Government and the Internet

Computer mouseFederal law-enforcement officials are seeking new legislation to “update” the government’s capability to wiretap Internet-based data and communications during investigations of criminal activity. Such a law would require Internet-related services to install technology to enable compliance with a federal wiretap order. It would give law enforcement authority over services from smartphones to social-networking sites similar to that it already possesses over telecommunications. Extending government authority in this way raises issues of how to balance the needs of law enforcement with people’s privacy.

The FCC announced plans to make vacant airwaves available for new “super wi-fi” technology. Since the nation moved to an all-digital TV system last year, these airwaves in the spectrum between television channels have been unused. FCC officials hope this move will encourage innovation and job growth and improve the global competitiveness of the U.S. economy. Technology firms could develop new services, such as “smart city” applications to manage traffic and water quality, using this bandwidth because signals can travel for miles, penetrate structures, and carry huge amounts of data. This development could turn large areas of the country into broad wi-fi “hot spots.”

A third issue relating to government and the Internet is “net neutrality”: the principle that all information flowing across the Internet should be treated equally. In other words, should Internet service providers treat all uses and users the same? With the increase in video streaming and online gaming, congestion on the “information superhighway” has become critical. Debates over government intervention to ensure net neutrality often center on how it would affect freedom of expression, consumer protection, and innovation online. Those who oppose net neutrality argue that the very essence of the Internet is openness and equality and that regulation will mean greater government monitoring, added expense, and unintended consequences.

Related Links

One Comment

  1. desiray says: