We All Should Have Died After Net Neutrality Repeal. Now Internet is 40% Faster

Imagine that? We survived Net Neutrality’s repeal and got fast internet in the process.

Despite the doomsday forecasters’ grim predictions for the Internet’s future following Net Neutrality’s repeal, here we are still alive and still breathing. Even more positive news: U.S. Internet speeds rose 40%.

Ookla’s latest Speedtest found that ” US internet speeds rose nearly 40 percent this year.” Here were the winners and losers of fastest broadband and upload speeds per Recode:

New Jersey had the highest mean download speed — 121 megabits per second — while Rhode Island had the fastest upload speed — 63 Mbps — in Q2 and Q3 of 2018. Maine had the slowest mean upload and download speeds (50 Mbps download, 10 Mbps upload) of any state. California, the home of Silicon Valley, ranked 17th in downloads and 24th in uploads

With respect to download speed, the report placed the U.S. in the seventh coveted spot—between Hungary and Switzerland. With respect to upload rate, the U.S. ranks 27th between Bulgaria and Canada. These findings were studied during Q2-Q3 2018. Despite 5G being on the horizon, the U.S. is best positioning itself to have “faster speeds and greater increases in speed.”

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai was heralded as a nemesis of net neutrality and Internet freedom. He was supposed to “break the Internet” and bring about its imminent demise and death. Ironically, his agenda has proven to be otherwise and a net benefit to Internet freedom.

Last month, the FCC proposed doubling the speed of rural broadband through “government-subsidized programs.” Here’s Pai’s explainer on how they should be allocated and used:

There are a few basic principles that animate — or should — the high-cost program. First, subsidies should provide maximum incentive to be efficient; we want to stretch taxpayer dollars as far as possible. Second, subsidies should be sufficient to build out networks; after all, these are areas where the business case for private investment is lacking. Third, the program should support high-quality services; rural Americans deserve services that are comparable to those in urban areas. And fourth, subsidies should be predictable; after all, building networks is a serious long-term proposition, not a one-time whim. Unfortunately, for many, many years, the program hasn’t satisfied each of these important principles.

Tax cuts were supposed to bring about our extinction, as well, but here we are. Don’t believe the scaremongers.

Tech’s Obligation to Free Speech Versus Combatting Hate




Every major Internet registrar, including the Russians, has so far rejected neo-Nazi hate spewing Daily Stormer’s search for a home on the World Wide Web. Soon, it will probably be relegated to the fetid hollows of the Dark Web, a place where 4chan hackers and criminals lurk.

Daily Stormer’s defenestration began when hosting provider GoDaddy gave them 24 hours to seek another platform. After that, Google booted them, followed by content distribution network CloudFlare, whose approach was, I found, particularly thoughtful and balanced.

See, it’s easy to grab the torches and pitchforks to go after bona fide Nazis. It’s a little harder, but not much, to shut down an internal, anonymous group because someone is offended that people there support Donald Trump. Inside a company’s own infrastructure, with its own employees and contractors, censorship and groupthink are perfectly legal and widely practiced. Just ask Google.



But as a public provider of data service, things get a little more complex.

That’s why CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince penned a very well-documented blog post detailing “why we terminated Daily Stormer.” It’s really a must read for anyone who needs a primer on why the Internet is such a complex place.

In the end, legally, as a company (not the government), CloudFlare can do as it wishes. In an email to employees, Prince said as much:

This was my decision. Our terms of service reserve the right for us to terminate users of our network at our sole discretion. My rationale for making this decision was simple: the people behind the Daily Stormer are assholes and I’d had enough.

“This was an arbitrary decision,” he added.

I woke up this morning in a bad mood and decided to kick them off the Internet. I called our legal team and told them what we were going to do. I called our Trust & Safety team and had them stop the service. It was a decision I could make because I’m the CEO of a major Internet infrastructure company.

Then, in his blog post, Prince explained “why it’s so dangerous.” Read his whole post to get the background, but it’s summed up with these words:

Without a clear framework as a guide for content regulation, a small number of companies will largely determine what can and cannot be online.

Back in the 1990s, I used to run an ISP. Those were the days of dialup and AOL CDs in the mail. We were pioneers in the wireless Internet space, in providing DSL, and even managed a city-owned cable Internet operation. One of the more popular services we offered was known as Usenet. It still (I believe) exists today, but back then, it was kind of like Reddit mixed with every porn site, 4chan, and chat room.

