Sunday, July 05, 2020

Universal high speed Internet bill would help deal with online learning from Covid

Electronic Frontier Foundation is advocating a bill in Congress to provide universal high-speed Internet, link here.

Details forthcoming. But the bill would seem to address issues of clogging of Internet if there is a spike in usage if schools have to stay online in the fall.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

ATT apparently "violates" the spirit of net neutrality in its handling of HBO Max

Joanna Nelius has an important article in Gizmodo, “What did we say about ATT being allowed to own Guzmodo?” 

ATT apparently won’t count use of HBO Max toward data caps, which certainly sounds like a breach of “good faith” that Ajit Pai thought he would get.

Niley Patel has a longer article in The Verge.

Furthernore, HBO Max supposedly will temporarily pull “Gone with the Wind” from its offerings because somehow the classic film is “offensive”. (CNET

Monday, June 08, 2020

Cox starts warning large volume home users (with "unlimited") of possible cutoff during pandemic stress periods

Ars Technica, in a story, June 8, by Joe Brodkin, reports that Cox Communications has apparently lowered upload speeds (to 10mgps) on entire neighborboods in a few cases, as the pressure on networks increases because of video conferencing and “work from home”.  The specific incident apparently occurred in northern Florida.

Cox has warned a few users these neighborhoods that there services may be terminated if they don’t lower their usage (especially, apparently, very large uploads).  In one case, a user said he was apparently was on an unlimited plan, and yet his late night use was considered unreasonable and a possible violation of an AUP.

Ernesto Falcon of Electronic Frontier Foundation tweeted a comment and mentioned the FCC.

However Cox’s actions might have been technically legal even under Obama’s rules.

This sort of thing would seem to invite a debate over “essential” v. non-essential use, just as in the regular world of social distancing.  We may see more problems like this, unless re-opening of conventional work spaces (and of venues like theaters) makes more progress,

The policy might affect YouTube channel owners who upload multiple large videos.  I generally upload only smaller videos. 

The video shown above dates back to June 2017.

When I had Comcast in a house, generally people said that only very extreme binge watching of uploading would strain the system.  But that was before Covid.

Picture: Tampa, FL, my trip, July 2015 

Sunday, June 07, 2020

Why network neutrality, as an issue, might have been the Web's "cellular immune system", and it has been gutted

I have been critical of the practice of many activist organizations to focus on just one issue, that turns out to be very narrow when other surrounding threats become more serious in practice.

One such organizations is FFTF, or Fight for the Future, which was very aggressive in trying to raise money to increase political pressure to restore Obama-era network neutrality, as it had been set up in telecommunications law then.

More recently the group has taken up banning facial recognition misuse, and banning abuses of privacy with respect to COVID-19, as well as honoring the public health balance to be struck. I will look more seriously into this soon.

But I wanted to note another aspect of the way I have looked at all this since the Trump administration decided to let the FCC gut network neutrality.  Indeed, I have heard Cato briefings by Ajit Pai noting that private telecom companies have not blocked or throttled legal content (there were some unusual issues with emergency responders).  At one time, however, some activists feared that ordinary users or small businesses could have to pay telecom companies to be hooked to them, and be driven out of business. Ordinary people might not be able to have websites any longer, or that was the fear.  I do remember the protests at the end of 2017.

However, over time, a number of issues have become much more problematic in the challenges they could present for the “future” of user generated content.  These include FOSTA in 2018 (which has affected people of color and some trans people adversely), the EU Copyright Directive (and pressure from media companies to more or less copy it in the US), other threats to Section 230 (such as EARN IT), and the trend among tech companies to ban content that they believe promotes radicalization of the intellectually vulnerable (since Charlottesville).  There are also issues like COPPA, crackdowns on persistent identifiers, questions about patronage, and a belief among many that gratuitous speech (that does not pay for itself) should be discouraged to prevent the well-off from having political advantage and make it easier for minorities to organize and command support from everyone (as we see from the recent issue with the police and race, which exploded in sometimes violent street protests).

So I’ve taken the position that one must understand every one of these issues separately, and get a big picture.

I will, however, cite one previously unrecognized possible benefit from the original focus just on network neutrality. I can recall, for example, when Blogtyrant (when Ramsay Taplan ran it) perceived loss of network neutrality as the only real political threat to blogging (later YouTube channels).  I challenged him on this.  But it is true that if you could have restored network neutrality quickly (as some states are doing) you are making a political commitment to protecting user generated content, from all kinds of other threats that may then occur.  I probably overlooked this way of looking at it. Network neutrality was a kind of “cellular immune system” for the web, rather than simply an antibody (each subsequent issue threat must be met with its own “antibody”, but the concept of UGC needs more systematic protection, that is, “T helper cells”). 

In fact, FFTF now has a video opposing the EARN IT act, so it seems like it may be about to take up protecting Section 230 as its next emphasis. In a way, it is creating a paradox for itself. 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Some concerns linger about radio frequencies and cell towers near grade schools, at least in California

In April 2019, CBS News reported a cluster of four childhood cancers in an elementary school in California, where Sprint had a cell tower on campus.  It was reported if was 5G. It is apparently near Sacramento.  

Two investigations found the tower well within federal limits, although one study reported higher radio frequency than others. Soil and water are also being tested.  Sprint agreed to move the tower. 

Picture: downtown Sacramento, mine, Sept. 2018 

Friday, May 01, 2020

FCC opens a new comment period on net neutrality and public safety and low income consumers (or is the time over?)

An appeals court has ordered the FCC to seek comments on whether the rollback of network neutrality in 2017-2018 has hurt public safety or low-income consumers, Wired story.  This was motivated in particular by problems with Verizon and the forest fires in California.
The URL for comments is here

Fight for the Future has a link and donation page here. I have to say I may behind the 8-ball as the Wired article says deadline was March 30, but FFTF is still pushing this. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Email from FFTF reminds me of why I don't like organizational fund raising

I got an email from Fight for the Future from “Evan” with the title line “Ajit Pai disgusts me.”

That’s a problem that I have with working with any advocacy group and “raising money”.  I don’t like to email people and beg them for anything and tell them who is enemy and who is friend.  I don’t like to get personal.

True, there have been a few problems.  Verizon does seem to have misbehaved with respect to the firefighters during the California fires.

Yet the website for the organization looks more impressive and diverse in purpose than before, including ban on facial recognition.

Still, fundraising on just one issue distorts things, when many of the speech problems that have plagued us for the past three years are in many other areas.