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EFFector - Volume 6, Issue 6 - A Superhighway Through the Wasteland?


EFFector - Volume 6, Issue 6 - A Superhighway Through the Wasteland?

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EFFector Online Volume 6 No. 6         12/06/1993
A Publication of the Electronic Frontier Foundation        ISSN 1062-9424

In This Issue:

 A Superhighway Through the Wasteland?
 Patent Office Seeks Advice on "Information Super-Highway"
 Please Help Us Get EFF's BBS Up and Running!
 General Accounting Office Report on Communications Privacy
 Industry Leaders Join in Demo of Pioneering Telecom Technology


Subject: A Superhighway Through the Wasteland?

New York Times Op-Ed by Mitchell Kapor and Jerry Berman
Mitchell Kapor is chairman of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a
nonprofit group that promotes civil liberties in digital media. He was a
founder of the Lotus Development Corporation, from which he resigned in
1986. Jerry Berman is executive director of the foundation.

(Washington) Telecommunications and cable TV executives, seeking to
allay concerns over their proposed megamergers, insist that the coming
electronic superhighway will be an educational and informational tool as
well as a cornucopia of interactive entertainment. Allow the marriage
between entertainment and communications giants, we are told, and they will
connect students with learning resources, provide a forum for political
discourse, increase economic competitiveness and speed us into the
multimedia information age.

Both broadcast and cable TV were introduced with similar fanfare. The
results have been disappointing. Because of regulatory failure and the
limits of the technology, they failed to be saviors of education or
political life. We love the tube but recognize that it is largely a
cultural wasteland.

For the Government to break this cycle of promise and disappointment,
communications mergers should be approved or barred based on detailed,
enforceable commitments that the electronic superhighway will meet public
goals. The amount of electronic material the superhighway can carry is
dizzying compared to the relatively narrow range of broadcast TV and the
limited number of cable channels. Properly constructed and regulated, it
could be open to all who wish to speak, publish and communicate.

None of the interactive services will be possible, however, if we have
an eight-lane data superhighway rushing into every home and only a narrow
footpath coming back out. Instead of settling for a multimedia version of
the same entertainment that is increasingly dissatisfying on today's TV, we
need a superhighway that encourages the production and distribution of a
broader, more diverse range of programming.

The superhighway should be required to provide so-called open platform
services. In today's channel-based cable TV system, program producers must
negotiate for channel space with cable companies around the country. In an
open platform network, we would avoid that bottleneck. Every person would
have access to the entire superhighway, so programmers could distribute
information directly to consumers.

Consumers would become producers: individuals and small organizations
could create and distribute programs to anyone on the highway who wants
them. Open platform services will spur diversity in the electronic media,
just as low production and distribution costs make possible a wide variety
of newspapers and magazines.

To prevent abuses by media giants that because of recent Federal court
decisions will control the pipeline into the home and much of the content
delivered over it, we need new laws. Like today's phone companies, the
companies controlling the superhighway must be required to carry other
programmers' content, just as phone companies must provide service to
anyone who is willing to pay for it. We must guarantee that anyone who,
say, wants to start an alternative news network or a forum for political
discussion is given an outlet to do so.

Americans will come to depend on the superhighway even more than they
need the telephone. The guarantee of universal telephone service must be
expanded to include universal access to the superhighway. Although market
forces will help keep the new technology affordable, we need laws to
protect consumers when competition fails.

And because several companies will operate the highway, each must be
required to interconnect with the others. Likewise, the new computers that
will give us access to the superhighway should be built according to
commonly accepted standards.

Also, even an open, competitive market will leave out organizations with
limited resources such as schools and libraries. To compensate for market
oversights, we must insure that money -- whether through Federal support or
a tax on the companies that will control the superhighway -- is made
available to these institutions. Finally, people won't use the new
technology unless they feel that their privacy is protected. Technical
means, such as recently developed encryption techniques, must be made
available to all users. And clear legal guidelines for individual control
over access to and reuse of personal information must be established.
Companies that sell entertainment services will have a record of what their
customers' interests are; these records must remain confidential.

Bell Atlantic, T.C.I., Time-Warner, U.S. West and other companies
involved in proposed mergers have promised to allow the public full access
to the superhighway. But they are asking policy makers to trust that,
profits aside, they will use their new positions for the public good.

Rather than opposing mergers or blindly trusting competition to shape
the data highways, Congress should make the mergers hinge on detailed
commitments to provide affordable services to all Americans. Some
legislators, led by Representative Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts,
are working to enact similar requirements; these efforts deserve support.

