Net Neutrality

So, there is this argument/debate going on about net neutrality.

If you are reading this, then the internet is likely a major part of your life. There is a good chance that it is involved in everything you do in some ways. If you are reading this on a two to five inch screen, then it is almost guaranteed.

I know that I am always on Facebook. I get recipes online. I use the internet to learn about everything. Even if I don’t play a lot of online games these days (time issue), the internet is where I get most of my games. Seriously, Origin and Steam take up the vast majority of a terabyte hard drive with just over a hundred gigs free on it (For those who don’t know, Origin is EA Game’s version of Steam. If you don’t know what Steam is, it has been described as “The iTunes of Games.” If you don’t know what iTunes is, I think you are probably here by accident because you are trying to figure out who left their phone laying on the bench in some public place).

Now, how does this all apply to the issue of net neutrality?

The internet is a platform that ties pretty much everything together. It is made up of a massive number of networks that are tied together by a massive backbone. That backbone, and its connections to the smaller networks, is where the battle is taking place. And it is a battle. There may not be guns involved, but the outcome will impact all of us in one way or another.

A few decades ago, it was decided that this backbone (or these backbones rather) would carry data between networks in a neutral manner. Data going to Yahoo and Google would have the same level of priority as data going to a blog or a personal web page. This simple concept built the internet as we know it. This concept was the most important building block that allowed us to build the world we have today. It is what allowed small time web developers to create empires. It is what allowed Facebook to ever become a thing. It is what allows people on AOL to access websites that are not on the AOL network (If you have been online long enough, and started out on AOL, you may have a special understanding of this one).

The concept is simple: I pay my ISP. Facebook pays their ISP. The ISP’s then pay for access to the backbone. We get access to each other (i.e. I can access Facebook). Everyone pays for what they use.

Now, enter the idea of eliminating net neutrality. Suddenly, I pay my ISP. Netflix pays their ISP. Our ISP’s pay the backbones. So far so good. Now, suddenly Netflix gets a letter from the backbone provider that goes something like this “Want to keep your bandwidth up? Send us a check, and we will make sure you get better speeds.”

Wait a minute. They ALREADY paid for that bandwidth. They shouldn’t have to pay again.

Another form that it can take, that is a little less obvious, but just as bad, say it’s not the backbone that is doing this, but MY ISP. Say, Time Warner sends Netflix a letter saying “We have a pool of customers in common. If you want them to continue to enjoy the Netflix experience, you are going to pay us.”

Wait a minute. I already paid my ISP for just that experience. I already pay a MASSIVE amount (compared to the speed we get Americans pay more for internet access than most of the rest of the world) for access to the internet, and to get good speeds. The ISP specifically said that these speeds are ideal for streaming movies.

With net neutrality, we all pay for the bandwidth we use, the ISP’s and the backbone providers get filthy rich.

Without net neutrality, we all pay for the bandwidth we use, and content providers also pay for the bandwidth we use. They pretty much have to pass that extra expense on to us if they are going to stay in business. After all, this whole most expensive crappy internet in the world thing impacts them too, not just us.

The end result is that any company large enough to be able to afford to pay the kickbacks is going to be able to keep going, but their prices are going to go up. I am probably one of the most anti-corporate people I know, but I am not likely to blame them when that happens. Some of the really large ones may be able to balance the costs in order to keep the price hike from being too much, but those in the middle won’t have an option.

The smaller companies we deal with on a day to day basis? Well, they are going to have to come up with ways to make the experience of accessing their services comfortable with sub-par speeds, because in a world where people have become accustomed to being able to download data at high speeds, a slow page load will be sufficient to kill many companies out right.

If net neutrality dies, then so does an important part of the net. Net neutrality is what keeps the internet grassroots alive. I personally have a blog (you are likely reading this either on Facebook or on that blog). My blog is hosted by a small time ISP. They have server banks in three countries, but they are still tiny as far as ISP’s go. If net neutrality dies, I hope that they can afford to pay the extra fees to keep speeds decent. If they have to raise their prices to do so, I will completely understand.

The better option though is for us to find a way to make the politicians understand that net neutrality is important to the little guy, and the little guy is who votes for them. We need to find a way to insure that the politicians feel that their stance on net neutrality can have a real impact on their electoral chances. Just as importantly though, we have to make sure that this happens while the opposition is spending massive amounts of money to make things go their way.

After all, in a post “Citizens United” America, their stance on net neutrality already impacts their chances at reelection, because the telco’s are spending money on lobbying and advertising. Guess who is going to get the big corporate bucks for their campaign war chests.

We are Freaking Out Over Nonsense

So… I see a trend, and it is not just on the right.

People are picking up on “scandals” and “outrages” that are being fed to them by their respective “wings” of the media.

People are getting all worked up on little things that are at most slights, and offenses.

People are freaking out over things that are flat out not true and have been debunked a thousand times over, because their favorite pundit is still pushing the issue.

You know what else is happening as a result?

It is a heck of a lot easier for the media to conveniently overlook some pretty heinous stuff. It is a heck of a lot easier for the media to run horse and pony shows while the real news is overlooked, ignored, or worst yet, flat out changed.

