Tag Archives: internet

Internet speeds, by country

The United States ranks 33rd in consumer download speed, just behind Slovakia, according to Ookla’s Speedtest.net results page. (You may test your own download speed at http://speedtest.net.)

Top 5 as of 27 April 2014
Top 5 countries as of 27 April 2014

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

FCC Chairman Wheeler proposes net partiality

If you read my article about Tom Wheeler last year, you know that I disapprove of his appointment to the chairmanship of the FCC. Why? He’s a long-time lobbyist for both the cellular phone and cable TV industries. The fox is now guarding the hen house.

Tom WheelerOn Thursday, Chairman Wheeler published Setting the Record Straight on the FCC’s Open Internet Rules. His article proposes

That ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.

Translation: ISPs may sell preferential access to the highest bidder.

This is exactly what Mr. Wheeler’s former employers want him to propose, and it will stifle innovation and creativity that depend upon a level Internet playing field.

In January, the Washington D.C. Court of Appeals told the FCC what it must do to ensure net neutrality: it must re-classify broadband service as a public utility. (Verge article: The wrong words: how the FCC lost net neutrality and could kill the internet)

Barbara van Schewick, writing in Stanford Law School’s blog, published a thoughtful discussion: The FCC changed course on network neutrality. Here is why you should care. She proposes:

The FCC can reclassify Internet service as a telecommunications service and adopt network neutrality rules under Title II of the Telecommunications Act – rules that are unencumbered by the restrictions imposed by Section 706. To ensure that reclassification does not result in onerous regulation, the FCC should immediately forbear from applying those Title II provisions that are not necessary to protect consumers.

Dan Gillmor, writing in The Guardian, summarizes Mr. Wheeler’s proposal in The FCC is about to axe-murder net neutrality. Don’t get mad – get even:

The sky hasn’t fallen with today’s FCC announcements. Let’s not panic. But if we don’t start getting serious about this, as a public, we will lose the most important medium in human history. That would be worse than tragic.

The Verge has prepared an excellent 90-second video that summarizes Mr. Wheeler’s net partiality. Watch it.

Tell the FCC what you think about the importance of a level Internet playing field. Send email to openinternet@fcc.gov.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Cities key to broadband deployment

Susan Crawford, in a ten-minute YouTube video interview, states that she’s focusing on U.S. mayors as the people best positioned to break wired broadband monopolies. She joked that she’s given up on the U.S. Federal government doing anything to roll out world-class high-speed Internet throughout the nation.

Susan Crawford
Susan Crawford at G8 press conference
Last month Ms. Crawford wrote an opinion column for The Boston Globe that urged mayors to take their cities’ broadband infrastructure seriously. Most cities do great jobs with supplying safe water, trash pickup, and sewage disposal systems. Now they just need to roll out fiber-based broadband Internet access to their residents.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

The horses have fled

ListenI listened to an October 10 Cato Institute Event during which Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who authored the original Patriot Act, declared that ‘There has been a failure of oversight’. He’s authoring the “USA Freedom Act”, which (finally!) reins in the NSA, FBI, and other agencies who’ve violated the Fourth Amendment.

Patriot Act poster by ACLUOn his website’s October 10 news page, Congressman Sensenbrenner states,

I can say that if Congress knew what the NSA had in mind in the future immediately after 9/11, the Patriot Act never would have passed, and I never would have supported it. We have to have a balance of security and civil liberties. What the NSA has done, with the concurrence of both the Bush and Obama administrations, is completely forgotten about the guarantees of civil liberties that those of us who helped write the Patriot Act in 2001 and the reauthorization in 2005 and 2006 had written the law to prevent from happening.

Here’s a good Guardian article on Sensenbrenner, the Patriot Act, and the “USA Freedom Act”.

Sensenbrenner’s awakening is fine, but he’s closing the barn door after the horses have fled. Non-American governments and companies are moving their data and services off of servers that are surveilled by US agencies and/or controlled by US courts. I don’t blame them. The NSA’s over-reach is killing the whole “cloud” idea — who in his right mind would move his data off of his own computers to servers that you know are being read by the US federal government?

