Thursday, January 30, 2014

Petition to restore network neutrality delivered to FCC today

I did sign a petition to restore Network Neutrality that came to me by email from the ACLU.  It was apparently organized by the Free Press Coalition, which delivered the petition to the Federal Communications Commission today with over one million signatures, as in its story here. The ACLU never informed us of the time the petitions would be delivered.. 

I apparently got there too late to see the protesters.  The FCC building is in SW Washington DC, on 12th St., below Independence Ave. and the Smithsonian Metro Station.  I found two men on bicycles who were also too late.
Across 12th Street there is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which has been involved in some domain seizures because of the supposed piracy of some members, as I covered on my main blog back in 2011.  Oddly, on the East side of the street, the addresses are in the 500 block, but the FCC is in the 400 block.  ICE was actually a good source of contract mainframe programming jobs in the 1990s and probably since then;  I know a couple people who worked there as contractors for a while.

Some critics say that the FCC has regulated bandwidth in such a way as to make ICE seizures easier.
The FCC had an open commission meeting today, as it often does, and you can follow the video here

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

EFF weights in on net neutrality decision: don't trust the FCC anyway; the "Trojan horse" issue?

April Glaser has an important article January 27, 2014 on the Electronic Frontier Foundation site, here, that provides, I think, a more nuanced and balanced view of that the FCC can and cannot do to promote network neutrality.

EFF questions the FCC authority in the first place, and may not necessarily disagree with the Appeals Court on legal grounds.  It says that Congress needs to step in and provide a truly competitive marketplace (a progressive to libertarain solution) and ban the most egregious practices. The large amount of media company consolidation, as with airlines, restricts competition.

FCC has implemented some egregious practices in the past, like try to put a broadcast flag into DRM to prohibit home Tv recording (which is accomplished legally by using provider-supplied cable boxes).  But this used to be done regularly with VCR's in the 1980's, off regular broadcast.

The FCC has also interfered with neutrality in its anti-piracy efforts.

EFF is also wary of the possibility that cell phone plans could offer some but not all of the Internet.  (I need it all, when I am away from home.)

EFF also crticizes "0.Facebook Mobile" (here) as encouraging fast-lane discrimination.

Update: Feb. 3

Wired has an article expressing a similar viewpoint, calling network neutrality a "Trojan horse" for future Net regulation, link, written by Berin Skoza and Geoffrey Manne, 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My "no mo net neutrality" experiment on a public computer at a car dealership today

Today, while waiting for my car at a dealership, I tried the public computer, a standard desktop with XP.  My own blogs on Blogger loaded OK after the first one came up, but my WordPress blogs on BlueHost were very slow.  Another WordPress blog on Verio loaded quickly.  The I tried CNN, and it loaded very slowly.

The dealership may have an older, slower DSL connection, or the computer could be slow because of hard drive deterioration or malware.  Yet, I wondered if this was a preview of what life could be like without network neutrality.

Would companies ranging from Google to Blue Host pay telecommunications companies for faster access?  Or would individual website owners have to do this? 

I tried everything on my Droid smartphone, and it all loaded pretty quickly, including the BlueHost WordPress blogs.  But in mobile, not as much of the blog infrastructure loads until you “ask” it do. 


Monday, January 27, 2014

Online Publishers Association presents varies opinions on Net Neutrality opinion

The Online Publishers’ Association has forwarded an email summarizing its take on the significance of the DC Appeal’s court’s recent ruling against the FCC’s network neutrality policy.

Free Press seems to indicate that the FCC has the authority to go back and reclassify some telecommunications companies as common carriers and re-implement its rules, as in this discussion here
Ad-age has an equivocal analysis of how advertisers are likely to behave, and why they will both survive an environment without net neutrality but should support it anyway, link here.  The problem here is that it seems that specific sponsors, often big companies, would wind up sponsoring many big popular sites with small fry (the article talks about Hulu.  But would big advertisers pony up funds to make YouTube, Amazon, Vimeo, etc. content load faster, maybe even Blogger or Wordpress?  How would this work and why?
I fear that “objectivity” is very much at risk.  

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Net Neutrality "defeat" in Appeals Court could lead to telecomms sacking small businesses altogether, but would this really happen?

Content companies and consumers may have very mixed experiences if the DC Appeals Court’s ruling turning down the FCC on Network Neutrality stands up.

