FCC Net Neutrality is a Regulatory ‘Trojan Horse,’ EFF Says

The Federal Communications Commission’s net-neutrality decision opens the FCC to “boundless authority to regulate the internet for whatever it sees fit,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning.

The civil rights group says the FCC’s action in December, which was based on shaky legal authority, creates a paradox of epic proportions. The EFF favors net neutrality but worries whether the means justify the ends.

“We’re wholly in favor of net neutrality in practice, but a finding of ancillary jurisdiction here would give the FCC pretty much boundless authority to regulate the internet for whatever it sees fit. And that kind of unrestrained authority makes us nervous about follow-on initiatives like broadcast flags and indecency campaigns,” Abigail Phillips, an EFF staff attorney, wrote on the group’s blog Thursday.

And the paradox grows.

In a Friday telephone interview, Phillips was unclear how to solve the problem. What about an act of Congress? How about reclassifying broadband to narrow the FCC’s control if it?

“I’m not sure what I think the right solution is,” she answered.

The agency’s December action has already been attacked on multiple fronts, including two lawsuits.

One side of the debate has focused on claims the FCC overstepped its authority by adopting the principle that wireline carriers treat all internet traffic the same. A chorus of others complain that the FCC wimped out and didn’t go far enough when it comes to wireless carriers.

And the entire debate is littered with competing interests, including the mobile-phone carriers, internet service providers, private enterprise, developers, Congress and, last but not least, the public.

“In general, we think arguments that regulating the internet is ‘ancillary’ to some other regulatory authority that the FCC has been granted just don’t have sufficient limitations to stop bad FCC behavior in the future and create the ‘Trojan horse’ risk we have long warned about,” Phillips said.

But who can be trusted in this debate?

The answer opens Pandora’s box.

Photo: gillianchicago/Flickr

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Phone Tweets Trickling Out of Egypt

As the Hosni Mubarak regime continues its internet and mobile-phone blackout, telephonic tweets from inside Egypt are trickling out and being translated, thanks to Google, Twitter and some heavy-duty crowdsourcing.

Egyptians, or anybody with phone access across the globe, can dial one of several phone numbers and leave a voice message. The messages are hosted by the site SayNow, which Google acquired last week. A link to the message is automatically tweeted on the Twitter feed @speak2tweet.

Google announced the service Monday, and on Tuesday the tweets started being accompanied with a hashtag that displays the call’s country of origin. Landline service appears to be working in Egypt, and voice tweets, many in Arabic, are coming in around one a minute or so. The voice messages can also be heard by dialing the same numbers.

Engineers from Google and Twitter came up with the idea over the weekend. “We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time,” Google said in a blog post.

The service is just one of a myriad of workarounds being offered to Egyptians, following the bulk of their communication services going dark Friday.

The voice messages are also being translated by about 50 people from across the globe, with the text posted at a new site called Egypt.alive.in.

“I need to be a free man, and better life for my kids. Please help us,” read one of the voice tweets from Egypt.

Ed Bice, the founder of Meedan.net, said the call was put out Monday night urging people to volunteer their time to translate those tweets into English and other languages.

“It’s one of the most powerful real-time, crowdsourced translation efforts I’ve ever seen,” Bice said in a telephone interview from San Francisco.

Bice founded Meedan.net more than four year ago. The site, with servers in Portland, Oregon, offers machine-translated news in Arabic and English. Stories are then edited by humans and posted.

Meanwhile, at about noon PST, there were 883 tweets on @speak2tweet and more than 8,600 followers.

Given Egypt’s communication blackout, Brice said “not a ton of people in Egypt know about it.”

“Getting the word out,” he said, “it’s hard.”

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