1. 2017

    My Comment to the FCC

    It’s finally time. After reading through something like a thousand pages of FCC filings, laws, court judgments, and other assorted documents, writing a thousand lines in the first and second parts of this series, and missing about a thousand hours of sleep over the past week, I am, at last, at the end of my quest to compose a comment on the FCC’s proposal to gut net neutrality. (The comment itself is at the bottom. I wouldn’t make it that easy on you!)

    Filing a comment

    I’ll be using https://www.battleforthenet.com to file my comment, because the form there also forwards what I write to my Congressional representatives and Senators. They’ve written a default comment for people who don’t want to craft their own, and it reads as follows:

    The FCC’s Open Internet Rules (net neutrality rules) are extremely important to me. I urge you to protect them.

    I don’t want ISPs to have the power to block websites, slow them down, give some sites an advantage over others, or split the Internet into “fast lanes” for companies that pay and “slow lanes” for the rest.

    Now is not the …

  2. 2017

    On Restoring Internet Freedom

    Since my post a few days ago on the modern history of the net neutrality debate, I’ve been poring over the latest step in that filing: the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom initiative. These people at the FCC write a lot. But I’ve finally made it through the new proposal.

    In this document, the FCC’s main goal is to justify classifying broadband internet service as an “information service”, not a “telecommunications service” which it currently is. Like I explained in my last post, information service providers are only minimally regulated by the government, whereas telecommunications service providers, or common carriers, are strictly regulated by title II of the Communications Act — in particular, they can’t block or discriminate among the traffic they carry based on content.

    The FCC’s reasoning breaks down into three areas:

    1. How existing laws apply to the technical functionality of the internet
    2. Precedent set by previous rulings of the FCC
    3. How the deregulation of broadband internet service will affect consumers

    Technical arguments

    The first main content section of the proposal sets out to show that the way the internet works “under the hood” matches the legal definition of an information service, not of …

  3. 2017

    Modern history of net neutrality

    Think of a website you like.

    What do you get from that website that makes you like it? TV shows? News articles? Email? Porn? Cat GIFs? (I’m not here to judge.)

    Now, think about this: how much are you willing to pay to use that website instead of its crappy competitor that your internet service provider made? When Google started Gmail, imagine AOL saying “you can access to this site for only $50/month”. I’d be displeased.

    How long are you willing to wait for your website of choice to load, rather than going to the crappy (but quickly-loading) competitor your ISP runs? Imagine watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix and having to wait two hours while it buffers, even though the bland reality shows and sitcoms on Comcast’s video site stream in real time full HD. I’d be mad.

    Net neutrality guarantees this will never be a problem. It means Gmail will be free, Netflix will be fast, and you can giggle at all the cute cat pictures your heart desires.

    Whenever a legal issue comes up that I feel strongly enough about to make a blog post on, it’s already seen …

  4. 2013

    A close look at the new CISPA

    Justice League of the Internet, unite! So went the call from the Elders of the Internet to make a last stand against the long-feared reawakening of the… uh, legislative process. (No, there are no Elders of the Internet. I just couldn’t resist linking to that clip.)

    Internet privacy advocates are up in arms these days over the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, a bill which modifies the guidelines by which information, including personal and/or private information, may be shared among technology companies and the federal government. CISPA was first introduced last year as House Resolution 3523, and passed by the House of Representatives, but it stalled and died out in the Senate, perhaps partially in response to strong public opposition.

    Now, CISPA is back, in the form of House Resolution 624. This was passed by the House last week, and is headed to the Senate for discussion. The text of the bill is quite similar to last year’s version, so most of what I wrote about it last year is still applicable, but there are a few things I want to update in light of new information, plus some new provisions in the bill to look …

  5. 2012

    Our scientific community is in TROUBLE

    I was all set to write a lovely blog post about something sciency and then I saw this. It’s truly disturbing just how misguided some of the representatives who seek to control science funding and regulation in this country are.

