Sunday, August 22, 2010

Net Neutrality

You've heard the words "Net Neutrality" but do you know what they mean?

It's time to educate yourself on the issue of Net Neutrality because Republican interests don't just own FOX but also control the rest of our media and telecom companies and now they want the Internet, lock, stock and barrel.

It can not be stated enough that only six companies own all the media in the United States. All the cable and network television stations; all of the radio stations; all of the print media & publishing companies; all the movie houses and film studios - all the media we consume is controlled by only six people at the head of six corporations

General Electric - Jeffrey Imelt
Walt Disney
- Robert Iger
News Corp.
- Rupert Murdoch
- Jeffrey Bewkes
Viacom - Sumner Redstone
- Leslie Moonves

That's it. Six extremely wealthy, conservative, white men control all the public media you will ever consume. So if you wonder why President Obama's overall message and accomplishments ALWAYS get buried. Well, now you know why.

If that little cartel isn't bad enough, the telecom companies are not much better. Although there are significantly more telecom companies than there are media companies, the major players outweigh the small fry to laughable degrees. For instance, I'm sure you've heard of AT&T and Verizon. Depending on where you live you may also be familiar with QWEST, BellSouth and Honeywell. These are the providers. The other companies are mostly providers of equipment and telecommunications software.

You don't have to be a tech geek to know that Google is a major player in the internet game. Google was started by two guys in their garage and has grown to be a global behemoth. Google's motto, when only run by the two guys in their garage used to be "Do No Evil" - but gradually, those two guys from the garage are either corrupted by the almight U.S. dollar or have long since caved to the pressure of the company that's far outgrown them and is now run by the demands of investors, shareholders and the people who run the place - not them.

So, it's the providers and Google however that want to change the Internet forever and not in a good way.

The Internet is truly the last bastion of free space in the media conglomerate that is America. However the government and corporate version of the Internet will look much like television. Only the richest players in the game will be allowed to play at all. More and more, despite what we pay for in equipment, internet service fees and our taxes that support the entire infrastructure, we're being told that what we're getting online is "free". Ever willing to milk every dime and dollar from the American people, we are to pay for "content" with either hard cash or by renting our brains to corporate advertising. Consume our message - buy buy buy - or just pay up in advance, either will do. But you will pay.

And once you do finally get to see whatever it is you wanted to see, woe betide if you "share" that "content" with anyone else. The media you "buy" you never really own. You can show that Harry Potter movie to your friends and family in your own home but pass it on to a friend on the Internet and you've crossed the line from friend to pirate. Or that's the bill of goods we're sold.

Censorship is nothing new in America. The fact that our government and those six media companies work together to control the entertainment we consume and the information we get should be taken as as fact, not conspiracy theory.

The company that provides your internet service (ISP) more than likely censors and or "throttles" your service. These are not the same things.

Censorship means that there is more than likely a site or two - you may not even be aware of - that your ISP outright blocks. Yes, Time-Warner/Road Runner is more than likely blocking a site or two - or few hundred. Yes, the same for Cincinnati Bell/Fuse and OneNet and AOL doesn't even bother to hide that they block sites - they use it as a selling point. After all, it's for your own good and please, won't someone, think of the children?

OK. So maybe they're just blocking kiddie porn and that's a good thing, we'll agree. But they're not. What they're doing is far more insidious. Censoring content they don't like, slowing down traffic to sites that compete with them (throttling) and elimnating competition from small cities and towns that decide to skip the big providers and provide their own broadband and wireless services to their citizens.:

ISP Censorship

August, 2007
A Pearl Jam concert at Lollapalooza this past weekend seems to have been censored on AT&T’s Blue Room media showcase, causing quite an uproar from Pearl Jam, and other Internet (Internet) public service groups.

The argument centers around the need for net neutrality, which would even the playing field for ISPs and be in the better interest of the end consumer. When Pearl Jam’s performance morphed into a song about George Bush, asking him to “leave this world alone…and find another home,” it would appear that AT&T wasn’t too pleased with the medley, as these words were not heard in the Blue Room version of the concert. AT&T says that the censorship of this particular part of the concert was a mistake, but Pearl Jam thinks otherwise.

Pushing even harder for net neutrality as a stance against content “nannies” and media censorship, Pearl Jam and AT&T seem to be at odds on this particular argument. This is mainly because AT&T doesn’t regard this situation as a correlated issue to net neutrality. As AT&T only censored its own streaming version of Pearl Jam’s concert, it’s not very different from a broadcast or cable television station bleeping out profanity.
And the fact that AT&T was going along full steam with George Bush's illegal wiretapping of American citizens at the time, of course, had nothing to do with them censoring a lyric criticizing Bush at all.

