Category Archives: Politics

Why Net Neutrality Matters

The FCC wants to abolish “net neutrality”, which states that ISPs should treat all traffic the same, and not block, throttle, or promote data based on what service you’re using or who you’re connecting to.

In short: Your cable company shouldn’t decide where you get your news, what businesses you buy from, which video chat services and streaming services you use, or who you talk to.

ISPs are people’s and businesses’ gateway to the internet. They shouldn’t also be gatekeepers. Net Neutrality protects free speech, communication, and economic activity that could otherwise be limited or adjusted to push a carrier’s own agenda at the expense of alternate views, create barriers to competition and innovation, and further entrench existing monopolies. The internet works best when it’s allowed to innovate at the edges, rather than locking us all into a near-monopoly’s choices.

This isn’t a hypothetical problem: ISPs have violated net neutrality in the past. ISPs have intercepted search queries and redirected them to their own portals. AT&T once forced Apple to block Skype on the iPhone. Verizon used to block tethering apps. Multiple carriers blocked Google Wallet in favor of their own payment services.

We fought this battle years ago. And now we have to fight it again. The FCC’s plan to roll back net neutrality doesn’t help subscribers, doesn’t help businesses, doesn’t help startups, doesn’t help publishers, doesn’t help you — doesn’t help anyone except the existing carriers and those they might decide to prop up.

I sent the third paragraph (minus the link) as a comment to the FCC through this Free Press Action Fund petition. Mozilla also has a petition, and is collecting voicemails to forward to the FCC before the May 18 meeting. So far they’re up to 50 hours’ worth of audio!

Predictive Frameshift

I’ve been thinking a lot about Robert J. Sawyer’s Quantum Night the last few months. It links human cruelty, psychopathy, and mob behavior to the nature of consciousness, mostly focusing on the main characters but playing out against a global crisis brought on by a rising tide of xenophobia.

More recently, I’ve been thinking about Frameshift. His 1997 novel deals with (among other things) eugenics, Neanderthals, Nazis, and health insurance companies doing everything they can to avoid covering people with pre-existing conditions.

I can’t imagine why that keeps coming to mind….

Vote Local!

Remember to vote in local elections.

Initiatives, council and school board members, judges, etc. affect you and your community directly. It may not be as exciting as the Presidential race, but it determines who makes decisions in your town, who passes and enforces city laws and regulations, local taxes, which services are offered and how. If the national government wants to drop the ball, states and cities are going to have to step in, and local elections impact how it gets picked up — or doesn’t.

It impacts national politics too: the people elected locally go on to build the pool of state and national candidates. If you care about 2018 or 2020, get out and vote locally to get the ball rolling!

Voter turnout is always lower in off-years than in Presidential election years, and it’s even lower in local elections. That means your vote makes a bigger share of the result than it does when you vote in November – even in an off-year.

So get out there, register to vote if you haven’t, and help make decisions at the local level.

Check Your Facts

If your political position is worth defending, it’s worth taking 5 minutes to check your facts before you post. Your argument will be stronger for it, and you’ll look like less of an idiot for spreading misrepresentations, satire presented as fact, or outright falsehoods.

SOPA/PIPA and Stopping Piracy: The (Inevitable) Car Analogy

Imagine that a group of people who don’t drive much, don’t understand how cars work under the hood, and have never studied traffic engineering decide that they’re going to stop speeding by requiring that cars automatically slam on the emergency brake and lock the controls the moment they exceed the speed limit — or the moment someone reports that the car has exceeded the speed limit.

Note that I didn’t say anything about turning the engine off, or putting it in neutral. Or only doing so in places where the speed limit is properly posted. Or worrying about whether there’s a car behind them that will have to slam on their own breaks to prevent a pile-up. Or actually checking that the car really is speeding before acting on the report.

Now imagine that criticisms and objections raised by actual drivers, the auto industry, traffic engineers, highway planners, and city planners are all dismissed as speeder propaganda.

That’s basically what’s going on with the “anti-piracy” bills being discussed in the House (SOPA) and Senate (PIPA/Protect IP).

(Posted yesterday on Tumblr)