Net Neutrality: What It Isn’t

By Mona Malacane

If you have been holed up in your office for the past year, you may not know that three Telecom faculty members – Barbara Cherry, Julien Mailland, and Matt Pierce – have been deeply engaged in the net neutrality debate. If you have really been living under a rock, here is Wikipedia’s succinct definition of net neutrality: “the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication.”

internetI and several others grad students had the fortuitous luck to take T504: Introduction to Telecommunications Policy Studies with Barb last semester, during which a few big net neutrality developments occurred. Consequently, we had several days devoted to discussing these issues and the misconceptions/misnomers that are thrown around even by those who support net neutrality. Here are a few:

Reclassification of internet service under Title II will basically turn internet into a public utility.

Here the semantics allow for much obfuscation. The reality is that reclassification of internet service under Title II would allow the FCC to regulate it under common carriage law. While common carriage law also applies to many public utilities, the two should not be conflated.  Here we are talking about the application of common carriage laws and not creation of a public utility per se.  As per my T504 notes, common carriers must “serve upon reasonable request, without unreasonable discrimination, at just and reasonable rates, and with adequate care” (10/23/14). So when you hear “internet service should not be regulated like a public utility!” then you can say, “I agree, it should be regulated like a common carrier so that the provider of that service cannot unjustly discriminate against the service that I am already paying them for.” (Here is a good, clear description of Title II reclassification if you’re interested.)

“Net neutrality is ObamaCare for the Internet; the internet should not operate at the speed of government”

This claim understandably made some headlines last year – it’s pretty quotable and catchy. But again, inaccurate for a few reasons. First, the FCC is an independent agency with powers granted to it by Congress, a separate branch of government than that of the President. While Obama can weigh in on the matter, any “action” he may take can be overridden by Congress. Second, net neutrality is directed at keeping the internet functioning like it always has since its inception. Third, I’m pretty sure we can all agree that the internet should not work at the speed of government, which I will hyperbolically liken to AOL dial up. I could barely play tetris on my grandpa’s dial-up Compaq desktop that literally weighed more than I did at 8 years old, let alone watch Netflix! But again, can we really compare data packets traveling through fiber optic cables to large departments of hundreds of people? And alternatively, if internet service providers could enforce paid prioritization wouldn’t that relegate some websites to “operate at the speed of government”? “No” to the first rhetorical question, and “maybe” to the second.nn1

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Yes it is Angelina Jolie, yes it is.

 

Net neutrality is unAmerican because it gives the government power to regulate the internet.

Kind of but not really. Net neutrality is actually more about regulating Internet service providers, not the internet. And let’s be honest, the government can already see everything we do on the internet. So can hackers, the people at Facebook, and the people at Snapchat. Net neutrality is about keeping parity among content providers in delivery of their content and not giving priority to data from a content provider who has the means to pay an extra fee (e.g. Netflix) over one who cannot (e.g. my mother’s small business website). In other words, net neutrality would keep giving my mother’s small business an equal opportunity as other larger businesses in the market, as opposed to applying an algorithm to discriminate between certain data packets from companies that have paid and deliver them faster than other data packets.

It also doesn’t have anything to do with foreign relations. But Matt Pierce provides a much better explanation as why that claim is false at last week’s T600.

 

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Third Brown Bag of the Semester – September 19, 2014

 

Barbara Cherry, Professor, Julian Mailland, Assistant Professor, and Matt Pierce, Lecturer, Department of Telecommunications, Indiana University

IU Telecom goes to Washington: Influencing Federal Policy-making on Network Neutrality

Given the decision of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in Verizon v. FCC  in January 2014, the FCC now faces the legal challenge of how to impose sustainable legal obligations for network openness on broadband Internet access service providers to address concerns underlying the vacated no blocking and no unreasonable discrimination rules. The FCC established a proceeding, the Open Internet Access NPRM, in May 2014, to consider whether it should seek to create obligations under section 706 authority in conjunction with Title I jurisdiction or reclassification under Title II.

