Over the last few weeks we've seen a number of politicians come out on one side or another concerning the FCC's net neutrality plans, but most of them were pretty much expected. It actually was nice to see some net neutrality supporters be quite explicit in their support for Title II reclassification (like Senator Chuck Schumer), but beyond that there weren't too many surprises. That's why it was actually great to see Rep. Gary Peters, who is currently running for the Senate in Michigan, come out in favor of net neutrality, warning of the harm that could be caused by the fast lanes and slow lanes as allowed by the current FCC proposal.
"If large corporations can pay more for faster service for their content, this effectively creates a 'slow lane' for everyone else."
This is notable, because four years ago, Peters was actually one of the group of Representatives who actively opposed strong net neutrality rules by the FCC. It appears that four years later he's changed his mind. In his new statement, he makes it clear that he now realizes how many entrepreneurs and innovators rely on an open internet:
Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast, the nation’s largest home Internet carrier, to ensure its online videos are streamed smoothly.
The arrangement highlights the vast power of Comcast, which is in the middle of an ambitious expansion effort, and how the company’s dominance in the broadband Internet market can hold sway over consumers’ Web experience.
In a multiyear deal, Comcast will be paid to directly connect Netflix servers to the carrier’s network, removing third parties that bog down the delivery of streaming video.
The companies confirmed the agreement Sunday, but the terms were not disclosed. The deal could set the stage for similar payments by Netflix and other deep-
pocketed Web companies to the Internet service providers that deliver content into homes and on mobile devices, analysts say.
“This deal opens a lot of different doors so that any firm has to pay more for back-end connections in order to take advantage of higher last-mile speeds” into homes, said Harold Feld, a senior vice president at the consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge.
Comcast said the deal does not give preferential treatment to Netflix’s videos. It said it regularly charges Web companies and other third parties that route traffic to its 22 million home subscribers. Netflix’s deal is no different from the many interconnection deals that it and other Internet service providers such as Verizon Communications create for the routing of Web traffic, Comcast said.
As part of a condition for its 2011 merger with NBC Universal, Comcast is prohibited from blocking or slowing down traffic for a profit.
But the deal is controversial because it shows Comcast’s sway over the media and technology industries. With its bid for Time Warner Cable, Comcast would have 30 million U.S. Internet subscribers, in every major U.S. market, making it powerful in any negotiations for the carriage of programs and apps to cable television and Internet users, analysts say.
Verizon reportedly has slowed the delivery of Netflix streaming video in a similar behind-the-scenes dispute over fees on the routing of Internet traffic. Verizon has denied the allegations.
Terrible precedent - exactly what we've been worried about with monopoly Internet providers and the lack of regulatory framework that simultaneously prevents real competition and cannot enforce real net neutrality.
Ever get the feeling all those smart devices you own are talking about you behind your back? There was a time when you'd be considered paranoid if not wholly delusional. Now you're just part of the so-called Internet of things.
Like it or not, the IoT is already here. You can either get on the IoT bus, or you can have the bus update its Facebook status talking about what a Luddite you are after it runs you over.
Tomorrow, the FTC is holding a workshop to discuss the Internet of things featuring Google's Vint Cerf as the keynote speaker. There's a lot to discuss.
For example: What kinds of data are these things collecting and what happens to it? How can you control what it "knows" about you and who else gets to know it too? What can you do to prevent someone else's smart thing from recording information about you? What happens if these things get hacked? What are our legal rights regarding this data, and how is the NSA planning to violate them? And so on.
Frankly, this discussion is already at least two years too late.
In my humble abode more than 30 devices connect to the Internet, many of them doing it without any intervention from me. Aside from computers, laptops, and smartphones, there're my home entertainment gizmos: Roku, TiVo, and Sonos. I don't own a smart TV, though I had one for a while. All of them ping the Net routinely.