Congress slept rather than oversee the NSA and FBI and now it’s waking up to its responsibilities. It’s too late, boys. The world is moving in a different direction and the US with its arrogant and naïve agencies isn’t aboard that train. You had your chance and you blew it.

Meanwhile, back in the trenches

Three movements are underway by computer security techies:

  • Internet tech organizations are moving the Internet out from under US oversight
  • Improvement of Internet security, eliminating any third parties in authentication protocols
  • Creation of a secure Internet ver 2.0. It may or may not be built upon the existing TCP/IP foundation.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Thanks for nothing, NSA.

ICANN, The World Wide Web Consortium, IETF, and other organizations are unhappy with NSA’s spying on users of the Internet. They plan to move the functions of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) out from under US oversight.

Wired magazine reported in NSA Leaks Prompt Rethinking of U.S. Control Over the Internet’s Infrastructure that,

The leaders who run the internet’s technical global infrastructure say the time has come to end U.S. dominance over it.

Among other things, they were concerned “over the undermining of the trust and confidence of internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance.”

Last week, Venturebeat.com published an article titled ICANN, W3C, and other orgs say U.S. is ‘undermining the trust of Internet users’.

One unintended consequence of the NSA and FBI’s lying, spying, and violation of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights is that whatever governance the U.S. had over the Internet will be lost. It’s likely that China, Russia, Iran, et al will rush into the breach. This is not good news for an open Internet.

Thanks, creeps.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Tim Wu discusses the Internet and telecoms in the US

Tim Wu, who first coined the phrase “net neutrality”, can be seen and heard discussing the Internet in context with information market history in a recent speech titled The Rise And Fall Of Information Empires on YouTube.

masterswitch-160wTim is author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires.

ListenYou can also listen to his information market observations during an audio interview with WABC radio host John Batchelor.

ListenTim again speaks in more detail during an interview with KERA’s Krys Boyd.

One message is that information markets — movies, telephone, radio, data — seem to devolve from open to closed. This leads to

  • lack of innovation
  • inflated prices

He points out that Bell Labs invented a (steel) tape recorder – based telephone answering machine in 1931 but didn’t develop it because they feared that it would reduce revenue from Bell’s operating companies. (Sounds like Kodak: they hid their invention of the digital camera because they feared that it would kill their photographic film business.)

According to Mr. Wu, “People are all the same: when they’re not in charge, they favor competition. When they’re in charge, they hate competition.”

Another message is that ownership of content and transport medium (“the pipes” that deliver content) should be kept separated.

empire of the airIf you’re interested in the history of American radio broadcasting, there’s no finer book than Tom Lewis’ Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio. I loved learning about the giants: David Sarnoff, Lee De Forest, and Edwin Armstrong.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

My recent AT&T IP routing odyssey

I’m convinced that every tech company contains a handful of engineers and technicians who know their product; every other employee helps create layers that prevent customers from speaking with them. AT&T is no different. I have a couple Miami-based clients who were unable to see their own websites (hosted in Orlando) when using their AT&T DSL Internet connections. Their traceroute results revealed that their packets were being dropped by AT&T, rather than being routed to Level3. Their packets never left AT&T’s network.

Twice I contacted AT&T’s DSL support department without success. One support person suggested that AT&T’s DNS servers may not have received the update for the clients’ domains. I was certain that this wasn’t the case, but obediently followed her instructions on how to request a DNS update via email, with no result. The other support person suggested that the problem wasn’t AT&T’s. On a theory that maybe Level3 was rejecting the packets, I posted a request for help on a Level3 tech support page and received no reply.

caseclosed-150wI called again. John Ledyard, another AT&T DSL support person, listened, agreed that the problem could be in AT&T’s routing tables, and asked me to email him the source and destination IP addresses together with a broken traceroute result. Mr. Ledyard told me that although he couldn’t personally fix the problem, he would forward my email to someone who could fix it. Voilà! Within a week, the packets were reaching the destination host.

