While this blog primarily deals with restaurants in the Alamo City and is reserved primarily for food and fun, there is something serious that I want to talk about today. There is a bill before the US House of Representatives called SOPA that sponsored by Congressman Lamar Smith (who represents the 21st District in Texas that goes from Alamo Heights, into the Hill Country and up to Austin). SOPA isn’t talking about soup, but rather stands for Stop Online Piracy Act.
The purpose of this bill is to stop people for ripping off proprietary material, and while admirable with intent, the bill proposes many things that could fundamentally change how the Internet works. In particular, the bill proposes a layer to the Internet that is eerily similar to “The Great Firewall of China.”
There are many bad things that SOPA does, but consider this analogy to better understand one thing in particular that could affect you. When you type in a URL into your address bar, such as http://saflavor.mystagingwebsite.com, your browser will look up what is called an IP, a series of numbers that correspond to a server where the data of the website is located. This is similar to you going to a phone book and looking up “Steve Smith” and getting Steve’s phone number. The “phone book” for the Internet is what is called the Domain Name System (DNS).
One of the things that SOPA plans to do is put a government “middleman” between the website’s URL and IP address. Using our analogy above, if you wanted to call Steve Smith you would first have to call Government Agent Jones and request to get Steve’s phone number. Government Agent Smith would then check his records, determine if Steve is a good guy or not and then transfer you to Steve if he was deemed OK. But what happens if Government Agent Jone’s phone is busy? Or if he gets sick for the day? Or if he thinks Steve is a bad guy, but in reality Steve is a good guy? You wouldn’t be able to connect with Steve.
These same checks would hold true for going to websites; all of them would have to be approved by the government. I don’t know the last time you have spent in line at the DMV, but that sort of “efficiency” is not very encouraging for me to trust the government with executing my requests in a timely manner.
Furthermore, the government then has the possibility of controlling what its citizens can access on the web. I am not saying that the current incarnation of our government would do this, but they would have the same power that China has over its citizens. If all the sudden Government Agent Jones dislikes the name “Steve,” he could block calls to Steve Smith, Steve Salsbury, Steve Swanson, etc. That is unsettling to me because I thought we lived in a country quite different than China.
I know that Friday’s are reserved for Quick Bites, but I wanted to forgo writing small snippets about food and restaurants to call your attention to this serious matter. The IT sector of the United States is one of the fastest growing segments in our economy, employing many Americans in a time when jobs are truly necessary. SOPA is bad for business and I would encourage you to call your Congressman (or Congresswoman) to let your voice be heard. Here are some of the numbers of the San Antonio metro area US Representatives:
- Congressman Charlie Gonzalez, 202-225-3236, represents the 20th District of Texas
- Congressman Lamar Smith, 202-225-4236, represents the 21st District of Texas
- Congressman Francisco “Quico” Canseco, 202-225-4511, represents the 23rd District of Texas
- Congressman Henry Cuellar, 202-225-1640, represents the 28th District of Texas
The district lines are kind of crazy in San Antonio, so this interactive US Congressional Map might help you find who you are looking for. Thank you for your time and for hearing me out. I promise to return to the regularly scheduled program this next week!