12 December 2008

FCC Plans On Making "Smut Free" Wireless Broadband; In Related Story, Scientist Quoted As Being "This Close" To Making Perpetual Motion Machine

From Ars Technica:

Federal Communications Commission Chair Kevin Martin's campaign for a free, smutless, wireless, national broadband service for the people opened a new chapter on Friday with the release of a public comment cycle on the plan. The agency's Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (FNOPR) advocates "public access to free, nationwide, high-speed wireless broadband Internet services using a portion of the winning bidder’s network in the 2.1GHz Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum."


Free wireless broadband? Spectacular, assuming it happens. "Smutless"? Futile, for many reasons, not the least of which is that there is no legal definition of what constitutes "obscene" ("knowing it when you see it" notwithstanding).

Attempting to create a catch-all filter will be a waste of time and taxpayer money. First, most filters are easily circumvented by today's teens (witness the ongoing efforts to prevent students from accessing social networking sites on school computers). Secondly, if the filters are set too stringently, they may end up blocking legitimate health education sites (by preventing anything with the word "breast" from being accessed, for example).

All of this just gets my inner curmudgeon up in arms. I can completely understand parents wanting to be able to control of what their kids surf on the net, but not at the expense of my own access as an adult. Personal responsibility has to factor in here; if you are that concerned, then put the computer in the living room so that you know what sites your kids are visiting. If you can't trust your children to use the net according to your rules, then take away their mobile device and replace it with a bare-bones cell phone. If you're worried about the computers at school, address your school board.

People want the world to be re-oriented around their own children, and the rest of us are expected to be ad-hoc babysitters, making compromises so that some of these parents out there don't have to face the burden of watching their own kids every single minute. Unfair, but also unrealistic.

The world can be a dangerous, dirty place, and try as some might, you can't bubble-wrap it and call it good. Parenting, like most of life, requires patience, common sense, and above all, follow through. This means learning how to properly use that big ol' scary computer. It means becoming a more sophisticated web surfer in your own right, so that you can pass that tech wisdom on to your kids.

Finally, it means communication, which is what the net is all about. Talk to your kids, about computers, about adult material, about whatever they're doing when they're online. The only people qualified to know what's best for your kids is you, parents. It may be intimidating, but the internet is an undeniable part of our modern world, and kids need to be taught how to use it responsibly.

You will be better at determining what is and is not appropriate for your kids than any filtering software ever devised.


Thank you and good night. {steps off soap box, runs away from angry mob carrying tar and feathers}
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