Net Neutrality: An Explanation and Pros & Cons

I’ve had this blog for over a year now and somehow I’ve managed to keep it going. Looking back over my posts, one thing surprised me – I had yet to write one about Net Neutrality. As an avid internetter, this is an issue that really concerns me. So much so, that it was the subject of my very first blog post ever, over a decade ago. Unfortunately, it is still an issue that needs to be discussed today.

Because of it’s length, I’ve broken this post down into sections. Feel free to skip around.

Explanation

The term ‘net neutrality’ describes the concept that all internet traffic should be treated equally. Meaning whether you’re reading this blog or CNN, both will be accessible to you at equivalent speeds and ease of access. What we have right now is almost a neutral internet, but not quite.

Recent Events – Netflix

netflix-download-speeds-in-the-united-states-verizon-fios-comcast_chartbuilder-1Comcast customers who hold Netflix subscriptions may remember a few months ago when their streaming speeds and quality began to take a dive. Comcast claimed Netflix’s heavy traffic was putting too much of a strain on the middlemen internet companies that work to move these internet packets around. The middleman company in this case, Level 3, claimed that this was not their fault, but instead Comcasts’ for failing to upgrade their networks. Eventually Netflix agreed to pay Comcast, and later Verizon, to cut out the middle man and improve streaming quality.

“Title II”

Recently President Obama came out in support of net neutrality, asking Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler, whom he appointed a year ago, to reclassify internet service under something called “Title II”. “Title II” refers to the Communications Act of 1934. If reclassified under Title II, internet service providers like Comcast would become “common carriers”. This means they would be treated much like utlities, and the FCC would have more control in regulating them. The belief is that reclassification would protect net neutrality.

However, this was more of an empty gesture, as the FCC is a completely independent agency, meaning they don’t have to (and shouldn’t have to) do what the federal government dictates. Halfway through this week it appears as though FCC Chariman Tom Wheeler will stick to his original plan of trying to stand between both sides and give a little to each. Neither side seems to want this though. Many internet users will not be happy, as over 1 million of them submitted formal comments to the FCC regarding the issue, most in support. Verizon has threatened a lawsuit if things go the way of reclassification. Comcast surely won’t be happy as it would like mean no more deals akin to the Netflix situation.

Pros

If we were to see reclassification under Title II, all traffic would be equal. We would avoid possible situations where a company like Netflix might refuse to pay ISPs extra for “equal treatment” and therefore customers would not be able to access certain websites and be forced to use competitors. Title II would maintain a level playing ground across the internet, ensuring consumers would be able to visit any website they’d like.

Cons

Reclassification under Title II would mean more regulation and oversight. It could put strains on internet service providers which would have to try to keep up with demand for websites like YouTube and Netflix that require a lot of bandwidth. It could result in slowing of networks if ISPs failed to upgrade. Title II may stifle competition and increase barriers to entry. A more capitalistic approach would encourage competition and improve the internet.

Summary

  • Net neutrality is a concept the describes the practice of treating all data on the internet equally
  • Title II is a proposal to reclassify ISPs as ‘common carriers’ and regulate them much like utlities to protect net neutrality
  • Barack Obama has come out in support of Title II, but the FCC is an independent agency and will make its own decision
  • For: Title II would maintain a level playing ground across the internet ensure consumers could visit all websites without issue
  • Against: Title II could strain ISPs and stifle competition, a more capitalistic approach could encourage competition and innovation
  • All of our laws and regulations are based on antiquated acts and idealogies. So much of our government needs an overhaul. We really need a complete reworking of things to better understand situations and make decisions.

Other sources not previously linked: Quartz, New York Times, Ars TechnicaGawker

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LAST MINUTE: The ESA & NASA are landing on a comet RIGHT NOW!

The landing is taking place at about 11 am EST Wednesday. You can watch live here.

The European Space Agency is landing on a comet right now. An actual lander on a comet! 141106_NYT_ESA_Rosetta_NAVCAM_141106The Rosetta spacecraft was launched over a decade ago and reached the comet this past August.

The spacecraft was launched on March 2nd, 2004 by the ESA. It consists of Rosetta, the space probe and Philae, the lander piggybacking on Rosetta. Rosetta, named for the famous Rosetta Stone, features 12 instruments to gather data on the comet. Philae is named after Philae Island in the Nile River, where an obelist was found and used in conjunction with the Rosetta Stone to deciper hieroglyphics.

CaptureThe purpose of the mission is to gain a further understanding of comets and the origin and evolution of our solar system. It will be the first ever attempt at landing on a comet. The lander will operate for a continuous 64 hours before its batteries deplete. After that it will use its solar panels to recharge and then continue to operate for about an hour every other day. The engineers behind the project hope the lander to last through March 2015.

The comet, “67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko“, named for the scientists that first observed it in 1969, is 317 million miles away, way beyond Mars. It is 2.5 miles wide and moving over 34,000 miles per hour.

Rosetta captured many pictures of the comet when it first entered an orbit around the duck-shaped rock in August. They can be seen here.

For a timeline of the events happening now, you can check out the rosetta blog.

For more information on the comet and mission, you can head over to the NYTimes and read this article.

Here’s one of a few cute videos the ESA produced to explain the mission:

The landing is taking place at about 11 am EST Wednesday. You can watch live here.

6 Handy Websites

BugMeNot allows people to share login credentials for websites, eliminating the need to register and maintain your own accounts for websites you don’t often use.

