Tag Archives: John Oliver

So Netflix seems to be doing OK

I don’t know how many of you remember this, but a few years ago there was a big debacle when Netflix wanted to separate out its streaming and disc delivery services, and to be fair the Qwikster name by which it would do so was a bad choice. It barely worked for SpongeBob, it would never work for Netflix.

You see, what happened was, Netflix allowed for people to have an account that included both delivering DVDs and streaming, however they wanted to split those services into two separate things. That’s completely understandable, however clumsy name aside, it would also require re-registering two accounts with them and include a price hike as well.


Not really. But there is a mention on USA Today of two Nevada politicians, Paul Anderson and Mo Denis, who want to ensure any state governmental data stays within the borders of the state. Meaning, a Nevada email that’s going to a Nevada email address would remain entirely within Nevada’s infrastructure.

I suspect they aren’t terribly familiar with how this kind of thing works, as evidenced by the plan itself. I understand their concern, especially since Edward Snowden very recently told John Oliver that an email whose source and destination were in New York could be routed around the world first. That’s not true, first of all, routing is meant to reduce the steps it takes for a packet to get to a destination, and even if it were, as long as it were encrypted – which it should be – it would likely be fine. That a message might go out of state to switch over from one provider (say, Cox) to another (Say, Clear) is just not a big deal. That’s called peering, in which one company’s network physically connects to another, if you’re interested.

You Need to Watch This Net Neutrality Video Right Now

In class on Friday, one of the topics that came up was the issue of Net Neutrality. I was concerned that some of you hadn’t heard of it, or weren’t familiar with it, so I implore you to read this post and become familiar with the concept and why it is so very, very important. I originally posted this in June of last year, and I am reposting it here to bring everyone up to speed. If net neutrality isn’t passed, or if a weakened version of it is what happens, we are all in very serious trouble. It will be a serious step backwards, one from which we may never recover. It’s so important that I’m making it the first official post of the semester (even though it’s actually a re-post).

Are you familiar with Net Neutrality? If not, you should be. It’s one of the single most important technical challenges we are facing as a country, and as a global community. The Internet is under regulatory attack on two separate fronts, and no one seems to care. As crazy as we go over soccer or the Kardashians or legalizing pot, the future of the Internet just doesn’t get a lot of public attention.

But it should. Because we may be on the brink of losing the Internet as we know it.

The first issue is the handover of ICANN, the organization that controls the creation and control of web addresses, from the control of the United States. Honestly, it’s not really under the control of the United States, as other governments have a say in issues that come up, but it’s headquartered in California and it’s generally considered that we’re the final authority. It wouldn’t normally bother me that a global entity such as ICANN ends up under global control, except the countries that really fought to have it released include Russia, China, and North Korea, some of the most oppressive countries on earth when it comes to the flow of information and the right of people to voice opinions. They couched it in terms of concern over security in light of the Snowden leaks, as have other countries, however I’m of the firm belief they so desperately want this to happen so they can more heavily regulate what appears online, especially dissent.

But the much, much more immediate threat is the end of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality essentially means all Internet traffic is treated equally, and no one’s data is more important than anyone else’s.

network-neutralityHowever, with appointment of former cable-company lobbyist Tom Wheeler as head of the FCC, the bizarre decision by the Supreme Court to end legal requirements to maintain Net Neutrality, and the impending merger of two of the largest cable providers in the country, Net Neutrality has a fight of Biblical proportions in front of it.

If it ends, that means some services will be forced to pay for better service for their customers. For example Netflix would pay Comcast to not slow down their service, but that would mean a higher cost that Netflix would have to pass on to you. Or, if a cable company has an investment in one service, they could stifle the speed of a competitor that you are using making it unusable. As a hypothetical example, consider if Comcast was a stakeholder in Hulu. They could slow down Netflix making it generally unwatchable, while making Hulu much better, regardless of who is paying who what, in a slimy attempt to funnel more customers to Hulu. We have already seen the issue crop up. You’ll have data caps as you do with your phone’s data plan and be charged for any data that goes over, you know how your workplace may block some websites they don’t want you to see, imagine if Cox could do that! The Internet will never be the same; you will be charged more for inferior services, reduced availabilities, and be at the mercy of the providers.


This might not be far off.

However, after typing all this, rather than typing another 1000 words I am just going to let John Oliver explain it. He does an outstanding job showing charts and graphs that really illustrate the problem, and you’ll have a good chuckle along the way. Don’t miss it, it’s a very, very important issue that can – and will – end up impacting all of us.

Very Important: Today is the great internet slowdown

(Before I get to the post proper, I implore you to at the very least watch the video at the end of this post.)

Did you wonder what that hovering-loading-pop-up-thing was on top of the site today? Did you fill it out? Submit it? You should have. If not, visit the site in a new browser (it only appears once per visit so you’ll have to use a new browser), fill out your info, and send it in.

That thing popped up because today is the National Internet Slowdown Day. Many sites are participating including Reddit, Vimeo, Twitter, WordPress.com, Netflix, Wikia, Digg, Imgur, Dropbox, Mozilla.com, Foursquare, Meetup, and Etsy to name only a few.

But why?

