Just Say No to the FCC’s Router Power Grab

Wi-Fi Signal logo
Wi-Fi Signal logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Federal Communications Commission is at it again.

After its massive, illegal “net neutrality” power grab in February, you might think Washington’s chief ministry for the suppression of information freedom and restraint of digital trade would take a break to digest its prey. But no. Now they’ve set their sights on controlling your home Wi-Fi router, too.

If you run Wi-Fi in your home, you probably know that most routers allow users to “flash” the factory-installed firmware — either to update to the maker’s newest version, killing newly discovered bugs and so forth, or to install alternative, open-source firmware with different capabilities and no factory-installed secrets.

The FCC’s new rules revisions for routers using the 5GHz band require that those routers be “secured” against the user’s ability to flash new firmware that isn’t approved and authenticated by the router’s manufacturer.

The proposed rule, specifically and by name, targets DD-WRT, a popular Linux-based firmware set compatible with a number of routers.

Why does the FCC hate your Wi-Fi freedom? Because if you can easily replace the firmware on your router, you might be able to do things the FCC doesn’t want you to do now … or might not want you to do in the future.

Is this really important to you? SHOULD it be important to you? Yes.

Over the last few years around the world, governments have responded to protests, revolutions and other designated “emergencies” by shutting down Internet and/or cellular access.

Not just Third World totalitarian regimes, either. Right here in America, in 2011, San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit system shut down cell and wireless service in several of its stations in a bid to suppress  protests over the police murder of a passenger.

Activists have responded by using apps and networking schemes that get around those shutdowns, or just around network congestion. For example, last year in Hong Kong, pro-democracy protesters used FireChat, a “mesh networking” application, to organize when cell service wasn’t working.

Mesh networking allows wireless devices, including the routers and access points the FCC is targeting with these new rules, to form “ad hoc” networks with other nearby devices whether Internet access is available or not.

But, of course, you can’t hook your router into a mesh network unless the firmware is set up to allow you to. And the FCC wants to make sure that it, rather than you, decides what firmware you can run and what that firmware can do.

I don’t trust the FCC’s intentions. Neither should you. I suggest grabbing a spare un-neutered router or three before the new rules get implemented. And asking your representatives in Congress to sponsor legislation reining in, or better yet disbanding, the FCC.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.


Religious Liberty: Some Unsolicited Career Advice for Kim Davis

RGBStock Holding Hands

One of the jobs of the County Clerk in Rowan County, Kentucky is to issue marriage licenses to couples who meet the legal standards for such licenses. Recently, those standards changed, and now same-sex couples can license their marriages.

That new standard conflicts with Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis’s religious belief that marriage is only valid between one man and one woman. No problem. There’s a simple way to handle that situation. If she isn’t willing to do the job, she should quit the job.

Instead, Davis asserts that her religious belief entitles her to continue holding the title, and continue collecting her $80,000 annual salary from Rowan County’s taxpayers, without doing the job.

She stopped issuing (and allowing her deputy clerks to issue) marriage licenses two months ago after the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. Not just to same-sex couples, but to everyone.

As of this writing, she continues to refuse to issue marriage licenses even after multiple courts have ordered her to do so and after the US Supreme Court has denied her appeals of those orders.

In a statement issued through Liberty Counsel, the Christian organization representing her in those appeals, Davis states that “some people have said I should resign, but I have done my job well. … It is a matter of religious liberty …. I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience.”

Not doing one’s job at all is not doing it “well.” Refusing to serve the people of Rowan County is not “serving the people of Rowan County.”

Religious liberty is an important thing. Important enough, I think, that we shouldn’t willfully twist its meaning.

No, religious liberty does not entitle Kim Davis to a continuing government position with a very nice paycheck for declining to do the job she was elected to do and promised to do.

Kim Davis is not a martyr for religious freedom. She’s a layabout, a no-show, collecting a paycheck for work she refuses to do. Martyrs make decisions on principle and accept the consequences of those decisions.

If the requirements of the job have become, as Davis calls them, a “Heaven or Hell decision,” then she should make that decision and act accordingly. She should resign her position as Rowan County clerk and go seek other employment —  employment which doesn’t conflict with her religious beliefs.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.



People as Packages, Tied Up With String: This is Chris Christie’s Favorite Thing

English: ICE Special Agents (U.S. Immigration ...
English: ICE Special Agents (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) arresting suspects during a raid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

New Jersey governor Chris Christie deserves huge honesty points for his vision of a new 21st century America. Donald Trump’s paeans to Mussolini-style fascism reside in vague appeals to “national greatness” and his own “leadership.” Christie comes right out and shows us the dark policy specifics of his desire to turn the United States into a technologically advanced  version of Erich Honecker’s East Germany.

His latest: Tracking people “like FedEx packages.”

Granted, he limits the proposal to foreigners entering the US on visas, for purposes of preventing illegal visa overstays. And he’s light on details. An RFID chip in the physical visa or passport, maybe? But what if the foreigner leaves that document in a drawer? How to track him then? Maybe implant the chip beneath the skin on entry and pull it out on exit? Who knows?

The technical details that aren’t that important, although they do sound pretty creepy. The threat is embedded in the idea itself.

As someone — not Thomas Jefferson, although it’s often attributed to him — once said, “a government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.”

A government big enough to track every foreigner from entry to exit is a government big enough to track YOU — your location and your activities — from cradle to grave.

A government big enough to track you from cradle to grave is a government big enough to CONTROL you from cradle to grave.

Anyone who proposes such a scheme is crazy, evil, or both … and should never, ever be allowed anywhere near the levers of political power.

Unfortunately, nearly all of the “major party” presidential candidates, and lots of lower-level politicians and bureaucrats, are on board with schemes like this, in one form or another.

“Real ID” to put everyone’s n right to travel under federal government control . “Background checks” to control and monitor gun ownership. “Voter ID” scams to manipulate the electoral impact of minority populations. “E-Verify,” which conscripts employers into unpaid agents of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement gang. You name it, it’s either done or some prominent politician is talking it up. Christie just happens to be the most vocal and honest representative of that line of thinking.

If you’re reading this, chances are pretty good that you plan to vote in next year’s presidential election. And if you’re going to do that, why not draw some red lines, come up with some litmus tests, instead of just resigning yourself to the usual futile attempt to discern the lesser evil? Any promise other than to roll back the surveillance state should be an instant disqualifier for the presidency.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.