Technology

Protecting the internet from online pirates

Is protecting American creativity inconsistent with free speech and human rights?

That’s the surprising argument being made against bipartisan legislation to address the huge and growing problem of online piracy.  U.S. law enforcement officials have strong tools to shut down websites based in this country that deceive consumers into purchasing illegal movies, music, television shows, books, video games, and computer programs.

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Internet thieves must be stopped

They’re called rogue sites, and they exist for one purpose only:  to make a profit using the Internet to distribute the stolen, illegally copied and counterfeited goods and ideas of others.  The economic impact of these activities—millions of lost jobs and dollars—is profound.  That’s why dozens of labor organizations, businesses and trade groups have come together to support legislation that will provide the Justice Department with new enforcement tools to combat this growing menace to the American economy.

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Curing crumbling infrastructure and other government waste

Their election night parties have become distant memories, but members of Congress are still left with a major hangover: the unrelenting headache of a rising national debt. And whether they do so in a lame-duck session or in January, lawmakers will need to face facts: to avoid devastating tax increases, they must find ways to cut government spending.

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Fix broken broadcast retransmission consent system

Few things are more frustrating to a former Congressman than to see a law he sponsored twisted in a way that undermines its intended purposes. Unfortunately, this is precisely what has happened during the last few years with the 1992 Cable Act, and in particular, with the provisions I sponsored dealing with “retransmission consent.” These provisions require a cable operator or other video provider to obtain a broadcast station’s permission to retransmit the broadcast signal to subscribers (unless the broadcaster elects a different option called “must carry”). Our goal was to ensure that the public would retain access to local broadcast programming as cable television gained in power and influence.  But today, more than ever, broadcasters are using these provisions to claim that the Act gives them license to pull their signals from video providers and their subscribers unless these providers agree to pay rapidly rising fees. In essence, broadcasters are exploiting a law designed to prevent consumers from experiencing service disruptions to justify blackouts. This just happened in the New York and Philadelphia area, where Fox blacked out its network stations to three million households during the baseball playoffs and World Series.

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Reclassification of the Internet won’t stand the legal test

One of the issues that will bridge the 111th and 112th Congress’ is the proposal by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski to reclassify the Internet as a Title II “telecommunications service” from its present status as a Title I “information service.”

In an opinion I wrote on behalf of Broadband for America, I pointed out that “as a legal matter the language of the statutes enacted by Congress, the unbroken line of previous FCC decisions and the reasoning of the Supreme Court’s Brand X decision” make reclassification “unlikely to survive judicial scrutiny.”

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A post-election job for Congress: Resolve the net neutrality fight

At times, the political battle over net neutrality regulation recalls the tragic mythological tale of Sisyphus, who could never quite push that rock all the way to the top of the hill. When Congress shut down for re-election campaigning earlier this month rather than consider a neutrality compromise from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), it appeared at first blush that a resolution had again slipped away. But a closer look suggests the key players are edging toward an agreement that would preserve an open Internet for consumers while also enabling continuing business investment that would expand Internet capabilities and create jobs to help the economy.

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Members of Congress are not harnassing the communicative power of Twitter

I am in email contact with something over a dozen members of congress. Our communication goes like this:

Something dire will happen unless I am elected or re-elected. Please send money.

Iterate 20 times.

Pause for two years.

Something dire will happen unless I am elected or re-elected. Please send money.

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New salmon can address myriad problems

Natural fish stocks have been so depleted in the past few decades that more than half of the salmon we consume here in the United States comes to us from “fish farming,” 97 percent of which is imported.  That’s because we consume highly-desirable fish like salmon at least twice as fast as it can reproduce in the wild.

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Developing a more secure smart grid for the nation (Rep. Martin Heinrich)

Last June, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced $3.9 billion in Recovery Act funding targeted toward smart grid technologies and investment in electric transmission infrastructure.  As private companies begin the task of implementing a national smart grid, questions about security and vulnerabilities have emerged.  Some analysts have even questioned whether a national smart grid will be more vulnerable to hacking than the current utility grid. 

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