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Tech at Night: Net Neutrality, Search Neutrality, Consumer Reports push polling, Internet Tax

Tech at Night

As I began work on tonight’s late Tech at Night, reports came out of an explosion at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, Japan. As Japan continues to deal with an unimaginably strong earthquake and then a devastating tsunami caused by that quake, I hope nobody takes those special circumstances and tries to argue against clean, effective power generation technology in the general case. Let them bury the dead first, clean up, and examine the causes of the problems before we then pause and make intelligent decisions.

Though as much as the earthquake causes me to woolgather about my own earthquake history, life does continue to go on here in America. And in fact, Republicans are getting so aggressive on tech policy issues. Mike Lee in particular has gotten much attention for calling for antitrust hearings against Google in the course of greater Senate committee efforts toward possible Search Neutrality laws. In fact I suspect he’d get even more if not for the Sendai earthquake.

I’m sure it’s infuriating the daylights out of the radicals that one of America’s most prominent TEA Party Senators is in favor of strong government action here, and I don’t know if I agree with it myself, but if Microsoft was vulnerable to years of government harassment despite the fact that anyone, at any time, could easily acquire high-quality competing products, so will Google be despite the existence of major search competitors.

Though if Senator Lee is making this move because of the juicy political effects, more than an actual desire to be a trustbuster, then his move gets two thumbs up from this observer. Ditto Joe Barton’s rumblings of going after Google for the children and their privacy.

Of course, there’s plenty of Net Neutrality fighting yet to go around, and not all of it is Republican vs Democrat. Remember earlier in the week when I linked to rumors that FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was in the running for Commerce Secretary? I mocked the President for it. Well, it turns out the White House laughed off the idea, too, Gigi Sohn says, per her sources. Sohn also calls the whole idea “a joke.”

But despite Genachowski’s mismanagement of the entire Net Neutrality mess, and strong pressure from the Congress to repeal it, the radicals fight on. The once-relevant Consumer Reports, now reduced to bashing the iPhone in a desperate bid for attention, has now taken up the cause with a ridiculously skewed poll on Internet regulatory issues. One survey question will tell you how bad it is. Read question two of the survey: “On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is not really a bother and 5 is a very serious problem, how would you feel if . . .” with the poll going on to use propagandized descriptions of paid prioritization and other innovative Internet routing techniques. Note that it is not possible in this poll to portray any of them as good, but rather only some degree of a problem. So, big surprise: the poll shows that respondents consider every issue a problem. This poll is a total fraud. It’s a push poll, not a valid opinion poll of an issue. Consumer Reports: trust them at your peril, apparently.

Though even as Marsha Blackburn works to expose Free Press and its self-interested corporate funding, another new radical group has sprung up. The MICC, which includes as a member one firm dedicated to giving away free stuff, is made up of three online firms and is all about tilting the playing field to favor online firms over the ISPs that have to run the Internet. They claim not to be a Net Neutrality issue, but are pushing for Net Neutrality expansions to wireless carriers. I believe they call that doublethink.

And a few quick hits to close out the night. The CTIA supports the Federal Spectrum Relocation bill by Senators Mark Warner (Va. Democrat) and Roger Wicker (Miss. Republican), that would attempt to smooth the process of spectrum reallocation in the future. But rather than pick winners and losers, the Warner-Wicker bill has the government clean its own house first, and seeks to ease the process of having the government give up blocks of spectrum. I like that at first glance. Clean up the government’s act before we start bullying the private sector. Be efficient.

I hit this on Twitter but it bears mentioning again: Darrell Issa has finally gotten loud on his Net Neutrality oversight, probing the White House’s role in the process. While Andrew McLaughlin may have left the White House, the issue remains, and if the White House was secretly funneling directives to the FCC in violation of the laws against ex parte communications with FCC members, there’s a story here.

Some Republicans merge in their minds Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. I won’t, not anymore. While Collins flogs that disastrous Internet Kill Switch effort, Snowe joins Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden to fight wireless Internet taxes, specifically to prevent wireless Internet access from getting discriminated against with special added taxes. This is how you make Internet access more affordable and easier to get.

Also, HJ Res 37, the Net Neutrality repeal through the Congressional Review Act, moves to the full committee next week.

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