Chairman Martin Unleashed and Unlicensed
October 18, 2008 12:34 AM   Subscribe

FCC paves way for free use of vacant airwaves -- white space -- available in February as TV spectrum is cleared up by digital conversion. Apparently another vote for change will take place November 4. The FCC btw also recently backed a free (ad-supported) nationwide wireless broadband plan in another hunk of spectrum to be auctioned off in 2009.
posted by kliuless (19 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The Federal Communications Commission has declared victory after the release of an engineering study on whether its proposed free and smut-free broadband service will harm mobile phone use in other bands.

Clearly the reason it doesn't harm mobile phone use is because, as a theoretical internet connection with all the smut filtered off, it cannot actually exist.
posted by Mitrovarr at 1:36 AM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't get how this will work. Are they going to ban https and vpns? You can't ban porn unless you ban encryption as well. But then you lose secure email, online banking, shopping, etc.

There seems to be a pretty direct tradeoff between privacy and content filtering. And I don't want to use a public wireless network without privacy and encryption.

I propose we call it "Chinese Wireless".
posted by ryanrs at 2:04 AM on October 18, 2008 [6 favorites]

From M2Z Networks' FAQ:
Q: How does the family-friendly indecency filter work? Who can turn off the filter?

A: M2Z's filter will operate at the network level and block sites based on their domain names -- similar to what many schools and public libraries provide to protect children. It is a superior solution to software based systems that require parents to act as IT administrators and are also easy to manipulate and circumvent. People who subscribe to the premium service will establish their age and identity and therefore, can turn off the filter if they wish.
Stupid and useless. At least it will be easy to bypass.
posted by ryanrs at 2:23 AM on October 18, 2008

Plus how the hell do they think it's going to be "ad supported"? Does the FCC actually believe the licensee could make money as if it were a broadcast medium, without charging for 'premium' access?
  • They could try to make the 'driver' display ads, but that's not remotely enforceable.
  • They could try to proxy all HTTP traffic, inserting or replacing ads, but that would not only break the web — it'd be super easy to just strip/block/display:none their ads. They could try to ban non-vanilla-HTTP traffic — that would not only break/WAPify the internet for normal folks, but it'd be super easy to just tunnel any traffic over HTTP.
Not really any other options, besides having the Department of Homeland Security operate an especially inept version of the BBC's TV License Enforcement patrols.
posted by blasdelf at 2:39 AM on October 18, 2008

Careful, blasdelf—ineptness is one of their core competencies.
posted by ryanrs at 2:51 AM on October 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

If they insert ads, aren't they distributing a derivative work for commercial gain? Sounds like copyright infringement.
posted by ryanrs at 3:02 AM on October 18, 2008

…block sites based on their domain names

Sounds like you'd just have to use a non-fucked public DNS server (like Verizon's They could try to block/reroute all other DNS traffic, but they probably wouldn't bother since you could just tunnel/proxy anyway.
posted by blasdelf at 3:04 AM on October 18, 2008

DHS has other competencies?

Free dial-up ISPs got away with ad insertion of various sorts when they were popular, usually framesets, sometimes embedded in the browser chrome instead of technically being in the document. I'm not sure if any of them ever served up ads contextually to suit the page content — you better believe they'd do that this time around.
posted by blasdelf at 3:09 AM on October 18, 2008

I'm all for commercial use of white space, wherever it appears. Bidding will now begin for use of the next four lines:

posted by twoleftfeet at 4:52 AM on October 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's like the free proxies they offer for people in countries the US doesn't like. It might let you see the Iranian dissident websites, but the supposed 'free-speech' enabling proxy blocks access to porn because we don't want to be spending taxpayer dollars on that, you know.

(on further reading, i see that they're considering letting adults opt out, but i'm suspicious of what even that could entail.)
posted by dunkadunc at 5:30 AM on October 18, 2008

Oh dear. Without internet pornography, I'll have to go back to hiring prostitutes.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:07 AM on October 18, 2008

MPDSEV: thus keeping that money in the local economy!
posted by rmd1023 at 7:27 AM on October 18, 2008
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 AM on October 18, 2008

I'm sick of the FCC giving away the airwaves that belong to us to corporations who make massive profits with them, and somehow don't owe dick to the tax payers.
posted by paisley henosis at 7:54 AM on October 18, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'm sick of the FCC giving away the airwaves that belong to us to corporations who make massive profits with them, and somehow don't owe dick to the tax payers.

Well, the FCC has given us some goodies, notably the 2.4ghz range, the 5ghz range, etc. (I think 900mhz also). I wish they would free up this old TV range for anyone to use but it doesn't look like they will.

Oh well.
posted by delmoi at 8:00 AM on October 18, 2008

That free wireless thing is not going to work, both for technical and legal reasons.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:41 AM on October 18, 2008

Free dial-up ISPs got away with ad insertion of various sorts when they were popular, usually framesets, sometimes embedded in the browser chrome instead of technically being in the document. I'm not sure if any of them ever served up ads contextually to suit the page content — you better believe they'd do that this time around.

