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First POST: Public WiFi

BY Nick Judd | Monday, February 4 2013

Will free public WiFi become a federal standard?

  • The federal government is considering a proposal to establish free WiFi networks across the country, Cecilia Kang writes in the Washington Post:

    The federal government wants to create super WiFi 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.

    The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry, which has launched a fierce lobbying effort to persuade policymakers to reconsider the idea, analysts say. That has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor ...

    ... If approved by the FCC, the free networks would still take several years to set up. And, with no one actively managing them, con­nections could easily become jammed in major cities. But public WiFi could allow many consumers to make free calls from their mobile phones via the Internet. The frugal-minded could even use the service in their homes, allowing them to cut off expensive Internet bills.

The future of Internet governance

  • The House is set to hold hearings on the outcomes of the World Conference on International Telecommunications and the future of the "multi-stakeholder" model that now governs the Internet.

A framework for online privacy

  • The New York Times has a useful review of the differences between American and European data privacy laws by Natasha Singer:

    “Yes, we share the basic idea of privacy,” says Peter Hustinx, Europe’s data protection supervisor. “But there is a huge deficit on the U.S. side.”

    Alas, the data-control divide appears to be widening.

    A year ago, the European Commission proposed comprehensive reforms to strengthen online privacy rights — changes that could have big repercussions for American technology companies and marketers that operate in the European Union. American officials, trade groups and tech executives have responded by taking frequent treks to Brussels and other cities, where they have urged regulators and legislators to reconsider the one-regulation-fits-all-data approach. What’s at stake, American industry representatives say, is nothing less than a free and commerce-friendly Internet.

    “The ecosystem of the Internet is very delicate,” says Kevin Richards, senior vice president of federal government affairs at TechAmerica, a trade group that represents companies like Google and Microsoft. “It’s not wise to have an overly broad, prescriptive, one-size-fits-all approach that would hinder or undermine the ability of companies to innovate in a global economy.”

Like drone strikes, but on the Internet

  • Also from the Times, on Sunday, by David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker: "A secret legal review on the use of America’s growing arsenal of cyberweapons has concluded that President Obama has the broad power to order a pre-emptive strike if the United States detects credible evidence of a major digital attack looming from abroad, according to officials involved in the review."

Al Gore: Democracy's been "hacked

  • Former Vice President Al Gore, speaking to the BBC's Andrew Marr: "It can be fixed, but we need to recognise that our democracy has been hacked … It has been taken over … and is being operated for purposes other than those for which it was intended."

    In his comments, Gore then called for another class of hacker to step in with technology solutions to fix it:

    "We see individual bloggers having an impact on policy debates. We see fact-checking taking place on the internet that actually does change the way issues are dealt with. Television is still the dominant medium, but particularly with young people the internet is growing by leaps and bounds and I think soon will justify the optimism that individuals empowered by this new communications infrastructure will be able to reclaim their birthrights as free citizens and redeem the promise of representative democracy."

    Gore called for a "grassroots movement to demand that politics be opened up, and the role of money be diminished." Yes, if only someone had thought of that before!

Google search results reveal racism, study finds

  • A study by Harvard professor Latanya Sweeney finds:

    ... names typically associated with black people were more likely to produce ads related to criminal activity.

    In her paper, Prof Sweeney suggested that Google searches may expose "racial bias in society".

Is your start-up killing America?

  • Wall Street Journal guest contributor Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a former IBM VP, writes:

    Many workers are learning to co-evolve with our intelligent machines, and as has been the case in the past, they will be ready for whatever new jobs are created. But, our fear is that this time is different and the long predicted era of technological unemployment is finally upon us. Technology advances are running so far ahead that large numbers of people may not be able to keep up, and the future will bring even more serious economic disruptions.

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