One of the key talking points from defenders of the NSA surveillance program is that they had to implement it after the 9/11 Commission revealed "holes" in information gathering that resulted in 9/11. This is a misstatement of what that report actually indicated -- in that it showed that more than enough data had actually been collected, it's just that the intelligence community didn't do anything with it. Either way, it seems that the leadership of the 9/11 Commission -- Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, who were the chair and vice chair of the committee respectively -- have now spoken out against the NSA surveillance efforts. And they don't hold back:
The NSA's metadata program was put into place with virtually no public debate, a worrisome precedent made worse by erecting unnecessary barriers to public understanding via denials and misleading statements from senior administration officials. Continue Reading
When the Congress and the courts work in secret; when massive amounts of data are collected from Americans and enterprises; when government's power of intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens, augmented by the awesome power of advanced technologies, is hugely expanded without public debate or discussion over seven years, then our sense of constitutional process and accountability is deeply offended."
Officials insist that the right balance has been struck between security and privacy. But how would we know, when all the decisions have been made in secret, with almost no oversight?
The article goes on in great detail about the problems and calls for a truly public debate. As they note:
From the digital divide to media consolidation to net neutrality, Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, is on the front lines of media reform. In a discussion with Moyers & Company’s Michael Winship, Aaron says he’s hopeful for the future of the movement.
“I think our opponents have very deep pockets. I think they haven’t begun to try all of their dirty tricks. But ultimately, I believe that organized people can still beat organized money, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he says.
The conversation* was recorded at the National Conference on Media Reform in Denver, organized by Free Press.
Click headline to read highlight of interview or listen to the audio--
Susan Crawford appears this weekend on Moyers & Company (check to see if it airs on a local public television station) to explain the real reason America has a digital divide with broadband have’s and have-not’s. The heart of the problem is America’s largest telecom companies, who are only interested in picking off the low hanging fruit — urban customers they can wire cheaply for service and demand monopoly or duopoly-style high prices. Rural America is being left behind, putting profit ahead of the public interest.
America has seen this before during the era of electrification, when power was denied to small towns and family farms. Then the country decided electric service was a utility and must be provided to all Americans. So it should be with broadband. Only the same ideology that argued rural Americans should pick up and move if they want electric service is back in force with broadband, where some argue companies should not have to spend money to provide universal service when they can sit back and reap enormous profits from the areas they choose to serve.
During this open comment period for the FCC's proposed rulemaking on net neutrality, it's been great to see hundreds of thousands of comments go in to the FCC on the matter.
It's also been fantastic to see that a number of innovative startups have decided to speak out on how important an open and free internet is for being able to build their businesses, to innovate and to compete on the modern internet. They also point out that the current plan from Commissioner Tom Wheeler would put that all at risk.
Here are three interesting ones worth mentioning.
First up, is Kickstarter. CEO/co-founder Yancey Strickler wrote a great opinion piece for the Washington Post along with a blog post highlighting the company's actual FCC filing, which is similar to the WaPo piece. Here's just a bit of it, but gives you a sense of why this is so important:
Click headline to read more including the full comments by these innovation corporations--
An international think tank launched at the World Economic Forum on Wednesday with the goal of influencing the future governance of the Internet.
The newly founded Global Commission on Internet Governance has signed up a roster of worthies, headed by chairman Carl Bildt, Sweden's current foreign minister and past prime minister.
The commission plans a two-year process culminating in "a comprehensive stand on the future of multi-stakeholder Internet governance." It said on its website that it will "create and advance a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance that can act as a rallying point for states that are striving for a continued free and open Internet."
The commission pointed to two current threats to the Internet: efforts by authoritarian states to exert more control over the Internet, and the loss of trust engendered by widespread surveillance that was recently disclosed.
It plans to address issues like online rights, including establishing the principle of technological neutrality for human rights, privacy, cybercrime and free expression. It will also provide advice on how best to avoid risks, including establishing norms regarding state conduct, cybercrime cooperation, and proliferation and disarmament issues, they added.
The commission plans to influence the debate on Internet governance mainly through politics and lobbying efforts.
