MediaFile

How the United Nations could ruin the Internet

The Internet has sustained some pretty intense assaults in the past couple of years. There was the heavy-handed attempt to stamp out content piracy with SOPA/PIPA, the Federal Communications Commission’s Net neutrality ruling, which many saw as splitting the baby, and that whack job who claimed to own a patent on the World Wide Web.

It is again open season on the Internet in Dubai, where the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations agency ‑ whose mandate includes global communications ‑ is weighing proposals from many of its 193 member nations. Some of these proposals ‑ such as decentralizing the assignment of website names and eliminating Internet anonymity ‑ would make enormous changes to the organization and management of the Internet.

The ITU meeting, which began on Monday, runs through Dec. 14. Its agenda, and even the fact the proceedings are taking place at all, set off alarms among the Internet’s guardian angels.

Among the most vocal critics are a founder of the Internet, Vint Cerf, and of the Web, Tim Berners-Lee. Theirs is not some misplaced paternal instinct or senior graybeard moment or cry for attention. These guys are worried. And if they are worried, we all should be.

Still not sure this is serious business? The U.S. House of Representatives, which cannot agree on anything, voted unanimously to ban ITU regulation of the Internet before it even happens. The European Union did that last month, before the ITU even met.

Tech wrap: Net neutrality closer to reality

Democrats in the Senate blocked a Republican-backed resolution to disapprove of the FCC’s rules on net neutrality. The vote was 52-46 against the resolution. Adopted by a divided FCC last December, the rules forbid broadband providers from blocking legal content while leaving flexibility for providers to manage their networks. The rules still face a court challenge. Lawsuits by Verizon and others have been consolidated. Backers of net neutrality say big providers could otherwise use their gatekeeper role to discriminate against competitors. But Republicans said the rules were an unprecedented power grab by the FCC.

Sony CEO Howard Stringer vowed to stay on as head of the Japanese electronics conglomerate, dismissing reports the longtime helmsman will step down next year and adding that he remained keen on leading the once-dominant corporate powerhouse in its battle to reverse losses and fight rivals. Last week, Sony shocked investors by warning that the company would report a fourth consecutive year of losses and offered few details of its plan to halve losses in its television division, which itself is headed for its eighth consecutive annual loss.

Investigations into scandal-hit Olympus revealed an elaborate scheme for concealing losses on risky bets behind a facade of inflated bank deposits and securities holdings, The Nikkei reported. Sources say Olympus moved the impaired securities off its books — a trick known in Japanese as “tobashi” — to prevent the painful write-downs that would have followed the introduction of fair value accounting in fiscal 2000, Nikkei said. The third-party committee conducting the investigation said it will report its findings early next month. Olympus is waiting for these findings before it reports first-half earnings and issue second-quarter financial statements, the daily reported.

Congress should dismantle net neutrality

By Sam Batkins
The views expressed are his own.

In 2008, candidate Barack Obama promised, “I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality, because once providers start to privilege some applications or websites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out, and we all lose.”  Following his election to the Presidency, he threw the democratic process in the backseat when his appointees implemented net neutrality without congressional approval.

Thanks to this regulatory end-around, net neutrality is currently law, but it doesn’t have to be.  Courts could strike it down before they review the President’s health care mandate, or Congress could take the first bite, rescinding the regulation under the little-known Congressional Review Act.

Net neutrality has received intense scrutiny for more than five years but the arguments against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) power grab have hardly changed, and given the current economic climate, the arguments have only gotten stronger. The only thing that has changed is the FCC’s evolving justification for its implementation.

Tech wrap: Facebook, Google mull Skype tie-ups

Facebook and Google are separately considering a tie-up with Skype after the Web video conferencing service delayed its initial public offering, two sources with direct knowledge of the discussions told Reuters. A Skype deal could be valued at $3 billion to $4 billion, the first source said.  The discussions are in early stages, and it is not clear which option the companies favor, the first two sources said.

The Internet vigilante group Anonymous denied responsibility for a cyber-attack on Sony’s networks that exposed the personal data of more than 100 million video gamers. “Let’s be clear, we are legion, but it wasn’t us. You are incompetent Sony,” the group Anonymous said on its blog on Thursday.

Sony said the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, the first PlayStation phone, is not affected by the massive data breach of PlayStation user accounts.

US media gets a new guardian at FCC

After much speculation and guess-work, President-elect Barack Obama has chosen his former Harvard Law classmate Julian Genachoswski as nominee for chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Genachowski, who has been Obama’s technology advisor, had been on most people’s guess-list for a new “chief technology officer” post with the incoming administration — though some outlets had called it last week on his FCC appointment.

So who is Genachowski? Well, most outlets believe he should understand the future of media as he’s held several posts at Barry Diller’s Internet media business IACI and he’s previously been a chief counsel for former FCC Chairman Reed Hundt, the chairman under former President Bill Clinton.