Imagine an internet where AT&T will happily cover the costs of your data for using certain apps—provided you’re already an AT&T mobile customer, of course. Imagine an internet where Verizon can deliberately slow down Netflix traffic. Imagine an internet where exceedingly wealthy companies can pay for better connections, at the expense of throttling the connections of those who don’t or can’t pay. Imagine AT&T, Timer Warner, and Comcast being able to advantage and prioritize their own content—such as HBO, NBC, and DirectTV Now—by making it stream faster, or by allowing it to not count towards data plans, or by slowing down competing YouTube options. An internet where today’s few and powerful ISPs are the gatekeepers, raising the barrier and cost of entry for new startups or potential ISPs. An internet where ISPs can control exactly how consumers view content—not based on choice or quality, like it should be—but rather because they have the keys to the internet.
We previously wrote about the need for net neutrality, adding our voice to the chorus of others on and off the internet that demanded the internet and net neutrality be protected. As a result of this outcry – and, honestly, basic logic – the FCC moved to protect net neutrality by reclassifying ISPs as Title II. Unfortunately, the new chairman of the FCC, Ajit Pai, has revealed his plan to roll back net neutrality. 9 senators recently introduced a bill identical to a previous bill by the name of Restoring Internet Freedom Act. This bill seeks to remove the FCC’s jurisdiction over ISPs entirely and thus nullify the net neutrality rules the FCC previously set in place. These moves to kill net neutrality are just as disastrous of a choice as they were just a few years ago, so we naturally still oppose it. Before covering how you can let your opinion be known, let’s briefly review what net neutrality is and why it is needed.
In light of both the House and Senate voting to reverse forthcoming privacy regulations, interest in privacy measures that can be taken by the end-user are no doubt piqued. While there is no comprehensive solution to end all privacy woes—outside of, you know, stringent privacy laws—there are a few different steps that can be taken. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is the big one, although they come with a few of their own caveats. The Tor software offers the most ways to anonymize a user’s online presence and more, although it can be involved. Smaller actions include adjusting DNS settings and using the HTTPS Everywhere extension.
Read on, as we will delve into these in a bit more detail. This guide serves as a tutorial to setting up a VPN and protecting your privacy online.
This was largely no surprise, given the stance that both the current administration and the newly appointed head of the FCC have adopted. The reversal of the rules traveled quick enough through the House and Senate that constituents had little chance to mitigate the overturn. We’ve covered this issue since it became public news, but in the event you’re not up to date, the now non-existent rules would have required ISPs to obtain clear consent before using data for advertising and other monetary purposes.
Last year the FCC laid out landmark rules protecting internet privacy. Now, the current FCC leadership and members of the U.S. Senate are actively seeking to erase them. In fact, S.J. Res. 34 has already passed the Senate, and H.J. Res. 86—The House version of the bill—goes to Congress immediately. The House plans to take up the legislation this week, and we can be assured that is so constituents are not afforded the opportunity to learn the damage that is being done.
For those in need of a primer, eliminating the privacy protections will allow ISPs to aggressively monetize personal data without consent—to the tune of selling internet activity to marketers, targeted advertising, and redirecting traffic to paying third parties. For those interested in acting—and that should be everyone who uses the internet—towards preserving the rights to online privacy, here are some ways to get involved.
PAX East's show floor was flooded with as many attendees – if not more – as we've seen in the past five years, but this year marked a major milestone: The wireless internet was usable. Traditionally, the sheer size of PAX begins an onslaught upon the internet which is unsustainable by convention center networks. This year, the BCEC stepped-up its game with the Aruba WiFi project and went forth to release statistics on bandwidth consumption, active concurrent users, and total user count for the weekend. The project was a culmination of work from Aruba Networks, MCCA, and M S Ben Bow, and has been underway since 2014.
This also gives an updated idea as to the size of PAX. We haven't received numbers in years, but the show should be in excess of 70,000 attendees at this point. The wireless network is not, of course, used by every attendee (none of our staff connected to it with mobile devices), but it's still heavily saturated.
Here are a few charts:
The last year has seen a massive surge in interest in the FCC and Net Neutrality. We've reported on it a few times -- partly to educate and partly to help motivate readers to voice an opinion -- and boy, did people speak up. Over four million individual comments were logged with the FCC regarding their opinion of this issue, spanning gamers to Barack Obama. It shouldn't come as any surprise that the industry wanted to approach the net neutrality conversation during CES.
Back in May, we encouraged our readers to reach out to politicians and push for Net Neutrality as well as attempt to inform people about why it is important. Since that time, we have been fairly quiet on it. This is partly because the voting we wanted to influence has already happened, and partly because anything of this measure takes time. Numerous political people have flung accusations or sounded the dire warning on both sides of this important item. I decided to take a step back and see what was going to happen.
Mozilla's newest experiment hopes to find ways to exploit Oculus Rift and other VR devices within a web browser, to include 3D gaming alongside more common tasks. Mozilla lists its initial steps for bringing VR to the web as:
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.
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