The best approach would be to amend these requirements to the
Communications Act of 1934. Still the central law on open access, an
updated Communications Act would codify the terms of a new social contract
between the the telecommunications industry and the American people.

[From the New York Times Op-Ed Page, Wednesday, November 24, 1993.
Copyright 1993 The New York Times Company.]


Subject: Patent Office Seeks Advice on "Information Super-Highway"

The Patent Office is soliciting suggestions and comments on intellectual
property aspects of the National Information Infrastructure. (They had a
public meeting on the 18th at the Patent Office).  Some of the questions
they seek comments on are:

Is the existing copyright law adequate to protect the rights of those who
will make their available via the NII? What statutory or regulatory changes,
if any, should be made?

Should standards or other requirements be adopted for the labeling or
encoding of works available via the NII so that copyright owners and users
can identify copyrighted works and the conditions for their use?

Should a licensing system be developed for certain uses of any or all works
available via the NII?  If so, should there be a single type of licensing or
should the NII support a multiplicity of licensing systems?

What types of education programs might be developed to increase public
awareness of intellectual property laws, their importance to the economy, and
their application to works available via the NII.

 (More information can be found in the November 9, 1993 Official Gazette).

You can send your ideas to the Patent Office up until December 10, 1993.

Address your comments to:
                Terri Southwick
                c/o Commissioner of Patents and Trademarks
                US Patent and Trademark Office
                Box 4
                Washington, DC  20231

                fax: 703-305-8885
                tel: 703-305-9300

Greg Aharonian
Internet Patent News Service


Subject: Please Help Us Get EFF's BBS Up and Running!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is working to start an EFF bulletin
board system to reach the "other half of cyberspace" -- BBSs, including the
tens of thousands of participants in BBS networks such as FidoNet.  EFF
considers these hobbyist grassroots pioneers as important to the future of
communications as experienced net.surfers, and both cultures of the
online world have much to gain or lose by the issues at stake.

The EFF BBS will provide a full mirror of our FTP/gopher/WAIS archives, as
well as networked messaging, including FidoNet's and UseNet's relevant
conferences, such as BBSLAW, SYSLAW,,,
alt.politics.datahighway, and more.  The board will serve as a place for
those with modems but no Internet access to get the information they need
to avoid pitfalls and to support campaigns to preserve our rights online.

However, money does not grow on trees, and EFF is asking for contributions
and hardware donations so that the project can get rolling. 

Still needed:

Basic system - 486DX2-66 or 468DX-50
Large SCSI hard drive, and controller
8-16 MB RAM
SVGA card and monitor
ethernet card
SCSI or parallel tape backup
4 fast modems (19.2 USR DS, 28.8 Hayes V.fc, 19.2 ZyXEL, and one other,
  undecided yet, probably Telebit V.terbo)

We're interested in new or used equipment in working condition, and any
donations will be gratefully accepted.

Donators of funds or equipment over $40 will receive a one-year membership
in EFF if they wish, and all contributors will be listed in a "thank you"
notice in our online newsletter, and in a permanent bulletin on the BBS.
Please note that donations are tax deductible. 

BBS software has already been donated, though various other software is
still needed (utils, editors, Fido mailer, etc.)


Subject: General Accounting Office Report on Communications Privacy

A few days ago, the General Accounting Office (GAO) -- an important
internal government investigative organization that's about a lot more
than accounting -- issued a report on communications privacy.

The report makes three very important findings:

1. Privacy-protecting technology (crytopgraphy) is increasingly important
for protecting the security of business communications and personal
information.  But federal policy is getting in the way of this technology.

"Increased use of computer and communications networks, computer literacy,
and dependence on information technology heighten US industries risk of
losing proprietary information to economic espionage.  In part to reduce
the risk, industry is more frequently using hardware and software with
encryption capabilities.  However, federal policies and actions stemming
from national security and law enforcement concerns hinder the use and the
export of U.S. commercial encryption technology and may hinder its

2. The NSA's role in this area is has been extensive, and possibly beyond
the spirit of the Computer Security Act. 

"Although the Computer Security Act of 1987 reaffirmed NIST's reponsibility
for developing federal information-processing standards for security of
sensitive, unclassified information, NIST follows NSA's lead in developing
certain cryptographic standards"

3. Opportunity for public input in the standards process has been
insufficient, leading to proposals like Clipper which lack public support.