We had a really good Usenet service, utilizing high bandwidth fiber optic and hi-band satellite connections. Yes, it still took 5 minutes to download one short video on a modem, but people were more patient then.

When I became a Christian in 2000, one of my first acts was to terminate some of our “alt.binary” Usenet forums. I did this because they were primarily filled with pornography and I didn’t want to serve or store that content on our equipment. It was my company, I was the CEO, and I made the decision.

You should have heard the blowback and the venom, cries of “censorship!” echoing through the offices. I told my staff that anyone who complained could be forwarded to me and I would personally speak to them. I was shocked at who some of the loudest complainers were (especially the ones who avoided telling me what specific content I’d blocked them from seeing).





I always explained: is it censorship when Kroger refuses to sell “Hustler” magazine in its stores? No…but that’s different, they’d answer. How is it different? Then they’d change the subject, and the petulant ones would ask to have their accounts canceled. Fine by me: I didn’t want to be a pornography distributor.

In the same vein, CloudFlare didn’t want to be a Nazi propaganda distributor. And neither (so far) did anyone else.

But where does the line get drawn? Where’ the line between “I”m the CEO and this is repugnant to me” and “I’m under political pressure to wash my hands of this”?

Here’s what Prince wrote:

We’re going to have a long debate internally about whether we need to remove the bullet about not terminating a customer due to political pressure. It’s powerful to be able to say you’ve never done something. And, after today, make no mistake, it will be a little bit harder for us to argue against a government somewhere pressuring us into taking down a site they don’t like.

The United States government has no right to pressure anyone to remove a site it doesn’t like. That’s what the First Amendment protects us from. But other governments, like China, don’t have those rights. Google and now Apple have both yielded to the Chinese in removing parts of their offerings that are offensive to the Communist government. (Don’t get me started on Hollywood‘s obsequious bowing to the Chinese.)

CloudFlare has the right approach to this thorny topic. They have a corporate culture where free speech is inculcated into the team, versus one where groupthink and crowd-pleasing is the norm.

Someone on our team asked after I announced we were going to terminate the Daily Stormer: “Is this the day the Internet dies?” He was half joking, but only half. He’s no fan of the Daily Stormer or sites like it. But he does realize the risks of a company like Cloudflare getting into content policing.

I think we already know where Google, Twitter and other companies stand on this issue. Purging content because the private company owners don’t like it is bad enough (the main stream media does it for a living), but denying a voice on the basis of political pressure, “going along to get along,” will be the day the Internet really does die.

Twitter Enters The Net Neutrality Debate

Current net neutrality rules were enacted by the Federal Communications Commission during the Obama era. Those regulations came by way of the Open Internet Order in 2015. Generally speaking, net neutrality mandates all internet content and traffic be treated equally. Providers cannot give paid prioritization or block content. The internet is treated more or less like a utility

Smaller internet companies love this. Big internet service providers hate this.

Defenders of net neutrality received a huge boost on Thursday after Twitter announced it would be joining other prominent internet companies in their “Day of Action” protest.

Twitter’s participation in the “Day of Action” protest – set for July 12 – is an attempt to stop the Federal Communications Commission from rolling back net neutrality rules enacted under the Obama administration. The protest date comes five days before the first deadline for comments on the FCC’s proposal to undo net neutrality protections. The social media giant is joined by around 60 other big-name companies such as Amazon, Netflix, Reddit and Pornhub (don’t laugh, they report 75 million visitors per day).

A lot of unsuspecting internet users will be made aware of the debate.

In the name of free market capitalism, current FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has long said he wants to do away with the regulations brought by the Open Internet Order. He is pushing the Restoring Internet Freedom proposal to undo these rules and bring back freedom to providers. However, this would mean smaller companies may not be able to keep up with others and afford luxuries such as paid prioritization. Companies and organizations are putting pressure on the FCC not to undo the rules. The “Day of Action” campaign is being organized to bring awareness to the issue. Companies will mostly change their homepage to engage viewers.

“This protest is gaining so much momentum because no one wants their cable company to charge them extra fees or have the power to control what they can see and do on the Internet,” stated Evan Greer, the campaign director of Fight for the Future, one of the main advocacy groups organizing the day of action. Fight for the Future touts a Morning Consult/Politico poll finding a majority of respondents support the prevention of blocking and paid prioritization.

