Net Neutrality in 2017

I wrote this back in 2014 and it generated a bunch of comments on Facebook. It’s posted here again because of recent FCC announcements about the potential revocation of net neutrality regulations that were instituted in the previous administration.

The bottom line for me and for others is that Internet Service Providers should not prioritize the delivery of information based on content. The technical nature of the Internet Protocol does not discriminate between differing points of view as could paid prioritization.

The Internet was indeed founded on the idea that information should be shared and the suite of Internet protocols were designed to deliver information in a fashion unbiased by location or content. If you can digitize it, the Internet was designed to deliver it. It’s my belief that this should continue.

I stand by my initial belief that the Internet has become a utility to the Nation and unless additional competition is added to those areas in which there is none, regulation is necessary to maintain the unbiased flow of news and information to the consumer.  — DW 24 Nov 2017

Stay with me here, this is liable to get complicated.

My first instinct when it came to this subject was to pooh-pooh government regulation of what amounts to a private pipeline. The Internet, after all, is an electronic pipe that delivers information on demand and unbiased by location. In other words, you have access to the same information regardless of where you are on the network. (That’s the beauty of TCP/IP.)

Since an Internet service provider owns the broadband network infrastructure, they should be allowed to manage it and charge what the market will bear. Consumers will regulate the value and price of delivery through the usual dynamics of supply and demand.

Makes sense, right? Let’s look a little more closely.

Enter Comcast, for example. (And there are other examples. I’m picking on Comcast because I’m a former Comcast employee, sorta.)

Comcast and others have decided that they will prioritize the delivery of Internet traffic based on the information provider’s ability to pay. This means that an information provider can pay Comcast to move its information faster than a competitor. Plus, if I’m a high-volume information provider, I’m using up a whole lot more of Comcast’s bandwidth to deliver my information. Therefore, if I’m using more of Comcast’s resources to move my information, it should cost me more, right?

While this sorta makes sense in the context of a Netflix streaming service, or iTunes Movie delivery, when you consider the second and third order effects, this concerns me.

Comcast owns the National Broadcasting Company, or NBC and all of its entertainment and news operations. Let’s suppose hypothetically that Comcast decides that it will give top priority to Internet delivery of its NBC News products and relegate other news organizations to a lower priority.   Comcast understandably wants to you to see their advertisements in their news products instead of those of their competition. That means that if you’re a Comcast subscriber, online access to NBC News products would be easier to find, more readily available, faster to download, featured in ads and otherwise presented to the consumer IN LIEU OF products from other news outlets.

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Taken to the extreme, since Comcast owns NBC, they may make an economic decision to offer ONLY NBC News products on their network by routing all Internet searches for news and current events to NBC resources.  This would have the effect of censoring all news and information from any other source but Comcast’s NBC News.

And Comcast isn’t the only one who would likely engage in such a scenario.

Time Warner, Cox, Verizon all would likely strike similar deals with information providers who would collectively decide what information gets priority on their networks and what gets relegated to the basement of Internet transfer speeds, ultimately limiting what your eyeballs can see.

Do you want your access to information limited in any way just because of the company you’ve chosen to deliver your Internet service? Do you want your Internet provider deciding what news source you’re likely to see?

I don’t.

I have no objections to the CONSUMER paying higher prices for using greater capacity. I have a problem with Internet service providers deciding for me whose information is more valuable. The value of any given piece of information is a decision that individuals should make for themselves.

If there were multiple broadband Internet service providers available nationwide, I’d not be too awfully worried about the issue as the marketplace would have multiple choices from which to choose information they want. But in most cases, there exists a duopoly or, as it is in my hometown, only a monopoly on broadband Internet service.  In these communities, market forces can’t apply and if the ISP limits the delivery of certain kinds of information, what’s a consumer to do?

Since broadband Internet service in a given community is more often than not limited to one or two companies, it becomes more like a utility than not and should be regulated appropriately. No single company should have the power to limit news and information provided through their networks given the public’s reliance on it.