Stephen Colbert has a slogan for his show: “When news breaks, we fix it.” There is a reason for this. He is a satirist, and that is how he sees the real “news” media most of the time.

If we are taking the horse and pony show, and seeing it as real news; If we are accepting all the little nit picking details as controversy; then it is a hell of a lot easier for the media outlets to feed us the party line. It is a lot easier for them to make out normal people as criminals and heroes as villains.

We have wars going on that are not legal under international law. These wars are only called wars when it is convenient, such as when they want to invoke the espionage act.

We have secret laws: you know the thing that once sent famous politicians into a frenzy because they were introduced in other countries. These secret laws are being used to clamp down on first, fourth, and fifth amendments.

We have journalists under investigation by the FBI and CIA for… Yeah, journalism. Peaceful activists are on FBI watch lists, and potential whistle blowers dare not speak up without fleeing the country first (or at least preparing to do so).

Let me ask you this: What is a bigger issue, protecting your already existing right to say “Merry Christmas” that no one is trying to take away, or the fact that pretty much all of our online communications and the meta-data on all of our phone calls is being stored away in a massive database out in the desert? Now, which one have you heard more about on the news?

The Shrinking Deficit: Or Sequester is a Sham

The deficit has been going down somewhat steadily for the last four years. I know that may sound odd if you listen to the media and especially to the Republicans in Congress who have declared their primary job to be getting rid of Obama (Even though their primary job is supposed to be serving the American people).

Now, we are entering into sequester. Ignoring the fact that the sequester is an entirely made up thing triggered by an entirely fabricated crisis, the primary piece of evidence that we “must” do this is just as fabricated than the WMD’s that lead us into Iraq, and the end result is likely to be just as much economic harm.

The deficit is the main excuse used to push for sequester. “We must reduce this every growing rapidly rising deficit,” “The deficit is higher than it has ever been,” “Obama has increased the national debt faster than any president since World War II,” and the litany goes on. But this is not true. There are numbers. There is this thing called math.

And this is where the problem comes in. The average American has to depend on the media and their politicians to tell them the truth. There are over 315 million people in our country. It is literally impossible for any one person to know everyone or even the majority. That is why the news media is so important. That is why our Founders decided to go with a Representative Republic rather than a True Democracy. It is because they knew that our numbers would only grow.

However, when you have the leaders of our nation stating in front of television cameras flat out lying to us, and the reporters broadcasting those lies as the gospel truth, you get confusion. Yes, all of the data necessary to know the truth is publicly available, but the vast majority of Americans do know have the knowledge or resources to access that data. The internet is a wonderful thing if you know what you are looking for, or if you know that you should be looking.

With a close majority of law makers backing the men that go on the air screaming about the deficit, why should anyone believe they are wrong? Most Americans are good, hard working, trustworthy people. The thing about trustworthy people is that we tend to see the best in others even when they have been screwed before. Add to that the fact that whichever politicians screwed you last, they are going to be laying the blame for it at the feet of their opposition.

Notice that I said “close majority.” This is because there are currently 253 Democrats in congress and 277 Republicans [1]. The result is that I can’t really lay the blame for this entirely at the feet of one party or the other. Yes, the Republicans tend to be the one screaming from the rooftops about out of control spending, worse than any time in history. The Republicans are the ones declaring that Obama is a runaway train and that he is increasing the deficit more and more every year. But, where are the Democrats? Why are they not speaking up? They have just as loud a mouthpiece in the media as the Republicans and the Republican majority is only about four and a half percent. So yes, they are at fault here as well. Either they are just as confused as the rest of the populous, or they are willfully choosing to let the Republicans lie to us. I am not sure which possibility is worse.

The reality is that the deficit has been going down in relation to the GDP for years. Believe it or not, history has indicated over the last few decades that “Big Government Democrats” tend to spend less and shrink government while in office, while “Small Government Republicans” tend to spend more and increase the size of government. Given that most people are constantly told the opposite by the media, I would say that we need to start depending more on the raw statistics, and less on the pundits interpreting them.

This brings me to the point where I am going to start talking numbers. Because of the prevalent narrative in the media, 90% of Americans do not know what is actually going on with the deficit [2][3]. And no, that number is not just pulled out of thin air.

A recent Bloomberg News poll, reported on 22 February, 2013 [3] indicated that 62% of people polled believed that the deficit was growing annually. 28% believed that it was staying about the same. Only 6% knew that it was actually shrinking. The other 4% account for people who didn’t answer and the margin of statistical error.

That is 90% of our brothers and sisters who have no clue about what is going on in the economy other than “it sucks.” It is not their fault though. As I said, the people who are supposed to inform us have been feeding us bad information, and the people who were supposed to keep that from happening stood silent, or worse, vouched for them.

The Rachel Maddow Show for 26 February, 2013[4][5] has a decent report on the subject. I listened to the audio podcast version. If you subscribe there, it starts at about the 6 minute mark with her getting into statistics around the 8:40 mark. Otherwise, if you go to the website for the video[4], and click on Previously, and the link for February 26, 2013, it is one of the clips they have there. As of this writing it is the first item on the list.