FCC fights the open source concept

FCC fights the open source concept

Summary: For open source to get a fair hearing in Washington, we need a new government. OK?


Kevin Martin FCC chairWith today's release of new rules for Software Defined Radios, it should be clear that the FCC under chairman Kevin Martin (right) is dedicated to proprietary models, and a determined foe of open source.

The final FCC language shows disdain for the open source concept, fearing that anything which can be seen can be hacked, while code which is secreted can be secured.

The SDR Forum and the Software Freedom Law Center are being polite about it, but every decision engineered by Martin has favored narrow, proprietary interests over open source and the public interest.

It's time someone said so.

The Bush Administration preference for monopoly and central control goes across the policy board, of course. But the elites who take part in tech policy decisions seem to think it impolite to charge an ideological agenda, preferring to analyze minutiae.

This despite the fact chairman Martin's wife Cathie was a long-time member of Vice President Cheney's staff, and a key witness in the Scooter Libby trial.

So I guess I have to say it. For open source to get a fair hearing in Washington, we need a new government. OK?

Topics: Government US, Government, Open Source

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  • Are you referring to this"

    From the FCC Notice:

    [i]The Commission hereby states that it is its policy, consistent with the intent of Cognitive Radio Report and Order and Cisco's request, that manufacturers should not intentionally make the distinctive elements that implement that manufacturer's particular security measures in a software defined radio public, if doing so would increase the risk that these security measures could be defeated or otherwise circumvented to allow operation of the radio in a manner that violates the Commission's rules. A system that is wholly dependent on open source elements will have a high burden to demonstrate that it is sufficiently secure to warrant authorization as a software defined radio.[/i]

    The FCC is not banning the use of open source software when it comes to security portions of SDR radios - they are just putting a higher burden on the certification process.

    While I do think that open source security software is more secure than proprietary, I can see how they rationalize their fear that with an open source SDR, a malicious user can override the security and make the radio interfere with other licensed radio services. But then again, anyone can take a type-certified radio and make it interfere with others - for example, by transmitting on a frequency already in use by another licensed user like a taxi radio dispatcher.

    This is one example of the positive use of a key to lock down a portion of software in a hardware device - unlike that of Tivo. But then again, a Tivo doesn't broadcast a radio signal.
  • Yes that's why

    Microsoft and many of the closed source Unices were and are hacked to shreds even today!

    [B]?The final FCC language shows disdain for the open source concept, fearing that anything which can be seen can be hacked, while code which is secreted can be secured.?[/B]

    This is typical governmental ignorance speaking. Fear of the Unknown and Doubt of their job security. Simple as that. ]:)
    Linux User 147560
    • I think you're wrong

      Rather, they want to be able to identify someone who makes a product so they can go after them if it violates the law, or be able to clearly show that someone modified a product they shouldn't have been tampering with. User-modifiable code (which is a subset of Open Source) makes both cases impossible.

      Face it, there are some tasks that UMC is just not suitable for due to the inherent lack of trust.

      You can build an airliner out of wood and canvas, but you wont find many willing passengers. In this case, its the other frequency owners (and international governments) you have establish trust with. Radio spectrum isn't the wild west.
      • Hardware vendors can be policed

        The use of open source code in a mobile handset doesn't preclude the handset from being made by a manufacturer you can go after, if they exceed power limits or deliver something that's inherently insecure.

        Or are you saying that open source is a threat to national security?
      • UMC or OMC?

        I think there needs to be a distinction made between 'users' (and User Modifiable Code) and 'owners' (and Owner Modifiable Code).

        If a device is so dangerous that allowing the owner to change the software would cause a problem, then the device shouldn't be allegedly sold as a consumer electronics device. In this case the device should be rented or otherwise owned by a trusted entity.

        I think it only causes confusion in the marketplace to claim something is being "sold" and yet not protect basic property rights of the alleged "owner".
  • Kevin Martin... or Bill Gates?

    You certain that you have the pic up there? Mr. Martin looks like a young Billy Gates... too much like a young Billy Gates to be coincidence...

    If there is a blood relation, it would explain the FCC's ruling.
    Mr. Roboto
    • I got it from the FCC site

      Not everyone with glasses looks like Mr. Bill.
  • Looks like a regular chip

    Off the old Gates-Cheney-Bush block.

    If it looks like a duck, waddles like a
    duck, and quacks like a duck, then it
    must be a......... What?.... Huh?...
    Duck you say?
    Ole Man
    • I don't know Gates' politics

      I do know Ballmer's, and the current Microsoft CEO is a Republican. Always has been. Rock-ribbed you might say. Pioneer, even. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
  • Changing parties does nothing...

    Possibly the most anti-Open Source law that has been passed anywhere was the DMCA, which came out of the 1994/1995 National Information Infrastructure process (and then was policy laundered through WIPO in 1996 to create the 1998 DMCA, and to push this bad idea on the rest of the world).

    The concept was simple: if new information and communications technology could be abused to infringe copyright, then private citizens should not be allowed to own and control these technologies. FLOSS is premised on the idea that the owner of technology should have the right to choose their own software to control their own hardware (including the right to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software). The two concepts are fundamentally incompatable with each other.

    This policy received all-party support, and was the brainchild of the Democrats. Changing political parties would mean nothing. If anything, I've been glad the Republicans are in power as they are less influenced by Hollywood and the legacy recording industry than the Democrats have shown themselves to be. We have had none less than Stuart Baker of the DHS suggesting that this remote control is a bad idea and undermines citizens ability to secure their own computers.


    Yes there is a need to change the government, but that means changing the minds (or booting out) individual members of the government regardless of what party they are from. They all need to be educated/modernized as this is not a partisan issue in the slightest.

    Ask every politician the simple question: Do you believe that private citizens should be allowed to own and control their own information technology, including the legally right to make their own software choices. If they can't be changed to the position of "yes", then get them booted out.
    • Clinton vs. Bush tech policies

      The DMCA was a bipartisan effort directed from Hollywood, which has in practice not done it any favors.

      As to the rest of the Clinton and Bush tech policies, I think an objective observer would find them quite different. The Clinton FCC, and the Clinton Justice Department, worked against monopolistic practices. The Bush Administration has worked to create monopolies, or shared monopolies, throughout the tech sector. This has left us with non-competitive telecom companies, which fail to introduce services other countries now take for granted.

      And it wouldn't take much to change this. Just enforce the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act. Written by John Sherman, R-Ohio. You may have heard of his brother, William Tecumseh Sherman? We've heard of him here in Georgia...
      • The party in power is always the worst...

        There are massive changes happening in the world, and whoever is the current watch will look worse than those sitting in the sidelines simply because they are the ones actively getting it wrong. If it were the Democrats in power right now we'd be saying pretty much the same thing, wishing the Republicans would come in to do something better.

        In Canada it was the "Liberal" government that was (and even as "opposition" still is) dominating the debate on how to go quickly backwards on tech policy. This is largely because they had 13 years of power when they were thinking backwards, while the "Conservatives" have only been in power for the recent year and a half.

        Give the "Conservatives" a few more months/years and people will start to be saying that they have been the problem all along, even though there is little difference in the policy proposals from any of the larger parties. The differences show up in specific individuals getting elected (Charlie Angus of the NDP being an independent musician who "gets it" http://www.digital-copyright.ca/edid/35092 ), not party policies.

        The real point is that this isn't a partisan issue, but one where all politicians of all parties need to be educated. If you are partisan Democrat then please spend your time trying to educate fellow Democrats. Pointing negatively at an opposing party and (largely falsely) claiming that your party would do better will only ensure that this problem continues forever.