Internet service is no longer a luxury. It’s a must-have. Schools rely on it. We voters rely on it for the delivery of facts and opinion. In fact, broadband Internet service has become so important that it serves the public, and therefore the public interest.

Keep the information flowing to the public without bias, without limiting choices and ideas and without commercial interest censoring it.

The Disillusionment of a Pseudo-Intellectual

I’m one of those “students” who crammed four years of college education into five. I have a bachelor’s degree in Speech.  That’s it.  And I literally flunked out of two other departments (Math and Physics) before Dr. Scheid took pity on me and graciously permitted me to transfer into his Speech department when I probably didn’t deserve it.

It’s not as though I don’t value education.  I do.  It’s just that for me, the process is too painful and lacks any tangible reward beyond the piece of paper that you get to hang on your wall after you’ve suffered the run through the gauntlet of academic rigor.  It just ain’t worth the trouble.  At least, not to me.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t admire smart people with advanced degrees and who make their ways through the world using the brains and education to advance and support themselves and their loved ones.  On the contrary, I wish I had the discipline to make it through the rigors of academia as so very many of my colleagues in and out of uniform have done.  I particularly admire and respect all the Ph.D.’s and other researchers with whom I work here at the Research Center.  But for better or for worse, I lack their academic discipline and ambition.

Having said all that, I’m not stupid.  I may have been born at night, but tweren’t last night.  I pay attention. I read a little now and again.  I’m not a low-information voter nor do I center my world in the ongoing real-life drama that government has become.  I can sift through the BS, the fake news, the outright lies and only occasionally be fooled by something that rings unusually true.  I check sources often, though not always.

Yet here on this blog from time to time, I spout off opinion as if I know what the hell I’m talking about.

Clearly I do not.

I have never been as completely wrong about anything as I have been in reading the tea leaves of this past election cycle and the subsequent fallout.  I wrongly presumed that reason would prevail.  I wrongly presumed that the Nation would come to its collective senses and make this a more routine election cycle rather than the wholly embarrassing spectacle that it’s become.

I was not just a little bit wrong. I was horrifically wrong.

I watch the headlines flash across my Facebook page and the words only become more extreme and mean spirited by the minute.  No longer is it easy to find genuinely reasoned dialogue among disagreeing parties.  No longer is it easy to find a post regarding politics that avoids personal attacks and profanity.  (Don’t get me wrong. I swear like a sailor — and that probably does a disservice to sailors everywhere.  And I love Nicki’s Blog which is hilariously profane and fun.  I wish I could swear like her, but she’s had some advanced training or some such shit.)

Bottom line here, about ten poorly-constructed paragraphs too late:  I’m done with it all.   I’m done talking about it, I’m done posting about it, and I’m pretty much done reading it.  One day I share a meme that makes me laugh and the next thing I know, people whose opinions I often respect but with whom I occasionally disagree immediately trade profane insults.  No disagreement, no ramping up the passion, no escalation of the language.  Right to the profane personal attacks.

What the fuck is wrong with people?  Have you never heard of civil discourse?  Seriously.  Your opinion is not the only one out there and, news flash, there are people who don’t think like you do.  That doesn’t immediately make them WRONG.  Maybe they are and maybe they’re not.  Without some kind of discourse based on facts and ideas, how can you be sure that your opinion is 100% correct?  How do you know for certain that you’ve drawn the only correct conclusion?  And if you are sure that your opinion is 100% correct, chances are you’re wrong.  (In my experience, the chance of me being wrong is directly proportional to the degree to which I think I’m right.)

Disagreements do not mean that the person with the opposing opinion has no worth.  If you behave like that, it diminishes your opinion.

So anyway, I’m done with memes, reposting what I believe to be enlightening articles and engaging in fruitless arguments potentially pointing the way to a differing point of view.  It’s too much and it’s become too mean spirited.  I refuse to arbitrate when people on my page go down that road.  I guess I’m neither smart enough nor savvy enough to make a reasoned argument that will provide a different perspective.  You wanna live in your bubble, that’s fine.  I’m probably not going to visit.

