So… Now Net Neutrality is In??

All of a sudden President Obama is jumping on the Net Neutrality band wagon?

I don’t get politics.

I really don’t. Perhaps it’s because at the core of everything in me, I think that (most) people are generally good and don’t want or have any desire to screw over the person sitting next to them. Maybe I’m naïve… or just stupid. Who knows.

A few years ago when SOPA had the internet up in arms, everyone was screaming about the internet, content rights, and net neutrality. Its counterpart, PIPA was just as bad; and thankfully, both of them died in committee. Through all of this, though, lobbyists for AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Verizon, Time Warner and every other cable provider have been spending big… and I mean BIG… dollars in Washington trying to keep the FCC from applying Title II telecommunications reclassifications to ISP’s.

Effectively, Title II classification would make all ISP’s a broadcast service and therefore, a utility, falling directly under the governments regulations. However, there’s a catch..

The problem is that the internet is both a telecommunications service and an information service. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 covers both, but there’s a huge loop hole. While the act does make provisions for the offering of a capability for generating, acquiring, storing, transforming, processing, retrieving, utilizing, or making available information via telecommunication – and includes electronic publishing – it does not include any use of any such capability for the management, control, or operation of a telecommunications system or the management of a telecommunications service. The distinction comes into play when a carrier provides information services. A carrier providing information services is not a ‘telecommunications carrier’ under the act.

Over the past few years lobbyists have been throwing money at law makers, trying to get them to allow for HOV lanes on the internet. For example, a few years ago, Comcast wanted Netflix to pay a premium to have their content streamed over the internet or Comcast would throttle Netflix content.

Netflix said, “no.”

It didn’t want to pay for a virtual HOV lane on the internet. So, Comcast followed through and throttled their traffic, making the service pretty much unusable. This caused a huge problem for Netflix. Their stock tanked as users complained and left. In the end, Netflix relented, and paid for their HOV lane, and Comcast stopped throttling their traffic. The stock recovered and all was right with the world.

Net Neutrality would make this type of extortion illegal; and would require ISP’s like Comcast, Cox and Time Warner to treat all traffic like the 1’s and 0’s that they are.

President Obama appointed the most recent FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler. Wheeler hasn’t had a great deal of success in addressing Net Neutrality. A federal appeals court struck down the previously proposed rules for net neutrality in January of 2014. The FCC has been trying to play politics since then and really hasn’t wanted to touch the hot potato that this has become.

In the end, both sides of this issue – the lobbyists opposing net neutrality and the content providers and the public who laud it – are pushing the FCC to make a decision. As Sean Connery said, “in the end, there can be only one.” At the end of the day, someone has to make up their minds – is everything just ones and zeros – or is some internet traffic more expensive to transmit?

At the end of the day, it’s really all about money.

The ISP’s want to be paid for the kind of traffic that flows more often over the internet – streaming audio and streaming video – from services like Spotify, Beats Music, iTunes Radio, Hulu, and Netflix. They see users moving all of their entertainment needs and wants to the internet as hard wires have a much farther reach than signals broadcast over the air. In other words, the change in infrastructure, equipment, type of traffic and the supply and demand for it… the entertainment and telecommunications lobbies want to be compensated for all of that. They want to tax the users and make them pay for their habits.

I recently saw an article that showed a Tweet by Senator Ted Cruz. He called Net Neutrality “ObamaCare for the Internet.”

I disagreed and tweeted back that Net Neutrality is really the internet’s Declaration of Independence.

net neutrality

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [internet traffic is] created equal, that they are endowed by their [content] creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are [equality], [perpetuity] and the pursuit of [unmetered Bandwidth].

I’m willing to give a bit on the “unalienable rights,” part. If you have better suggestions, I’d love to hear them. I really did that off the top of my head, but the point is clear – all internet traffic should be treated the same, and none of it should be throttled or metered based on what kind of content it comprises.

Now, what Tom Wheeler decides to do… no one knows yet. I think I see him sitting on the sidelines watching which way the wind is blowing. He is clearly either a professional politician or is just afraid of standing up and making a decision.

