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Does net neutrality still matter in our post-web world?

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Net Neutrality: What is it and why should you care?
In the effort to maintain an open internet, some think we need more government intervention while others trust the free market to keep the big telecoms in check.

“I read it on Google,” I’ve heard people say about news articles they discovered on their smartphones that proposed some new and intriguing fact — something about the polar ice caps, maybe, how they’re melting or freezing over again or exploding, whatever ice caps do nowadays. Never mind that their publishers may have been The New York Times or CBS News or Russia Today or even The Onion. It was a topic they either found by querying Google, or that they asked Google by voice to read to them, or that Google News condensed for them and printed among its list of most intriguing headlines. They don’t know who actually printed it, nor do they really care.

“Can you get Google on your iPhone?” I heard another person ask at the same table. “Or does Apple still ban Google?”

Some of us whose heads are still stuck in the 2000s, perhaps in want of refuge from the present decade, lost track of when the Web stopped being a thing for most people.

Wider net

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Scott Fulton

Last month, I accompanied my wife and daughter through Grant Park in Chicago on a very soggy weekend, as they participated with thousands of other folks in a festive, phone-based event for the game of Pokemon Go. If you’ve never seen this in action, it’s an extraordinary spectacle. Imagine thousands of smartphones pretending to be windows into another dimension inhabited entirely by fantastical creatures, and each of these phones serving as a butterfly net to capture and catalog them into its database.

Connectivity has evolved into the stuff that festivals are made of now. It’s an extremely clever idea to tie the functionality of a game to the geography of our world, kicking our butts away from our desktops so that, even if coincidentally and for the silliest of reasons, we come together as a community. Too much divides us as a people today for us to frown at anything that brings us closer.

At a more technological level, Pokemon Go is emblematic of who we have become as consumers of this thing called “content.” Granted, a small, though measurable, minority of the human race plays this game. Yet, as an application, it represents the extent to which software architecture can evolve, and how quickly, when there is a rational business model behind it. Pokemon Go is a colossal distributed functionality platform, leveraging the HTTP protocol for connectivity but using Kubernetes to extend it far beyond the confines of the old Web.

Pokemon Go, Netflix, AWS, Azure, and even the much-maligned Facebook, are all not only expansive services but marketplaces unto themselves. Each has had a hand in remaking the Internet in a new and more capable model.

Neutral zone

In the light of this revelation, it’s perhaps a bit past time for us to revisit this whole idea of net neutrality.

When the phrase was coined, it was in the context of a debate in the US Congress over the idea of a possible nationwide license for broadband service providers. States and municipalities were responsible for granting such licenses to limited geographies, and Republicans in the House were looking for new sources of revenue. Under the provisions of a never-passed law called the COPE Act, ISPs would be given incentives to purchase nationwide licenses instead of more localized ones. One such incentive was a waiver of enforcement of any laws or regulations restricting ISPs’ right to divide their pipelines into “good/better/best” service tiers.

There was substantive opposition, but Sen. Ron Wyden (D – Oregon) raised the stakes to a moral issue. At issue, he argued, was the small publisher’s and garage-based enterprise’s right to conduct their business on the same Internet like Google and eBay, as equal players in a digital market.

Politically speaking, the concept of net neutrality has been as malleable as sediment from an Oregon mudslide. But over the last few decades, Congress has been unwilling to bake that clay into anything permanent. So in 2010, the Federal Communications Commission, under then-Chairman Julius Genachowski, unveiled a regulatory framework designed to stop the leakage from the gaping hole in federal regulations. No one should presume the authority, the framework said, of diverting Internet traffic or blocking access to content, so long as that destined content is legal.

That sounds like an altruistic statement of fairness. But it has two fatal flaws. First, it is not up to a regulatory agency to decide for itself what’s fair and unfair — that’s for the law to codify. The current argument that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has overstepped its bounds in conducting raids without just cause is precisely this same argument: An agency doesn’t get the right to issue proclamations on behalf of some self-declared monarch.

The second flaw was made evident by all those folks in Grant Park capturing bulbasaurs, pidgeottos, and raticates: Not all Internet services are created equal. Some justify the premiums that consumers are willing to pay.