I don’t know exactly what was broken or why the problem occurred, but now it’s repaired. All’s well that ends well.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

New Yorker Magazine introduces a way to anonymize sources

News outlets are creating anonymous drop boxes through which sources may communicate with reporters without fear that the source will be revealed. New Yorker StrongboxThe newly created New Yorker Strongbox will protect sources from eavsedropping by Obama’s DOJ — or anyone else. If the source chooses, by using the New Yorker Strongbox, he/she may converse anonymously with a New Yorker reporter via email. It’s designed by Aaron Swartz, similar to github’s Deaddrop.

The New Yorker Strongbox uses Tor (The Onion Router). Tor has become easy to use and in general offers excellent anonymity, if you’re careful. The New Yorker explains,

You will be assigned a randomly generated and unique code name as part of the process. If a writer or editor at The New Yorker wants to contact you about the information you have submitted, he or she will leave a message for you in Strongbox. These messages are the only way we will be able to reach you, and this message can only be accessed using your code name.

The IEEE Spectrum‘s ‘Strongbox’ for Leakers Offers Imperfect Anonymity article claims that “the system’s security still ultimately depends upon the caution of its users”.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Beware of CNET downloads

QualityControl_rejected2CNET (download.cnet.com) stores many useful open-source and shareware programs on its servers. In the past I’d have recommended that you download them from CNET. Not any longer. Now CNET attempts to push browser toolbars, games, and adware on to your computer. Recently I thought that I’d opted out of their crapware, yet when the download was done, they’d still pushed this garbage unto my PC. I give them two big thumbs down.

I found this in the CNET Wikipedia entry:

Some software applications freely downloadable from the Internet are also offered for download by CNET. Some of these “CNET versions” are actually wrapped inside other applications that install other pieces of software such as adware commonly referred to as PUP.CNET adware. In most instances the user has to specifically opt out, and the opt-out option is not clearly or immediately visible. Most anti-malware software programs identify these wraps as potentially harmful and routinely identify them for removal or quarantine.

I recommend that you steer clear of CNET downloads.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Tim Wu hosts a new podcast

Slate is hosting a new podcast by Tim Wu, author of The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires. (He coined the phrase “net neutrality”. His thesis is that information industries naturally move from open to closed models as they mature — at the expense of the consumer.) His podcast is called Stranger Than Fiction and is available on Slate. I found it on tunein:rps201305u22_193841

Law professor and author Tim Wu talks to leading science fiction writers about whether we're already living in the future.

Recent guests:

  • Alastair Reynolds
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Neal Stephenson

Since age 14, I’ve had little interest in science fiction, but these interviews reveal fascinating ideas about SETI, communication across vast distances (how about using neutrinos rather than electromagnetic waves?), privacy, and intellectual property issues today.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Tom Wheeler as FCC Chairman?

President Obama has nominated Tom Wheeler, another in a long line of political hacks at the FCC, for the FCC chair. This choice receives mixed reviews from observers: Obama’s new FCC chairman isn’t a reflexive shill for carriers, but he’s still a bad pick. Tom WheelerHis close ties to the cable TV and mobile phone industries worry me. Wheeler is former head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the mobile wireless trade group CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association). Translation: he lobbied for these industries. He’s also a major Obama campaign fund raiser. (His predecessor, Julius Genachowski, was an Obama election campaign committee official.) Nothing new here — it merely continues a long tradition of patronage at the FCC.

Remember Obama’s “no lobbyists in my administration” pledge?

In my opinion, Mr. Wheeler is way too closely connected to industries that fall under the FCC’s oversight. You can bet that his cable TV and cellular provider buddies hope that Congress approves his nomination as FCC Chairman. It’s ironic that the two segments of the American electronic communications market that are infamous for gouging the consumer are the industries for which he’s been a champion. If he runs the FCC, don’t expect change in either of these cozy shared marketplaces. Both industries are fat and happy, with limited competition. In fact, expect legislation to prevent municipalities and Google Fiber et al from competing with the incumbents.

