#167: The Airbnb Wars Rage On

March 29, 2017

HomeAway, Airbnb, and other short-term rental platforms are at war with cities across the country. Nashville’s Downtown has the highest hotel rate in the U.S. — even pricier than New York and San Francisco. Despite that, the city council passed a law capping the number of second homes in a neighborhood that can be rented out to tourists. In a lawsuit brought by the Beacon Center, a local think tank, the judge ruled against the city but left the door open for lawmakers to rewrite the bill. Will litigation drag on, or will the Tennessee state government step in and nullify city laws? Elsewhere, in Colorado, a patchwork of regulations illustrates the different approaches that cities are taking. Jared Meyer, Senior Research Fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, joins. For more, see his op-ed.

#166: Hacking the CIA

March 24, 2017

Earlier this month, Wikileaks published 9,000 pages of hacked CIA files. The haul, dubbed “Vault 7,” catalogues some of the spy agency’s hacking techniques, including exploits of Android and iOS phones, and even Samsung Smart TVs. When the feds discover vulnerabilities in the products we use, should they tell the companies so they can patch things up? Or does the government sometimes need to keep these things secret for national security purposes? What are the trade-offs? Evan is joined by Heather West, Senior Policy Manager for the Americas at Mozilla and Mieke Eoyang, Vice President of the National Security Program at Third Way. They discuss what Vault 7 means for encryption, the Apple v. FBI case, and the government’s “Vulnerabilities Equities Process” (VEP).

For more, see Mozilla’s primer on VEP and its statement on Vault 7.

#165: Regulating the Universe

March 21, 2017

Who's in charge of the universe? "Innovative space activities" like asteroid mining and private missions to Mars raise key questions for countries and their regulators. Can you "plant a flag" on an asteroid? How can countries cooperate in space without interfering with each other? Is the "weaponization of space" a growing concern between the US, Russia, and China? Congress is trying to figure out the answers. Evan and Berin discuss a recent hearing with Jim Dunstan, longtime space lawyer and founder of the Mobius Legal Group.

#164: Blogging in Ethiopia

March 16, 2017

Blogging in the United States isn’t risk free. You might get deluged by trolls, or even receive death threats. But it’s nothing compared to what happens in Ethiopia when bloggers find themselves on the wrong side of their government. Endalk Chala is the founder of Zone 9, named in reference to an infamous Ethiopian prison divided into eight zones — the oppressed country itself being the ninth. A doctoral journalism student at University of Oregon, Endalk founded the platform to advocate for bloggers in his home nation and foster free speech. How did his government respond? How important are encryption and other technologies in Ethiopia? Evan is joined by Endalk and Robert Chapman-Smith, producer for the series Coded, whose season finale features Zone 9.

#163: Online Sales Tax

March 10, 2017

Big-box retailers have long griped that untaxed online sales put them at a competitive disadvantage. Congress is exploring legislation to “level the playing field,” but will the solution be worse than any perceived problems caused by e-commerce? Supporters of bills like the “Marketplace Fairness Act” say that states and cities are being starved of lost revenue from Internet sales. But critics charge the bill would discriminate against Internet businesses with burdensome reporting requirements while allowing states and cities to tax people outside their borders. Is there room for common ground? What other approaches could Congress and the states pursue? Evan discusses with Steve Delbianco, Executive Director of NetChoice. For more info, see this op-ed.

#162: Should Government Pay for Broadband?

March 7, 2017

Should the government pay for broadband? In his joint address to Congress, President Trump laid out plans to spend a lot of taxpayer money on infrastructure. Many in the tech community want some of that money to go toward broadband, but will that actually help get people online? What about subsidies? Uncle Sam has long subsidized telephone service for low-income Americans. Will broadband subsidies bridge the Digital Divide? Evan is joined by Will Rinehart, Director of Tech and Innovation Policy at the American Action Forum.


Will’s blog, “How Well Do Rural Broadband Subsidies Work?”
Coalition letter opposing FCC action on Lifeline
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s response on Medium