RetailMeNot allows people to share coupons and promo codes for websites and stores. Always check a site like this before making an online purchase! Could save you a few bucks.

Mailinator is a disposable email client, no sign up required. logo

SeatGeek gathers ticket data from a bunch of different websites and shows you all the prices so you can find the cheapest tickets and best deals. Great for sporting events and concerts.

Filler Item Finder gives you a list of items on Amazon at whatever price you input so you can meet the $35 free shipping requirements.

No Phone Trees doesn’t even look like a real website, but it is. It helps you to skip automated phone trees you get put through while calling companies.

*Bonus!* Nick Reboot plays all the best classics from years ago on Nickelodeon, streaming 24/7.

Why it takes so long for your Android phone to get the latest update

Android 5.0 is coming later this fall, which, if you’re a Verizon customer with a Samsung phone, probably means Android 5.0 is coming… eventually! Verizon customers always tend to be the last to get the OS updates, but why is that? Why do some people get the OS update within a month or so of its release while others wait more than half a year? The answer is middle men. Lots of them.

So here’s a really basic explanation of what’s going on behind the scenes. Bear in mind it’s a lot more than what I’m about to explain. First, Google releases a basic version of the OS to a phone hardware company like Samsung or HTC so that they can evaluate it and begin preparing for the update. Google provides the code for the OS to manufacturers of computer chips for the phones, so that they can ensure the phone hardware of both current and new phones will support the OS. This usually takes a month.

Next, Google releases the OS to phone manufacturers like LG, Samsung, HTC, and Motorola. They take the OS and ensure it works with their various phones and tablets. But they don’t do just that, they also add on their own features on top of the base OS. For instance, Samsung adds on it’s TouchWiz UI (a launcher, basically the “theme” or look of the phone) plus extra features and apps like S Health and their own camera app. This takes about a month or two.

After that, it goes to the phone carriers like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile. These companies all feel it’s necessary to add even more bloatware onto the phones, like Verizon’s VZ Navigator. The worst part? Sometimes carriers or phone manufacturers have to go back to Google to work out a problem with compatibility, so it can take even longer. Verizon is notorious for taking forever with releasing updates.

Luckily parts of these steps can happen at the same time, but the fact of the matter is there are a lot of factors that come into play. There are a lot of chip manufacturers, a lot of phone manufacturers, a lot of different devices from each that the OS needs to be compatible with, plus there are a bunch of phone carriers.

Now look at Apple: Apple is a hardware and software company. It designs the OS, it designs the phone. It has a small number of different devices, so ensuring compatibility on the chips is not as difficult. Apple is also notorious for demanding near-full control over all aspects, so pushing the update through the carriers simply goes faster. It’s a much shorter process.

Source 1 | Source 2

6 Great Programs You Should Have on Your PC

  1. Antivirus. If you have Windows 7 or Windows 8, you already have Microsoft Security Essentials or Windows Defender, respectively. Look into using them regularly. I’d also recommend MalwareBytes.
  2. Backups. Most people who regularly backup have learned the hard way that they need to be regularly backing up. I use Free File Sync because it’s great at managing my multiple hard drives and backups, but Windows Backup does a good job too.
  3. Adblock PlusI had thought that most people had known about this by now, but apparently not. This thing will block ads across all websites, including YouTube video ads. Works with all major browsers.
  4. F.lux. If you’re using a computer when it gets dark, you’re probably straining your eyes. Flux adds flux-icon-smon a slight yellow-ish tinge to your screens at night to make them easier on the eyes. The only time you’ll really notice it (unless you’re watching a movie) is when it changes automatically during sunset.
  5. Undo sentSo this isn’t a program but I really want to recommend it. This is a feature for GMail only, in GMail labs. It adds a timer to your email, so once you click sent you can click undo if you realize you forgot something at the last minute. It’s come in handy more than a few times.
  6. Plex. This is the easiest home media server I’ve ever set up. It streams all my media content from my computer to my smart TV, smartphone, Macbook, tablet, and Roku. It’s compatible with a lot more including Chromecast.

Apps You Should Try (Because I Said So)

Pocket – It’ll save your articles, websites, basically any web content so you can check it out later. For when you’re at work and can’t watch that video just now. Or you see an interesting article and want to save it for later. I think it’s great and use it daily. google-now-google-search-jelly-bean

Google Now – Seriously if you aren’t using this yet you need to get it now. If you’re concerned about Google learning too much about you, you may not want it.

Yahoo Weather – Yahoo is killing it in the app department if you ask me. This is a beautiful weather app that I would totally use all the time if I used weather apps and cared about the weather more than what Google Now can already tell me.

Yahoo News Digest – About 10 stories two times a day. One set during the morning, one set during the evening. Short and summarized, and they include useful info like maps, infographics, wikis, etc. For when you just want to know what’s going on.

All of these are compatible with Android/iOS.

Privacy Concerns Online

This post was updated on 2/23/14.

I’ve seen a few articles lately about how the username and the password are past their prime and it’s time to find a replacement. I think the same could be said for profile pictures, in the interest of of privacy.

If I get your profile picture I have a good shot of finding your Facebook or Twitter profile. Though not perfect, Google’s Search by Image can sometimes find exact matches.

If I get your first name and the picture, I can guarantee I could find your last name.

Once someone has your first and last name plus a profile picture, they can find a lot out about you. It gets creepy.

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