12.01.07

More Funny Things in the US Department of Justice

Posted in America, Antitrust, Europe, Law, Microsoft, Novell at 7:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Attempts to identify the culprits in a rotten system

One thing that continues to fascinate is the ability of wealthy companies to make justice more perverse than it already is. A couple of days ago we showed that Microsoft is capable of escaping strong criticism thanks to business partners, insiders, and proxies. This intrigues. There are many more examples in the past year's news (please do read the cited examples to convince yourself that there is a clear pattern).

It is curious to find that Thomas Barnett from the Department of Justice still appears to be protective of monopolies without proper explanations. Here is the most recent example.

Barnett is the same official who recently argued against the need for a lengthier period of government oversight on Microsoft’s antitrust agreement with the government. Also under his tenure, the megamerger of AT&T and BellSouth received unconditional approval from his agency, although it did propose conditions on AT&T’s recent purchase of the rural wireless carrier Dobson Communications

It is worth emphasising that AT&T has had its own share of abuses. Looking at the past few months alone, here are 5 arguably disturbing examples:

1. AT&T admits it censored other bands

It looks like Pearl Jam isn’t the only band that has had its politically charged comments bleeped from concerts streamed from AT&T’s Blue Room Web
site.

[...]

AT&T quickly apologized for the incident and blamed the company that handles the Webcasting for performances on Blue Room.

2. Customers can sue AT&T, after all

A federal court in San Francisco has decided that AT&T’s wireless contract is “unconscionable”.

3. AT&T takes another step towards filtered network with investment in Vobile

AT&T announced earlier this year that was planning to introduce content filtering of some sort for all video passing across its network. Exactly what AT&T was thinking remained unclear: would the company truly attempt to reassemble the fragments of peer-to-peer transmissions, then extract video from all sorts of different codecs, then attempt to match it-in real time-to some database of copyrighted works? Would such a thing even be possible?

4. Hey, AT&T, What’s the Value of a Closed Network Again?

Closed networks, its proponents maintain, offer a trade-off. Individuals or outside developers can’t make any changes or improvements to it. But since the network and its applications are controlled at a single source, individuals are supposed to get an easier experience in which they don’t have to think about the network, just what they’re doing on it. Trust the network.

5. How AT&T chewed up, and spat out Net Neutrality

In an interview with Business Week in October 2005, Whitacre said he thought taking over BellSouth would be rejected by the FCC. He also made another memorable comment that began the process which culminated in the FCC’s approval in December.

There was another similar incident which involved a female politician whose name I cannot recall (possibly working alongside Thomas Barnett). A Web search on her name revealed some unflattering results, but at the time it was her decision to leave Intel alone, despite its many abuses, which raised many suspicions.

It is convenient and simple to one’s mind to just look at technical things (Linus Torvalds being an excellent example of this). However, the deeper one explores these issues, the more ‘political’ they turn out to be. The Microsoft/Novell deal had ‘political’ aspects as well and it remains important to keep an eye on this ball in order to understand the relationship. Just come to consider Novell’s role in helping Microsoft against antitrust regulators in the United States and Europe. Also consider Microsoft’s recent acquisition and control tactics, which manage to escape the FTC’s wrath through procedural loopholes.

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A Single Comment

  1. SubSonica said,

    December 3, 2007 at 2:59 am

    Gravatar

    As read in linux.com:
    http://www.linux.com/articles/31250

    Denying that politics can play any part in Free Software is of course absurd. Politics is not confined to a few officials in suits, it is part of the fabric of life. When I consume goods, I tacitly accept that the companies involved in the production of those goods are acceptable to me, or rather that their practices are acceptable; when I use Free Software, I make a political statement about my thoughts on copyright law, software development methods, and perhaps a little of my ethics.

    Moreover, software development is directly and indirectly affected by political decisions that are external to the development community. If it were illegal to distribute software with restrictive licences, proprietary software would not exist; if everybody had to pay royalties to the holder of the patent for the progress bar, very little software would use the progress bar. In an extreme example, if my country were invaded and the occupying power banned me from using Free Software, I would no longer be able to use KDE.

    Free Software communities must therefore take political considerations seriously, just as they take technical considerations seriously. Some communities take political matters to heart, and define their community as much by their politics as by their technical achievements; other communities, meanwhile, have an unhealthy attitude, burying their heads in the sand and hoping the wind blows in a friendly way.

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