Now, more than ever, the FCC Chairman should be independent of industry associations. Tim Wu, respected telecommunications observer, writing in The New Yorker, described The Coming War Over Net Neutrality. uncoveror comments,

The FCC, by getting in bed with the industries it is supposed to regulate, has undermined its very reason to exist. They are a corrupt agency for sale to the highest bidder.

I hope that Wheeler’s appointment is bounced by Congress and Mr. Obama instead nominates Susan Crawford, who doesn’t seem to be in any industry’s pocket. I almost forgot: she didn’t raise election funds for Mr. Obama. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

Video clip: former FCC board member Nicholas Johnson calls Wheeler’s nomination “somewhere between bizarre and outrageous”.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Common Crawl provides public access to its huge web index.

Google is a powerful search engine, as are Bing, Yandex, et al, but they’re all proprietary: their spiders crawl the web and vacuum-up information which they store within their own walls. (Google calls its web index BigTable.) Yes, we can use their search engine user interfaces, but exactly what algorithms they use remains proprietary and for the most part, secret.

SpiderCommon Crawl Foundation (Commoncrawl.org) was created in 2007 with the goal of crawling the web and making the discovered information available to the public, to do with as it pleases. Common Crawl claims to have stored about six billion web pages in their index and they publish a free library of program code to access it.

Applications that use the Common Crawl index are beginning to appear. Lucky Oyster uses the Common Crawl index to reveal previously hidden social networking relationships to users.

MIT’s Technology Review published an article recently that speculates that, thanks to Common Crawl, now Google-scale start-ups can get underway without having to crawl the web themselves, dramatically reducing their need for capital. Walled gardens such as Facebook and LinkedIn block spiders from crawling their sites — they’re all about locking up information. It’ll be fun to watch the tug of war between the proprietary and the open model in the web search arena, My money is on the open model.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Android devices lead the mobile O.S. market.

While looking at statcounter.com, I noticed that more Android devices are used to browse the web than than any other mobile operating system (“O.S.”).

Top 8 mobile operating systems

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

FCC Chairman Genachowski steps down

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced on Friday that he will leave his office “in the near future” and President Obama thanked him for his service.

Julius Genachowski
Julius Genachowski

For consumers, Mr. Genachowski’s 4-year reign has been both good (opposed AT&T / T-Mobile “merger”) and bad (continued growth of de facto broadband shared monopoly). The FCC has been a political playground for decades: Genachowski was a Harvard Law buddy of Mr. Obama.

Like most federal agencies, the FCC provides a cushy resting-place for ambitious lawyers who change chairs every time the music stops. Inevitably, at least one of those chairs resides within an enterprise that the agency regulates.

Lawyers have run the show at the FCC for too long.

I’d like to see an engineer appointed FCC Chairman. Absent that pipe-dream, I’d like to see Susan Crawford appointed Chairwoman. I like her motives, but I fear that, like most lawyers, she thinks that every problem can be fixed with a new law.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Judge dismisses LinkedIn password breach lawsuit

A US District Court judge has dismissed a suit that claimed that the plaintiffs were damaged by LinkedIn’s lack of diligence in safeguarding LinkedIn subscribers’ usernames and passwords. The case was brought by Katie Szpyrka and Khalilah Wright, after about 6.5 million usernames and passwords were downloaded from LinkedIn by a Russian hacker last June. (I wrote about two LinkedIn problems in LinkedIn users’ data LeakedOut. and again when 88 percent of the passwords were cracked within five days: No password news is good password news.)

Judge Edward Davila dismissed the lawsuit because

  • Plaintiffs hadn’t read LinkedIn’s Terms Of Service (TOS), so couldn’t claim that LinkedIn had breached their TOS, which includes

    …we cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information you transmit to LinkedIn. There is no guarantee that information may not be accessed, disclosed, altered, or destroyed by breach of any of our physical, technical, or managerial safeguards. It is your responsibility to protect the security of your login information.

  • Plaintiffs could not show consequent damage.

That clause within LinkedIn’s TOS sounds broad. “If you upload it to our site, don’t expect us to safeguard it.” Broad, I tells ya.

News article from Kaspersky’s ThreatPost: LinkedIn Data Breach Lawsuit Dismissed

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695