ISP Throttling

Comcast advertised to the customers unlimited "Downloads at Crazy Fast Speeds". When their customers took them at their word, Comcast decided that certain types of traffice - say people downloading or sharing music on Bit Torrent (file sharing) sites - wasn't exactly what they had in mind.

So what did Comcast do? They simply started slowing down traffice to the sites they didn't like. And when their customers asked them about it, they lied and said no, they weren't doing that. And when it got out to the press, they lied again and changed their advertising. However their customers didn't let them off that easily.

November, 2007
Comcast Sued For Traffic Shaping
Plaintiff Jon Hart, represented by the Lexington Law Group, argues that Comcast's promises of providing internet connections that let users "Download at Crazy Fast Speeds" are false and misleading since Comcast limits downloads by transmitting "unauthorized hidden messages to the computers of customers" who use peer-to-peer file sharing software. Hart wants the court to force Comcast to stop interfering with the traffic.

February, 2010
Comcast P2P Throttling Settlement
Comcast has settled a class action over the whole throttling kerfuffle you might recall began right here in the forums at Broadband Reports back in 2007. Our users discovered that Comcast was throttling all upstream subscriber P2P traffic by forging user TCP reset packets, though Comcast repeatedly denied the practice to consumers, regulators and the press.

While Comcast has settled the case without admitting any fault, they're still fighting with the FCC in court, arguing that the agency lacks the authority to dictate how Comcast manages its network.

The outcome of that case drastically impacts the authority the FCC has over broadband ISPs. Consumer-focused policy folks like Art Brodsky and Harold Feld this week have been highlighting the carriers' one/two punch effort to strip the FCC of all authority moving forward. Should the FCC find itself on the losing end of that scenario, carriers in the future could simply ignore your complaints over heavy-handed throttling practices.

ISP's blocking competition

July, 2008
Municipal Cable Blocked by Time Warner
In Wilson, North Carolina, a small city of about 47,000 residents located in the middle of North Carolina, launched a $28M program to deliver cable services at much lower rates than local service providers Time Warner Cable and Embarq.

North Carolina’s State Senate has now proposed bills to not only effectively crippling or banning the local service, but also to prevent such services from getting funds under the broadband portion of the national Stimulus law.

The city, has blasted the move, launching a new blog and urging the state government to reject the initiative.

Brian Bowman, Public Affairs Manager for the City of Wilson, stated:
If the cable/phone companies really want a level playing field, they’d open their books just like we do in the spirit of open meetings and open records law. They don’t want a level playing field. They want to be the only team on the field.

These are only a few examples of what the future of the Internet will be if the giants of telecom that also function as ISP's are allowed to sidestep the FCC and have their own way.

Google and Verizon have the unmitigated gall to feel that they are entitled to hashing out how the rest of us would like to live and work on the Internet. Instead of having the vision to provide new and better service, their main goal is to tie us in servitude to whatever draconian measures they dream up.

Conservatives from John McCain to your average Tea Bagger have all jumped on the corporate bandwagon and as usual, are more than willing to sacrifice freedom to our corporate masters for the sheer sake of doing what they always do - vote against the best interest of everyone for the sake of a chosen few. So please, feel free to ignore all Republican, GOP, Tea Bagger conservative based rhetoric on Net Neutrality. And John "I Don't Even Use the Internet" McCain, really needs to stop because this is one issue, I can assure you he knows nothing about. I don't how to operate a fighter plane either, so I suppose this makes us even but I think we can safely assume that McCain's only interest in the Internet is whatever Verizon and Google tell him his interest will be. Please note that "John McCain's bullshit "Internet Freedom Act of 2009," which is exactly the opposite of what it sounds like."

Net neutrality, the way it is meant to be, will ensure exactly that. That giants like Google wouldn't be able to prevent people accessing my own humble little blog, despite the fact that they own Blogger, the site I publish on. That you can access every site in the same manner without interference.

That is the spirit of Net Neutrality and it it needs to be upheld at all costs.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

PNC Bank Should Start Shaking In Their Soulless Evil Corporate Boots About Right Now

I feel another lawsuit coming on. PNC Bank are the masters of this blatant robbery.

In a decision handed down late Tuesday, U.S. District Judge William Alsup accused Wells Fargo of "profiteering" by changing its policies to process checks, debit card transactions and bill payments from the highest dollar amount to the lowest, rather than in the order the transactions took place. That helped drain customer bank accounts faster and drive up overdraft fees, a policy Alsup referred to as "gouging and profiteering."

