Wednesday, December 18, 2019

My own telecom provider blocks my electric utility's payment center

Today, I encountered a bizarre problem related to Net Neutrality.

In mid November I had overlooked an email of my Dominion Power bill.  On Saturday night Nov. 30 I caught it and got an access denied when I tried to pay online.

I called the collection agency for Dom Power to pay the bill immediately, which was a problem itself.

Today I called Dominion Power about the problem. It turned out that I could log in if I switched Internet over to my Verizon hotspot.

It seemed that Cox was blocking the payment center for Dominion Power.

This may be a mistake in Cox’s own security procedures.  But it does show that telecom companies do have some autonomy now in who can connect to them for what purpose.  I was told they had not heard of this problem before and that they knew that Comcast works, but they were not sure about Cox.

It would sound logical that perhaps other payment processors on some websites might not work with some telecom’s, like maybe some independent sellers.  This would at least be a change from Obama-era net neutrality practice.

One logical possibility, as I have suggested before, would be for some telecoms to enforce https everywhere.
I don’t know whether telecoms could be persuaded by SJW’s (as were some domain registrars and was Cloudflare also) not to allow certain sites (like supposed white nationalist) to connect to them.

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Appeals court upholds FCC "repeal" of net neutrality but allows states to pass their own law; odd metaphors used in writing opinion (expanded commentary)

Nilay Patel has a long piece in the Verge, Oct. 4, 2019, that I missed, about the narrow ruling in the DC Circuit, where the Federal Circuit (at Judiciary Square, near Union Station in Washington DC) narrowly upheld the FCC’s “repealing” of Obama’s formal network neutrality rules, and invited Congress to fix the problem.  It also said that states should be free to implement their own net neutrality laws.  One of the judges quoted from Shakespeare’s Macbeth to make a metaphor about keeping over-regulation at bay. (I’m reminded that there is a quote from “Othello” about actors that seems to honor David Hogg.)

The court brought up bizarre ideas like that washing machines can’t make phone calls. maintains it filed the first lawsuit against the repeal and still asks for donations.

The text of the opinion is here.  Judge Williams quotes Macbeth on p. 18. 

FreePress asks for donations and still presents this issue a major priority. Now generally the wild speculations about throttling and blocking have not occurred and that observation points out that you need to look at Internet freedom problems in combination, not just one at a time (my own short film outline on this matter).
Still, ironically, social justice warriors could goad telecoms to block certain sites (as happened after Charlottesville). But the same SJW’s express concern over voices of organized marginalized groups.
(A shorter version of this story from EFF had appeared Oct. 7, 2019 here.) 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

5G could affect weather forecasting of hurricanes? A note about non-profit tribalism

Jason Solowski and Kevin Lemanowicz report, on Boston 25 News, that some scientists at NOAA and NASA are warning that some 5G frequencies are too close to frequencies used in measuring water vapor in hurricanes or developing storms, link

A similar story appeared today on Smart News.

Other scientists have disputed these claims.

It is possible that long term forecasts more than a three days out would be compromised.

As I recall, forecasting Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas was difficult this fall.

I wanted to note that I have been critical of some activist groups focusing on just one issue at a time when that issue didn’t turn out to be as important as others, for example FFTF and net neutrality in 2017 and 2018.  Now that group is working on surveillance and facial recognition abuse.
What seems to be happening is that some non-profits want to develop a series of issues that their followers will help them with out of “tribal” cohesion and faithfulness to the organization. 
The way speech develops, whether it comes from individuals or from organized groups, is becoming more critical as an issue itself.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

In Maryland, protesters question rules allowing 5G towers near homes

Montgomery County, MD wants to consider allowing allowing 5G transmission towers within 30-60 feet of homes, WJLA reported recently (with video). Protesters showed up questioning the untested health risks. 

Probably most newer homes (especially townhomes) don’t have front yards in that range and wouldn’t be affected. 
But the home my trust used to own had a 60-foot front yard (in Arlington, VA), large enough for whiffleball games in my childhood.  It sounds entirely reasonable that you could propose putting up a 5G cell tower.

NIH will do a study on the issue soon.  NIH points out that we have not had children born in generations of intense microwave exposures so there could be.
Previous reports have suggested that 5G does not pose a danger to adults as far as we know.

Monday, November 11, 2019

David Rubin interviews Ajit Pai, to debunk all the "rumors" of the past from activists(?)

The Rubin Report (David Rubin) interviews Ajit Pai from the FCC, Nov. 10, for one hour.

There is a shorter video summarizing five major points also on his channel.

(By the way, Rubin has talked a lot lately about his adult-life-long companion Emma, who is dying of cancer at dog old age of 15.)