On Sept. 12, 2014, Barbara Cherry, Julien Mailland, and Matt Pierce of the Department of Telecommunications traveled to Washington, D.C. to present research and discuss Indiana state legislative activities in ex parte meetings with FCC staff members of both Chairman Wheeler and Commissioner Rosenwercel with regard to the Open Internet Access NPRM.  On Sept. 13, Barbara and Julien also presented their research paper, Toward Sustainable Network-Openness Obligations on Broadband in the U.S.: Surviving Providers’ First Amendment Challenges, at the 42nd Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy, held in Arlington, Virginia.  This paper examines anticipated legal challenges to future FCC rules to impose network openness obligations on broadband Internet access services providers pursuant to the Open Internet Access NPRM, comparing the likely outcomes if the FCC’s authority is based on the exercise of authority under Title II or under section 706 in conjunction with Title I.  The analysis provides litigation advice for how the FCC should exercise its authority given evaluation of differential legal uncertainties arising from these two approaches.

For this week’s T600, Barbara, Julien and Matt discuss not only the substance of the research and Indiana legislative activities presented in Washington, D.C., but also the complex web of policy-making processes and politics within which these presentations are being made within the network neutrality debate.  They will reveal the policy battle that is raging largely outside of public view and how the issues being debated are misunderstood by the media reporting on that battle. We draw practical lessons on how to bridge theory and practice.

Matt Pierce Goes Transatlantic, Daphna’s Quest for Bread, Zeke in Orbit, Brown Bag

Matt Pierce is the new History Detective

Professor Matt Pierce went on quite an adventure this summer.  Having already planned a trip with his wife to Rhode Island and Massachusetts, he ended up catching an episode of History Detectives on PBS before they left.  This particular episode featured a man who found remnants of copper cable on a New England beach, cable that appeared to be telegraphic in nature.  This inspired Matt to visit the French Cable Station Museum in Orleans, Massachusetts, while on vacation.  There he found out about the history of transatlantic cable, how it operated, and how the technology evolved over the years.  Back in the 1800’s, the French laid transatlantic copper cable from Brest, France, to Orleans, Massachusetts.  The station house established in Orleans became the museum as it stands today.  According to Matt, “the most fascinating thing about the museum was seeing the communication technology as it evolved over the years.”

One of the artifacts Matt saw included the first Morse code signaling device, called the Mirror Speaking Galvanometer, which provided direct communication between the ships laying the original cable lines.  The Mirror Speaking Galvanometer used an electromagnet that changed polarity according to the dots and dashes of Morse code, creating a beam of light for operators to translate.  As the technology advanced, more mechanized machines were developed including one that punched holes on paper, which was later decoded by operators.

The French Cable Station was mostly used by American and European businessmen to conduct business in real time and to receive information from overseas markets.  Sending a message took on a process similar to that of Western Union, where customers would pay per word.  In fact, the people of Orleans, Massachusetts were the first to know of Charles Lindbergh’s completed flight from New York City to Paris.  The message came across the transatlantic cable line to Orleans, where the operator working at the time went to the local baseball stadium and announced it to the crowd over the megaphone.

The technology was eventually phased out in 1959 and the town of Orleans had a bit of trouble converting the station house to a museum.  According to legend, French Prime Minister at the time, Charles de Gaulle, would  not sell the land or the building the station house was on because he wouldn’t “allow one square foot of French soil to be sold” or words and gestures to that effect.  Once he left office, a group of concerned citizens joined together to buy the house in order to convert it into the museum it is today.

Matt explained that most of the equipment in the museum is in some working order and he was able to see several demonstrations while there.  “I’m not sure if there is a similar station house on the French side, in Brest, but if I ever end up over there, I’d like to find out.”  While some  may think that the transatlantic cable system is outdated and simply a historical artifact, it actually served as the blueprint for today’s fiber optic cable system.  Check out the original transatlantic cable map here and the modern fiber optic cable map here.  For more information on the French Cable Station Museum, you can visit their website at frenchcablestationmuseum.org.