Not to be outdone, service provider companies such as AT&T, Time Warner and Verizon are organizing counter protests in support of the Restoring Internet Freedom proposal. They argue that current net neutrality rules create burdensome regulations and leave consumers worse off.

Given that millions of Americans visit the participating sites on a daily basis, it’s safe to say everyone will have an opinion on July 12.

 

‘Blue Whale’ Internet Suicide Game Causing International Concern

The internet is known as the “great equalizer” and has been responsible for much advancement in knowledge and wealth. It also has a dark side which has been thrust into the spotlight again after a rash of injuries and suicides prompted by a popular internet suicide game called ‘Blue Whale’. The name may be meant to reflect the act of whale “suicide” via beaching.

The internet game is believed to have originated in Russia and involves teens signing up for a “challenge” that involves progressive levels of risky activity that are meant to culminate in suicide.

The Blue Whale challenge allegedly involves vulnerable teenagers being contacted by the game’s ‘curator’ on social media and provoked into completing a number of tasks over the course of 50 days.

These involve watching horror videos all day, cutting all relationships with family and friends, and various forms of self-harm that must be filmed and sent to the curator for confirmation that the challenge is completed.

The game supposedly culminates in supervisors asking participants to commit suicide.

Teens were also threatened if they refused to comply with the requests, as their curators use IP trackers to identify where the victims actually live.

Three suicides in Russia have been linked to the game, along with another in Portugal and a serious injury in Spain. Russian police are believed to be investigating up to 130 other suicides possibly connected to ‘Blue Whale’. British police are taking the stories seriously enough to issue a warning to parents.

Devon and Cornwall Police PSCO Kirsty Down posted on Twitter: ‘Whoever created this horrible game is sick. Parents: Please be aware of this ‘game’. Talk to your children about it if concerned.’

The game may or may  not an urban legend but Reuters has compiled a list of stories related to the twisted game, which you can see below.

On an editorial not, while this could be nothing more than a series of typical teen tragedies being related by a viral urban legend, I first heard the story from my teenage son and his friends. Even if it doesn’t exist, the concept has now gone viral and vulnerable teens could still be targeted by copycats or decide to take up the idea themselves. In any case, it is always important to communicate with your children about things like this, even if it feels silly. The darkest presences on the internet frequently target those who feel disconnected and disenfranchised. It is important for us to make sure our children know we are deeply about what they see and hear.

From Reuters:

The Daily Mail reports that a Spanish teenager was recently hospitalised allegedly after participating in the Blue Whale challenge.

If you are contemplating suicide, RT UK urges you to seek help from one of the following services:

Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you’d prefer to write how you are feeling, or are worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected]

Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number won’t show up on your phone bill.

PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organization supporting teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.

Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It doesn’t have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information.

Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.

Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.

 

 

 

New Poll: Americans Are Skeptical of Gov’t-Subsidized Internet

A new Pew Research Center poll found that Americans are becoming increasingly skeptical of government-subsidized high-speed Internet services. This comes at the heels of new Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai’s recommendations to do away with invasive net neutrality laws, which have proven to be a hindrance to internet freedom.

The poll found that 44 percent of respondents polled think government should offer subsidies to assist lower-income Americans pay for high-speed internet in the privacy of their homes. In comparison, 54 percent of those polled believe current rates for high-speed internet are affordable enough that people should opt-in for services on their own. Wow!

Here’s a breakdown of their findings on political grounds:

Americans have different levels of support for broadband subsidies based on political affiliation. Six-in-ten Democrats and independents who lean Democratic say the government should help lower-income Americans purchase high-speed internet service, but that figure falls to just 24% among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. These partisan differences stand in stark contrast to attitudes toward municipal broadband networks, which are favored by a solid majority of both Democrats (74%) and Republicans (67%).

A majority of Democrats at various income levels support government subsidies for broadband, but there are significant differences among Republicans based on income. For example, 42% of Republicans and Republican leaners with an annual household income of less than $30,000 support broadband subsidies for lower-income Americans. But that figure falls to just 10% among Republicans from households earning $75,000 or more a year. Overall, however, Republicans at all income levels are less likely to support broadband subsidies than Democrats of comparable incomes.