I’ll leave the political “discourse” to the real intellectuals.

Why I’ve Not Written Much Lately

I certainly have nothing cogent to add to the already ridiculous political discussion on Facebook. No sense in joining that shit show. So in addition to recusing myself from the cacophony that is Facebook politics, here’s my list of ten other reasons I’ve not written much lately.

1. Winter’s here and it’s hard to type when wearing mittens.

2. My give-a-shit meter is pegged.

3. Lamenting the dreaded holiday season in writing makes me seem like a non-McDuck Scrooge.

4. Because I’m cold all the time, my brain functions more slowly.

(Now this requires a brief explanation. As a rough approximation, for many chemical reactions happening at around room temperature, the rate of reaction doubles for every 10°C rise in temperature. Therefore, it stands to reason that there would be a commensurate reduction in rate for similar drops in temperature. It is winter. I am cold. My brain is also cold. Therefore, my brain chemistry is slowed and there exists a reduction in brain function sufficient to inhibit writing. QED.)

5. See reason #2.

6. I’ve been unusually busy at work. (This one’s actually true. I’ve been unexpectedly busy this year during the weeks when it’s usually slow. I suspect that’s just probably procrastination and piss-poor prior planning on my part.)

7. Supporting Emmett during his recovery from a recent muscular injury and upset tummy took up much of my attention. (He’s fine now, thanks for asking.)

8. I was busy binge watching a season and a half of “Daredevil,” the entire season of “Luke Cage,” both on Netflix, and the “Star Trek: TOS” marathon on BBC America. Priorities, people. Priorities.

9. Wild horses kept me away.

10. See reason #2.

We Have a New President

This is a repost of an entry from four years ago.

As an additional thought this morning after. Even though he was not my choice, I will do eveything in my power to help our new President succeed. To wish for or work towards this or any U.S. President’s failure because he wasn’t your candidate is to work towards the failure of our Nation. No one wants that.  I WANT this President to succeed because when our President succeeds, so do we all. 

To all my politically inclined Facebook friends:

election2016Good morning!  Either congratulations are in order or condolences. Either way, our Nation has chosen its leader without war, without bloodshed and without a change in the fundamental way our Nation is governed.  Our system — the American system of government defined in the Constitution of the United States did its job and a peaceful selection of a leader by the masses has occurred.

Do not take this for granted.

There are many nations around the world in which a transition of any kind results in death, destruction and the suppression of rights. As I write this at 9:25 AM on the day after election day, my cable TV is still working, my Internet access is still blazingly fast (according to Comcast) and I can still search for and find opposing views on any issue my meager brain can conjure.

Do not take this for granted.

Yes, there ought to be election reform. Yes, there ought to be less pissing and moaning between candidates for any office.  Yes, it would be lovely if the candidates focused on ideas for the Nation instead of on how to get elected.  And yes, the governed need to feel as though their vote actually impacts the election; that they’re closer to their government than they are now.  But I would not trade this system of government for any other system of government in the world.

I will not take this for granted.

I’ve listened to the sniping among my friends and colleagues.  I’ve seen the anger over whose candidate is better, more qualified, more personable and more competent, and most of that has really turned me off to the political process.  But I voted.  I’ve had my say. And now it’s time for all of us who are far more alike than we are different to recognize that we are Americans FIRST.  Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green, Yellow, Purple, Chartreuse — frankly I’m not interested in your partisan rants.  We are Americans, dammit, and we can and should come together and stay together regardless of who won last night.  We are stronger, better, more productive and more compassionate when we concentrate on our similarities than our differences.

So today, instead of gloating or drinking heavily, look at that person on my Facebook page whose posts you hate to read ’cause it really gets on your nerves and think to yourself “We’re both Americans.  I’ll bet that person likes ice cream just like I do.”  Find the commonalities.  Find the things that make us alike rather than the things that make us different.  You’re all my friends for a reason: I’ve found something in each of you that is similar to something I find in myself.  You all, my Facebook friends, have me in common. (And there’s no one more common than me!)