Daphna’s Quest for Bread: Adjusting to Food in America

Sitting in my first class of T501 last fall, PhD student Daphna Yeshua-Katz asked a question I had never heard before, “Where can I get good bread around here?” A year later I asked her if she had found a place to get good bread. “Nope, I stopped eating bread.”

For many international students, American food can be a big adjustment. After a year stateside, Yeshua-Katz, used to eating lots of homegrown fresh fruits and vegetables, is finding ways to adjust. Instead of bread, her family eats whole wheat bagels and she shops at Sam’s for her fruits and vegetables. Having a family really affects her food choices. “Two bags of vegetables at Bloomingfoods is like $80.  If I was a single college student I might be able to afford it, but not with a family.” Yeshua-Katz also occasionally taps the Israeli community when looking for comforts from home. “In Israel we have a special kind of cucumber that is smaller and they have so much flavor, so everyone from Israel is always telling each other where to find them.”

So why the differences? One of the differences, says Yeshua-Katz, is that processed foods are expensive outside of America, making locally grown fruits and vegetables the cheap option.  “Its all economics and politics,” according to her. In Israel and Europe, McDonalds and fast food in general is really expensive, usually reserved for special occasions like birthdays. Therefore they don’t become dietary staples like they are here in America. Likewise, government subsidies for corn in America tip the balance against fruits and vegetables. “In Indiana it is all corn. People aren’t growing different kinds of vegetables which make them more expensive.  I can’t blame people for being overweight in America, it’s not their fault that the cheap option is the unhealthy option.”

But it is not just the price or availability of certain kinds of food; it is what goes into them. According to Yeshua-Katz, the flour is different here, which directly contributes to her inability to find good bread. In addition, American food has more sugar and more salt than the food in Europe and Israel.

While there are some tricks to adjusting to American food for those coming from overseas, it tends to come at a price.

Zeke in Orbit

Zeke has been abducted by terrorists and launched ruthlessly into space. It is your job to help him navigate the cosmos. Or so goes the story of Zeke in Orbit according to its creator, MS student Brendan Wood.

Zeke in Orbit, a game designed for Apple devices, stemmed from a week long experiment for one of Wood’s classes in which he was asked to design a game for the iPad.  Adopting a feature from Super Mario Galaxy in which players point their Wiimotes at orbs on a screen in order to navigate a bubble enclosed Mario, Zeke in Orbit utilizes gravity nodes to push and pull Zeke through numerous levels, all the while avoiding traps, shooting enemies, and collecting dog bones. “I consider it a puzzle-action game, because everything is changing all the time in the game,” says Wood.

Since that spring class, Wood has constantly been updating and promoting Zeke. The month before school started, Wood revamped the game’s original graphics, utilizing the artistic talents of former grad student Jenna Hoffstein to fit a “modern retro” theme that features glowing vector lines, and a very cute looking Zeke.

In order to promote Zeke Wood takes his game to review sites like Touch Arcade. According to Wood, “Touch arcade is the holy grail for idevices. Every day they have like 10,000 hits.” Likewise, Wood takes advantage of a Twitter group known as the indie developer retweet group, in which members retweet each others posts about their games in exchange for points. In addition to his online marketing, Wood is always looking for opportunities to market his game. For instance, while at a bar a few weekends ago, Wood spotted a bored looking bouncer surfing idly on his iPhone. Strolling over, Wood let him demo the game and within 5 minutes, the bouncer had downloaded Zeke in Orbit.

Although currently only available on iOS, Wood soon hopes to port Zeke using Lua in order to make the game available on the Android Market as well.  In the future, Wood intends to design and release a sequel, Zeke in Orbit II, but at the moment Wood is dedicated to updated and promoting Zeke in Orbit. You can download a copy of Zeke in Orbit from the app store.

Brown Bag Presentations

This week’s brown bag featured a split session with two of the department’s doctoral students, Soyoung Bae and Sung Wook Ji.  Soyoung’s presentation focused on online news selection and reading behavior and Sung Wook’s discussed entry behavior of IPTV.

