick any two. The objective of any shared enterprise is the least common denominator of its participants. That is why businesses and other effective organizations spend so much time selling their objectives to their internal constituents (employees, investors, donors, and congregants). Schools with diverse constituents under democratic control cannot even forge a consensus objective to sell internally, so the least-common denominator is very low.

So: The schools worked in to the 1960s because America was much more homogeneous, and schools were especially so.

The question is, what to do about it? I would argue that the effectiveness of charter schools (and voucher-supported systems) comes from the self-selection: In effect, they eliminate heterogeneity in attitudes about education, at least, and (furthermore) they substitute market choice for majority-wins democracy. Yes, they also allow schools to bypass unions and get vastly more productivity out of the administration (my kids went to the Princeton Charter School, which is superb, and there were only two employees who did not teach), but I think these factors are less important than vesting control of individual schools in like-minded people with a shared vision and objectives.

Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing whether you think there is merit to that argument.

On the book itself, there were only three observations I would make. First, I absolutely agree that one of the things that sustains colleges is that employers leverage not just college transcripts but college admissions decisions as a way to distinguish applicants. Selective colleges are just about the only institutions in America who are allowed to say who makes the cut and who does not without any real oversight or risk of liability. This has been very useful for employers, because their own judgments are now subject to such intense scrutiny, especially for any business large enough to be a federal contractor. (The stories I could tell about the Office of Federal Contract Compliance… on the list for my retirement.)

The only way to break this, I think, is to revise OFCC rules, and that will require a Republican administration with some testicular fortitude. If only. But a topic perhaps worth exploring if you are going to develop this angle.

Second, I am not sure I understand the argument for allowing student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy. Student loans go mostly to people who are ipso facto insolvent. If you could discharge the loans in bankruptcy, why wouldn’t everybody just do that when they graduate? Yeah, bankruptcy carries a bit of a stigma and could damage one’s credit rating and therefore one’s borrowing capacity for a few years, but the stigma is declining and a huge student loan obligation is as big an obstacle to obtaining credit as a low credit rating. And, obviously, if the practice became widespread lenders would start discounting the significance of it.

If *that* happened, presumably, private lenders would stop making student loans, and that would put (even if desirable) fiscal pressure on universities. Perhaps that was your point, but if so I do not think you hammered it home.

Third, to my mind the most arresting point you made comes on page 60 in the “exit” paragraph: “While it’s harder than it used to be to get ahead in America, even with a college degree, it’s probably easier (and more comfortable) than ever to just barely get by.” For some reason, I had not framed it that way in my mind, caught up as I was in the back and forth about whether our material quality of life is really higher even though our incomes have stagnated (not mine, fortunately, but all y’all).

Anyway, thank you for writing that. I hope you sell a ton of them.

P.S. No problem from quoting from this on the small chance you would want to, but I’d prefer without attribution.

Very interesting stuff. To clarify, my bankruptcy proposal involved a waiting period of at least five and probably more like ten years post graduation. That addresses the “insolvent graduate” problem.

NEWS FROM THE STUPID PARTY: The Hill: GOP bills would ban in-flight calls. “Republicans in the House and Senate are preparing legislation that would ban airlines from allowing cellphone calls during flights. The push from Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) comes as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prepares to move ahead with lifting the prohibition on in-flight cellphone calls.”

Two points: (1) Phones don’t work at altitude unless the airlines add equipment to let them work; and (2) Let the market, that is, those airlines, set the policy. So much for the GOP’s small-government brand, not that either Lamar! or Shuster were ever much good for that.

HISTORY: What Happened To All of Obama’s Technology Czars?

As usual, “screw up, move up” is standard bureaucratic operating procedure.

Let’s start with the “federal chief information officer.” In 2009, Obama named then 34-year-old “whiz kid” Vivek Kundra to the post overseeing $80 billion in government IT spending. At 21, Kundra was convicted of misdemeanor theft. He stole a handful of men’s shirts from a J.C. Penney’s department store and ran from police in a failed attempt to evade arrest. Whitewashing the petty thief’s crimes, Obama instead effused about his technology czar’s “depth of experience in the technology arena.”

Just as he was preparing to take the federal job, an FBI search warrant was issued at Kundra’s workplace. He was serving as the chief technology officer of the District of Columbia. Two of Kundra’s underlings, Yusuf Acar and Sushil Bansal, were charged in an alleged scheme of bribery, kickbacks, ghost employees and forged timesheets. Kundra went on leave for five days and was then reinstated after the feds informed him that he was neither a subject nor a target of the investigation. . . .