Let's consider just one big corporate telecomm "user" first, Netflix.  
John Sinai explains in USA Today Money, “Why Netflix won’t be the next tele-flop”, here.  Netflix had negotiated its content deals with regular distributors a long time ago, and (like Google’s YouTube) has been quite permissive in letting very independent and tiny filmmakers present their work for sale.  Amazon has started competing more on the streaming side, and now the big telecomm companies like Verizon will enter the content market, but I think they may be less likely to offer very obscure or small-fry content. 
Brian Fung writes on the Washington Post Switch Blog that Netflix is trying to encourage its subscribers to pressure both the telecomm companies and the politicians, link here    Netflix originally benefited from the “neutral” environment.
The Huffington Post, on January 17, 2014, offered a preview of what the future without network neutrality might look like, with colorful illustrations, here  in an article by Betsy Isaacson.  Major companies would get together and offer bundling so their sites would stay within the data limit. 
The article speculates that small business sites could be hurt really badly by such a development.  Maybe they would have to pay to get into a bundle, or maybe they would load slow, or count outside data limits.  It’s speculative how this could affect self-publishing.  I would presume that Google (including YouTube) would be bundled, so maybe so would Blogger;  maybe other popular platforms like Wordpress would.  Obviously big social media companies like Facebook would deal. Would shared hosting companies be able to get their customers bundled?  Maybe then things would be OK.
The Young Turks have a video “Not Neutrality” that articulates a similar view, raising the specter of conflict of interest if a telecomm provider doesn’t like what a particular site says about it. 
There are more complications to the ruling, under the so-called Section 706, which could bring some of the net neutrality back in practice.  Right now, the legal arguments are too arcane and complicated to cover right here.  The “Investors” link is here
There is real disagreement as to whether cable companies will try to set up “fast lanes” quickly while the FCC mulls its options under 706.  I haven’t noticed any changes in my own world yet. 

Stay tuned on this one. 

Update: Jan. 24

ABC is requiring users to sign on with their cable or telecomm provider to watch its content episodes.  It's a bit slow at first.  Once it's set up it's OK, but your cable plan probably now has to include it.  It seems like my Xfinity plan works as is.  It's much more convenient to watch episodes from the Internet than to have to remember to record them.  I first used it for "Revenge".

But is this a symptom of the end of "net neutrality"?  So far, it's harmless.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Verizon-Motorola mean it when they tell you to upgrade your smartphone operating system (in the bathroom, NOW!)

Here's another annoyance. My Motorola Droid (with Verizon) kept on prompting me to upgrade the operating system.  I was on a trip and could not take the time or endure the possible disruption.

Then, as I came home on the train, the Internet connection failed completely.  Performing the update this morning fixed the problem (or was it merely shutting if off and back on, clearing memory?)

Probably Verizon had made some server changes that required users to have the new updates to access the Internet.  The interruption to do updates when busy can become a problem.

The contract ends in mid February.  I see T-mobile's offer, but I have to keep my hot spot capabilities going. I also notice that Sprint and ATT seem to have better coverage in rural areas, especially West Virginia. What are the ramifications of a change for my phone and my use of the iPad as a hotspot?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

DC Court of Appeals strikes down FCC's network neutrality rules because telecomm's aren't considered "common carriers"; a dangerous idea?

The District of Columbia Court of Appeals has ruled (in Verizon v. FCC and Independent Telephone)  that the Federal Communications Commission may not enforce “net neutrality” since the FCC doesn’t classify broadband providers as “common carriers”.  It would sound conceivable that the FCC could decide to do so.
The PDF for the ruling is here
CNET has a detailed story by Marguerite Reardon here

Gigi Sohn explains Common Carriage in this video: 
If telecommunications companies are not indeed “common carriers”, it would sound down the road that the legal basis for Section 230 downstream liability protection could be imperiled. 
Supporters of network neutrality say that major providers could impose fees for tiered service, and could charge competitors for specific products (like streaming movie video) more even if those competitors offered more content.

This reminds me of another problem, that mobile users are locked into contracts when they find out that competitors in other parts of the country can offer better service if they find out they need to travel to those areas.  

Friday, January 10, 2014

Telecomm companies softening on contract fees, willing to pick up old tabs to lure new customers; travel industry should do more

Telecommunications carriers are showing some interest in eliminating or softening early contract termination penalties, and may be offering plans with no contract at all. T-Mobile, the fourth largest carrier, has announced it will cover the termination fees from other carriers for customers who switch in many cases.  Brian X. Chen has a story in the New York Times Business Day on January 9, link here

My own contract with Verizon switches in February, and the Droid phone does leave some things to be desired, when compared to newer phones.  For one thing, the battery depletes too quickly during surfing.
One question is whether a carrier offers reliable hot spot wireless Internet service for travel.  I use the iPad for that now (Verizon) and it’s pretty reliable, except in West Virginia, it seems.  Phones and hotspots are supposed to switch over to other carriers, and that works only sometimes. 

In the past, I’ve used the MiFi card, and even the Blackberry tethered to the laptop by USB. 

I think it would be helpful to travelers if hotels and places like FedEx Kinkos could offer more trustworthy secured connections on their own machines and networks. It could require additional fees for better security.  The reality is that it is safer to use your own hotspot and computers, which can break when traveling, especially by air, and especially overseas.  The travel industry should offer more customer service in this area.  On long flights, I do find a pay-for Wireless service useful. 

In London, some cafes are trying "pay by the minute".  All the food is free, but you pay for your space at a table and for your wireless (hopefully secured) connection by the minute.