Many of the early rumors were like, the Internet will work one word at a time, or you’d be charged for every tweet.

The bigger fear was that telecom companies could charge individual websites to be connected, and could be prohibitively expensive for smaller sites or bloggers.  That has not happened.  There was talk in 2016 and 2017 that hosting companies might have to negotiate deals with telecom companies.

It sounds reasonable that telecoms could insist that all sites offer https.  So far that has not happened.
Most telecoms proffered statements that they would not block lawful content once the “repeal” of NN went into place.

But after Charlottesville in 2017, both hosting companies and telecoms got pressure not to allow white supremacist (a subjectively defined idea sometimes in the eye of the accuser) literature to be connected. That’s when we saw some de-platformings.

Pai argues that deregulation will help startups compete with bigger companies (a paradox).

At about 40:20 Pai says he now supports a one-page bill that would enforce consistent neutrality with absolutely no "special interest" exceptions. Rubin got into a discussion of the "publisher v. platform" issue (Section 230, DMCA Safe Harbor).  Pai also discusses his support for a no outside line required in hotels for 911 calls (after a death happened when a kid didn't know to press 9 first to get an outside line). 
Ajit Pai spoke at the Cato Institute in the summer of 2018.

Sunday, November 03, 2019

California's "gold standard" network neutrality law seems to be in legal limbo during litigation, as other states look for examples to follow

Makena Kelly reports for The Verge that California has made a deal with the FCC where it will delay the roll out of its “gold standard” network neutrality bill while it is in litigation, link. 

FTFF sent out an email asking for donations and it appears to believe California could be persuaded to enforce its law now and set an example for other states, so that telecom companies will accept the probability of such state laws as reality.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Federal circuit allows FCC "repeal" of net neutrality to stand but allows state laws

Corynne McSherry, Katharine Trendacosta, and Ernesto Falcon discuss the state of network neutrality litigation now, noting that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals (the technology circuit) has allowed the FCC’s “repeal” of network neutrality protections to stand, but will allow states to pass their own laws. 

The court made comments on public safety, pole attachment overrides, and rural access.  The pole attachment cases sound tricky. 

Monday, September 02, 2019

EFF has a full citizen's lobbying guide for network neutrality advocacy this fall

I’ll pass along a “Net Neutrality Defense Guide” from Electronic Frontier Foundation, a pdf embedded in the web page, here

There are various reports that Congress will take up the issue quickly this fall after reconvening.
There have been reports that in a few cases emergency response has been compromisd by telecom companies.

But restoring Obama-era network neutrality won’t fix all the other problems, like FOSTA and the radicalization issues. 

FFTF is, as usual, seeking donations (here) for the latest surge. 

Sunday, August 04, 2019

5G will be relatively safe for your health, experts say

As 5G approaches, I thought it would be time to look at the controversy over purported 5G health risks.

CNBC, in a video by Second Thought, 2 months ago, says, don’t worry.

The report indicates that WHO and CDC give 5G (with download speeds about 60 times 4G for movies) a 2b rating, which indicates very low risk.

Microwave radiation has to be orders of magnitude stronger to represent a cancer risk. Sun is a much bigger risk.

It’s interesting that even EMP pulse doesn’t harm human tissue, just electronics and transformers.
China is ahead of us on 5G, way ahead, so Huawei still provides controversy (which ThioJoe has made fun of already), and we’ll come back to it (there is a “national emergency” keeping us from using them).
The other question might be, with loss of net neutrality, could carriers play games with 5G, and not allow “ordinary” websites to be accessed with it?

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Major broadcast networks sue non-profit trying to provide Internet TV that gets around loss of service during contract disputes

Jon Brodkin reports that the major broadcast networks are suing Locast, trying to force it out of business, in an Arstechnica story.  The non-profit was rebroadcasting without paying license fees (which can become controversial legally under current copyright law).

The service is potentially valuable to consumers who lose access to major broadcast channels from their cable channels because of internal contract disputes;  otherwise users would need rabbit ear antennas, the old fashioned way (or an apartment building master antenna, which used to be common).

Monday, July 22, 2019

"Fight for the Future" takes on a new cause: stopping facial recognition software

Lately, “Fight for the Future” has taken on other issues, like misuse of facial recognition and maybe aging projection software, as in this article.

It’s rather interesting to see an organization request donations and then tell you what you should fight for.

Curiously, the House mentioned network neutrality again in hearings last week on tech monopolies (Bill Boushka blog, July 20).

