Rights & Freedoms


060626-comm-tower.jpgSo, between the recent appearance of telemarketers on Skype (and subsequent network load), and the brand new FCC tax on VoIP services that connect to traditional phone lines, I have to wonder if greed is going to ruin the promise of broadband phone service.

There was a day when I hoped VoIP would usher in a golden age of communication.  The gradual phasing out of analog phone systems would leave more cable bandwidth for the Internet, as digital data is a more efficient use of the line than analog voice.  Eventually a fully digital system would leave us with lower phone bills, more reliable phone service, and an all around slightly faster Internet.

The FCC, though, has decided to take a big old shit all over that dream, by trying to tax VoIP to fund the construction of archaic analog phone systems in rural areas.

Really, it could be argued that the FCC is doing nothing more than protecting the assets of the established telecoms.  If I owned a phone company I’d be terrified of VoIP, and be lobbying the FCC to the max.

So in the future, thanks to the FCC, we’ll have a slower internet, more unreliable phone system, and phone bills just as big as they are now.  That, and poor people in rural areas will get the shaft once again with their outdated phone systems, all so that a few rich guys can get a little richer.

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Fat cop, would you want this guy storming your home?In another move to further squash our freedom, the supreme court today effectively ruled that police may now enter a home to serve a search warrant without even knocking.

"The knock-and-announce rule is dead in the United States. There are going to be a lot more doors knocked down. There are going to be a lot more people terrified and humiliated."
-David Moran, law professor

Now in the old days, if police with a search warrant–read that again, not probable cause, not an arrest warrant, a search warrant–just busted down your door and started searching your house you could sue the pants off them.

Earlier Thursday, though, the court ruled in Hudson v. Michigan that the failure of police to knock on a man's door does not nullify the evidence they collected.

Now to really understand just how terrifying this ruling is, first think of what exactly a search warrant is. A search warrant is given to police when they can give a judge decent evidence that a person might be doing something wrong. So the judge says, "yeah, that's a little fishy, go check it out." They're allowed to come in, be courteous, and search your house for exactly what is named in the warrant. If the warrant says you might be an arms dealer and they find a little bit of weed, that's not permissible as evidence in a court of law, because they're there to look for guns.

Police with a search warrant are not there to necessarily arrest anyone, they are not there because a suspect is thought to be violent, they are not there to put a stop to any ruckus. They are there to confirm or deny a suspicion. Suspicions, nothing more, are not the stuff to authorize the unannounced entry of police into a private residence.

What worries me, maybe more than the implications of the ruling, is that this was not high on the list of AP stories. This event is yet another degradation of our rights, expansion of government power and authority, another step towards a police state that no one seemed to even notice.