Your home or office is quietly undermining the Internet, like a low-tech version of Hal 9000?

As the Wall Street Journal reports:

While Bea Lowick ’s customers were busy folding clothes last year, the security system at her Carbondale, Colo., laundromat was also hard at work.

Though she didn’t know it, Ms. Lowick’s Digital ID View video recorder was scanning the internet for places to spread a strain of malicious software called Mirai, a computer virus that took root in more than 600,000 devices last year.

Expect more of this to occur as our appliances and other household items go online with the Internet of Things.

Although the information and communications industry works 24 / 7 / 365 to combat cyber scourges, those efforts could be better. According to the report, “[b]roadband providers say their hands are tied because their customers choose what to plug into the internet.

The Internet of Things does not need to be a Hal 9000.

Their hands are also tied by the last FCC’s Net Neutrality / Open Internet Order, which forbids ISPs to do anything more than reasonable network management to buckle down on security threats. This means that priority service / “paid prioritization” cannot be employed to innovatively beat back at malicious Internet actions.

Wouldn’t it be great if your ISP partnered with a company like Brinks – through a priority agreement or “fast lane” of a sort – to help you lock down your home or office system, alerting you to potential intrusions, blocking bad actors, and otherwise improving your Internet experience?

You bet it would.

“The 9000 series is the most reliable computer ever made,” said Hal flatly in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  “No 9000 computer has ever made a mistake or distorted information. We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error.”

“Now, the fridge over there – I can’t vouch for that.” (No, Hal didn’t say that, but…)

Call your Congressional Representatives and Commissioners at the FCC, and urge them to get rid of Net Neutrality / utility regulation of ISPs. Help them help network providers create a better, more secure Internet for all Americans (especially for the average Dave).

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Earlier today, the Verge reported:

“Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says he’s ‘not too worried’ about what will happen if new FCC chairman Ajit Pai eliminates the Title II regulations that have guaranteed a neutral internet experience for US consumers in recent years.

“Speaking to a group of journalists at Netflix’s headquarters in Los Gatos, California, earlier today, Hastings said he believes ‘the culture around net neutrality is very strong. The expectations of consumers are very strong. So even if the formal framework gets weakened,’ he continued, ‘we don’t see a big risk actualizing, because consumers know they’re entitled to getting all of the web services.’”

Translation: “Never mind. The marketplace doesn’t need FCC-regulated Net Neutrality after all. It can take care of itself.”

Sure, that’s nice to hear. It confirms what we have long-believed in and advocated for.

Still, I wouldn’t place too much stock in Hastings’ newfound religion. Netflix is well-versed in tooling the public and regulators to achieve its own self-interested ends. This looks to be more of the same.

If it says anything, it’s yet further proof that Net Neutrality was only ever just a game to be played by the very biggest companies in the world to gain competitive advantage over others.

In a letter to the FCC this week, Oracle said it best:

“…The prior Commission orchestrated a shift of network control from those that invest in the network to those that do not, and a shift in welfare from those that were regulated to those that were not…The FCC should no longer adopt policies that merely serve certain companies’ business interests, either through handing over new business lines and markets to those companies or inhibiting would-be competitors in adjacent markets from offering new competition…”

It sure did; it sure shouldn’t.

Now we have a new FCC.  One that believes in the marketplace – which can take care of itself pretty well.

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Though millions of Americans hook up to the Internet via wired landlines, wireless broadband subscriptions outpace wired access by more than a 2-to-1 ratio.  It’s not hard to see why – using a wireless device like a smartphone or tablet, one can connect to the Internet virtually anywhere in the U.S. Wireless innovation coming down the pike, such as 5G, new spectrum-sharing services and the Internet of Things (IoT), means this ubiquity will not likely abate.

That is, if policymakers don’t slam on the brakes.

Policy and law are conspiring to stop this progress, penalizing development in an area that shows perhaps the greatest hope for getting and keeping all Americans hooked up to, using and benefiting from the Internet.

To counter this, Congress, regulatory agencies like the FCC, and similar policymakers in the states can keep the mobile broadband revolution driving forward by:

  • Helping streamline processes that promote the build-out of small cell sites and other related wireless infrastructure in states and localities.
  • Eliminating barriers to deployment of broadband infrastructure on Federal lands and assets.
  • Getting more spectrum from Federal entities into private use.
  • Reducing or eliminating onerous and outdated taxes at the Federal and state / local levels that penalize risk-taking and investment, and keep people from adopting wireless technology.
  • Replacing the previous FCC’s Open Internet Order with legislation which, at a minimum, removes utility regulation of ISPs, and limits the agency’s overall reach to regulate the Internet ecosystem.
  • Promoting practices in the broadband marketplace – such as reasonable forms of service discrimination – that benefit consumers.
  • Focusing consumer protection / enforcement on the presence of real, not imagined, harm.
  • Ensuring that the FTC (not FCC) is the primary privacy “cop on the beat.”
  • Helping the Universal Service safety net stay focused, efficient, fair and fraud-free.
  • And, placing more faith in marketplace choices to guide and shape the contours of U.S. communications policy.