Soyoung Bae

“Online News Selection and Reading Behavior According to News Content, Photograph, and the Audience’s Objective”

This study examined how news content and photographs affect news selection order and frequency in online newspapers. Further, it investigated how news content interacts with reading objectives on browsing and reading behavioral patterns. Results in Experiment 1 showed that threatening headlines were selected before and more often than innocuous headlines however type of headline only affected selection order, not frequency. Experiment 2 found that people spent more time reading innocuous articles compared to threatening articles and the difference was greater in the information seeking compared to the pass time condition.

Sung Wook Ji

“IPTV Redlining: Income-driven Competition”

This study examines the current status of the entry behavior of IPTV into the video programming service market, with a particular focus on income redlining and local competition. Analyzing previously unavailable data compiled by the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, evidence is presented of the practice of income redlining associated with IPTVs? entry into the Indiana market, as well as of the presence of income-driven local competition.

Credits

Nicky Lewis:  Matt Pierce is the New History Detective, Brown Bag Presentations

Mike Lang:  Daphna’s Quest for Bread, Zeke in Orbit

Steve Krahnke’s Ties, Matt Pierce’s Collectibles, Kiersten and the FCLJ, and CMCL’s Mary Gray

Steve Krahnke’s Ties

If you’ve ever prepared for a classroom lecture, deciding on what tie to wear may not have topped your list of priorities. But for Professor Steve Krahnke, the big tie decision is a regular part of his morning routine. Steve collects bright and interesting designer ties, and he never wears the same tie more than once a semester.

Professor Steve Krahnke displays some of his ties in his graduate seminar. Photo credit: Ryan Newman

Steve’s collection started off with a gift from his wife. He was leafing through the pages of a Metropolitan Museum of Art catalog when he spotted an interesting tie that his wife later purchased for him as a gift. The tie, an unusual green, orange, black, and white piece by designer Gene Meyer, has since then gathered plenty of compliments and some good discussion. And for Steve, interesting ties aren’t bold fashion statements—they’re conversation starters. “The ties have broken the ice for me so many times in business meetings,” he says.

Since picking up his first Gene Meyer tie about 20 years ago, Steve has expanded his collection and added another designer, Chris Coleman. There is a tie for every occasion. “I have one I call my ‘Point of View’ tie, I have a rhetoric tie, which has just a bunch of words, I have some that are just beautiful, and I have plenty of Christmas ties,” Steve remarks. This fall Steve put his ties on display for his graduate class, exhibiting over 50 of his ties.

For Steve, the ties send an important message to his students. “I don’t think of it as collecting, really,” he says. “We spend so much time being generic, so I think there’s something to be said about trying to be a person in a tie.” Steve started wearing ties on a regular basis when he began teaching for the first time. “For me, it’s a sign of respect for the students,” he adds. Steve encourages his students to dress up for in-class presentations. They don’t often wear ties, but they still enjoy getting to see a different one of his in class each day. Steve has an elaborate system in his closet to keep track of which ties he’s already worn to lecture so as to avoid wearing the same one more than once. He also has a tie that closely resembles a Powerpoint template, which he uses on the day he wears that particular tie.

Some of Steve's designer ties on display. Photo credit: Ryan Newman

The ties can be difficult to find, and Steve relies on eBay to find the ones he wants. He checks the site every few weeks to see what’s available, but it’s also not uncommon to be outbid for the ties. In fact, one of Steve’s friends in the IU English department also collects Gene Meyer ties, and they occasionally spot ties online that they’re both looking for. “Sometimes we find ourselves competing for the same ties in a bidding war on eBay,” Steve says.

Despite the size of his current tie collection, Steve still maintains that his first Gene Meyer tie from 20 years ago is the best one. Steve says it gets the most compliments, and everyone agrees that it is one unusually great tie. “I thought it was the coolest tie I’d ever seen, and I guess it’s true,” he says.

Objects in Offices, Segment 3: Matt Pierce

If you couldn’t already tell from the collectibles, books and memorabilia, Professor Matt Pierce is a definite amateur radio enthusiast.  His office contains many items that take you back to the golden age of radio.  He has a true appreciation for the beauty and technology behind the radio, before our lives were inundated with texting, Skyping and Facebooking.