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Burger King sets up a crude experiment to demonstrate net neutrality

While we wait for more developments on network neutrality repeal undo, Shafi Musaddique has an allegorical article in the UK Independent, where Burger King set up an experiment for fun, link
You could get your Whopper with cheese faster if you paid more than customers who waited in line.

It sort of sounds like auctioning off a cook’s time.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Senate said to be willing to look at House bill on net neutrality, with reservations

Ron Placone and Mark Stanley (Demand Progress) and Fight For the Future report that the Senate is showing signs of being willing to take up some form of restoration of net neutrality.  There is some activity going on in the Capitol today.

The best link is a livestream here.  I hope there will be a YouTube video to add later (hope it doesn’t get demonetized).

Electronic Frontier Foundation encourages contacting the Senate, here

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Trump definitely violates "neutrality" by asking his base to boycott ATT over subsidiary CNN's "fake news" and bias against conservatives

Trump is calling for his “base” consumers to boycott ATT, which owns CNN, in order to reign in on CNN for its “fake news” as Trump calls it.  Here is CNBC’s story

Law experts are discussing the tactic, here, as to its novelty, which sounds like Erdogan. 

Here is Trump’s tweet

And it certainly would not be “neutral”.

I have Verizon but would not have time to change providers for “solidarity”.
In the meantime, FTFF accuses the Democrats with caving in on legislation.  We’ll come back to this later.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Public Knowledge documents network neutrality "violations" by telecom since "repeal"

Public Knowledge has a sponsored ad (on Google) that offers an article by Lindsay Stern, “Broadband Providers are Quietly Taking Advantage of an Internet Without Net Neutrality Protections”, here
Most of the examples cited are narrow in scope and involve throttling of streaming in some cases.

But getting net neutrality back in the law in the US is only a small step in dealing with all these other big problems, of censorship incentives. Think about FOSTA, and big tech takedown of conservatives. 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Why a focus only on net neutrality won't save speech on the Internet

I found a new site regarding Network Neutrality, “Battle for the Net”, here  with a lot of PR for continuing the pressure in Congress,.

It’s well to revisit an article in Cultural Weekly in January 2018 that examined prospectively the idea that without network neutrality, telecoms would individually charge website owners the right to be connected to the web. The article says that “amateur” blogs on free sites like Blogspot or Wordpress would stay because they don’t need their own domain registry. But hosted domains would be in jeopardy.

So far, that has not happened, as of spring 2019.  There is a reverse argument that at some point in the future Google could decide to pull Blogger (as it has for Google+) or that Automattic could do the same with its free service. More to the point, Blogger will remove what it considers “spam blogs” (which was a big problem between 2005 and 2008) by algorithms, although this has not been the problem (false positives) that it had been around 2008.  

It is also relevant that YouTube channels (which don't require their own domains but many people set them up anyway) are overtaking Blogger in importance (as they have since about 2014). 

Also more to the point is that there are other threats to downstream liability protection of platforms (both regular social media and hosting companies) regarding copyright (in the EU with article 13), and harmful content (sex trafficking like with FOSTA, or terror related, and more recently white supremacy related) such that the network neutrality issue, in practice, sounds less important in practice.  Activists should focus on all the problems together, which is intellectually very difficult – and it is hard to organize people around multiple problems at the same time.

Right now, it is unlikely that the GOP Senate will do anything with the House bill, unless there is some other development that more libertarian-oriented senators could come up with.

In time, telecoms could buy anti-virus companies and refuse to connect sites with poor safety ratings (or that don’t have workable https – which has gotten easier to install than it used to be).
Sitelock (with a close relation to the Endurance Group) has bought Webroot, which could give that Denver-based company (I chat with them sometimes) some power in this kind of an environment.
I noticed also that the Blogtyrant site (sold in June) recently put up a link to an old article on network neutrality but had taken it down when I looked this morning.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

House subcommittee moves on Save the Internet Act, and recognizes need to "connect the dots"

EFF’s Katharine Trendacosta reports on March 26 on the crucial 18-11 victory in a House committee vote on the Save the Internet Act.

But what’s remarkable about this article is that finally writers and members of Congress are starting to connect the dots – that activism over one law (or reversing bad policy by the administration) won’t fix all the other problems, like privacy, overreaction to harmful content, and the effect that Europe’s recent copyright law could have here.

Update: April 10

EFF reports that the House passed the Save the Internet Act.  There had been rumors it might not happen.  The Senate is said to be unwilling to pass it. 

"The Juice" on Twitter offers this video ad about the "shitternet" featuring Alex Jones.

