Next Steps In Net Neutrality

The issue of net neutrality—the idea that internet service providers should not be able to prioritize particular particular sources or types of data—has been pretty contentious for quite some time. ISPs like Verizon say it is necessary to prioritize data in order to be sure systems function properly: you don’t want streaming movies to crowd out first responder or military data. Others suggests that if allowed, companies like Comcast that both provide service and content offer faster service when using their own content, but limit bandwidth when people try to, say, stream content from other creators. The FCC put in some rules, but the telecoms sued, and they will probably be overturned.

Hillicon Valley has reported that the FCC has now created the Open Internet Advisory Committee to try to come up with some middle-ground interpretation policies for the current FCC net neutrality rules.

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If You Can’t Innovate, Intimidate: Lobbying and LightSquared

Exactly what is wrong with the big business-Washington relationship:

Wireless startup LightSquared has laid off nearly half of its workforce and filed for bankruptcy, but isn’t parting with its extensive network of Washington lobbyists.

Philip Falcone and his investment firm, Harbinger Capital Partners, invested billions of dollars in LightSquared’s plan to build a high-speed wireless network that would have served more than 260 million people, but federal regulators denied it permission to launch in February over concerns that it would interfere with GPS devices…

Last quarter, at least 14 different firms lobbied for LightSquared, according to disclosure forms. The company spent more than $2.8 million on lobbying in 2011, according to records, roughly quadrupling 2010’s total of nearly $700,000.

LightSquared developed a technology that tends (in tests) to interfere with GPS.  Rather than fix it, why not just find friends in high places?

There is no right to success in business.

viaBankrupt wireless firm LightSquared cuts employees, but not lobbyists, by Brendan Sasso and Kevin Bogardus at Hillicon Valley.

Criminals Are Always One Step Ahead of Security: Tax-spoofing

Most thinking about security of online financial transactions focuses on security of the connection to the financial institution and the institution’s ability to police its systems from unauthorized access. But spoofing—gaining access to a site by masquerading as an authorized user—financial institutions doesn’t necessarily entail getting into your preexisting data.

Lizette Alvarez at the NYTimes had an usettiling piece this weekend (With Personal Data in Hand, Thieves File Early and Often) about a new and frighteningly creative strategy being used by identity thieves.

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Policy Can Be Changed: PIPA and Protest

A couple of months ago, the web went dark in protest of the SOPA/PIPA legislation.  I wrote a post at the time over at CatholicMoralTheology.com blog.  In broad strokes, the legislation was aimed at trying to develop mechanisms for dealing with clear infringement of copyright that occurs online.  But in figuring out mechanisms to do so, legislators promoted policies that infringed upon legitimate use and set up pretty draconian enforcement schemes that some said would fundamentally damage the systems that the net is built on.  The RIAA and MPAA disagreed, but legislators quickly reversed course, perhaps realizing they were out of there depth.

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Offline Data Mining and You

People are (rightly) concerned about who has access to their personal information theses days. But even when you avoid social networking sites altogether, data about you is still being collected.

Every time you go shopping, you share intimate details about your consumption patterns with retailers. And many of those retailers are studying those details to figure out what you like, what you need, and which coupons are most likely to make you happy. Target, for example,…assigns every customer a Guest ID number, tied to their credit card, name, or email address that becomes a bucket that stores a history of everything they’ve bought and any demographic information Target has collected from them or bought from other sources.

That’s from Kashmir Hill over at Forbes, telling the unsettling story of how—through data mining and statistical analysis—Target ended up knowing a teen girl was pregnant before her father did. (The story originates with Charles Duhigg, the author of The Power of Habit.  His story “How Companies Learn Your Secrets” is a must read over that the NYT Magazine.)

TEDx in Somalia

From PhysOrg:

Somalia’s war-ravaged capital Mogadishu will host Thursday its first ever TED talks as part of efforts to showcase improvements in development, business and security, organisers said.

Cool.  I love technology, but by no means am I on the “tech will save the world” bandwagon.  That being said, the health of any community—be it a neighborhood, a city, or a nation—depends upon the strength of the social ties that bind it together and make possible the various kinds of exchange we need in order to live.  These ties are both informal (like friendships) and structural (like stable banking and waste removal).  Things like TEDx can go a long way both in building up social ties and letting people know that institutions are returning.

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