"These policy issues are formulated and announced to the public, however,
with very little input from directly affected business interests, academia,
and others."

The report draws no specific policy conclusions, but provides excellent
ammunition for those of us who are trying to open up the standards process
and get export controls lifted.

Full text of the report (GAO/OSI-94-2 Communications Privacy: Federal
Policy and Actions) has been made available by ftp from GAO.  

The document can be obtained from EFF's FTP site as


Subject: Industry Leaders Join in Demo of Pioneering Telecom Technolgy

Project Represents First-in-the-Nation Collaboration
Among Local Cable Companies

Boston, MA (November 16, 1993) - In an unprecedented collaboration among
Massachusetts' leading cable companies, Cablevision of Boston, Continental
Cablevision and Time Warner Cable today demonstrated a breakthrough wireless
telephone call using interconnected cable television systems bypassing the local
telephone company. The demonstration,  which occurred at Faneuil Hall,
illustrated how cable technology can be utilized to create what developers call
a Personal Communication Network (PCN).

"The implications of this pilot project are enormous for Massachusetts," said
Henry J. Ferris, Jr., General Manager of Cablevision. "The cable-based PCN will
give consumers a competitive choice in the wireless communication market as the
cable industry moves towards seamless service areas on the electronic

The PCN makes use of existing cable systems to transmit voice, data and video
communications with increased clarity. Cable transmissions are carried over
fiber and coaxial broad band networks, offering improved sound quality and

"This first-ever cooperative experiment among three cable companies signals the
enormous possibilities which exist when we combine out resources and expertise,"
said Terry O'Connell, President of Time Warner Cable's Greater Boston Division.

Frank Anthony, Senior Vice President of Continental Cablevision noted, "By
exploiting the enormous technological potential of the cable networks already in
place throughout New England, our Personal Communications Network significantly
advances the creation of a powerful electronic superhighway for the region. With
this kind of cohesive infrastructure, opportunities for advancements in the
telecommunications industry are limitless."

The Faneuil Hall test used existing Boston-area cable lines to deliver a
wireless phone conversation from Boston to Newton, demonstrating how cable
television infrastructure can be a regional provider of wireless communications
services. Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Paul Cellucci, using a wireless
handset, placed a call to Newton Mayor Theodore Mann via cable. Cablevision's
system in Boston carried the call through Boston to Continental Cablevision's
service border; Continental routed the call through Dedham, Needham, Newton and
Cambridge to Teleport Communications Group where a #5 ESS switch enabled the
call to come back over Continental's regional fiber network where it was
received by Mayor Mann using a portable phone on Heartbreak Hill in Newton.

Following the Newton call, the Lieutenant Governor placed a wireless call to
Malden Mayor Edwin Lucey, which again traveled via the Cablevision network,
through Continental's system, then along Time Warner Cable infrastructure in

By using Teleport Communications Group switching capabilities, both calls were
routed independently of the local telephone company, demonstrating the
autonomous power of the interconnected cable infrastructure to provide seamless
telephone call transport. The demonstration calls also highlighted the audio
clarity provided by cable technology.

A main focus of the demonstration was the PCN architecture itself which is the
result of extensive research and development by the cable industry. Calls routed
over two or more cable system are connected via a fiber-optic-based regional
network and a centralized switching center. The quality of voice transmission
surpasses that of cellular services. Because the cable television systems are
already in place, obviating the need for large capital investments in
infrastructure, the cable industry can offer a cost-effective alternative to
cellular telephone service.

Recognizing strong consumer demand for competitive alternatives to cellular
technology, the cable industry's wireless telephone service features full
mobility in vehicles moving at various speeds, far-ranging, "ubiquitous"
coverage and reduced cost as imperative for commercial viability in wireless

The PCN facilitates the marriage of portable computer, telephone and fax
technology to wireless telecommunications. Users of the PCN are assigned a
personal telephone number, which is not tied to a particular address but,
rather, travels with the person allowing users to communicate with other users
at any location. Such a system frees individuals from the constraints of wired
networks which leave devices such as telephones, fax machine and computers
limited to a single location. This "lifestyle" coverage goes where the user goes
and allows for person-to-person rather than point-to-point communication.
Cablevision of Boston, Continental Cablevision and Time Warner Cable officials
expect that this local network will pave the way for futuristic
telecommunications application on the electronic superhighway in Massachusetts.


EFFector Online is published biweekly by:

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