Net neutrality protests today at selected Verizon stores #stopthefcc

I know it’s been quiet over here, and yes, I definitely know it’s 2 in the freaking morning (Houston time). But, this is important and can’t wait for daybreak. For those still tuned in and following the blog, I want to get the word out about this. Today, December 7, is the day for Team Internet’s protests of the planned repeal/rollback of the rules protecting net neutrality.

For those of you new to all of this, net neutrality means the equal treatment of all traffic on the Internet. It means Internet providers aren’t allowed to give preferential treatment to certain websites (particularly sites owned by the same parent company as the one providing your Internet service, such as Yahoo for Verizon, or NBC News for Comcast). Perhaps more importantly, it means Internet providers aren’t allowed to slow down or block blogs like mine here because I criticize their dubious and unethical business practices (like I have criticized Google so many times in the past). Put another way, it means the Internet is not just “cable TV for computers” where one has to pay extra to access certain sites; one is not stuck using Google because it costs extra to access DuckDuckGo.

It disgusts me that we have someone in charge of the FCC (Ajit Pai) who used to be an attorney for Verizon and who is apparently still Verizon’s puppet. Yes, DJT put him there, but this goes beyond the presidency. We still have a week to compel Congress to act.

For those of you in the Houston area, there are two main protests. I signed up when only the protest at the downtown Verizon store was available. That store is at 930 Main Street #103, right next to the northbound Main Street Square station on METRORail’s Red Line, across the street from a Metro bus stop for (inbound) routes 40 and 41 (also 212, 228, and 262 but those are more expensive commuter routes), and about a block and a half from the southbound Main Street Square station. (If you’ve been downtown a lot, you’ll remember at one time it was an AT&T store, and before that, a Krispy Kreme donut shop.) The protest at this store is at 5:00 pm, but I will try to be there no later than 4:45 pm to help get things started and/or meet and greet. There is apparently a second protest scheduled at the downtown store for Friday at 6:00 pm; this may be an alternate date due to the weather forecast (the hourly forecast I am seeing has no chance of rain during the 5:00 pm hour, but a 40% chance during the 4:00 pm hour and 30% during the 6:00 pm hour).

The other Verizon store protests listed in the area (current as of very shortly before the time of this post) are at the Galleria area store, 6 BLVD Place (1800 Post Oak Boulevard) at 11:30 am (on Metro bus route 33, also a relatively short walk from the Post Oak stop on route 82); Pearland store, 10904 Memorial Hermann Drive at 2:00 pm; and Pasadena store, 3830 Spencer Highway at 1:00 pm.

If you are outside the Houston area, please consult the event map. If you can’t attend a protest, you can still help out by spreading the word.

On the future of this blog and many other blogs and websites like it

I realize this is somewhat US-centric, but since a lot of internet traffic passes through the US, it does have global implications.

For those of you who missed it, today many sites, like this one and my other blog, SKQ Record Quest are participating in a protest and awareness effort regarding net neutrality. A lot of people don’t realize what net neutrality is, so I will try to explain. To say the least, there is a reason I titled this post the way I did.

Net neutrality is the idea that all sites on the internet, all types of internet traffic, and all types of content are treated equally. If your small blog is on a 10 megabits per second connection, it gets the same treatment that a 10 megabit per second connection to NBC, CBS, The Houston Chronicle, USA Today, Netflix, Microsoft, Apple, or Google. It is not throttled just because you don’t have the deep pockets of a large corporation. It also means protocols like Freenet, BitTorrent, and XMPP are not throttled or restricted in favor of proprietary alternatives. It also means software like Tor and I2P is not arbitrarily blocked or censored, and that those unhappy with the likes of Twitter can join something like Mastodon or even start their own node. For that matter, Twitter itself may not have come into being without net neutrality.

(Outside of the US, particularly in countries like China and North Korea where the rights to free speech and expression are not recognized, the government does attempt to censor many of these protocols and networks, with varying degrees of success and failure. This only serves to underscore how important net neutrality is for the rest of us: while some creative citizens have been able to bypass the government’s censorship, they really should not have to,)

Simply put, if the FCC gets rid of the rules protecting net neutrality, there would be nothing stopping Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, Verizon, and other ISPs from putting “the rest of the internet” in a separate “box” and either slowing them down to almost nothing, or perhaps even charging extra on top of the “normal” internet access that gives you all the sites you could want to visit that are owned by or have cut deals with your ISP’s parent company. In short, it would take away most of the good things about the internet, and drop everything bad about TV and other mass media in its place.

The last thing I want is for the next generation of bloggers to hear “don’t bother starting a new blog on your own, the only way to get an audience is to land a spot at <insert names of mass media companies here>.” Or for someone trying to read my blog and having to wait forever for it to load, because they are connected to the internet through Time Warner, and Time Warner would rather have my readers reading CNN’s bloggers or even just watching CNN.

If you are in the US, you can (and should) take a minute to make a public comment to the FCC through The comment period is open for a couple of days, and the more public outrage the FCC gets over this issue, the better.

Net neutrality: why we need it, now

Okay, for those of you who don’t know, I’m going to try to explain just what net neutrality is, and why we need it now more than ever.

First, we have the recent attempt by Comcast to block Internet-based video services such as Netflix and Hulu. (Most of the news reports about this have only mentioned Netflix, however some Twitter users I am following seem to have implied that Hulu might be getting blocked as well.) There is no good reason for this other than a control freak mentality on the part of Comcast, who might block YouTube and Vimeo next unless they are stopped.

That’s bad enough. But you know what really hacks me off? This article on Engadget which shows what some Internet providers want to do: charge specific tolls and set specific bandwidth limits and restrictions on access to selected Internet sites. Facebook will cost, say, an extra 2 cents per megabyte, and YouTube will be capped at 60 kilobytes/second with an extra 50 cent fee per month. The frightening thing? There’s nothing stopping an Internet provider from just up and blocking blogs like the one you’re reading now, or to charge an arbitrarily high fee to read them.

I pay very little to keep my blogs online; the traffic charges are at worst $1 per gigabyte (and go down as I accumulate more total traffic over the lifetime of the account). And none of that is paid by my readers. I intentionally accept no advertising on this blog; I am open to the idea of accepting it on my other currently active blog, Quinn’s Big City, but as a practical matter the readership numbers are not high enough to make it feasible right now.

This is about profit for Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Vodafone don’t want you to hear. I’m getting the message out now while I still can. Because there’s no telling when it’ll cost you an extra 25 cents per megabyte to read my blogs, if you can at all. Every blogger should be worried about this, especially those who blog on controversial topics and call out the corporations, particularly those in the large to gargantuan size range, for greed like this.

The last thing the Internet needs is a bunch of greedy companies throwing up tollbooths in front of Internet services “just because.”

Net neutrality checking made simple: Switzerland

I learned of the EFF’s net neutrality auditing tool Switzerland by way of a recent article, and in turn by a recent TechBlog post. A tool like this is long overdue. Right now I’m barely at the stage of downloading and testing out Switzerland but I will definitely keep everyone updated on what I find out.

For the record, at the present time I’m accessing through an ISP I believe to have no real neutrality issues (Speakeasy).