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Tech at Night: Verizon, FCC, Net Neutrality, Google

Tech at Night

The big story as we close out this week is Verizon appealing the FCC’s Net Neutrality order. Verizon is choosing to go back to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, the site of the last Net Neutrality legal fight. That was the Comcast v FCC case, lost by the FCC because the FCC simply doesn’t have the legal authority to do it. Some say it could set up the FCC for another loss for Net Neutrality II to be fought out there.

In fact, Verizon is doing all it can to get this decided the right way. Verizon is arguing the DC Circuit is the only place this should be resolved, on the grounds that the FCC is essentially modifying Verizon’s wireless spectrum licenses. Clever. Also interesting is the request that the Comcast v. FCC panel be assigned to this appeal, on the grounds that the judges involved won’t have to waste time getting up to speed on the issues. A friend told me Verizon had some clever lawyering going on with this. Not being especially familiar with regulatory litigation, or even a lawyer at all, my ability to judge that is limited, but what I’m reading suggests it’s true.

Of course, even the allies of Net Neutrality think the FCC isn’t in a very good spot here. Leading House Democrat in the Congressional Internet Caucus Anna Eshoo think the FCC made mistakes leaving itself vulnerable to the Net Neutrality order being tossed out. Meanwhile, Fred Upton and House Republicans are praising Verizon for this move, while Henry Waxman and the Democrats are not. Yes, elections matter.

To close the night, a few points on Google. Over at Pundit League I went in depth on the issues of Google Chrome and HTML 5 explaining why Google’s actions are a problem for us all. But that’s not what everyone’s talking about right now.

Everyone’s talking about Google CEO Eric Schmidt stepping down. He will stay on as Chairman, and co-founder Larry Page will take charge again as the new CEO. I’m not sure what it means, but it coming shortly after Steve Jobs has announced another health leave makes me wonder if the intent is to make Google look better at Apple’s expense. We know the care about that, in the above HTML 5 issue.

Given Schmidt’s long history of strange and erratic statements with respect to privacy (calling upon people to change their names upon turning 18, saying the only alternative to Google maintaining massive databases on people is for government to run them, etc.), some wonder whether under Page Google will respect privacy more. One way to tell will be to watch details like Google’s privacy principles, which are interesting because point 1 is directly opposed to privacy. “Use information to provide our users with valuable products and services” implies information gathering and storage, just the opposite of keeping your data with you. Of course, Google has a monetary reason not to keep your data with you: selling advertising!

I believe I previously mentioned in Tech at Night that Google was very carefully free riding off of the Java platform without actually having to play by the Oracle- and formerly Sun-dictated Java rules and licensing. Not calling their Android VM Java was part of that, despite Java being used on the developer side to create Android apps. However it appears that Google may in fact have crossed the line between clever dodging and outright violation of copyright law by lifting whole sections of Java 2 source code and putting them into Android under a different, legally incompatible license. Oops.

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