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  • The winter of this content

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    Scott Fulton

    When net neutrality became a cause célèbre, back before the world caught on fire, the Web was framed as the modern reformation of the “public airwaves.” It seemed logical to many that the FCC would be the proper enforcer of fairness in this new, digital marketplace.

    Except that whole “marketplace” thing was the problem. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 renders unto the FCC the authority to regulate an electronic signal-based medium under two conditions: if it’s an information service like a broadcaster (Title I) or if it’s a communications service like a telephone (Title II). If it’s a marketplace, then the law (where we have one) specifies the Federal Trade Commission should be its overseer.

    So if the Internet is as expansive and inclusive as the Genachowski framework painted it to be, then his agency should withdraw from acting as its authority. That’s eventually what happened.

    In the absence of a regulatory framework, however, the evolution of our relationship with content has resumed unimpeded. Although Netflix and  Amazon Prime have been compared in status to the NBC, ABC, and CBS networks of the 1960s, the truth is, none of these modern-day channels are generally considered institutions, keepers of the public trust, bearers of the Seal of Good Practice. When word spread that the streaming show “Good Omens” was about a demon and an angel who conspire to thwart the coming apocalypse, thousands protested Netflix demanding the show’s removal, not thinking for one moment that any other streaming service besides Netflix (in this case, Amazon Prime) existed.

    We subscribe to content now; all these sites or carriers or services or streaming providers (whatever you want to call them) are little more than buttons and menu pathways that lead folks to it. Playlists — the modern form of broadcasting schedules — no longer belong to behemoth broadcasters but individual viewers and listeners. The reason people think so poorly of their service providers (which shall remain nameless so that this doesn’t become one more opportunity to pile on poor Comcast) is that they get in the way of a more direct relationship between ourselves and our content. In this environment, technology is not so much perceived as the enabler but as a burden — something that should either be streamlined or circumvented.

    There’s a good argument in favor of the need for federal law that defines fairness and equal access in this new and refined context of digital communications. (There’s a better argument in favor of the need for climate change law since if we expect to experience this new content mecca, it’d be nice if we were all, say, alive.)

    But we can expedite that process, and perhaps get a real and truly vital discussion going as to what “fairness” means, if we can finally agree that the 2010 version of net neutrality is about as pertinent today as new regulations governing the conduct of callers on party lines. It would astonish a great many people to learn how their streaming media traffic, their cloud-based functionality, and even their face-to-face communications, bypass the public Internet in favor of direct, higher-speed, fiber optic media. The “net” in any modern vision of net neutrality needs to be cast a lot wider. And before we do that, we all need to become more aware of what this network of networks has truly become.

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    Here’s How Long A Tesla Model Y Battery Will Actually Last

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    Many of us have found ourselves at the side of the road waiting for someone to arrive with a gas can to fill our empty tank. Pushing your gasoline-powered engine too far when the gauge is reading “E” will do that. And like pushing your luck with these types of vehicles, you’ll find yourself in a similar situation with an all-electric model if you aren’t planning your journey with care, requiring roadside assistance or an emergency charging solution.

    The Tesla Model Y is equipped with a long-range battery that will last you a full day on the road in the vast majority of situations. If you are driving the Performance Model Y, this vehicle will carry you an average of 303 miles on a full charge, according to Tesla. Should you be considering the Long-Range Model Y, you can expect the battery to last longer, getting 330 miles on the same charge. 

    By charging the EV overnight when you are finished, you’ll have a fully charged battery to begin your day, assuming you have a home charger. And if you are running low on juice, you’ll find over 35,000 Tesla Supercharging Stations around the world, around 1,400 of which are in the United States, according to the latest data from Scrape Hero. Plug your Model Y into one of these spots and Tesla says on its website that you can expect to get around 200 miles of range after 15 minutes of charging.

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    The Most Luxurious Features Of Leonardo DiCaprio’s $1.5 Million Motorhome

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    The features inside DiCaprio’s trailer are over-the-top, to say the least. It is 53-feet-long with four slide-out sections that can extend from 400 to 700 square feet at the touch of a button (via The Sun). According to Rovsek, it is the largest and most luxurious motorhome in the entire fleet.

    It comes equipped with two fireplaces (in case one was not enough), and state-of-the-art technology including seven TV screens throughout the entire trailer. The motor home features mirror-covered ceilings and heated marble floors in the bathrooms, living room, and kitchen. It also features a wine bar and heated marble floors, according to Bloomberg Quicktake.

