Around The Web

This month has been eventful. Lots of people up in arms over the Comcast/TWB merger, and the threat to net neutrality. Lots of interesting developments in science and technology. And an ancient book that was 100 years ahead of its time.

CGP Grey and a simple, easy to understand explanation of Net Neutrality and what it means for you, the user.

Because it’s all over my twitter feed: Watch two authors write a book LIVE in 30 days (and change how the world thinks about storytelling!) #fictionunboxed

5 hilariously bad first drafts of classic books.

Cosmos is free to stream online!

An album of scientific discoveries for the month of April.

A 271 year old guide to color.

The worlds luckiest… or unluckiest man in the world.

Internet “fast lanes”?

The FCC just announced new rules that will make “internet fast lanes” a reality.

What is an internet fast lane? Imagine all you favorite web content is still out there, but unless that website pays the web services extra they get slowed down. Netflix is already seeing this. They are paying Comcast and Verizon blackmail money so that their subscribers don’t get their content slowed way down. Netflix had to raise the prices of new members because of this, and while $10 isn’t a huge raise the point is they never should have had to do this in the first place. Black mail is ILLEGAL!

What about Youtube, iTunes, or your favorite streaming site? What happens when they start throttling downloadable content like games, and music? A lot of these places are free. What happens when they aren’t anymore because ISP’s are double charging everyone?

The marvelous thing about the internet was that it leveled the playing field. People who created finally had a way to sell their creations without growing through middle men. We could design our own books, games, movies, and music, upload and sell it directly to the people who wanted to view it. Or put it up for free and let it spread via word of mouth.

Now picture that road barricaded unless you spend a lot of money to get that same content put out.

Net neutrality has already been killed. But we still have some options. The FCC is going to be voting on weather or not they should be letting this through, and not all of the chairmen agree. Let your voice be heard. Let them know what you think they should do.

Write an email to tom.wheeler@fcc.gov and tell him how you really feel about him doing this. He’s the guy directly behind this, and he’s getting paid a lot by Comcast and other ISP’s to do this.

Even better, copy your email and send it to ALL of the leaders of the FCC. Let them know how you really feel about it all.

At this point I’m worried that Google and the fibre they bring will be the only chance for us to get out from under the foot of the ISP’s who refuse to upgrade their systems. But Google can’t spread the fiber fast enough, and many cities that want to install it themselves can’t. Seattle tried and Comcast bought the mayoral election to kill that plan. They are doing it in other cities too.

Everyone benefits from a free and open internet. It should be classified as a common utility, not a luxury. Tell the FCC to do that. Too many of us make our living by using the internet. Stand up for your rights to make that living without barricades.

The petition to stop this:

More information:

http://www.reddit.com/r/technology/comments/23t7qj/why_comcast_will_be_allowed_to_kill_net/

http://www.esquire.com/blogs/news/comcast-twc-chart

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/technology/fcc-new-net-neutrality-rules.html

If the Water Company Acted Like Comcast

I tried to come up with an understandable analogy of why Comcast, and the other ISP’s think it’s okay to put data caps on everyone. (You do know they are trying to do that, right?)

This is how I understand it…

Say a water company puts in a two inch line running down a specific street. It’s okay because there are only a couple of small houses, no pools, and no businesses down that street. Everyone can use as much water as they like. Not a problem.

Time moves on and a few apartment buildings spring up on that street. And a business with a huge water fountain. A few people put in pools, which takes away from the business of the water companies indoor swimming pool, too.

Same small two inch pipe serving all those houses, but now there are days when the water runs at a trickle. Other days when some of the houses at the end of the street can’t even take a shower.

The water company knows it could just come in and put in bigger lines. More water available, everyone is happy, and their water bill doesn’t change much because it’s still the same water.

Or, they can ration it. Rare items are worth more, right? Plus putting in bigger lines would cost money and drop their profit for the year. Bigger lines would also open up opportunities for bottling companies to come in and put out bottles of water, taking some of their profit. It would encourage more houses to add pools taking away from their indoor pool revenue. What if an ice factory moved in down there?

