One of the key Internet values which makes open source possible is open spectrum.
Unlicensed frequencies, linked to the Internet, have been among the greatest economic boons of this decade. The 802.11 or WiFi bands carry far more traffic, and generate far more economic activity, than any licensed band ever sold by the government.
Despite this the FCC recently shut down two important proceedings meant to make the use of WiFi more efficient. The WiFi bands have not been expanded this decade. Instead the government has gone for auctions, trading the growth of the commons for the quick buck of possibly corrupt cellular frequency hoarding.
We have also seen efforts to turn these unlicensed frequencies proprietary, through the creation of networks, such as Google's in San Francisco, where municipalities are paid off to give private companies virtual exclusives which charge people for resources that should be theirs by right.
At the heart of this, I believe, is an assumption that access equals abuse. This doesn't just exist in government, but here at ZDNet as well. While the stupid network does allow for stupidity, those of us on the edge are, as a result, required to take precautions.
If you leave your doors unlocked and your windows open it's your fault if the TV isn't there when you return from vacation.
Which brings me to my good friend George Ou. Today he offers a breathless take on the TJX scandal, in which millions of customer accounts were exposed to thieves who apparently used a WiFi hotspot outside a store.
The story is upsetting. But blaming WiFi for the breach is like blaming modems for the Morris worm.
Anyone with customer data has a responsibility for maintaining good firewalls. Multiple firewalls. You don't expose corporate databases directly to a WiFi connection. If you're to use the connection for transaction processing, you encrypt that connection.
It's just like in the store. You have the doors open but the merchandise is tagged. The cash is kept in a safe, behind more security.
There are mandatory protections which credit processing agencies require of merchants large-and-small, protections that are regularly changed and improved by Visa, Master Card, Discover, AmEx, and others. It's those procedures that were violated.
Blaming the TJX mess on WiFi or open spectrum is wrong. It gives aid and comfort to those forces who are trying to drive open spectrum, and open access to the Internet, underground. That, I submit, is the greatest threat open source faces today.
If we lose the war for open spectrum, we're also going to lose the open Internet, and with it the connections which make open source possible.