Most of last week's hardware news revolved around AMD and its Navi and Ryzen product disclosures from the tech day, but plenty still happened during E3 week: Microsoft, for instance, announced its Scarlett console and rediscovered virtual memory, Comcast was caught violating the Consumer Protection Act over 445,000 times, USB 4.0 got lightly detailed for a 2020 launch, and more.
Show notes after the video embed.
“What the hell do you have to lose?”
That was the question that now President Trump asked the American people while campaigning. The answer? Internet privacy rights. That’s on top of the other regulations that, according to the current administration, stifle innovation and are harmful to business.
In a vote along party lines, House Republicans successfully voted to repeal privacy protections that were set to go in effect December 2017. All that is left is for President Trump to sign and approve the measure, and there is no reason to believe he will do otherwise. The conservative lawmakers controlling both the House and Senate were not alone in the crusade against digital rights—far from it. Several advertising trade associations both urged and applauded the action, as can be read in this statement. The Internet and Television Association, which represents many broadband providers, has praised the votes against the new rules. The Competitive Enterprise Institute has also staunchly opposed both narrow privacy regulations and net neutrality. For readers unfamiliar with the latter group, their espousal to limited government politics and “virtuous capitalism” is particularly laughable. As expected, they too applauded the deregulatory move.
Also worth mentioning is the chump change needed to sway lawmakers. Put another away: how much does privacy cost? Granted, buying Senators and Congress members isn’t exclusive to one party line or another, but one party responded remarkably well to it for this vote. This list details the contributions made to Senators supporting anti-privacy since 2012. Additionally, this list details how much money Congress members have received. While it seems easy to make an overly simplistic connection between money and votes—and neither party is above taking charitable donations from varying industries—it is worth noting that this vote was extremely partisan, and no champion of the bill offered to substantiate the reason this legislation is good for consumers, other than uttering elusive “anti-consumer” and “free market” platitudes. Similar regurgitant is being recited while plans to unwind the EPA, renewable energy, and climate change policies are being put in motion.
While this kind of regression in the digital age is alarming, there are other policies in place that protect consumers, albeit not to the same extent. The Telecommunications Act of 1996, the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984, the Wiretap Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act all have privacy provisions relating to customer information. Specifically, Title II, Section 222 of the Telecommunications Act imposes privacy requirements; however, they are from 1996 and mostly apply to telecom services. The FCC vowed to write new internet-specific rules regarding how ISPs are to handle privacy. In a rare win for privacy advocates, the rules (which passed last year) explicitly detailed how ISPs were to store and handle data, and offer customers clear notices and opt-in requirements. Those rules are all but nullified now. If AT&T’s arguably unconstitutional surveillance business model is any indicator, archaic laws are not sufficient for modern internet access.
Senate Republicans have voted to rescind momentous laws protecting Internet privacy that the FCC wrote and adopted last year. U.S. senators voted 50 to 48 to approve a joint resolution sponsored by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz) that would prevent that privacy framework from going into effect. What’s more, the resolution seeks to bar the FCC from enacting similar laws. As of March 23rd, 2017, the resolution has passed the senate and moves toward the House where, barring a complete backlash, it will likely pass.
The Federal Communications Commission’s new rules were adopted last year to prevent ISPs from exploiting users’ behavioral data in contentious ways, such as selling it to paying third parties or creating targeted advertising. ISPs are no longer interested in just being network providers; they seek to monetize the consumer’s routine use of the internet to create their own digital economy—and they seek to do it without explicit consent. The previous FCC leadership viewed this as an overreach, thus the new privacy rules were set to go in effect. The rules primarily ensured the following:
On May 15th, the current net neutrality rules are going up for preliminary vote at the FCC. This initial vote is only a step in the overall process for the unfair segregation of web traffic to come to life. Our first article broke down the basics of what is in flux, so if you're unsure of what's going on, that's the place to check first. Our second article was a short opinion piece (read: doused in sarcasm and lit aflame with satire) on Chairman Tom Wheeler's response to "reassure" us.
We felt that we should give readers a decisive guide to voicing views and making a difference. Reddit has good recommendations from people who are, and were, involved in the government. Their insight is invaluable to those wanting to do something helpful. Some of the basics are calling the FCC, contacting your Congress and Senate Representatives (they work for you, so use them), and a few other ways to get your voice heard. When reaching out to representatives, one of the most important things to remember is to be polite, professional, and friendly so that you are taken seriously; the people answering the phones are likely interns of some variety -- they'll mark your comment down, ask your name and zip, and then hang up. No need for aggression. Short of money, the means through which most lobbyists get their way is because there is not a big enough outcry from the public to counter them, or those who do complain aren't taken seriously because of how they object.
Two things are going to be happening this year for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that will directly affect the internet and its present management. The first is the upcoming preliminary vote on the revamped rules of “net neutrality” on May 15th; the second has to do with the merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which would give a 40% userbase share to an ISP that already has a history of throttling users and businesses.
Verizon CEO and Thesaurus-Waving Champion of Double-Speak Lowell McAdam says his company totally won't not-use the struck-down FCC regulations as a means to charge you negative less money in the future. You see, McAdam says that the thought of a mega-corporation misbehaving when left unregulated is -- what was his word? -- "histrionics," and that you should just "contribute to the investment to keep the web healthy."
Translation: "Can I have some money now?" (Thanks, Homer).
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