See if you can find what else you have in common with one another. You might just be surprised that you’re far more alike than you think.

And never take that for granted.

Dan

Things I’m Keeping in Mind Today

1. In spite of the political flame throwing, Facebook is still fun.

2. Regardless of who wins, we’ll all be OK.

3. “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” notwithstanding, the Three Laws of Thermodynamics still apply.

4. Exercise still sucks.

5. News hasn’t been news for years.

benedict-cumberbatch-filming-doctor-strange-set-pictures6. Benedict Cumberbatch is a tremendous actor.

7. So is Tilda Swinton.

8. I’m the worst political pundit ever. I’m not making any political predictions because I’ve been surprised at every turn.

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9. Life cereal is a gift from whatever gods there may be.

10. Emmett, the family Dachshund, is still a jackass.

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Yes, he’s wearing a bow tie.

We’re Down to the Wire Now

new-election-day-2016It’s nearly Election Day and hopefully, blessed relief from all the noise, anger and bitterness that has characterized this presidential election season.  To my knowledge, no party and no one can be held harmless in directing invective at their opponent.  Every side has engaged in election tactics and behaviors that are genuinely disheartening to any rational person.  I, for one, will be relieved to see this election in the history books no matter who winds up with the Presidency.  I just want it to be over with at this point.

And shame on us as a nation for buying into this.  Voting is supposed to be largely an intellectual exercise not a visceral one.  We should be deciding the Presidency based on fact and logic not innuendo and hype.  Yet this is what 2016 has come to.  Hell, even rabid Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians fans in the midst of the 2016 World Series, one of the closest and most exciting in history, sounded almost Spockishly rational compared to the candidates and their surrogates. Since when are Americans more rational about the outcome of sporting events than the outcome of presidential politics?  That’s bass ackwards.

Yet here we are.

I keep reminding myself that it’ll all be over soon but that’s not very comforting considering the slate of candidates with which we have been presented.  Yes, as a nation, we screwed up by buying into the hype and the leaks and the sound bites, but the political parties also screwed up by giving us less than their best.  If this is the best that they can offer up, I really do fear for the future of the United States and its Constitution.

signingconstitutionMy high school history instructor at Valley Forge Military Academy, one Air Force Colonel George Rickert, drilled into us that the collection of minds that created the Constitution of the United States was the single greatest collection of minds ever assembled and that even in the midst of the compromises that were necessary to create it, the product of their work would stand the test of time because of those great minds.

I agree.  So much so that I and millions of other veterans have sworn to support and defend it.  It’s the one thing that gives me hope not just for the outcome of this election but for its aftermath as well.  Yes, we’ve been pissing in each others’ lunch boxes for nearly two years’ worth of run-up to this election, but in the end, the checks and balances created by that greatest collection of minds will keep things from imploding.  The Constitution and its authors created a system of government which is highly resilient — resilient enough to handle whatever comes of this Nation and no matter who winds up in the White House in January.

On Tuesday, the Nation makes its choice.  Perhaps reluctantly, but we will choose.  And while we have failed as a Nation to uphold our responsibility to be a well informed electorate, while our political parties have failed to provide us with the best, brightest and truly inspirational leaders, and while our Fourth Estate has failed to act as an objective check on American politics, we will survive this. The United States of America will be just fine, thank you very much.

The road to excellence in politics is bumpy right now but the GPS was set in 1789 by people who really knew what they were doing. They had faith in the future of the Nation and I have faith in what they created.

I hope that their faith is us is warranted.

Living Homeless in 2015

Reposted from January, 2014.  Much to my great disappointment, it’s only gotten worse.  These days, you’re either all in or you’re a total asshole with no redeeming social value and ought to be banished from existence.  

I lived in Los Angeles from 1990 until 2004 when the Army permanently relocated me here to Virginia. During that period, I was trying to make a career in the entertainment industry as an actor. For a period of about 3-4 weeks smack in the middle of badly mismanaging my early life in LA, I was literally homeless, sleeping on the couches of fellow friends and other starving actors. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t romantic. It was frightening, demeaning and humbling. But I got through it and while I never did establish myself as a working actor as I had wanted, I did build a career as a technician in the entertainment industry for much of my time in LA and loved every minute of it.

