In To Save Everything, Click Here: The Folly of Technological Solutionism Evgeny Morozov rails against two ideologies he labels “Internet-centrisim” and “solutionism” which he defines, respectively, as the belief that the Internet should be used to explain the world and the belief that the world needs fixing. His opposition to Internet-centrism makes him a critic of not only technology advocates like Jeff Jarvis but also detractors like Nicholas Carr. His opposition to solutionism makes him a critic of everyone else.
In particular, Morozov’s directs his disgust at those who he thinks combine these two ideologies to blindly use the Internet as a model for solving societal problems. This makes popular books like Wikinomics, What Would Google Do? and Here Comes Everybody primary targets. To use an analogy, if the Internet is a hammer, he thinks people are obsessively debating which issue should be the next nail, rather than asking the more important questions of “should we be using this hammer?” and “why are we even hammering?”
To be sure, hype over technology can be taken too far: the Internet will not single-handedly cure cancer, eliminate poverty, and end … Read the rest
Online activists have started promoting a new manifesto for the Internet. Unfortunately their message was written in code. Luckily I’ve obtained a secret decoder ring that decrypts their message. I’ve posted both the original and decoded message below.
They say: “We stand for a free and open Internet.”
They mean: “We want free Internet service and free content.”
They say: “We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles.”
They mean: “We want all views we disagree with discarded after an open and participatory process.”
They say: “Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.”
They mean: “Don’t take down pirated content.”
They say: “Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.”
They mean: “Everyone should be able to quickly download pirated content.” … Read the rest
On Wednesday, the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology is holding a hearing on the video business that will address the retransmission consent/program carriage issue. There is a legal requirement for cable and satellite companies to carry most local programming, and they pay a fee to the programming conduit for the privilege of compliance. These negotiations often become very ugly, as the local network affiliate typically values its programming much too dearly, but the cable/satellite company has no choice but to pay the asking price. The FCC is supposed to limit the price to “just and reasonable,” but in practice they never get involved at all.
People who get mad at the cable company for raising the price of service year after year invariably fail to realize that programming costs to the cable companies escalate year after year as well, so putting all the blame on the cable company is essentially shooting the messenger. One of the witnesses at the hearing is Gigi Sohn, founder of Public Knowledge, so I suppose the panel will get an earful of that sort of thing. Dish Networks has a clever little DVR that … Read the rest
Network Quality of Service (QoS) is the technical issues that lurks behind the policy issue of net neutrality. While there are many subtle variations of net neutrality, the concept as a whole comes from the idea that the Internet should have a “soft middle” that exerts little or no influence over the behavior of users and applications, and a very robust set of services at the edge that handle all the problems of congestion, charging, and innovation. This distinction is the point of the “end-to-end arguments” that seek to encourage designers of distributed systems to build vague and general systems in which all application-specific features are added as late as possible to the design. If elections were structured according the end-to-end arguments, there would not be any primaries, voters would simply select from a list of 50 candidates in the general (perhaps using some form of multiple-choice voting.)
The earliest papers on net neutrality, most notably Tim Wu’s “Network Neutrality, Broadband Discrimination” and Atkinson and Weiser’s “A Third Way on Net Neutrality” carefully distinguished the Internet’s behavior from the behavior of the individual networks that compose … Read the rest
Irony of ironies: The very first complaint filed with the FCC under its Open Internet rules comes from an innovative VoIP provider against a government-owned municipal utility:
A Florida VoIP carrier has filed a net neutrality complaint against a Georgia utility and broadband provider, after the utility accused the VoIP firm of theft of service for using its network to deliver voice service without paying for it.
At David Isenberg’s Freedom To Connect conference in Washington this week, advocates of Internet Openness Susan Crawford, Vint Cerf, and Michael Copps have been touting a public utility model of network ownership while real public utilities are stifling real innovation in the real world. Don’t look too close. This case mirrors the Madison River complaint that led the FCC to adopt its initial Internet Policy Statement in 20006, except that the rural phone company that has committed the alleged offense in this case is publicly owned.