"Internal bank memos and e-mails leave no doubt that, overdraft revenue being a big profit center,
the bank's dominant, indeed sole, motive was to maximize the number of overdrafts," Alsup wrote. That policy would "squeeze as much as possible" from customers with overdrafts, in particular from the 4 percent of customers who paid what he called "a whopping 40 percent of its total overdraft and returned-item revenue."

Read the entire article here. It's the stuff that dreams are made of. I've long since moved on to another bank that doesn't perpetrate this fraud, and has an online banking service that is tops in it's industry.

It's only a matter of time until PNC gets hit in the wallet for this same crime. I can't wait! The only language corporations understand is money and it's long past time they quit holding the American People for ransom.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Away we go

I saw the sign, several times. And I thought about going but, honestly, I am the stereotypical lazy American. I may have thought about going, but that's truly the most effort I had made to stopping my couch-potoato-itis. Or to be more exact, comfy-computer-chair-itis.

But then, I got the call. You know the one. One of my girlfriends. "Girl, I can't believe how much weight I've put on. I've got to do something about this."

Now mind you she's smaller than me and always has been. Where she could reasonably be called "thick" I passed the line into just plain "fat" ages ago. I know that may seem exceedingly hard on myself (omg, is TDG developing self-esteem issues?) where the word "fat" is only a few degrees removed from words like "terrorist" or "unemployed". Just know that I call myself "fat" yearning back to a gentler time where being fat was not a crime against humanity, but merely a descriptive word that was not meant in an unkindly way.

She was fairly frantic and a bit depressed. I've been there so I could more than sympathize. She's talked me through many a moment like this. Over partners and children and parents and jobs - our troubles thoroughly hashed over as girlfriends do. Sometimes a listening ear is all that is needed, but I felt this needed more. A call to action of sorts.

Of course, when she called, I was sitting at the computer, happily munching honey barbeque potato chips and sipping a bottle of water. And quicker than you can say "Google" I'd found a website declaring that there were 48 Zumba clases within a 5 mile radius of where I live.


So I'd seen the sign. And as it turned out, she had too. She travels the same stretch of road, and the conversation went like this.

"I saw this sign for one of the classes."

"Yeah, I've been seeing one too. "

It was only a matter of time before we realized we'd been seeing the same sign. And the class we'd both been seeing was listed on the website I found. Hmmmm....

Now mind you, even as we were searching and planning, I never really thought we'd end up going to the class. As outgoing as I may be in political and most social arenas, the thought of going to an aerobics class set me up for an echo of the remembered mental anguish of junior high gym class.

Yet, I had a sinking feeling that this was one time I was going to end up shaking my ample booty in a room full of strangers. Somehow, this would be the one time that didn't end up with making an excuse or coming up with a sudden emergency, although even in the back of my mind, I was already coming up with strategies to get out of going.

But my friendship loyalty won out.

"You're not gonna back out on me are you? Promise?"

I could only pray that there would be a big enough crowd to hide my just barely on rhythm machinations and hope that I wouldn't pass out. The last time I excercised on purpose had to be sometime in the mid 1990's. And I'd never attempted anything so ambitious as a group aerobics class.

But the day came and I found myself, unable to think of an excuse not to and really didn't want to. Not only had I promised, but maybe, just maybe, this might be one of those "first day of the rest of my life" kind of experiences". Maybe, just maybe, I wanted to go and do something - I've accepted and rather like being a big woman - I have no desire to be what American's call thin. Because even I've noticed that some of the "gains" I've made recently are maybe just a bit wearing and maybe, just maybe, I can stave off the shift from "fat" to "rotund" with just a tad bit of effort.

I strapped on the only pair of Reeboks I've ever owned, threw on the only the pair of stretch pants I own that could be remotely considered excercise wear and a t-shirt that, only later would I learn, was far to heavy for this first work out.

If they had put up signs, we couldn't have spred ourselves out more judiciously but there was no need. Just walking in the room, it was easy to tell, where one belonged. The experienced and exuberant took their places up front and in the middle of the large room, spread out at intervals. The newbies that were ready for a challenge took their places in the rear to the left. They may have been new to this particular class, but they certainly weren't new to the idea of it all. The truly new, rhythmless and various older folks staked out their spots in the middle but firmly to the rear, near the few chairs. The right and rear was definitively Fat Chicks corner, newbie or no. These would be my comrades who would tire and modify all dance moves to the level we could perform, no shame, no questions asked. We would drink more water, hug the fans as if they were lifelines and tip out early when we simply had nothing left.

But it was fun, this Zumba experience. And next week will find me back in Fat Chicks corner, eyeing my bottle of water, waiting for the end of the dance, and maybe just enjoying the motion and music. I may even last the entire hour. For now, my record is 45 minutes with several generous breaks.

Maybe, just maybe, it was the first day of the rest of my life.