A mere 29 months after taking the White House job, Kundra left for a cushy fellowship at Harvard University. In January 2012, he snagged an executive position at, which touted his “demonstrated track record of driving innovation.”

In 2011, Obama appointed former Microsoft executive and FCC managing director Steven VanRoekel to succeed Kundra. At the time, he promised “to make sure that the pace of innovation in the private sector can be applied to the model that is government.” Mission not accomplished.

Next up: Obama’s “U.S. chief technology officer.” In May 2009, the president appointed Aneesh Chopra “to promote technological innovation to help the country meet its goals such as job creation, reducing health care costs and protecting the homeland. Together with Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra, their jobs are to make the government more effective, efficient and transparent.”

Chopra’s biggest accomplishment? A humiliating cameo in December 2009 on “The Daily Show” with liberal comedian Jon Stewart, who mocked the administration’s pie-in-the-sky Open Government Initiative. Chopra resigned three years later, ran unsuccessfully for Virginia lieutenant governor and now works as a “senior fellow” at the far-left Center for American Progress, which is run by former Clinton administration hit man turned Obama helpmate John Podesta.

More comedy at the link.

GLAD TO BE OF HELP: Reader Jon Marr writes:

I like to support Instapundit where I can by purchasing from Amazon through your links. If I would likely buy something anyways, why not toss a few coins in the case?

But your tip about the Furinno Laptop Table turned out to be a real find. For a variety of health reasons, including diabetic neuropathy in my legs and a bad back, I spend many days working in bed on my laptop, and this table is fantastic! It’s endlessly adjustable, provides an extremely stable platform, and best of all, get’s the laptop up off my legs which has resulted in a lot less pain and lets me adjust my legs frequently for comfort while working.

Thank you for this tip, and all you do.

Like I said, glad to be of help. The Insta-Wife has used it as a standing desk, but the booklet that came with it suggests that it’s a great reclining laptop desk, too. Glad it worked out. And thanks for the support!

CHANGE: Appeals court skeptical of FCC’s Internet access rules.


Some standing desks are kind of pricey, but this is cheap.

CONGRESS SHOULD PRE-EMPT: Don’t Blame Big Cable. It’s Local Governments That Choke Broadband Competition.

Despite public, political, and business interest in greater broadband deployment, not every American has high-speed internet access yet (let alone a choice of provider for really fast, high-capacity service). So who’s really to blame for strangling broadband competition?

While popular arguments focus on supposed “monopolists” such as big cable companies, it’s government that’s really to blame. Companies can make life harder for their competitors, but strangling the competition takes government.

Broadband policy discussions usually revolve around the U.S. government’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), yet it’s really our local governments and public utilities that impose the most significant barriers to entry.

Read the whole thing.

JAMES TARANTO: Is This Column Legitimate?

Uh-oh, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, best known for likening American servicemen to Nazis, is looking to limit your First Amendment rights, if not ours. “Everyone, regardless of the mode of expression, has a constitutionally protected right to free speech,” he writes. So far so good. “But when it comes to freedom of the press, I believe we must define a journalist and the constitutional and statutory protections those journalists should receive.”

That goes against the America’s entire constitutional tradition. In Lovell v. Griffin (1938), Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes wrote for a unanimous Supreme Court: “The liberty of the press is not confined to newspapers and periodicals. It necessarily embraces pamphlets and leaflets. These indeed have been historic weapons in the defense of liberty, as the pamphlets of Thomas Paine and others in our own history abundantly attest. The press in its connotation comprehends every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.” . . .

Further, a government that grants privileges also has the power to take them away. A shield law would make those designated as “legitimate journalists” beholden to powerful politicians–especially when, as today, most journalists are ideologically sympathetic to the party in power. The Durbin shield proposal looks less like real protection than a protection racket.

Well, Durbin is from Illinois. More here.

Note that, as Eugene Volokh and I have both pointed out, the Constitution’s term “freedom of the press” means “freedom to publish,” not “freedom for the institutional Press.” But Durbin’s a partisan ignoramus, so he can’t be expected to know this sort of thing. I mean, he’s only a Senator, and there’s no IQ test for that job. . . .

THE INSTA-WIFE ON WSJ TV: Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage. Talking about her new book, Men On Strike. If you haven’t bought it yet, why not?

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 2.40.31 PM

JULIUS GENACHOWSKI AND JONATHAN ZITTRAIN: Let’s Test an Emergency Ad Hoc Network in Boston.

RICHARD EPSTEIN: The Real Lesson Of The IRS Scandal: Federal agencies from the FDA to the EPA to the FCC threaten the rule of law..

