Friday, December 29, 2017

Telecom provider (Cox) offers its own search engine, which doesn't find everything (preferred content?)

Here’s a little oddity I just noticed by accident.

While in Google Chrome, I somehow invoked “” as a search engine to look for the Washington Blade.  I got a “not found” result.  I retried and the normal Google search engine came, leading me to the site easily.

Maybe I hit a control key (in Windows 10 Creator’s Update Fall)  I did get to the site OK.
But the fact that a telecom provider intervened with its own search engine which did not find the site as somehow preferred is a chilling warning of how things could go wrong eventually with the loss of net neutrality. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

EFF explains why the battle over network neutrality is far from over; also a debate column on the topic

Electronic Frontier Foundation has a roadmap for some “resistance” in 2018 regarding the FCC’s relinquishing of net neutrality, link here

It will take several weeks to publish the vote in the Federal Register. 

Congress can overturn the rule within 60 days with a simple majority vote, so activists can pressure representatives particularly.

A bigger push is to get states and counties to push for community broadband providers, which would not be set up as able to provide or monitor content simultaneously.

The possible challenges in court will rest on the fact that the FCC did not listen to the public comments well and may not have followed proper administrative law procedure in rolling back the rules.

On Kialo, as I noted on a Dec 25 post on my main blog, I submitted a claim that suggested that network neutrality legislation was needed at least to leave lawful http content alone, but otherwise it would be acceptable to allow telecoms to encourage fast lanes for apps that consumers want.  The moderator (actually working on this Christmas Day) felt that I was making multiple claims at one and that I didn’t fall clearly into pro or con. I’ll have to look at how I can structure my claims into this debate format. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

FCC votes to reverse Network Neutrality "common carrier" rules, as expected; many experts don't trust companies to remain benign (as the libertarians do)

Today, the Federal Communications Commission voted, 3-2, along party lines, to repeal “Network Neutrality” with Ajit Pai’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Order”.  There was a brief security threat at the meeting, according to some sources. 

One particularly strident essay on Vox by Aja Romano (Vox usually is not this far to the Left) argues that ISP’s might offer only packages with other content providers who have paid them (like cable works) and offer only the general Internet for exorbitant prices (over $100 a month, which a lot of ordinary people cannot afford; they’d have to go to the library, where, as in Reid Ewing’s 2012 short film, “It’s Free”).  I think it works that way in Portugal now.   A company like Comcast could, with a straight face (no pun) claim it will not block websites (as it has already) but charge so much for full service that most ordinary users would never find them. On the other hand, most Internet customers today have all-Internet access and would expect to continue it.  Keeping enough competition (and anti-trust) matters.  Remember also that smartphone wifi Internet (despite the "competition" of apps) is pretty good now and approaches that of most cable. There is more competition in mobile web access than in cable and traditional sites.  Google is always pointing this out. 
While I don’t think that will really happen (litigation, for one reason), I can see that if it did, it would force bloggers back onto free service platforms.  Small businesses could no longer afford their own hosted websites.  Franchises would have more power to force small businesses to sign up with them.  But, again, this sounds pretty far-fetched.  It didn’t happen before 2015, or even before 2005.  I do have to note, however, how pimpy the attitude is of many large companies in some of the interviews I had ten years ago.

I want to take a moment to note, however, that the conceptual differentiation between a flat website (accessed by http or preferably https) as small businesses often set them up (often with Wordpress), and an application (as downloaded on a smartphone and inviting to telecom companies as building packages) could become more important in the years to come.  Since I came into using the Web with http in the 1990s, I’m used to hunting for information myself with Google on flat sites and ordinary blogs, and not depending on social media and apps.  A certain cohort of younger people seem less interested in looking things up for themselves, as we found out from the vulnerability to fake news manipulation in 2016.  This could affect the attitude of telecom companies in a less regulated environment.

The Wall Street Journal offers this video on what might happen, which covers the gamut.   Here’s more analysis from the WSJ, rather temperate. 

Eric Allen Been interviews Barbara can Schewick on Vox, and her comments are guarded.  She just feels you have to regulate companies who otherwise feel tempted to follow the perverse logic of fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. 
The New York Times columnist  Nick Firsch fears that big telecom companies will crack down on “amateur” publishers in the US to enhance their opportunities to do business I China.  I hadn’t quite heard that one, but I got repeated questions in 2013 if I wanted to register my domain in China. I did not.  But some companies don’t like to work with stakeholders who could hut them when they deal with authoritarian countries.
You can look at FTFF’s mock content here.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Without net neutrality, telecom companies could impose mandatory website safety ratings and https on content providers; would it happen?

Here’s a “Dangerous” idea that Milo Yiannopoulos would come up. If network neutrality regulations are removed, one possible action by a telecom company could be to offer security screening of all sites that it connects to and sends to customers.

That’s a bit of a problem because most anti-virus companies take a long time to rate all sites, especially smaller ones.  Some will not rate the small sites at all (they remain gray).  Many rate sites inaccurately.

A possible action could be to warn the user before going to any unscreened site.  That sounds like what could be down the road eventually. 

Another possibility is that bloggers who attach purchased domain names to “free service” blogs (through Google’s own domain registration for Blogger) would remove the domain names and go back to the subdomains, which allows https to be easier.

Another possibility is that only sites with full https would connect.  Right now that’s a problem, say, on BlueHost because only one site on an account can be https. 

The video above from the  Wall Street Journal is old but it mentions this case of Verizon’s blocking text messages regarding abortion in 2007, although the details are a little nuanced than the video says, Washington Post archive.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Cato Institute and Wisconsin Public Radio discuss end of net neutrality

Julian Sanchez at Wisconsin Public Radio discusses the rollback of Network Neutrality on this 30-minute podcast, hosted on the Cato site.

Yes, the broadcast does begin with blunt questions as to whether telecom companies really would charge content providers to be connected, but then varies.

There is some disagreement as to whether the regulatory environment rolls back to 2015, or all the way back to before 2005.

There is also mention of a case where a Canadian telecom company cut off its union’s website.
The general impression is that very little would happen in practice that affects most consumers.  

Monday, December 04, 2017

Tech legal experts see little change in actual telecom company behavior after Pai's net neutrality vote Dec 14, as litigation starts

Gizmodo has a detailed article on what might happen after Dec. 14’s 3-2 Republican vote favoring Ajit Pai’s “Restoring Internet Freedom Order”.   Here’s the Scribd PDF of Pai’s order, all 200 pages of it. Practical results will include a lot of litigation, likely to reach the appeals courts, the Supreme Court less likely. It sounds unlikely anything much would happen with consumers and speakers during the first Trump term.

Yet, Comcast, according to an Ars Technica report, scaled back some of its informal promise to consumers, deleting some language the same day Pai announced the vote.
And telecom companies don’t tell their shareholders the same thing they tell the public.


This story will be followed, and likely developed in more detail on Wordpress after the vote.