    Slashdot pulled out this quote from Rep. Rohrabacher:

    My analysis is that in the global warming debate, we won. There were a lot of scientists who were just going along with the flow on the idea that mankind was causing a change in the world’s climate. I think that after 10 years of debate, we can show that that there are hundreds if not thousands of scientists who have come over to being skeptics, and I don’t know anyone [who was a skeptic] who became a believer in global warming.

    wtf I don’t even

    Yes, I did intentionally run off the end of a sentence there.

    OK, here’s my problem with this: not only does Rep. Rohrabacher not understand the science he’s talking about, but he’s making up false facts to support his opinion. If he can present valid sources to back up his story, then sure, I’ll listen, but I’m …

  6. 2012

    The win-more effect of indirect elections

    It’s Election Day (in the US), and I have a relevant post I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

    Suppose you have a binary experiment, one which has two possible outcomes with probabilities \(p\) and \(q = 1-p\). For example, voting. (Pretend there are only 2 parties) Overall, let’s say people vote Democrat with probability \(p\) and Republican with probability \(q\). Now suppose a large number \(N\) of people all go out to vote; what can you say about the results?

    In a statistical experiment like this, the possible results are drawn from a binomial distribution, in which the probability of getting \(n\) Democratic votes (and \(N - n\) Republican) is

    $$P(n) = \binom{N}{n}p^n q^{N-n}$$

    The probability that the Democrats will come out ahead is just the sum of all the probabilities for all the outcomes where \(n\) is more than half of the total vote: we start at \(n = \floor*{\frac{N}{2} + 1}\), which is the first integer greater than \(\frac{N}{2}\), and add up probabilities all the way to \(n = N\).

    $$P_D(N,p) = \sum_{n=\floor*{N/2 + 1}}^{N}\binom{N}{n}p^n q^{N-n} = 1 …
  7. 2012

    A close look at CISPA

    You may remember that about three months ago, the internet erupted in an uproar over two copyright protection bills, SOPA and PIPA, which were working their way through the House of Representatives and the Senate, respectively. Now there is another bill, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which has many of the same people concerned. Indeed, a lot of privacy advocates are warning that CISPA is even worse than SOPA and PIPA. But other people are saying that it’s nowhere near as bad. One way or another, there seems to be a lot of misinformation floating around about this bill, so just as I did with PIPA, I thought it would be useful to go straight to the source and see what CISPA is really about.

    As usual, this post comes with the standard disclaimer that I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. I make no guarantees about the correctness of this information. If you’re concerned about specific effects that CISPA could have on you personally, check with a lawyer.

    Now then, to the source. The text of the bill itself can be found on the Library of Congress website as House …

  8. 2012

    Senator Ron Wyden gets it

    Ron Wyden, senator from Oregon, released a very insightful letter yesterday in support of the SOPA blackout.

    Protect IP (PIPA) and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) are a step towards a different kind of Internet. They are a step towards an Internet in which those with money and lawyers and access to power have a greater voice than those who don’t. They are a step towards an Internet in which online innovators need lawyers as much or more than they need good ideas. And they are a step towards a world in which Americans have less of a voice to argue for a free and open Internet around the world.

    See the full letter on Sen. Wyden’s site.

  9. 2012

    PROTECT-IP: the source

    Yesterday, I made a post about the PROTECT-IP Act, explaining in some detail why it’s such a dangerous proposition. But if you’re like me, maybe you’re tired of hearing second-hand arguments. You’re not scared of a little legalese, and you want to check out the original source, Senate resolution 968 itself. Well, great! That’s what this blog is really (or at least tries to be) about, and that’s what I’m going to do in this post.

    I have two goals here. For one thing, I’m trying to correct some of the misinformation that may be floating around on the web about PIPA. But I also want to make the point that laws aren’t as scary as you might think. When you take a good, close look at them, it’s not that hard to understand what is being said — sure, not well enough to argue them in court (unless you’re a lawyer), but you can get a pretty decent sense of what is and isn’t allowed.

    This comes with two standard disclaimers:

    1. I am strongly opposed to PIPA (and SOPA). This post is an attempt to convince others to …