HOW’S THAT HOPEY-CHANGEY STUFF WORKIN’ OUT FOR YA? (CONT’D): An Industry Man For The FCC. ” There is no question that Mr. Wheeler, who was chief executive of the National Cable Television Association for five years and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association for 12 years before becoming a venture capitalist, understands the industry. The question is whether his long career representing the interests of telecommunications companies would make it hard for him to be an independent and fair regulator when consumers have few choices and pay high prices for cellphone, cable TV and broadband services. He was also a big “bundler” for Mr. Obama in the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, which means that he raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from relatives, friends and business associates. Political campaigns disclose their donors, but they are not required to disclose which of them were recruited by bundlers like Mr. Wheeler. Given his background, it is almost certain that he raised money from people whose companies he would regulate, creating potential conflicts of interest.”

CHANGE: FCC mulls relaxing policy for TV indecency.


Figuring it might have been from a friend, Chao clicked it open and — what do you know? — it, too, was from

So she did exactly what wireless companies advise customers to do. She called her provider, Verizon Wireless, and asked that be blocked from sending any more texts to her phone.

The Verizon rep agreed to do this, but informed Chao that a $9.99 monthly service charge already had been applied to her account — just because she had clicked on the text.

“Opening a text can’t possibly be interpreted as consent to receive whatever service they’re trying to sell,” Chao, a lawyer with the California Department of Insurance, told me. “But that’s what they’re trying to get away with.

“I don’t see how this could even be legal.”

Me, neither — and lawyers I’ve spoken with say it probably isn’t. Nor do I understand how Verizon could be a willing accomplice in this racket by allowing easy access to a customer’s bill.

Tar. Feathers.

JOURNALISM: Wi-Fi “as free as air”—the totally false story that refuses to die.

The frenzy began Monday morning when the Washington Post reported that “the federal government wants to create super Wi-Fi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month.” Best of all, network access would be free. “If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas,” the Post reported. The clear implication: this was a bold—and entirely brand-new—plan.

Unfortunately, the piece was basically nonsense. What had really happened was in fact unbelievably boring: the Post simply observed an incremental development in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) at the Federal Communications Commission over the issue of incentive auctions that might free up some additional unlicensed spectrum for so-called “White Space Devices” (read our explainer) operating in and around the current over-the-air TV bands. (I told you it was boring; in addition, the basic debate over White Space Devices was actually settled in 2008.)

From this thin material, which basically consisted of Internet service providers and tech companies sniping at each other in long legal documents, with no decisions being made by anyone and no new proposals of anything, the Post then reported—on the front page, above the fold of the country’s eighth-most highly circulated newspaper—that the FCC plan could lead to free Internet for most US residents.

So much for all those layers of editors and fact-checkers.

UPDATE: Reader Drew Kelley writes: “Another demonstration that the media-class is basically composed of moochers, who want everything on somebody else’s dime.”

INFLIGHT ELECTRONICS: Even the FCC Thinks It’s Dumb That We Have To Turn Off Electronic Devices During Takeoff.

OBAMAS DID MILLION-DOLLAR MEALS IN THE WHITE HOUSE WHILE JOBLESS AMERICANS LOOKED FOR WORK: And trust me, there is much more to this story than a president and First Lady using tax dollars to make like Gatsby. Today’s piece in The Washington Examiner is just the first course, so to speak.

WASHINGTON POST: GM’s Vaunted Volt Is On The Road To Nowhere, Fast. If GM and Obama have lost the Post . . . .

THE HILL: FCC Backpedals From Internet Tax Proposal. “The Federal Communications Commission is rapidly backpedalling from a proposal to tax broadband Internet service after a public outcry over the issue. Democrats and Republicans at the agency are now blaming each other for pushing the idea in the first place.”

HOPEY-CHANGEY: FCC eyes tax on Internet service. “The FCC issued a request for comments on the proposal in April. Dozens of companies and trade associations have weighed in, but the issue has largely flown under the public’s radar.”

I remember the good old days when taxes were passed by Congress.

HOUSE GOP: FCC ‘twists the facts’ in report to justify regulation.

FCC: Verizon Can’t Charge Extra For Tethering.

STREET VIEW SCANDAL UPDATE: “According to the FCC report, Google’s collection of Street View data was not the unauthorized act of a rogue engineer, as Google had portrayed it, but an authorized program known to supervisors and at least seven other engineers. The original proposal contradicts Google’s claim that there was no intent to gather payload data: ‘We are logging user traffic along with sufficient data to precisely triangulate their position at a given time, along with information about what they were doing.’”