As you may or may not know, the Internet as we know it is under attack. Never mind the almost religious fervor with which the international community has attempted to wrest control of the Internet (inasmuch as it can be called ‘control’) from the U.S. based, but not U.S. controlled, ICANN organization. Or the fact that Russia has mandated that all bloggers with over 3,500 unique monthly visitors register with the state, or their offering of rewards for people who can crack the secretive TOR network and identify its users. Never mind our own attempts at regulation such as PIPA or SOPA, or the constant hacking attacks that happen all the time.

No, we’re talking about the equal treatment of data on the Internet, more properly known as Net Neutrality. Essentially it means all Internet traffic is treated the same, no data is prioritized over other data. Your email to your parents gets the same priority as someone buying from Amazon or watching Netflix or accessing Canvas. But cable companies don’t want that.

battle3You see, cable companies want to charge big content providers to deliver their content more quickly and reliably than other content. For example, Comcast wants to charge Netflix and everyone else to give them higher-priority lines to their customers. They would also de-prioritize traffic from companies that couldn’t or wouldn’t pay. This would have sever negative effects; Netflix would have to pass the cost of that prioritized traffic on to you, the customer, and it would stifle small companies that may be innovative and offer innovative products and innovative services, but because they can’t pay for the bandwidth they need they would effectively be shut out of any type of success.

Not only that, your quality of service will go down, your Internet speeds will go down, and your costs not just for Internet service but the services that use it (like Netflix) will go up.

It's true, you know

It’s true, you know

Not only that, say Comcast invested in a streaming service like, oh, say Hulu. They could prioritize Hulu traffic and stifle Netflix traffic. They have been directed not to do that, but they are so blatant about their anti-competitive practices it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see them do it anyway.

Or they could simply charge you extra if you wanted to visit certain sites like Amazon or Netflix or CNN or whoever. Perhaps they could bundle pricing like they do with cable channels: If you want good access to news sites like CNN and Fox News and NBC then you pay a fee for that group of sites, and if you want access to retail sites like Zappos or Macy’s or Barnes and Noble you’d pay for that too. Or if you’re a gamer, there’d be a bundle there as well. Something like this, perhaps:

This could be possible

This could be possible

Of course cable companies, ISPs, and hardware providers are doing all they can to make the Internet, your Internet, one big command-and-control that they lord over like dictators, and if something isn’t done the entire Internet and on-line experience will change, and not for the better.

Reclassifying them as common-carriers, which is being considered as what’s known as a ‘nuclear option,’ would mean they were considered a utility like power and water and therefore could be heavily regulated. Needles to say, they absolutely and steadfastly do not want that, because it would force them to be fair, ending idiotic statements like this.

There are opposing views, by the way, and some are able to make well-written, compelling arguments against the common-carrier idea. Of course, that link is actually to the National Cable and Telecommunications association website, so their position should be of absolutely no surprise. After all, below is what pops up if you visit their homepage – are you surprised?

If you *are* suprised, you shouldn't be.

If you *are* suprised, you shouldn’t be.

And the whole thing can be eerily convoluted.

Net neutrality is something people should be enraged about. They should be rioting in the streets, it will impact every single one of us and further cement the monopolies that the cable industry already enjoys. People’s passivity about the whole thing is baffling.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who used to be a cable-industry lobbyist, didn’t seem to care in the past for pretty obvious reasons – he was still well-aligned with his previous industry.

But then something happened. Something very important. Something we didn’t expect, and didn’t see coming, but that we desperately needed. After witnessing it, suddenly the whole thing shifted tide.

John Oliver.

It turns out that you, yes YOU dear reader, can actually go to the FCC’s website and leave your thoughts about Net Neutrality, but many people don’t know that (I only linked to the main page so you can see all the issues open for comment. You want 14-28, but look at what’s number 1!). But once John Oliver laid out the importance of this fight in very clear language, the FCC’s servers crashed under the weight of the response. And that’s what we need! It’s what you need. It even miraculously appears to have swayed Tom Wheeler himself!

I posted this video last semester, and I am doing it again here because it is so important. If you do nothing else, please watch this video, and leave a comment with the FCC before September 15th. You’d better do it now, because very soon it will be too late.

You, YES YOU, can still comment on net neutrality

Remember the post I made about Net Neutrality, the one with John Oliver ripping on the whole idea of mergers and the loss of Internet freedom? Well guess what? Proving that the Internet works exactly as intended when left to the whims of the unwashed masses, his plea to leave comments about maintaining Net Neutrality crashed the FCCs servers! Democracy works!

Last night in class the comment was made that the time for comments had been extended until Friday because of the overwhelming response, and just today I saw on Cnet that not only had Netflix filed a comment of its own regarding Net Neutrality and interconnection (connecting directly to the major network carriers) and how did it ultimately explain its situation? that’s right, it just told regulators to watch the John Oliver video. It’s so important I’ve included it again below.

But don’t just watch the video! You – YES YOU – can leave a comment of your own of the FCC’s website that is still seeking comments. Say something, this is a very big deal. If Net Neutrality falls through, it will be the end of the Internet as we know it; higher prices for worse service, being nickel-and-dimed for everything you want to do (for example additional charges to use Facebook or Twitter), only having access to the services your cable company wants you to have access to, slower speeds, it will be a disaster. I mean really, since when did gigantic mergers ever result in better service? Will Time-Warner ever learn?

You can leave your comments for the FCC on this and a number of related issues here. Do it!