Matt has had a passion for tinkering with things ever since he was little.  Eventually, he received his first amateur radio operator’s license his freshman year in high school and never looked back.  Working up through the ranks, he eventually certified as an extra class operator, the highest level of amateur radio license.  In addition to acting as the faculty advisor for the IU Amateur Radio Club, Matt is in the process of collecting parts for the rebuilding of one of his most prized possessions, his 1936 Philco radio.

Matt took time out to demonstrate his Morse code practice oscillator and show his Philco radio, a radio that was likely listened to during Franklin Roosevelt’s fireside chats, World War II and more.  In addition to the radio itself, Matt also has the original owner’s manual, diagrams and service bulletins.  His goal is to bring the radio back to life so that it works properly.  For this process, he offers some words of advice.  “If you ever buy one of these things at a garage sale, do not run home and plug it in to see if it works.  Almost always, the electronics inside have gone bad and you could blow out the transformer.”  He explained that the fixing up process is one of intricate detail.  Most important to Matt is what the radio represents: a time when families used to gather around a single piece of Americana for information and entertainment.

Kiersten Kamman Edits for FCLJ

Many of our graduate students spend time writing papers with hopes of submitting them to journals or conferences, but one student, Kiersten Kamman, actually gets to tackle the job of editing for a journal. Kiersten, who is currently working towards a joint degree in Telecommunications and Law, is the Senior Articles Editor for the Federal Communications Law Journal (FCLJ), housed on IU’s campus at the Maurer School of Law. Kiersten’s job involves reviewing and selecting the content for three annual publications and sending them to article editors.

Graduate student Kiersten Kamman edits for the Federal Communications Law Journal.

The FCLJ is entirely student-run with one main faculty advisor and oversight from the Federal Communications Bar Association. IU Telecom’s Professor Barb Cherry has helped with the journal in the past. The journal publishes articles on communications law, intellectual property law and IT, and related topics. Around 70 students on staff review legal and policy analyses, papers on FCC decisions, and social scientific articles with policy implications. “Net neutrality is a hot topic right now, and we’re currently working with an essay about using social science research to make policy. We try to stay at the cutting edge of policy decisions,” Kiersten says.

For Kiersten, her work in the Telecommunications Department has added a unique approach to her studies in law. “Having a strong background in the academic social scientific side has helped me understand a lot of policy decisions that have been made,” she says. Kiersten also spent last summer interning at the Federal Communications Commission headquarters in Washington, D.C., where she realized that having knowledge of both Law and Telecommunications really helped. “I worked on a lot of children and the media issues, and there policy research is based on social scientific data, so I was glad I could help,” she says.

Kiersten hopes to further make the most of her dual degree, aiming to head to D.C. eventually. “I’d really like to work for the FCC or for a communications law firm in the area,” she says of her future.

Mary Gray (CMCL) Brown Bag Presentation

This past Friday, Professor Mary Gray from the Department of Communications and Culture presented at the Brown Bag co-sponsored by the Rob Kling Center for Social Informatics and the Department of Telecommunications.

Beyond “Online/Offline”: Information Access, Public Spaces and Queer Youth Visibility in the Rural U.S.

Abstract: Drawing on her nearly two years work in rural parts of Kentucky and in small towns along its borders, this talk discusses how lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning (LGBTQ) youth and their allies make use of social media and local resources to combat the marginalization faced in their own communities and their absence in popular representations of gay and lesbian life and the agendas of national gay and lesbian advocacy groups.  This talk explores how boundary publics—visibility strategies that blur offline/online experience—act as responses to “digital inequality” against increasing privatization of information access and government-mandated censoring of information at educational institutions in the rural United States.

Random Thought

“There are unpleasant aspects to the job.”  (Found on a scratch paper in Professor Annie Lang’s office.  Published with permission.)

Credits

Nicky Lewis: Matt Pierce’s Collectibles, CMCL’s Mary Gray

Katie Birge: Steve Krahnke’s Ties, Kiersten and the FCLJ

Special Thanks

Ryan Newman: Photos of Steve Krahnke’s Ties