TRANSPARENCY: FCC Approves New Rule on Political TV Advertising.

The Federal Communications Commission approved new regulations Friday requiring broadcasters to publish political advertising data online, a move that could shed light on who is trying to influence elections amid unprecedented campaign spending.

Television stations already are required to track purchases of political advertising and make the information publicly available, but posting it on the Web will make it easier to access. Only stations affiliated with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox in the top 50 media markets will be required to post data on new ad buys this year, with smaller stations expected to follow in 2014.

I’d like to see the New York Times’ advertising figures, too. Since they supported this rule, perhaps they’ll provide them. . . .

WHY IS THIS THE FCC’S BUSINESS? FCC pushes for tablet computers in schools.

OF COURSE IT DOES: White House Opposes FCC Overhaul Bill.

ROBOGATE UPDATE: Top Republican says ‘Democrat front group’ is orchestrating illegal Rush Limbaugh robocalls.

The automated calls are illegal because they do not state who they are from (there is no known group called The Women of the 99 Percent) or provide a callback number, as required under the US Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.

‘It is typical that a Democrat front group like this thumbs their noses at the same federal campaign finance laws they like to tout in their own campaign literature,’ Brady said.

He added that it was ‘no coincidence’ that the districts receiving the calls were all on ‘the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) hit list’, he demanding an immediate inquiry.

Republican strategists view the calls are part of a concerted effort by Democrats, from President Barack Obama down, to shift the focus of November’s elections away from the sputtering economy and onto what the Left has branded ‘the Republican war on women’.

Separately, a number of voters have complained to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about the calls, requesting that the Obama administration initiate a federal investigation.

Federal and state investigators have the power to subpoena records from telephone companies, allowing them to follow the money to the source of the illegal calls.

Follow the money, indeed.

TRANSPARENCY: FOIA Data Suggest FCC More Secretive Than CIA.

PETITION: Call For The FCC To Remove Bill Maher.

SHUT UP, PLEBES: FCC Inquires Into Its Own Authority To Regulate Communication Service Shutdowns. “The Federal Communications Commission is reviewing whether or when the police and other government officials can intentionally interrupt cellphone and Internet service to protect public safety. A scary proposition which will easily become a First Amendment issue. Does the FCC have the authority to [regulate local or state authorities' decision to] take down cellular networks if they determine there is an imminent threat? The FCC is currently asking for public input (PDF) on this decision.”

A cellular or Internet shutdown should be interpreted as a serious warning sign of ongoing government misconduct.

Related: Courts, not FCC, Should Protect Free Speech against Mobile Service Shut-offs. Shutting off service should be a strict-liability tort, with no government immunity. Not that that’s likely. Responsibility is for the little people.

CRONY CAPITALISM (CONT’D): Documents show Obama’s FCC used regulatory muscle to destroy LightSquared’s competition.

DOCUMENTS: Lightsquared Shaping Up As The FCC’s Solyndra. I think we’re going to find that every federal department has its own Solyndra.

THE HILL: FCC moves to kill LightSquared over GPS interference concerns. “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved to reject LightSquared’s planned wireless network on Tuesday after the president’s top adviser on telecom issues said there is ‘no practical way’ to prevent the network from disrupting GPS devices.”


UPDATE: A reader emails:

Im a flight attendant at a major U.S. airline, and I keep current on the talk concerning the onboard experience. I feel you are being much too glib about the latest wrinkle in the electronics use debate.

Pilots dont taxi and takeoff with manuals on their laps. Especially at takeoff and the first four minutes of flight, they are extremely busy and focused on getting and keeping that aircraft in the air. They arent consulting manuals; in fact, they take directions from the air traffic controllers to change headings or attain a certain altitude.

As for the ipads, they would not be used below 10,000 ft, JUST AS PASSENGERS’ ELECTRONICS are not to be used during that phase of flight. The ipads benefit lies in its weight versus the heavy manual case all pilots carry, and its ease of use. Multiply that across an entire fleet, times how many flights a day, and in a year’s time you have considerable savings in fuel AND in a smaller measure, savings on the bodies of pilots hauling around manuals all year.

But as a flight attendant, I want to point out another reason for passengers to power down electronics once the boarding door closes: from that time until the aircraft passes through 10,000 ft of altitude, the most incidents, malfunctions, crashes, equipment failures, and aborted takeoffs have historically occured. And as the person tasked with emptying that aircraft in a crash, or keeping it from emptying if no emergency exists, I want your undivided attention. I want you, the passenger, undistracted, until we are out of that critical phase of flight.

