Phil Kerpen, net neutrality, and socialism: A post-mortem

I learned the hard way a few weeks ago how net neutrality can be equated with socialism, an argument that puzzles people who work on computer networks for a living and see networking as a big flow of electrons. I think it’s very important that we understand how this happens.

Here’s the tactic: Find a socialist who supports net neutrality. Anoint him the leader of the movement. Bingo, anyone who supports net neutrality follows him, and therefore is a communist.

Political lobbyist and Fox News contributor Phil Kerpen told me Robert W. McChesney was the leader of the net neutrality movement, and he sent me a quote in the form of a meme longer than the Third Epistle of St. John. Yet in a Google search for the key words from that quote, “net neutrality bring down media power structure,” I can’t find him. So then I tried Bing, where I found him quoted on a web site called sodahead.com, but I couldn’t find the primary source.

For the leader of a movement the size of net neutrality, he sure keeps a low profile. Google and Netflix are two multi-billion-dollar companies that support net neutrality. I’m sure it’s news to them that they’re taking orders from Robert W. McChesney. Read more

Verizon sabotages Netflix

I’m fed up with ISP duopolies. Why? Because Netflix paid Verizon the ransom it demanded, and yet Verizon hasn’t lived up to its side of the deal. To the contrary, evidence suggests Verizon is actively slowing down Netflix, because when Colin Nederkoorn encrypts his Netflix connection so Verizon can’t see what it is, it speeds up.

News flash: Encrypting data via VPN adds overhead, so it ought to slow the traffic down.

I’m starting to doubt whether net neutrality is enough to solve the problem. A better solution is to break these companies up, let them serve whoever they want, and let municipalities compete with them if they want.

Not that that is ever going to happen.

Linux is unrelated to extremism

The NSA’s spying on Linux Journal readers is precisely what’s wrong with NSA spying. Why? It paints with an overly broad brush.

Eric Raymond’s views on many things are on the fringes of what’s considered mainstream, but he’s not the kind of person who blows up buildings to try to get his point across.

And here’s the other problem. Does Eric Raymond even represent the typical Linux Journal reader? Odds are a sizable percentage of Linux Journal readers are system administrators making $50,000-ish a year, or aspiring system administrators who want to make $50,000-ish a year, who see knowing Linux as a means to that end.

It’s no different from targeting Popular Mechanics readers because someone could use information it publishes in ways you don’t agree with. Read more

Web browser plugins you need to uninstall now–even if you have a Mac

I’ve been seeing a lot of news this week about web browser plugins getting exploited to plant malware on computer systems. A lot of people know to keep Flash up to date, and to keep Java up to date or uninstall it–at least I hope so by now–but there are two targets that people generally forget about: Shockwave and Silverlight.

Because so many people have them installed and don’t know it, and therefore never update them, they are ripe targets for attack. Read more

Stand up for net neutrality

Neocities has decided to do something about Net Neutrality–shunt the FCC into the slow lane, and post the code for doing it so the rest of us who run web sites can do it too. The original was written for Nginx; I need to give serious thought to implementing the Apache version.

Net neutrality has nothing to do with the political bent of the content–the people you may hear talking about it on the radio are wrong, which is why they’re yakking on the radio and aren’t working at ISPs or IT departments–and everything to do about raising prices. What we’re seeing now is telecommunications companies, who are already ultra-profitable, gouging companies like Netflix. And Netflix is doing exactly what a company that suddenly has to pay new taxes would do–raising prices.

The difference is that it’s old-line companies doing the taxing in this case rather than a government. That’s all.

The other objection I hear is that lots of innovation happened on the Internet without regulation, so why regulate now? The difference is that the environment in the late 1990s, when the seeds of all of this were planted and started to sprout, was very different. Back then we had hundreds of ISPs, all of whom participated in building out what we have now. None of them wanted to charge both subscribers and content providers, and none of them could have anyway. If Earthlink had tried to shake down Ebay and Amazon and make them slow, people would have switched to someone else–one of any number of regional providers, or equivalent services run by companies like IBM and the old AT&T (prior to its re-merger with Southwestern Bell). Today, many people live in areas only serviced by one broadband provider. Most people have two, but that’s not like the old days.

If I could have anything, I’d like more competition. I’d love it if the average U.S. citizen had a choice of a dozen or so broadband providers. Then we could have a truly free market. Instead, we have duopolies, a situation much like the situation with electricity and natural gas in most municipalities, and broadband providers face far less regulation than power companies do, even though as they grow in importance.

Let’s talk about net neutrality

The battles are raging over net neutrality again. Conservatives generally are against it; liberals are generally for it. I think the battle is more over misunderstanding than anything else, so I want to try to clear up that misunderstanding.

Net neutrality is in no way, shape, or form related to the political slant of the data in transit. It is not the Internet equivalent of The Fairness Doctrine, the old law that forced television and radio programmers to alternate left- and right-wing content, or equal time, which forces programmers to give equal time allotments to political candidates from both major parties. It’s completely unrelated to both of those things.

What net neutrality is really about is double-billing. Read more

I got a Chromecast. I think you should too.

So, I read about the Chromecast, wondered how it could possibly work, and thought it might be too good to be true.

But, since it costs $35, I thought I’d take a chance on it. I’m glad I did. Think of it like this: You can use a smartphone or a tablet like a remote. Pull up what you want to watch on Youtube or Hulu Plus or Netflix, tap an icon, and boom, it moves over to your TV screen. You can rewind or fast-forward with the mobile device. Or look for more videos and queue them up.

And it’s not at all hard to set up, which was what I wondered about. Read more

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