FCC Chair Ajit Pai has made it his mission to promote a “pro-business, anti-regulation” agenda at his agency. The Lifeline program in question currently burdens American taxpayers — with a cost of $2.25 billion last year.

https://twitter.com/hshaban/status/850013210132533248

The poll even went to suggest that between Republicans and Democrats, both felt that at-home broadband services are important–although Democrats believe they are essential.

Understandably, net neutrality is a loaded subject. Thankfully, FCC Chair Ajit Pai is bringing some much-needed reform and transparency to the organization. Make Internet Great Again!

Internet Doomsday Is Almost Here

The Internet as we know it is facing its doomsday on September 30. That’s the day when President Obama hands control and oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority from the United States to a “multistakeholder community.”

Currently the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), along with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (ICANN) control everything on the Internet. And it works just fine because America is an honest broker. That can’t be said rest of the world in the “multistakeholder community.”

Internet 101

I used to run an Internet Service Provider. I used to teach this stuff at the local tech college. I also gave a class every Saturday morning in the mid-90’s to help people understand what the Internet actually was. It really hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years. (Yes, there’s IPV6 etcetera, but that’s still rather exotic.)

Here’s a primer of how this all works.

dns_primer

This is a fairly simplistic view, but accurately represents the steps. Note that all the domain registrars in the world are stored in the “root servers.” There are now probably thousands of domain registrars, and currently there are 1,205 top-level domains (“TLDs” like .com). All of these are centrally managed and stored in the root servers.

There are thirteen root servers (physically, there are hundreds of computers, but only 13 originals; the others are copies).

root_servers

These thirteen databases “seed” the entire Internet so that when you type “google.com” your computer actually get a valid Internet Protocol (IP) address for Google’s website. If the root server databases were ever corrupted (it has happened once), then every address on the planet would suddenly be suspect.

ICANN and NTIA take server security seriously, and go to great lengths to ensure the root servers don’t get corrupted. That’s because they’re run by the United States.

What happens if NTIA and ICANN transition from U.S. control

Once control of these servers and the databases, protocols and procedures that assign addresses and names to every computer on the Internet have been globalized to “multistakeholders,” then other countries may have the authority to change the way they respond to requests. Or possibly other international organizations, responding to foreign court orders, U.N. directives, or The Hague, could demand changes and the U.S. would have no veto over this.

So if Russia decided Google was a threat, it’s possible that the database entries for Google could be altered to point–somewhere else. Or maybe conservative websites that promote what other countries call hate speech could be banned from the Internet–their names and addresses permanently disconnected.

U.S. law and American interests would no longer apply in the “multistakeholder” environment.

Why this is bad

At the risk of repeating the obvious: This is bad because other countries don’t have the same legal requirements, commitment to free speech, and–well–honesty, that America possesses. They don’t have the same interest in human rights or information transparency. If America had its own Internet and the rest of world had its own, then we could at least trust America. But that’s not how it works.

The root servers are coordinated. If America no longer controls the root servers (and we always have, exclusively), then America no longer controls the Internet. Period.

This isn’t a matter of evolution, or “it’s time to give the Internet to the world.” That’s absurd. America has already given the Internet to the world. We invented it and we do a very good job keeping it honest.

There’s only one reason that IANA should shift from NTIA/ICANN control to the new world order, and that’s to wrest it from American control. Nothing good can come of this, and it’s really akin to ceding American control of our weapons systems, or our aircraft carriers, to some world body. The Internet is a national asset, and should not be given away.

The problem is, once we give it away, we will never, ever, get it back. The deadline is September 30. Congress must act. It was a bad idea from the get-go.

Jason Chaffetz Supports an Internet Sales Tax

There is one striking difference between John Boehner and Jason Chaffetz.

Chaffetz supports the internet sales tax that Boehner actually worked to kill.

In fact, Chaffetz’s bill has the support of the crony capitalist community because his bill would punish mom and pop shops that start growing and might become potential threats.

Again, this is a big difference with John Boehner. Boehner actually opposed the internet sales tax and was on the right side of it.

Frankly, Kevin McCarthy has been opposed to both the Export-Import Bank and the internet sales tax. Add with this that Chaffetz was a leadership lap dog in punishing Mark Meadows for standing up to John Boehner and I’m really starting to wonder one thing — if Chaffetz is the great conservative hope, what the hell is a conservative these days?