The country – no… the WORLD – is watching Mr. Wheeler. What you decide will likely shape the next century or two. I know you want to get it right and you don’t want to create issues or problems for yourself, but it’s time to do the right thing. Put your big boy pants on and take a stand for Net Neutrality.

Do the right thing.

While I tend to be a conservative politically, I am not rich. I don’t want to pay MORE of a premium for the content I am already consuming. As entertainment – music and video – moves from broadcast and cable TV to the internet via Netflix, Hulu, iTunes and other on-demand services, I don’t want to have to pay more than I already am (which, by the way, is as much of a premium as it really needs to be for all of the movie channels, on demand channels and pay-per-view channels that are available and are used) for the stuff I ALREADY HAVE. In the end… the content providers are going to pass the cost of the HOV lane on to the consumer…

I work for a living! Cut me and my checking account a break and say yes to Net Neutrality!

What do YOU think? Am I too invested in this? Am I right about content being all ones and zeros and all ones and zeros are created a like? Is your internet bill really a UTILITY bill as defined by Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996? Why don’t you chime in, in the Discussion area below and let me know what you think? Anyone who surfs the internet likely has some kind of opinion about this. I’d love to hear yours…

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Lessons Learned from a Would-Be Cord Cutter – Part 2: It ain’t that easy…

Getting a free TV is easy. Making it work without subscription services isn’t.

cordcuttingA few weeks ago, I published an article on what I was doing to get broadcast video content without subscribing to any kind of cable or satellite service. I’ve heard from some people that it’s easy. I’ve heard from others that it can be challenging at best.

In short, I’ve learned a few interesting lessons and I thought I would pass them on. If you’re thinking about cutting the cord – cancelling your cable or satellite subscriptions, or simply going without them – there are some burps you’ll need to get around if you want to have the best experience. Here’s what I found out.

You’re GONNA Need an Antenna – The Leaf Ultimate (and Placement is Everything)

Large_antenna

Many local TV station affiliates – NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, etc. – broadcast their content over the air. Besides the majors, there’s also a few other public access or personal interest stations that you might find available as well depending on your geographic location. In order to pull these stations in, you’re going to need a digital antenna.

Thankfully, you will NOT need one of those big, motorized metal monsters that you’ve seen strapped to the side of older homes or older homes with chimneys. However you will need an indoor antenna. The best one that I’ve seen – and the one that I ordered – was the Leaf Ultimate. It comes with an amplifier and is small enough that you can put it just about anywhere near the TV, though it is highly recommended that you locate it near a window.

The antenna is flat and looks like a laminated or plastic coated piece of paper. It connects to your TV’s coax connection and setup is easy. Provided you have the right kind of tuner (see below), all you’ll need to do is connect the antenna to the amplifier, connect the antenna to the TV and set the appropriate video mode for the coax input you attached it to. After searching for channels, you should be good to go.

Placement of the antenna is very important. Depending on what you’re trying to watch, you may need to move the antenna slightly now and again in order to pick up specific channels you want to watch or when the signal is pixilated due to inclement weather or weak signal reception. You can then put it back in the spot where you have it permanently mounted. The antenna is inconspicuous enough that it can either be mounted to a wall or bookcase with either included Velcro pads or pins. I’ve not experienced any reception issues with it, and it’s been functioning well. The Leaf Ultimate Indoor antenna lists for $89.99, but can be purchased for about $70.

Digital Signal Requires a Digital Receiver

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Back in 2009 when the US converted OTA TV broadcasts from analog to digital signals, there was a big push to get everyone a digital tuner. Most cable or satellite service users were not affected by this, as the cable or satellite box handled any required conversion. That made it easy for those folks to ignore the requirement and just watch TV.

Since being a cord cutter means staying away from either or both cable or satellite, using a TV manufactured prior to the digital tuner requirements put in place around 2007 and enacted in 2009, makes watching OTA TV impossible. In other words, you need a digital converter box.

I was able to obtain a decent Sony 720p/1080i TV for free. All I had to do was pick it up. The only issue I had in watching OTA digital broadcasts was that the TV was in 2002, and therefore had an analog tuner. I had to go to BestBuy and purchase a digital converter box. That cost me about $60 bucks.