This time, my homelessness is not as a result of my own gross mismanagement. In fact, this time, my homelessness is not a physical one but an ideological one. There’s no place at all for me to hang my hat when it comes to politics.

I am politically homeless.

The Republican Party as a group doesn’t seem to want to include anyone that doesn’t adhere to its strict conservative set of ideals. Sure, there are things about which I agree with the Republicans among them defense, fiscal responsibility (though no one in politics seems to be practicing this anymore) and personal responsibility above government responsibility.

The Democrats, on the other hand, deride anyone whose ideals conflict with a generally liberal perspective. I observe the Democrats pulling out the race card for things that generally aren’t racist, but that’s their opinion, I suppose, and they have a right to it. And there are things about which I agree completely with the Democrats including broadening the definition of marriage, legalization of marijuana and the easier provision of health care, though I disagree with the approach which is the Affordable Care Act.

So you see neither party will have me. And frankly, I don’t want either of them.

Since I disagree with the ACA, there are many in the Democratic Party who will state unequivocally that I hate poor people and actively want them to be sick. I don’t, and such charges are ridiculous. No one wants people to be sick if we can make them well. I’ve seen the ups and downs of the American health care system during my former spouse’s dealings with multiple cancers and other serious maladies and I welcome health care reform. I just disagree with this particular approach.

I hear a lot of Democrats say that the Republicans want dirty water and filthy air since they don’t support the same environmental concerns they do. That’s crazy talk, too. No one WANTS dirty air and water. No one. Not even the vast majority of corporate entities who are often falsely accused of relegating environmental concerns to the basement of the priority stack. They want to be good corporate citizens because it’s good policy and it’s better for their bottom line.

Republicans often say that if you support abortion under any circumstances that you want unborn babies to die. That’s ridiculous. Do you know one person who actually WANTS unborn babies to die? Do you know anyone who thinks that’s a great idea in every case? Again, no one wants that, but to hear it told by some staunch conservatives, if you have a (D) after your name, that is precisely the belief you hold along with ALL of those with (D)’s behind their names. That’s just nuts.

You get the idea.

Life is not now nor has it ever been an “either/or” proposition. Why has politics become this way?

And it’s not like a relationship with either party can be like one of those Venn Diagrams that you did in school:

Venn

Lately, it seems to me that neither party ideologically allows you to overlap even a little bit. (Not publicly anyway.) You’re either all in or your all out. You either agree with them 100% on everything or you’re a horrible person who wishes bad things to happen to everyone else.

Yes, I am aware of the Libertarian Party.  In fact, ideologically speaking, I probably overlap with libertarians the most.  But right now, the (L)’s are not influencing the national dialogue to any significant degree and therefore, not a practical entity in my opinion.

Ok, I admit it. There are a few people – very few — on whom I’d wish bad things. And no, none of them are ex-significant others or spouses or anything petty like that. So no, I don’t wish for bad things to happen to the sick, the well, the poor, the rich, the homeless, the unemployed, the heterosexual, the homosexual, the bisexual, the trisexual (or any sexual I can imagine — and I have a vivid imagination) or the purple people eaters of the world.

I’m just me and I have my own ideas and thoughts about things. And I’m smart enough to draw conclusions from the available data for myself. I have an equally smart, terrific circle of friends and acquaintances most of whom don’t share my every perspective and I don’t hate them and they don’t hate me. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I don’t. Yes, we have been known to have heated discussions, but we have far more in common just as people then we do politically.

And herein is the lead for this essay: We ALL have far more in common as people than we do politically. The two well-established political parties have lost sight of the American populace as people FIRST. People have nuance, color and diversity of thought. Voters don’t. And that’s how the two well-established political parties now view all of us – as voters not as people. You’re either all in or you’re all out.

In today’s political climate, this leaves the thinking person with no place to go. This leaves me homeless.