“I know,” says an exec at the water company, “lets just give our customers a choice. They can pay for the lines to their house to be upgraded, giving them extra water if they like, or they can deal with what they already have. Lets also put a cap on how much they can use so we can try and limit the growth of fountains and swimming pools in that part of town. We’ll also get a revenue boost from those going over the limit. Win win.”

So the company with the big fountain, and lots of money, pays for construction workers, plumbers, and contractors to get an upgrade on their building, but the little houses at the end of the road can’t afford it. All of that work costs too much. So they deal with the low pressure water, and days without showers even though they really want the upgrade. They give up their plans of getting that pool because the overage on water would just be too much. Besides, they can just go swimming at the club down the street, right? It costs $20 a day, but it’s the only swimming in town.

The exec’s at the water company look at their spread sheets, see very few customers upgrading, and reason that it really isn’t as desirable as the people keep wining about. Some of them are still going over the cap, which means more profit for them, but that’s all for the better.

So… it’s a combination of greed, unwillingness to update lines, and customers inability to force the companies to do it. It results in a scarcity (or false scarcity) of product, high prices, caps, and little to no competition. And since they also own the cable companies… well why the heck would they want you to watch netflix if you can just turn on cable TV?

I know this example doesn’t translate exactly, but it does show it’s not just one thing causing caps. It’s a bunch of things. Specifically an engineer told me bandwidth behaves less like water (which is pressurized) and more like traffic. The more traffic on the road the harder it is to get cars (packets) through.

However you look at it, the fact remains: ISPs could choose to upgrade their infrastructure. They were even given money from the federal government, or tax money, to upgrade and they didn’t.

Draw your own conclusions.

There’s nothing on tv

Let me just start out by saying that I count myself as a “cord cutter”. Technically I still have cable. There is a cable box under my TV, unplugged, and I could technically plug it in any time and watch something on it. Not much, but something.

I’d take it back if I could. In fact I was going to before the representative on the other end of the line asked me if I’d like to pay less for my internet for an entire year. Pay less, you say? Why of course I’d like to pay less. At the time Comcast had a deal to sign a contract and pay $50 a month for internet and very basic cable. Or, I could pay $70 if I wanted internet only.

Let’s see, $20 less and I just have to store a stupid cable box for a while, and keep it safe so I can return it at the end of the year. Ya, I can do that. No one here watches sports. I’d have to pay extra for sports anyway. I don’t want HBO, Showtime, or Skin-a-max (except when Game of Thrones is playing), so basically it saves me $20 to hold onto this equipment.

Now, when Game of Thrones is on I wait until the season is mostly over, then I will rent HBO for one month for $5-10 and binge on ALL of it at once. Saves me so much money, and I get to watch it all instead of living in suspense from week to week. If it wasn’t so expensive to rent each episode I’d do that, but I don’t mind waiting.

The problem I have with the cable box, besides the fact that there is nothing on there I want to watch, is that I’m now one of their statistics. Just another number they can add to make it look good to investors. We have “this many” subscribers, and they can view “this many” tv shows. Doesn’t matter much that I don’t watch any of it. It just matters that I subscribe, and pay them money for the privilege of having access to their crappy product.

It pisses me off even more now that Verizon and Comcast are having Netflix pay blackmail money for the privilege of using their service.

What do I watch? There are some awesome science shows on youtube. I also like to listen to music while I write, or I might watch some game play of a game I don’t have time to play. But mostly I just create my own content instead of consuming someone else’s.

Maybe that’s why there are so many cord cutters now. It isn’t that we don’t consume things, it’s just that our generation places more value one creating something, be it memories or items, then they do on sitting in front of a TV passively watching things. That and we know most everything we want is online already and we don’t need the cable companies anymore. Too bad we need the internet and it isn’t a public utility yet.