We’re in a golden age of communications. Never before have so many people of all stripes been able to connect to others in such powerful and beneficial ways. The mobile Internet has been an integral partner in this amazing development. If policymakers can push on the gas instead of the brakes, mobile broadband will only get better, bringing more innovation, choice and promise to all Americans.

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If you don’t already know it, the Trump FCC has begun the process of correcting the previous Commission’s online privacy protections. Specifics aside, it remains likely that at some point soon – perhaps with the aid of Congress – the industry-cleaving privacy rule passed last year by a Google-captured, Obama FCC will either be tossed out the window, or, at the very least, harmonized with the FTC’s successful privacy framework.

Some of this work can be seen in yesterday’s unusual, but welcome, joint FCC-FTC statement about their cross-agency efforts to protect online privacy protections, noting:

“…All actors in the online space should be subject to the same rules, enforced by the same agency. Until that happens, however, we will work together on harmonizing the FCC’s privacy rules for broadband providers with the FTC’s standards for other companies in the digital economy…The federal government shouldn’t favor one set of companies over another—and certainly not when it comes to a marketplace as dynamic as the Internet. So going forward, we will work together to establish a technology-neutral privacy framework for the online world. Such a uniform approach is in the best interests of consumers and has a long track record of success.”

Since the mid-90’s, the FTC protected online privacy for the entire Internet ecosystem, helping the ‘Net flower. But, President Obama’s FCC “fixed” all that, usurping the FTC’s privacy role, thereby splitting protection into two disparate and confusing regimes for consumers: one for ISPs, onerously regulated by the FCC; and one for companies like Google, more loosely watched by the FTC.

Consumers see Internet privacy as a single concept which should be policed by single cop. They had that with the FTC. Thankfully, it appears the new FCC and FTC will be moving back in that direction.

The previous FCC’s power grab illustrates a sad truth, however. Only in Washington can adding numerous layers of complexity, confusion and cronyism be claimed as being pro-consumer, “fixing” what ain’t broke.

Americans are tired of this nonsense. No wonder President Obama’s ostensible “third term” was rejected by voters last November.

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Let the Public Determine the Pubic Interest, Not Elites.

February 28, 2017

“America’s approach to broadband policy will be practical, not ideological,” said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today the Mobile World Congress gathering in Barcelona, Spain. What does this mean? If the advance of technology, industry best practices, brand management, competition, transparency / media coverage, and present (non-Title II) enforcement laws can’t prevent actual – not conjectured […]

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Net Neutrality “Activism” Is a Cry Wolf Profession

February 24, 2017

As the new FCC takes hold and makes changes in line with the ’16 election results, we’re going to see a lot of crying wolf by the professional organizers who helped Barack Obama impose Net Neutrality / utility regulation on the entire Internet. Let’s be clear here: Net Neutrality is a needless law that was […]

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FCC Authorizes LTE-U Equipment – A Big Win for Wireless Consumers

February 23, 2017

The following statement may be attributed to Mike Wendy, President of MediaFreedom.org: Alexandria, VA, February 22, 2017 – Yesterday the FCC authorized the first LTE-Unlicensed (LTE-U) devices. Among other things, LTE-U equipped products will allow LTE providers to offload data onto specified unlicensed frequencies, creating a better broadband experience for wireless consumers. Though there were some […]

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Discrimination Is Good for the Internet – There Must Be More!

February 13, 2017

The Democrats and their progressive supporters held a “fake news” event last week to shriek about the new FCC and their fears that the agency will rollback their out-of-touch, FDR-era Net Neutrality law. At the event, Senator Richard Blumenthal decried: “Allowing a broadband provider to block or discriminate against certain content providers is not only […]

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FCC Ends Zero-Rating Inquisition, Begins Rehabbing Its Regulatory Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy Behavior

February 4, 2017

Yesterday, the FCC closed the dubious investigation into popular zero-rated offerings. According to Commissioner Mike O’Rielly: Today, the Commission finally puts an end to the past Commission’s zero-rating inquiries and recommits to permissionless innovation. While this is just a first step, these companies, and others, can now safely invest in and introduce highly popular products […]

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The New FCC to Humbly Serve

January 27, 2017

Brief addendum: If you didn’t already know it by reading this blog, I think Ajit Pai is going to be a good FCC Chairman. He represents the polar opposite of the last Commission’s activist, crony-focused, sky-is-falling MO. As I see it (and hope for), his Commission will take a more optimistic approach to regulating (or […]

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