    Surprisingly, the crown jewel in this upscale trailer is not the lounge area or the master bedroom. Instead, it is a custom-designed £40,000 walk-in shower. The shower was reportedly made with recycled glass and took craftsmen two weeks to install (via The Sun). 

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    Here’s The Easiest Way To Scan Your Android Phone For Viruses

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    There’s a common misconception about smartphones, and it’s a dangerous one: many people believe they don’t need to worry about viruses, spyware, and malware when they’re using a phone. If only that were true! Unfortunately, there are tons of smartphone viruses out there, and it’s more important than ever to try to protect yourself. After all, it’s not uncommon for our phones to hold access to some of our most private data, including passwords, messages, and even bank accounts. If you want to stay safe, it’s a good idea to scan your phone with an antivirus app.

    You might often hear about various computer hacks and exploits, but when it comes to smartphones, things are usually pretty quiet — but that’s not due to a lack of malicious software. According to AVTest, the number of Android malware is steadily growing. In 2021, the company registered 3.28 million instances of Android-specific malware, and there might very well be many more in reality. Even if you’re normally careful, it’s important to go the extra mile if you want to secure your phone alongside some of your most important data.

    Remember that even phones that come with various protective measures from the get-go, such as the Samsung Galaxy handsets, can become compromised. If you already have an antivirus app on your phone, make sure to use it regularly. However, if you don’t or you do but you’re looking to switch to something else, read on to see some of the options available.

    Popular antivirus apps for Android

    Much like there are plenty of viruses that affect Android phones, there are also lots of antivirus apps that might seem great at first glance. However, upon closer inspection, some of them are riddled with ads and don’t actually do much to help you stay protected. When you search for the right app to suit your needs, some of them will be free and some will require an upfront payment or a monthly subscription. Here are some of the most popular options (based on download numbers and ratings) for you to explore.

    • BitDefender for Android: You can use the free version of this app that will passively protect your phone as well as allow scanning for viruses, but you can also pay to use the full-fledged version that expands the security and adds VPN access.
    • Avast One Essential: Avast is a well-known antivirus company in the PC space, but it also has a popular Android app. You can use the app for free to receive virus protection and a small amount of VPN bandwidth, but there’s a premium option too — and, unfortunately, the app will constantly remind you of that fact.
    • Norton 360: This is yet another PC giant that made its way to Android. Norton doesn’t offer a free version of its app, but if you’re willing to pay for it, you will get a number of features, including an ad blocker and a Wi-Fi analysis tool. The app costs $14.99 per year for the first year and then goes up to $30 per year.
    • Kaspersky for Android: This is a solid antivirus option even if you use the free version, but unfortunately, you only get real-time protection if you pay $15 per year for the premium version.

    Pick the app that best suits your needs, download it from the Google Play Store, and install it onto your Android smartphone or tablet.

    How to use antivirus software on Android

    Each of the apps mentioned above should provide you with enough protection to not have to worry about Android viruses too much. Whether you chose a paid or a free version, you will have access to a tool that will scan your phone for malicious software. You should do this periodically. Doing so every couple of weeks is a safe approach, especially if you use your phone often. Make it a habit to always run a scan if you accidentally find yourself clicking a link that doesn’t seem all too trustworthy, too. We’ll now give you a quick rundown of what to do with your new antivirus app.

    1. Pick your app and install it through the Google Play Store. 
    2. You will most likely have to register an account to use the app.
    3. If you are picking a paid option, pay for your chosen service.
    4. Each of the apps will offer to scan your phone as the first step after set-up. This will check all of the apps on your phone and your storage for viruses.
    5. Once the scan is concluded, you can review the results. If any viruses were found, you’ll be told where they were. Remove all of them through the app.
    6. Go into the app settings and look for options to set up regular scanning. Depending on the app, you may also be offered real-time protection, which will run in the background as you use your phone.

    Make sure to repeat these scans every so often. After you’ve had the chance to familiarize yourself with the free version of the antivirus product, you might want to consider upgrading. In the case of BitDefender and Avast, it’s most likely going to be worth it — especially if you want to regularly use a VPN and don’t already subscribe to one.

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