Well, turns out that's not a good business plan. The infrastructure costs more than the ads can bring in. Same problem when it was attempted with broadband. The only way free access can work is if it's subsidized. But, like free speech and the library, I'm not sure their proposals to block content will withstand constitutional challenges.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:44 AM on October 18, 2008

I wish they would free up this old TV range for anyone to use but it doesn't look like they will.

um, that's what the link/post was about :P
Backers of "white spaces" devices got a major boost today as FCC Chair Kevin Martin came out in support of the effort to open empty TV spectrum for unlicensed wireless use... A vote on Martin's plan will come on election day, November 4, according to tentative FCC agenda released today. Commissioners Copps and Adelstein are understood to be generally supportive of white spaces, so Martin's vote may create a bipartisan majority regardless of whether Commissioners Tate and McDowell hop aboard the white spaces train.
sorry if it wasn't clear!

oh and re: corporations that "somehow don't owe dick to the tax payers," the AWS-3 (smut-free) band auction would require the winner to "pay a small portion of its revenue each year to the United States Treasury," so i guess that's something at least...
posted by kliuless at 12:19 PM on October 18, 2008

for those still following along :P
  • 40 years later, some wonder if Carterfone is still relevant 40 years has passed since the FCC issued its Carterfone "open device" Order. But economists and legal scholars disagree about the famous rules' significance and future.
    "I've been waiting 40 years, and thought nobody would ever ask me to come celebrate the Carterfone decision," declared former Federal Communications Commissioner Nicholas Johnson, speaking at a conference on said ruling held on Friday at Santa Clara University's High Tech Law Institute. Johnson is a big, lanky Iowan who obviously likes to hold forth. Not that he didn't deserve center stage—he wrote Carterfone for the FCC's majority in 1968. "As you sit here with your Blackberrys and your iPhones and your cell phones and whatever else may connect you wirelessly to Mother Earth's store of information, I think it's useful to take ourselves back to world in which Tom Carter struggled," Johnson continued. That world was one in which if you wanted to connect something to the nation's telecommunications system, you had to get permission from its owner, AT&T. "You could have an AT&T phone in any color, back in those days, as long as it was black," another conference panelist recalled. In the late 1950s, entrepreneur Thomas Carter defied that rule. He sold a device that allowed users to pipe their phone conversations through a small radio network—perfect for keeping the supervisors of Texas sized oil fields in touch with their workers. Needless to say, AT&T hated the Carterfone, and demanded that the FCC put an end to the "foreign attachment," as the company called it. Instead, the Commission stood up for the little guy, voting to deny Ma Bell the right to block devices that did not harm its network. Johnson cheerfully summarized this regulatory drama for his audience of economists and legal scholars, there to present their own talks on the decision. A few developers attended, too. "The stories that you are telling involve the later chapters in this book of Tom Carter and his accomplishment," Johnson concluded. "I must say that I'm relieved that I'm not going to have to worry about this, because you're really on top of it and you're going in the right direction."
  • Interview: laying it on the line with FCC chair Kevin Martin Consumer advocate? Champion of decency? Nixonian rogue? Who is the FCC's Kevin Martin, anyway? In a rare one-on-one interview, Ars gets up close and personal with a key figure at the intersection of content, technology, and social mores.
    What a difference nine months makes. In December of 2007, activists reviled Federal Communications Commission Chair Kevin Martin as the ruthless champion of big media, thanks to his efforts to relax the agency's restriction on newspaper/TV station cross-ownership. They all but booed Martin off the stage at a November Commission hearing about the proposal held in Seattle, Washington. But an hour after Martin explained on Friday, August 1, why the FCC will enforce its net neutrality policies against Comcast for P2P blocking, Free Press, Public Knowledge, and Vuze held a telephone press conference on the decision. The subject inevitably moved to the FCC's Chair. "What do you think that Kevin Martin's motives were in making this call?" one reporter asked. "Because as most of you know, he has not exactly portrayed himself as a friend of the consumer. His decisions have generally been pro-business. What made him make this switch?" Gigi Sohn, of Public Knowledge, quickly responded to the query. "I think it's a little unfair to characterize Kevin Martin as being anti-consumer in all but this decision," she said, a little impatience in her voice. "I can name several other decisions coming out of his FCC that I would consider to be pro-consumer, including the denial of some of the big forbearance petitions by some of the telephone companies. So I think it's unfair to pigeonhole him in that way."
  • Broadcasters Seek to Slow Efforts to Open Vacant TV Airwaves Broadcasters filed an emergency objection to a plan introduced by the FCC this week, asking the agency to slow down efforts to open up vacant TV airwaves for unlicensed use.
  • FCC lukewarm on networks' request to delay white space vote The FCC is considering a broadcaster request to run a proceeding on its report on white space devices. An FCC spokesperson tells Ars that the agency wants to get white space devices into the hands of consumers "sooner rather than later."
posted by kliuless at 12:12 PM on October 21, 2008

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