However, while the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ranks near the top of the organizations that the new commission must effectively lobby, its public relations representative in London was unaware of the new effort.
The Obama administration has poured billions of dollars into expanding the reach of the Internet, and nearly 98 percent of American homes now have access to some form of high-speed broadband. But tens of millions of people are still on the sidelines of the digital revolution.
“The job I’m trying to get now requires me to know how to operate a computer,” said Elmer Griffin, 70, a retired truck driver from Bessemer, Ala., who was recently rejected for a job at an auto-parts store because he was unable to use the computer to check the inventory. “I wish I knew how, I really do. People don’t even want to talk to you if you don’t know how to use the Internet.”
Mr. Griffin is among the roughly 20 percent of American adults who do not use the Internet at home, work and school, or by mobile device, a figure essentially unchanged since Barack Obama took office as president in 2009 and initiated a $7 billion effort to expand access, chiefly through grants to build wired and wireless systems in neglected areas of the country.
Administration officials and policy experts say they are increasingly concerned that a significant portion of the population, around 60 million people, is shut off from jobs, government services, health care and education, and that the social and economic effects of that gap are looming larger. Persistent digital inequality — caused by the inability to afford Internet service, lack of interest or a lack of computer literacy — is also deepening racial and economic disparities in the United States, experts say.
“As more tasks move online, it hollows out the offline options,” said John B. Horrigan, a senior research fellow at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. “A lot of employers don’t accept offline job applications. It means if you don’t have the Internet, you could be really isolated.”
Seventy-six percent of white American households use the Internet, compared with 57 percent of African-American households, according to the “Exploring the Digital Nation,” a Commerce Department report released this summer and based on 2011 data.
The figures also show that Internet use over all is much higher among those with at least some college experience and household income of more than $50,000.
Low adoption rates among older people remain a major hurdle. Slightly more than half of Americans 65 and older use the Internet, compared with well over three-quarters of those under 65.
What's always been suspected has now been proven true: the NSA is indiscriminately harvesting the phone records of millions of Americans. Various whistleblowers have pointed out that the NSA's hunger for data has driven it to collect anything and everything it can, without having to submit to limitations placed on other agencies. Domestic surveillance is a full-time job for the NSA, and this order obtained by the Guardian spells it all out in unredacted black and white.
The order... requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.
The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing...
Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.
This order was granted by the secret FISA court, allowing the FBI to collect this data until July 19th, with another copy going to the NSA. This sort of thing isn't necessarily new or unusual (large scale data collection like this began during the Bush presidency, as Greenwald points out), but this particular request's scope is rather breathtaking.
For Americans, getting on the Internet or using a cellphone keeps getting more expensive. But for service providers like AT&T and Verizon Wireless, new technologies have made wireless data cheaper to deliver.
Media Impact Funders's insight:
Crawford beautifully makes the case for real competition in Internet availabillity, and the role policy plays (really really big) in addressing our failing telecom and communications systems. Funders take note - at the state or national level, this is a critical underlying issue for education, economic development, urban renwal, rural survivial, medicine, etc. This is not an "internet" issue - this is one of the most profound umbrella issues impacting every other concern.
It’s been almost a month since hacker-activist Aaron Swartz took his own life at the age of 26, driven — according to those who knew him — by a combination of depression and the threat of jail time. The latter was a result of federal charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for an incident involving documents he downloaded from the JSTOR research archives. While proposals have been made for changes to the law as a result of his death, it’s important to think about all the other hackers who might be caught by the same net, even if they aren’t as appealing as Swartz.
In the wake of his suicide, Swartz’s case quickly became a cause celebre, and a group of legislators including Darrell Issa (R-Calif) — who was also instrumental in the fight against SOPA and PIPA — recently asked the Justice Department to look into the behavior of the U.S. attorney’s office in pressing for a severe penalty against the young hacker. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) has also proposed a number of changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act that would prevent the state from going after others for what Swartz did.