Monday, March 18, 2019

"Save the Internet Act" would stop telecom lobbying attempts to short circuit return to full net neutrality; I have a random conversation on Amtrak about this

Katherine Trendacosta has a comprehensive article at Electronic Frontier Foundation on the latest Save the Internet Act, March 6, here.

The article is critical of telecoms for trying to limit the scope of the bills to narrow interpretations of the concept of throttling.

As it happens, when I rode home on Amtrak this weekend from New York, I ran into a college student (apparently from Spain) who was quite knowledgeable of all the recent Internet problems, including Articles 11 and 13 in the EU, the various deplatformings of “conservatives”, fake news, and FOSTA. I suggested that the loss of formal net neutrality protections in June 2018 seemed to make little difference.    Since he was going to American University he seemed at least vaguely familiar with News2Share.

But he said that it had.  He said he had considerable experience video livestreaming and that there had been real problems before Obama helped guide net neutrality into being in 2015 and that problems had resurfaced.

I still see that most advocacy organizations (FFTF) keep after people to “donate” and “take action” for their narrow cause, while ignoring all the other problems affecting free speech (or minorities). It’s the way people in a real world work and raise money.

Here is a detailed story on the “Save the Internet Act” hearings on March 12 in the House.    It was introduced by Mike Doyle (D-PA).  It was introduced in the Senate by Ed Markey (D-MA, video).

Sunday, March 03, 2019

GOP seems to get Democrats to support weaker neutrality bill favored by telecoms; FFTF says taking the bait would be "bad"

FFTF is warning readers not to support a newer version of net neutrality repeal that poses somewhat superficial anti-blocking laws but doesn’t classify telecoms as Title II providers.  It says this looks “bad” and wants users to flood Democrats in Congress not to support it.

The three HR bills are 1101, 1006 and 1096.

FTFF just gives you a bombastic donation page but Bloomberg has a more detailed article Feb. 21.

Update: March 4

MSN and US News offer this story on the Democrats' bill.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Telecoms make a canard out of emergency services

On Feb. 7, Katherine Trendacosta explains for Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the telecom industry’s claim for prioritization for emergency services would not be limited by net neutrality rules.  Only prioritization that increases revenue absent some specific public benefit is prohibited. 
Howard Schultz, in the CNN town hall last night, presented rural broadband as a “right” comparable to rural electrification in the past.

Saturday, February 09, 2019

In latest hearings, GOP "pretends" to be interested in some sort of net neutrality

FFTF issued a press release claiming that telecom “shills” are pressing for more modest regulation that would be deceptive, but put another way, that could mean that they see some regulation as inevitable. 

Business Insider reports that some major streaming services reported slowdowns by late 2018, story here. 

Makena Kelly of the Verge argues that the hearings earlier this week showed a partisan divide, but that Republicans don’t believe telecoms should throttle or slow content arbitrarily.  The GOP could be aware that telecoms could come under political pressure from the extreme Left the way payment processors have recently.
CNET has a more detailed story by Marguerite Reardon but the debate still seems ambiguous. 

Friday, February 01, 2019

Oral arguments in lawsuit against FCC over net neutrality repeal to be heard today

FFTF informs everyone be email today that oral arguments in a lawsuit against the FCC, which has reopened after the partial shutdown. 

The DC Circuit denied a delay in hearing oral arguments. 

CNET has a detailed story today by Marguerite Reardon.

On Multichannel John Eggeronm has a similar story.

Update: Feb. 4

Elliot Harmon, Ernesto Falcon, Erica Portnoy, and Bennett Cyphers discuss the oral arguments for Electronic Frontier Foundation here.

Back in 2016 Blogtyrant (who has since sold the company) referred to reversal of net neutrality in the US as the biggest threat to blogging careers.  It hasn't really turned out that way.  Other problems are more menacing. That's why I can't get behind just one group on one issue (FFTF). 

Saturday, January 05, 2019

FFTF starts 2019 by closing out the record on the CRA

Fight for the Future is still at it, with a story in its website on January 2, 2019 – and that’s the trouble, its one day, as Wikipedia would say, “TOOSOON”.  But not enough members of the old Congress had signed the petition on the Congressional Review Act to undo Ajit Pai’s repeal of network neutrality. 

The trouble with working with an organization like this, is that their focus is too narrow. The “repeal” of network neutrality has not proved to be as threatening to Internet freedom as a lot of other issues: FOSTA (one of the worst), the Facebook fake news scandals, the European Union copyright directives (which can affect us in the US eventually) and most recently, clandestine behavior by payment processors banning doing business with persons whom they may incorrectly believe are part of the “alt right”.

But that is how activism is done, by non-profits representing special interests.  And there is more pressure now form platforms even like Facebook to raise money for them.