Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Demonstration to save network neutrality outside Capitol (near Senate office buildings) today

I attended a small demonstration shortly after noon today for the Internet-Wide Day of Action to Save  Network Neutrality.

The main argument offered was that if big telecom companies are allowed to set up fast lanes for other big businesses that they own or that pay them off, ordinary consumers will not find their competitors. So it sounds like an anti-trust argument, and similar arguments have been made against Google and search engine results.  Speakers also noted that major Silicon Valley companies support neutrality and that major startups have developed during this period. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) led the event.  But then look at Timothy B. Lee’s recent Vox piece, “The End of the Internet Startup”.

Another major argument was that network neutrality helps minority voices (people of color, LGBT, and immigrant) voices be heard.

There are more videos from this event on my Wordpress "Media Reviews" blog here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My own official comments to the FCC on rolling back network neutrality

I have submitted my own comments to the FCC on net neutrality.

I follows the instructions exactly as published by "The Verge" here.

Here is the text of my comments:

"The biggest concern among many Internet users, especially small businesses or individuals running their own Internet domains, either on their own servers or with shared hosting services, is that, if network neutrality provisions are rolled back, then some or all telecommunications providers might start treating websites as if they were analogous to cable television channels and not offer access to all of them unless paid by content providers.

"But it does appear the NCTS-itv has promised that its members indeed will not do this, and will continue to allow lawful content to be accessed from the United States from their servers in the same manner as today.

"My own stake in this is as a political and social commentator who has very low costs in developing and posting content, but whose operations could not “pay their own way” in an environment if indeed telecom providers changed the “rules of the game” so to speak. 

"I can understand the position that says, a telecom provider might want to provide a very low-cost service for some customers with very limited web access, in the same sense that I recall that ten years ago many cell phones did not yet offer web access at all.  I also remember that in the earliest days of the public Internet, in the mid 1990s, “proprietary content” from big providers like AOL and Prodigy ruled the world until about 1997 or so, as it became more common for users to apply the html protocol on their own and expected to find any website this way.  I also realize that over time, consumer modes of access change, as from the dialup (which in time became reasonably effective for text and smaller images, although not for video) of 20 years ago, to wireless mobile devices today, with a backbone in conventional PC or Mac or Linux computer and laptop access.

"My main expectation would be that telecom providers would facilitate or allow connection to my sites the same way as it happens today, for about the same cost, in both mobile and desktop or PC usage, in wireless, FIOS and conventional cable.  If some users with very limited plans could not access my sites, that probably would not affect me, as such consumers are probably not interested in my kind of content anyway. But such a develop could seriously affect some kinds of small businesses, whose owners depend on inexpensive Internet web access from all potential consumers to make a living.  And such a development could hamper some kinds of innovation. 

"I don’t have a problem with the idea that, even in a reasonably regulated environment, some providers (such as those performing rescue or emergency medicine) have a legitimate need for fast lanes; this should not affect ordinary use. "

When you submit the comment the form removes the paragraphs, but the email confirmation restores themm. 

Sunday, July 02, 2017

NCTA stands by promises of voluntary "neutrality" compliance

I wanted to pass along the form where people can express their comments about the dissolution of network neutrality, to the FCC.  It’s at this url.  Deadline is July 17.

The latest Day of Action Event link for July 12 is here.

NCTA’s own voluntary promise not to interefere with normal website access is here

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Tech companies plan "Day of Action" on Net Neutrality on July 12

ATT recently (May 31) published a blog post by Hank Hultquist, Chairman of “Federal Regulatory” offering the viewpoint that Obama’s net neutrality rules (FCC’s common carrier concept) are predicated on the idea that an ISP advertises itself as a “neutral conduit”, link here.

That is, there is nothing inherently illegal even now for a small ISP to deliver only carefully curated websites to, say, a religious consumer subset that wants only a limited Internet exposure.
That’s true, this wouldn’t matter as long as the major companies maintain their public posture as “public accommodations”, so to speak.

And none of the major ISP’s have indicated any interest in censoring or blocking content.  They might have issues with, say, porn sites that use enormous bandwidth.

