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24 May 2017

Go Comment on the FCC Net Neutrality Proposal

This week, the FCC published its promised proposal to dismantle net neutrality rules. The proposal claims to “restore Internet freedom” by undoing Title II classification. In addition, the proposal asks whether net neutrality rules are necessary to protect the Internet at all. This comes after a court decision that refused to re-hear a challenge to Title II. Rather than focus on the benefits of Title II and net neutrality, as well as the fact that Title II has been found legal, it focuses on dissenting opinions which have in some cases been debunked (or that are generally accepted to be false) in order to explain unproven holes in net neutrality.

The FCC head has called net neutrality a mistake, arguing among other things that there is plenty of competition in the broadband Internet market, that net neutrality would harm consumers, and that net neutrality would stifle innovation. Evidence to the contrary for all of those is prevalent. Very few people have more than two ho...

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11 May 2017

The Fight for the Internet

In 2002, the FCC classified Internet providers under Title I, an “Information Service” classification. This is generally regarded as a win for net neutrality advocates but didn’t go as far as many wanted. Title I classification has been referred to as a “hands off” or “lite” classification in that it recognized that the Internet was an important means of communication but provided minimal regulations around that status. Specifically, Title I allowed the FCC some indirect authority to regulate interstate and international communications, but did not allow regulation of services themselves. Net neutrality advocates considered this to be too little. While the FCC promised that Title I would allow them to enforce net neutrality as needed, Title I by its definition did not allow them to follow up on those promises.

ISPs (in particular, Verizon) fought Title I classification...

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28 April 2017

Online Surveillance Briefing

Along with the free flow of information the Internet provides, the Internet has also been a source for accusations of government and corporate surveillance. Learning a lot about someone is not a difficult task online, even based only off of public information. However, people like Richard Stallman have been vocal about governments keeping closer tabs on their citizens via the Internet and through other means. For a long time, theories of people like Stallman seemed plausible but unlikely and were pushed aside like most other conspiracy theories. It wasn’t until the Snowden leaks that those ideas were confirmed. It turns out that even the worst of Stallman’s suggestions about surveillance are true and that many government agencies use wide-reaching data capture programs to collect and store informat...

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20 April 2017

What Net Neutrality Is Not

Net neutrality includes a number of additional or enforced restrictions on Internet service providers to prevent them from prioritizing some content over others. Regulations such as these are essential for making sure the Internet is an open flow of information; that is, that ISPs are not gatekeepers to information. Internet providers often argue that net neutrality rules would stop them from expanding and improving their networks by removing their ability to force upstream service (like say, Netflix) to pay them for their traffic to be fast and reliable. Wireless providers have even suggested that they should be exempt from net neutrality guidelines because bandwidth is more limited over wireless networks. These arguments are not necessarily invalid. Service providers still need control ove...

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08 April 2017

What a Non-Neutral Internet Might Look Like

Verizon and Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum after a merger) have stated that they are committed to an open and unfettered Internet. However, recent practices such as zero-rating have started to bring those statements into question and show the possibility of the first cracks in net neutrality in the U.S. Already, services that provide access to only a small collection of websites exist. We can also look to the UK, where one ISP has taken things further by throttling (slowing down) certain types of traffic, imposing data caps, and selling Internet packages with varying privileges. This bears a strong similarity to how cable TV is sold, where the number of channels you can watch depends on the cable package you subscribe to, and where some networks such as HBO are often available only at an extra cost. China, which is well known for its restricted Internet, is another example of what a non-neutral Internet can look like.

Although net neutrality continue reading

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30 March 2017

Your Internet Versus Your Privacy

While many of us are generally aware that various sites track us in order to sell advertisements, we usually don’t give much thought to whether our ISP might be collecting similar information. The expectation of privacy from an Internet Service Provider is important because they are the gateway to the Internet. No matter how many anti-tracking browser add-ons you might have, your Internet provider can still see what you visit online. The only way to avoid your ISP seeing what websites you visit is to use a service such as a VPN - which is sort of like paying for a secure gateway to the Internet somewhere else, that your ISP can’t see. This means that unless you are willing and able to pay for privacy, your Internet provider likely knows more about you than you’re comfortable with.

As being tracked online becomes pretty much ubiquitous, privacy has...

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23 March 2017

You Already Paid for Net Neutrality

As with other infrastructure projects, taxpayer dollars have been granted to Internet providers for the purpose of expanding and upgrading their infrastructure. At a high level, this is fine because Internet is an important and arguably critical service in the modern world. Ensuring networks are up to modern standards is important for providing access to information, education, and other services. However, the network improvements expected from many of these grants have never materialized. Grants and subsidies amounting to over 400 billion taxpayer dollars by some counts have rarely resulted in larger or better networks. Despite those grants, there are still people in the U.S. who do not have Internet speeds available to them that are usable for accessing modern websites.

ISPs have argued that if net neutrality dies ...

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16 March 2017

How Net Neutrality is Being Undermined

By paying for an Internet connection - almost any Internet connection - it’s possible to get access to every piece of information and every viewpoint on Earth. It’s also possible through that connection to publish your own views across the Internet for no extra cost. What comes with this are certain privacy protections from your ISP (Internet Service Provider), which is important given that your Internet provider can see most of the things you do online. However, none of these are guaranteed rights. The FCC has minimal powers to enforce net neutrality, thanks to a previous rule change by Congress and currently calls net neutrality “a mistake.” Service providers also have the ability to discourage the use of certain services through practices like zero-rating and data caps, which starts to limit your online world to that which your service provider approves of.

In the past, o...

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01 March 2017

Protecting Net Neutrality with Regulation

In 2015, broadband was reclassified under what’s called Title II, which classifies it similar to phone service. This means that Internet Service Providers are not allowed to (among other things) “make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.” This is a good thing which protects ISP customers (which can be households, businesses, or even other ISPs) although Congress and the FCC could, and should go further by also using Section 706 or better, by creating Internet-centric legislation. Some service providers have been against Title II and Section 706, but interestingly Sprint has spoken out in favor of it, and Comcast continue reading

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23 February 2017

Your City Can Provide Better, Cheaper Internet

Municipal Internet (or, depending on the technology, “municipal fiber”, or “municipal broadband”) is an Internet service provider run partly or entirely by by local governments - usually on a city or county level. Being run with involvement from the local government means municipal Internet can be provided at a much lower cost, or in some cases even for free while being better tailored to the local community’s needs. Areas that provide municipal Internet often are able to provide more equal access to the Internet and better connectivity. To top it off, areas that have built municipal networks have attracted high tech companies and have experienced local economic development, providing more value to the community.

Large telecoms such as Time Warner, Verizon, and the like exist as huge, near-monopolistic companies. When it comes to their policies, there is no way to vote with your wallet and switch providers; m...

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