We dont mark 10,000 ft because the view is pretty at that height. We dont mark it because pilots are busy. We mark it because past events have been studied. If you want distracted passengers, unready to egress, or follow cogent commands, go catch a cruise in Italy. But avoid airplanes, please.

Well, that kinda makes sense. But it’s not what the FAA says: “Since I wrote a column last month asking why these rules exist, I’ve spoken with the F.A.A., American Airlines, Boeing and several others trying to find answers. Each has given me a radically different rationale that contradicts the others. The F.A.A. admits that its reasons have nothing to do with the undivided attention of passengers or the fear of Kindles flying out of passengers’ hands in case there is turbulence. That leaves us with the danger of electrical emissions.”

Bottom line: “The only reason these rules exist from the F.A.A. is because of agency inertia and paranoia.”

HMM: AT&T presses Congress to pass spectrum bill that restricts FCC.

EUGENE VOLOKH HAS AN ARTICLE OUT ON FREEDOM OF THE PRESS, and notes that the phrase is about the freedom to publish, not freedom for the “institutional Press,” though modern speakers sometimes suggest otherwise. That’s right, of course. I’ve noted that both here on the blog and in my FCC “Open Internet” testimony. As you might expect, however, Eugene’s treatment is far more thorough and comprehensive.

ELECTRONIC DEVICES ON TAKEOFF: The Federal Aviation Administration has its reasons for preventing passengers from reading from their Kindles and iPads during takeoff and landing. But they just don’t add up. Key bit: “The only reason these rules exist from the F.A.A. is because of agency inertia and paranoia.”

LIGHTSQUARED FLUNKS AGAIN: “At this point, some people at the FCC and in the White House should start feeling a little … nervous. Yesterday afternoon, the Departments of Defense and Transportation released a joint statement stating that LightSquared is about as bad on navigational equipment as everyone knew it would be.”

GORDON CROVITZ: Dropped Call? Blame The FCC.

IT’S NOT JUST LIGHTSQUARED: Regulators could sanction Falcone over trading.

Philip Falcone, a hedge fund manager who became an overnight billionaire by betting on the collapse on the U.S. housing market, is now fighting to keep his career afloat.

The investor, who has since bet much of his Harbinger Capital Partners money on a cash-strapped wireless telecom company, said on Thursday that U.S. securities regulators are considering filing civil fraud charges against him and what is left of his once $26 billion hedge fund empire. . . . Harbinger now manages less than $4 billion and roughly half of the money is tied up in its investment in LightSquared LP, the upstart wireless telecom on which Falcone has bet the ranch. LightSquared is running low on cash and its outstanding debt trades at a steep discount as its fortunes have floundered due to a number of technical issues.

Recently the company’s technology was said to interfere with the global positioning system, the widely used technology involved in everything from navigation to managing irrigation. Some lawmakers have accused the Federal Communications Commission of fast-tracking LightSquared’s project, although the agency says its process has been engineering-based.

“Now the FCC is faced with the real possibility that it made a multibillion-dollar grant of valuable spectrum to someone who could be charged with violating securities laws,” said Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley. “The FCC chairman should lead the effort to provide documents and offer insight into how the agency decided to give Mr. Falcone, Harbinger Capital and LightSquared this multibillion-dollar grant.”


GPS SAVES THE WORLD, but who will save GPS?

The enemies threatening the future of the GPS are many:

Next-generation mobile broadband services angling for a piece of the electromagnetic spectrum relied on by GPS;
Cheap GPS jammers flooding the highways, thanks to consumers worried about invasive police and employer surveillance;
Cosmic events, like solar storms;
Future location technology that will ultimately push those services to places where GPS simply cannot go

“The results will be immediate and disastrous,” kicks off Stanford engineering professor Brad Parkinson, widely known as the father of GPS, while introducing the fifth annual Stanford University symposium on Position, Navigation and Time on Thursday.

Parkinson isn’t just presenting; he’s holding court. The renowned GPS pioneer and former combat airman is on a first-name basis with generals, and has taught the finer points of satellite location for decades. The audience contains a conspicuous number of his former students who have come from around the world to pay homage — many of them now among the world’s GPS elite. Throughout the day, he’ll interrupt speakers with questions from the floor, and each time be received with warm and universal deference.

Right now, though, he is hammering the FCC, and its tepid response to an influential rising mobile broadband player, Lightsquared, that may be threatening the integrity of GPS signals.

Yeah, but their political donations go to the right people.

CHANGE: FCC Cracks Down On Religious Broadcasters.