In what’s going to be seen as a response to strategic criticism, Comcast has raised the consumption cap on its residential broadband service plans from 250 GB per month to 300, the first increase since the cap was adopted in 2008. The increase is unlikely to be noticed by actual Comcast customers because the 250 GB cap wasn’t a problem. The increase hasn’t muted Netflix’ poorly-founded complaints of mistreatment.
Comcast has been criticized recently for its 250GB monthly limit on total downloads by residential broadband customers. Netflix complains that the limit is applied arbitrarily in order to keep it from growing. The Netflix complaints have been echoed by so-called public interest advocates Free Press and Public Knowledge, by the tech bloggers who generally take a hard line against networking companies such as GigaOm’s Stacey Higgenbotham, Ars Technica’s Timothy B. Lee and Nate Anderson, and the shy piracy advocates who post anonymously at TorrentFreak.
The Netflix argument is that 250 GB is so low that it discourages potential customers from using its service in favor of competing services such as the Comcast Video-on-Demand (VOD) service (operating through … Read the rest
This week, Greenpeace came out with a report that takes several IT companies – Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft – to task for relying on so-called dirty energy to power their data centers. Even disregarding the fact that the report, How Clean is Your Cloud?, inexplicably puts nuclear power on par with coal power as an unclean energy source, Greenpeace’s analysis ironically misses the forest for the trees. While it is indeed unfortunate that some IT companies and businesses in general may derive their energy from undesirable sources, the underlying issue of real importance is that clean energy is too expensive.
ITIF said as much last year when commenting on the release of a similar Greenpeace study:
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Those who followed the SOPA and Protect IP copyright law debate in December and January will recall an argument raised by certain members of the tech sector to the effect that enlisting the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) in the fight against pirated goods would undermine Internet security. While the SOPA critics said that it’s OK to use DNS blacklists to prevent access to malware sites, sites that sell Hollywood movies without license have an entirely different character.
Critics also argued that beside all of that, DNS blacklisting would be completely ineffective because users would simply shift from legitimate DNS services provided by their ISPs to rogue services operating offshore and outside the reach of U. S. law. Some critics, such as former Bush Administration official Stewart Baker, argued that without any user intervention at all Secure DNS would magically go “casting about the Internet” looking for rogue DNS services to reach the pirate video sites of the user’s preference.
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Compartmentalization is one of the things people do best. Life is complicated, so it’s a lot easier to deal with its troubles and travails in little pieces. As Scarlett O’Hara said when she lost Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Compartmentalization plays a large role in both engineering and Internet policy. Engineers and policy makers can influence the nature of the Internet in countless ways by developing new features and enacting new policies that affect its overall behavior. On the one hand, we’re all tempted to make the Internet better by addressing its various shortcomings, and on the other we’re tempted to leave it alone because it’s produced so many benefits. So we tend to reserve our creativity for the problems that we deem most critical and leave the rest alone. Besides, it’s hard to change the Internet, so every new feature or regulation is likely to cause side effects that we don’t like even if there are net benefits.
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Paul Vixie and some of his fellow DNS experts have published a blog post in The Hill’s “Congress Blog” denouncing the DNS blacklisting feature of the rogue site bills currently working their way through Congress, PROTECT-IP and SOPA. In their view, DNS blacklisting is un-American:
[T]he debate over what we as a society ought to do about online piracy and infringement has gone into the weeds – so much so that bills now pending before both houses of the US Congress (S. 936, PIPA; and H.R. 3261, SOPA) seek to compel American Internet Service Providers to alter fundamentally the way their connected customers access the Domain Name System.
This type of mandated filtering is not an American innovation. Strong governments around the world use DNS filtering to signal their displeasure over all kinds of things they don’t like, whether it be untaxed online gambling, or pornography, or political dissent.
It’s interesting to contrast the view in this new blog post with a post Mr. Vixie published last February announcing the addition of a domain blacklisting feature to the Internet’s most popular DNS server software, BIND, a product maintained by … Read the rest