And today, Wednesday June 7, 2017, p. A14 of the Washington Post carries a story by Brian Fung, “Web companies plan July ‘day of action’ in push to protect net neutrality”, link here. The companies involved are Amazon, Reddit, Mozilla and Kickstarter, on Wednesday July 12, 2017.  Fung reminds us of a similar day in January 2012 to protest SOPA when Wikipedia went dark.  Fung still rehearses the idea that “neutral”  ISP’s could throttle content they don’t like.  I’m still getting lots of emails asking me to “join in” a hyped petition.  The last day for comments is July 17, and I will probably submit one. Fung reiterates, however, that ISP’s still say they are committed to neutrality in practice.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

FCC votes to take comments on rolling back net neutrality, among "Chicken Little" reports

Well, the comment period on the rollback of Network Neutrality has started, by a 2-1 vote today, overlooked by the media given all of Trump’s antics.  Arstechnica, normally level headed, seems to think that the sky is falling, as in “Chicken Little”

I think I may well make a formal comment during the open period, before July 17.

Arst Technica links to a list of some ISP violations over the years.  In one case, a labor union’s site was reportedly blocked.  Comcast apparently tried to interfere with user P2P, which is odd because Comcast doesn’t offer OpenDNS (I think Verizon does), which is how a host (like for Airbnb) could try to block anyone using his router from doing most possible illegal downloading for which the host could be liable.

This topic needs our continued attention to see what ISP’s really say they want to do.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Electronic Frontier Foundation's "DearFCC campaign": hints that small businesses could be completely cut off? Credible at all?

For what it’s worth, I’ll share Electronic Frontier Foundation’s “DearFCCcampaign.  EFF is one of the organizations I support regularly.

I’m not confident that the childish tone of the suggested letter is effective, and I’m concerned about the hysterical tone of some of the hints – that big ISP’s will really block small websites that don’t pay them off (again, the idea of saying “what the Internet means to me”).  I don’t know if that’s a credible threat, and in any case Pai says he has pledges that carriers will not discriminate outside of setting up fast lanes in very special circumstances that really warrant it.  A text blog doesn’t need a fast lane;  a movie streaming site would.  (Usually Blogger content loads very quickly now; Wordpress domains are a little slower, sometimes. But is that because of net neutrality?  Blogger was pretty fast even in 2008.  So is my legacy DADT site.)

I’ll have to look further into how ISP’s really intend to behave.  I think they would deny these ideas right now.
One remote idea is that “free” services like Blogger and Wordpress subdomains would have better access than paid-for domains.  Maybe services like BlueHost would have to arrange access to the biggies in a future without net neutrality.   But will these free services last forever?  Do they really make money for their owners? Needs serious attention.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

USA Today questions Pai's claims that network neutrality stifles rural broadband investment

Mike Snider had an article in USA Today May 5 in which he reports that Trump’s FCC Chairman Aji Pai still insists that Obama’s 2015 Net Neutrality rules have interfered with broadband investment in rural areas or certain low income neightborhoods.  Indeed, on one day trip in the fall of 2015 I saw lots of road signs in a rural area in the Virginia Blue Ridge offering broadband.

The article goes on to criticize Pai’s claims, noting in particular that ATT’s acquisitions have skewed the results.  And Pai has taken other actions which might have impeded some rural access.

But it is reasonable to think that neutrality rules could interfere with new hardware in some cases.
The video embedded with the article makes a disturbing speculation, that without net neutrality an ISP would slow down a “basement blog” in favor of Facebook.  But of course, the basement blog might require relatively few resources (Wordpress can require more), where as an HD video streaming service legitimately could “need” more bandwidth, which could be paid for.

It’s interesting for me to remember that in the early days my own legacy sites always loaded very fast because they were straightline HTML and used few resources.

For example, this long chapter from my first DADT book (48000 words) on an old legacy site loads in less than one second on Xfinity right now.  You can try it at home.  But it took three seconds on my iPhone 6.  It loaded fast before net neutrality, even in the early days of high speed.