LIGHTSQUARED: The Next Obama Pay-For-Play Morass? “The Obama FCC took the lead in intervening on the donor, billionaire hedge fund manster Philip Falcone’s, behalf and granting his company called ‘LightSquared’ one of those coveted Obama waivers from existing law. Then Obama officials reportedly pressured a general to alter his testimony about the company’s impact on military satellite transmissions.”

FREE SPEECH UPDATE: FCC Finally Kills Off Fairness Doctrine.

VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL to sue FCC for Internet regulatory overreach. “They have no respect for the courts, no respect for the states, no respect for the Constitution, no respect for federal law.” As Scot Powe’s work demonstrates, that’s been a pattern for a long time.

COLLUSION: Documents show FCC coordinated ‘Net Neutrality’ effort with outside group.

SO I JUST NOTICED THAT LAST WEEK THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT my proposed 50% surtax on government officials’ post-government incomes over at TaxProf. To clarify, when I said “government officials” I meant political appointees and agency heads. So, for example, FCC Commissioner Meredith Atwell Baker, who approved the Comcast merger and then took a lucrative job at Comcast would pay a 50% surtax on the amount Comcast pays her over and above her FCC salary. Some have suggested that the number should be higher — 70%, say — but that’s okay. I’m not wedded to 50%.

FCC REGULATOR TO JOIN COMCAST AFTER OK OF NBC DEAL. The revolving door revolves yet again.

UPDATE: More at Reason.


Who will be washed away by the preference cascade?

Pathological altruism?

How the Journalism Sausage gets made.

The sad fate of Amazon Tote.

Caitlin Flanagan trips over a shark.

At the Northwestern Law Review, an online symposium on the Tea Party and popular constitutionalism.

A simple weight-loss plan that worked.

China’s Train Wreck.

They told me if I voted for John McCain, the FCC would be cracking down on broadcast indecency — and they were right!

Burn a Koran, rake in the cash?

Val Kilmer’s best role ever.

When academic politics turn lethal.

Good question: Where is your Syrian Humanitarian Flotilla Erdogan?

HERE’S YOUR HOPE AND CHANGE: Obama administration asks Supreme Court to uphold FCC’s indecency policy. I remember some of the post-9/11 liberal hawks turning on Bush because of broadcast-indecency regulation and Howard Stern. So: How’s that hopey-changey stuff workin’ out for ya?

“CONSUMER ADVOCATES” want FCC to regulate political ads. Of course they do. But while we’re talking about the need for disclosure, how about having newspapers note on every story about unions that the Newspaper Guild is a member of the CWA, and that reporting on unions may be influenced by reporters’ affiliations? Or requiring similar disclosures that the local NPR affiliate gets donations from the teachers’ union? In the interest of consumer information, don’t y’know?

UPDATE: Speaking of conflicts of interest, a reader reminds me of this: LA police union wants San Diego Union-Tribune editorial writers fired. “The San Diego paper’s new owner relies on a $30-million investment from the pension fund of Los Angeles police officers and firefighters to help fund its acquisitions of companies; the union says that makes it a part owner of the Union-Tribune.”

STATE-CONTROLLED MEDIA, INDEED: Did an FCC official do work for PBS simultaneously? “Did Genachowski know of Kwon’s activities? Did anyone wonder where Kwon was doing during what looks like copious time away from the office? Perhaps someone in an Oversight Committee might like to ask Genachowski a few of these questions. Given the propensity for PBS’ puppets to show up in Congress to testify for funding, it seems like perhaps we should find out what other puppets may still be working at the FCC.”

THE HILL: LAWMAKERS URGE F.C.C. TO INVESTIGATE GOOGLE. “Google last year said its Street View cars had downloaded unsecured data from private WiFi networks including emails and passwords while taking photos for Google Maps. In the letter, Rogers and Barrow argue the FCC must seek answers on the incident from the people directly involved.”

DON SURBER: De-Fund The FCC. “People are free to quote you in context, out of context, not quote you, and even misquote you. Free speech is a God-given right and how dare this commissioner get between me and God? His agency is an outdated relic of the Victrola era. Get rid of it.”

FIRST, THEY BRING BACK DUCK AND COVER. Now it’s this: FCC: Presidential emergency alerts to be tested. “The primary goal is to provide the President with a mechanism to communicate with the American public during times of national emergency.” So do they know something we don’t? They seem awfully interested in a new experimental anti-radiation medicine, as I noted in my Atlantic piece. More here.