The converter box is actually a digital tuner that bypassed my analog tuner and pushed the signal into the AUX port on the TV via coax, instead of the TV antenna port. The TV now displays all three local, major network affiliates plus other public broadcast and access channels. In all, I get about 20 channels.

I’m finding that I usually stick to the majors – NBC, ABC and CBS. The other channels, like ME-TV, The CW, etc., are nice, but I’m not finding a lot that interests me there. I like waking up to the news on weekdays. I now drive to work and finding out what weather, traffic and road conditions to expect always make the commute much easier to get through.

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Free Mobile Broadband with FreedomPop

If you live in The States and you’re looking for cheap mobile broad band, I’ve got good news for you…

I got an interesting email the other day from a new company called FreedomPop. They provide free mobile broadband. All you need is a compatible web stick or hot spot.

FreedomPop is currently in beta.  You have to get an invite to participate.  Mine came out of nowhere, and I have to admit, I bit on the line and signed up.

FreedomPop provides 500MB of free, unrestricted, unthrottled bandwidth.  All you have to do is put a deposit down on either a 4G web stick ($50 bucks) or a 4G hot spot ($100 bucks).  The device arrives via FedEx, and all you have to do is either plug it in or let it charge and turn it on. The device jumps on the network, and away you go.

The web stick works with both Windows and Mac machines with a USB 2.0 port.  The hotspot allows up to 8 devices to surf; but with only 500MB of bandwidth on the free plan, you may want to watch what you do. If 500MB isn’t enough data for you, on FreedomPop’s pay as you go mobile broadband network, they do have plans available for purchase.

FreedomPop offers the following plans:

Data Plan Details Most per Month (US Dollars)
Free 500MB 500MB

$0.02 per MB overage

FREE

Basic 1GB 1GB

$0.01 per MB overage

$9.99

Casual 2GB 2GB

$0.01 per MB overage

$17.99

Premier 4GB 4GB

$0.01 per MB overage

$28.99

Premier 5GB 5GB

$0.01 per MB overage

$34.99

Premier 10GB 10GB

$0.01 per MB overage

$59.99

The cool thing is that these are all pay as you go.  However, if you don’t use it, you lose it.  This isn’t like AT&T’s roll over minutes. You lose what you don’t use at the end of your 30 day cycle, so the point here is don’t buy more than you need. Only buy 10Gb if you know you’re going to use (nearly) 10GB of data every month.  Suburban Chicago is sufficiently covered, so I should be good to go. I’m giving the free plan a shot and will upgrade as necessary. You can also buy “swing loan” bandwidth to get you over a hump on those months that you use more than you normally would.

I’ll let everyone know how things go after my hot spot gets here. If the speeds are decent and the coverage is worthwhile, then you may way to check for availability in your area and sign up.

 

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NetBalancer gives your the proper priority to your internet activities

Even in today’s world of high speed internet and wide pipes, prioritizing and monitoring what takes up the bulk of that personal bandwidth can be important.  If you have large files that you need to transfer quickly then pulling back incidental network traffic can be important. If you have small things that you’d rather move in front of that large file transfer, throttling the large transfer in favor of the low hanging fruit may provide the win.  That’s why I like NetBalancer. It’s a network utility for Windows.

NetBalancer allows you to browse and complete any internet activity easily, even when transferring huge files from one end point to another.  All you need to do is lower their network priority with NetBalancer. You can use NetBalancer to set network transfer rate priorities for any application, and monitor that traffic.

Applications with a higher network priority will gain more traffic bandwidth than those with a lower one. You can set download and upload speed limits for a process. You can manage priorities and limits for each network adaptor (wired vs. wireLESS, for example).  In short, you can define detailed network traffic rules.  You can group local network computers together, and synchronize and balance their network traffic.

The app provides a volume of information, including a system tray monitor and graphical representation of both traffic coming in and out of your adapters. While the free version is limited, the paid version is reasonably priced and depending on the amount of bandwidth you consume every month, may be well worth the purchase price.

read full review | download NetBalancer

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