MICHAEL BARONE: Obama’s Antique Vision of Technological Progress. “If you put together Obama’s resistance to just about any serious changes in entitlement spending with his antique vision of technological progress, what you see is an America where the public sector permanently consumes a larger part of the economy than in the past and squanders the proceeds on white elephants like faux high-speed rail lines and political payoffs to the teacher and other public-sector unions. Private-sector innovation gets squeezed out by regulations like the Obama FCC’s net neutrality rules. It’s a plan for a static rather than dynamic economy.”

UPDATE: Dodd Harris emails: “Obama looks more like Wesley Mouch with each passing day.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Michael Walker writes: “…and Jeff Immelt is Orren Boyle.”


Or as some call him, he who must not be named.

UPDATE: Reader Adam Kiwiatkowski emails: “His viewer is going to be bummed.”

And, apparently, Comcast has now become the evilest corporation on the planet.

Plus, from Don Surber:

The FCC just approved GE’s sale of MSNBC’s parent company — NBC/Universal — to Comcast. The Obama administration just hired GE’s CEO to a big position.

I think some moves are being made behind the scene.

Hey, Olbermann, this was the president you wanted.

He was a useful idiot for a while. Now he’s no longer useful. Expect to see more of this kind of thing.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Goodbye to one of the world’s worst people.

MORE: Top 10 New Job Suggestions For Keith Olbermann. My favorite: “Audition for the part of the creepy gym teacher on MTV’s ‘Skins.’”

I was only on Olbermann’s show once, on election night 2004, when he was still more or less sane.

BACKDOOR BILINGUALISM? “As Stoll notes, legislation that did what the FCC just did would never pass Congress. I don’t even think it would have passed last year’s Congress. But don’t lawmakers have the power to reverse the FCC?”


Many congressional Republicans, and surely some Democrats with institutional pride, think Congress is being derogated and marginalized by two developments. One is the apotheosis of the presidency as the mainspring of the government and the custodian of the nation’s soul. The second is the growing autonomy of the regulatory state, an apparatus responsive to presidents.

The eclipse of Congress by the executive branch and other agencies is Congress’s fault. It is the result of lazy legislating and lax oversight. Too many “laws” actually are little more than pious sentiments endorsing social goals – environmental, educational, etc. – the meanings of which are later defined by executive-branch rule-making. In creating faux laws, the national legislature often creates legislators in the executive branch, making a mockery of the separation of powers. And Congress makes a mockery of itself when the Federal Register, a compilation of the regulatory state’s activities, is a more important guide to governance than the Congressional Record.

Unfortunately, courts long ago made clear that they will not seriously inhibit Congress’s scandalous delegation of its lawmaking function to others. So Congress should stop whining about the actions of the EPA (emissions controls), the FCC (“net neutrality”), the Interior Department (reclassifications of public lands) and other agencies and should start rereading Shakespeare: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

The problem is, Congress decided decades ago that it would rather cede power to the bureaucracy than keep it to itself, so long as it could also cede responsibility and then point fingers when things go wrong. Will that change? Maybe.

CHANGE: Internet Freedom Alert: Obama Admin Pushing Ahead Today with Dangerous “Internet Trusted Identity” Scheme.

UPDATE: Reader Bill Rickords emails:

That guy is right about the Feds getting into the “trusting” part. And Intels new motherboard and chips are the lynchpin in this. Called – South Bridge – They have a hard coded chip level anti copy thing that any info the TV and or Movie or RIAA folks label will simply be refused to run at the chip level and there is nothing you will be able to do. Software cant route around it. Nasty stuff.

And he is also right about the right and this anti neutrality trope that has been foisted out and about by ATT, CBS and all the other media as “regulating the net” is rubbish. ATT sent out memos to their troops to call Neutrality “regulation” and they knew the Right would glom onto that word and run with it. They are the ones that want to control the speed and most importantly they absolutely have to control “ACCESS” none of their business models work without controlling BOTH access and content. They want to control and sell the speed of your access and by prioritizing bits and letting them through the pipes based on who pays up first and most. Neutrality has nothing to do with “regulating” the net. It says they can’t do that. Best to try and keep the net as a utility open to all.

They’ve already deployed the most effective copy-protection of all from my perspective: They don’t make anything I’d want to copy anyway. But here’s my FCC Testimony on “network neutrality.”

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader sends this correction:

The reader email you published from Bill Rickords has one error that should probably be corrected. While Intel does make technology that could help enforce the “Trusted Identity” scheme, the name for that technology is not South Bridge, it’s Trusted Computing. A “south bridge” is simply a chip on the motherboard that helps with
input/output functions — *any* input/output functions. (The “north bridge” is the chip that delivers data from memory to the processor; the names come from the traditional diagram layout, where the processor is drawn at the top of the diagram, the “north bridge” chip below it, and the “south bridge” chip even further down the diagram). Just because a motherboard has a “south bridge” chip on it does *not* mean that it can enforce what you do with your PC; the name you want to look for there is the so-called “Trusted Computing” scheme.

Whatever it’s called, I don’t like it. If my computer doesn’t belong to me, why am I paying you for it?

POLL: Just 21% Want FCC to Regulate Internet, Most Fear Regulation Would Promote Political Agenda. “Most Mainstream voters see free market competition as the best way to protect Internet users, but most in the Political Class prefer more regulation. Seventy-eight percent (78%) in the Political Class believe the regulations would be handled in an unbiased manner, while 72% of Mainstream voters believe they would be used to promote a political agenda.” Ya think?

SCOTT JOHNSON: Gangster Government, FCC Edition.

IF THE FCC HAD REGULATED THE INTERNET. Some 1990s alternate history that seems all too timely now . . . .

ED MORRISSEY: Time To Abolish The FCC?

Why do we need the FCC in the 21st century? Most television channels are narrowcasters, using satellites and cable channels that don’t eat up limited broadcast space in local markets. The phone system in the US is no longer monopolized, and the issues of access and competition in those areas could be handled by state public-utility commissions, as they are now. The licensing of broadcast stations could be handled by the Commerce Department, or by a greatly-reduced FCC with binding limitations on jurisdiction.

We have managed to free ourselves from the encumbrances of monopolization over the last thirty years. This country doesn’t need a bloated bureaucracy getting in the way of innovation and commerce. It needs government to acknowledge that its communications-regulation apparatus is archaic and in need of downsizing, rather than attempting to nationalize the media.


DAVID HARSANYI: Save The Internet: Abolish the FCC!

FCC COMMISSIONER MEREDITH BAKER: Hands Off Tomorrow’s Internet. How about we abolish the FCC?

UPDATE: Reader Tim Peters emails:

The last paragraph of this article asks, “Why does the FCC plan to intervene in a rushed manner, days before the year’s end, in the one sector of the economy that is working so well to create consumer choice, jobs and entrepreneurial opportunity?”

A very simple and obvious answer comes to mind. Power.

The internet has done more to shape political and cultural opinion in the last ten years than any other vehicle. (As I’m sure you’re well aware) It has also exposed the warts on the ruling elites and their shills in the main-stream media. It has been the lynch pin of the tea party movement and the ever growing opposition to centralized, top down, always increasing state control. It was crucial in the shaping of the public perception which led to this fall’s electoral debacle for the democrats and that’s why they seem so determined to forge ahead. Julius Seizure is just the front man.


JIM HARPER: The FCC Should Not Regulate The Internet. So abolish it, turn the technical frequency-regulation bits over to the Department of Commerce, and call it a day. It’ll save money, and promote freedom.

CHILDREN PLAYING WITH DYNAMITE: FCC to Vote on Internet Regulation Plan Despite Economic Warnings.

THE FCC’S Threat To Internet Freedom.

DAILY CALLER: Meet the FCC commissioner who wants to control the news. “Copps has a long history of advocating for government control of media.” As Scot Powe has documented, the FCC’s historical role has tended toward the thuggish.

FCC’S PAY-AS-YOU-GO INTERNET PLAN COULD KILL ONLINE VIDEO. A cynic would see this as a payback to the Big Media folks who backed Obama so . . . intensively in 2008.

UPDATE: An Army of Weasels?


ABOLISH THE FCC? The Hill: FCC proposal to regulate news draws fire.

HOW ABOUT WE JUST ABOLISH THE FCC INSTEAD? FCC commissioners demand authority over campaign financing, free Internet.


It’s time to close the Federal Communications Commission. This week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski gave a speech outlining his push for net neutrality, the absurd notion that the Internet should be “open and free” when in fact it’s quite expensive to build. Net neutrality will straitjacket the U.S. economy’s single most important driver of productivity and transformation.

Besides the obvious question of whether the FCC even has the authority to regulate the Web—in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit said it doesn’t—the agency has a long history of restraining trade.

And, as Scot Powe noted in his American Broadcasting and the First Amendment, of targeting political speech by those out of power.

THE HILL: FCC investigates Google ‘Wi-Spy’ breach. “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is investigating whether Google broke federal law when it collected private user data, including e-mails and passwords, from Wi-Fi networks, an FCC official confirmed on Wednesday.”

If any company but Google had done this, there would be howls for blood. Why has Google gotten off so lightly so far?