Supreme Court Pick and Tech Freedom

Is Net Neutrality really unlawful? Our new Justice seems to think so. Trump announced on Twitter last week that he would name a nominee to serve on the highest federal court in the United States at 6 p.m. PT Monday night. The choice comes about two weeks after Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he would retire by July 31. (Check out out the full coverage at our sister site CBSNews.com.)Trump’s choice, if confirmed by the Senate, will have a say on landmark cases for years to come. Supreme Court justices make rulings that affect everything from education to marriage equality to free speech. Tech has increasingly appeared on the court’s docket. In 2018, the justices ruled on cases that affected online shopping and phone location data history privacy.  In its next session, which starts in October, the Supreme Court is expected to hear cases on tech issues again, including an antitrust argument over Apple’s App Store.Kavanaugh, 53, has served as a US Court of Appeals judge for the DC Circuit for 12 years, providing opinions on key tech issues like net neutrality andThe potential Supreme Court justice sided against net neutrality in a 2017 dissent, arguing that it was “one of the most consequential regulations ever issued by any executive or independent agency in the history of the United States.”Kavanaugh wrote that net neutrality was unlawful because it prevented internet service providers from controlling what type of content they provide to people, violating a company’s First Amendment rights. He compared it to cable providers being able to control what customers could watch.Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, called Kavanaugh out for his stance on net neutrality in a tweet on July 3.”Kavanaugh frequently sides with powerful interests rather than defending the rights of all Americans like when he argued that the FCC’s #NetNeutrality rule benefiting millions of consumers was unconstitutional,” the senator tweeted.  The circuit court judge has also argued in support of the NSA’s massive surveillance program.In 2015, the US Court of Appeals declined to hear a case on the NSA’s phone metadata collection, first unveiled by whistleblower Edward Snowden.In his opinion, Kavanaugh argued that the NSA’s surveillance program was consistent with the Fourth Amendment, even without a warrant. He said that data requests from the government were reasonable for national security.”In my view, that critical national security need outweighs the impact on privacy occasioned by this program,” Kavanaugh wrote.He cited the “third-party doctrine” established in 1979, which allows law enforcement to obtain data on a person without a warrant if they obtained it from a third party (CNET 7/10/18).Ray Myers

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No More Net Neutrality while Trump Bargains with Devils

While we were all enthralled with Trump’s globe-trotting antics, i.e., a G-7 meeting where he made a pitch for allowing Russia to rejoin, refusing to sign concluding document, and an historic “hand-shake” with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un: net neutrality died in the United States. As a public service, here are some of the changes that will make you wish for a return to those carefree Internet-browsing days.

* Internet service providers can now discriminate against any lawful content by blocking websites or apps.

* Service providers can now slow the transmission of data because of the nature of the content.

* Service providers can now create “internet fast lanes” for companies and consumers who pay premiums, and maintain a slow lane for those who don’t.

Now we can all sleep a little more soundly? We have both Russia and North Korea on our side, and our Internet service just got slower, may be censored, and become more expensive. More like a nightmare!

Ray Myers

Keeping the Net Neutral

Net Neutrality: What You Need to Know Now

When you go online you have certain expectations. You expect to be connected to whatever website you want. You expect that your cable or phone company isn’t messing with the data and is connecting you to all websites, applications and content you choose. You expect to be in control of your internet experience.

When you use the internet you expect Net Neutrality.

Net Neutrality is the basic principle that prohibits internet service providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from speeding up, slowing down or blocking any content, applications or websites you want to use. Net Neutrality is the way that the internet has always worked.

In 2015, millions of activists pressured the Federal Communications Commission to adopt historic Net Neutrality rules that keep the internet free and open — allowing people to share and access information of their choosing without interference.

But right now the internet is in peril. On Dec. 14, 2017, the FCC’s Republican majority approved Chairman Ajit Pai’s plan to gut the Net Neutrality protections.

A former Verizon lawyer and a Trump appointee, Pai ignored the widespread outcry against his plan from millions of people, lawmakers, companies andco public-interest groups.

We can’t let Pai have the last word on this — which is why we’re calling on Congress to use a “resolution of disapproval” to overturn the FCC’s vote to dismantle the Net Neutrality rules.

What can we do now?

Congress has the power to reverse the FCC’s vote. Urge your lawmakers to use a “resolution of disapproval” to overturn the FCC’s decision to dismantle the Net Neutrality rules.

The Trump administration is doing everything in its power to clamp down on dissent. If we lose Net Neutrality, it will have succeeded.

Ray Myers

P.S. I will not be posting any commentary on Friday, March 9. Will be back on Monday, March 12. Thanks for following TechtoExpess.

Keep the Net Neutral!

Twenty-one States and the District of Columbia, and several public interest groups, filed the first major lawsuit Tuesday to block the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Net Neutrality rules, marking the start of a high-stakes legal battle over the future of the Internet. New York Attorney General Eric Sneiderman, who is leading the suit, said the FCC’s repeal of the net neutrality rules was “arbitrary” and “capricious” and violates federal law.

The FCC’s rules had prohibited internet providers from slowing down or blocking websites. The lawsuits came just a day after Senate Democrats said they were inching closer to the votes needed for a legislative measure to help overturn the FCC’s rules. Their resolution aims to reverse the FCC’s decision and block the agency from passing similar legislation in the future. It has garnered the support of all 49 Democratic Senators as well as one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine.

Long live America’s Net Neutrality!

Ray Myers

No More Net Neutrality and, From Russia with Love

So it’s just that kind of day.

I’m not sure what more I can say.

FCC puts the Internet up for sale.

Putin and Trump are best friends forever. (“Hacking Democracy,” Washington Post, 12/15)

Ray Myers

P.S. For a diversion from the present state of world power politics and Internet control, please have a look and listen at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68

Net Neutrality in the U.S.

Only one day left before the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. votes on plans to abandon Net Neutrality in favor of lifting restrictions on Internet providers. In other words, allow Internet providers to become more entrepreneurial in offering their services at competitive market rates. I think we all know what this means: consumers will now have to pay more and receive less in terms of services provided.

In terms of trying to better understand the impact of these proposed changes, and as a means registering your opposition (assumed), please visit this site to make your voice heard: https://www.battleforthenet.com/breaktheinternet/

The full power and potential of the Internet should not be left to only those who can afford it!

Ray Myers

P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India, 1966-68

LinkedIN Nyet!

That Vladimir Putin is one “wild and crazy” guy as Steve Martin used to say.  I know that he is not responsible for everything that happens in Russia (just ask President-elect Trump), but his name just keeps popping up when certain technological “malfunctions” occur inside Russia.  Maybe I just have to get over my suspicions.  Relax, comrade, Vladimir and the Donald will take care of all this and you will have access to all the Internet activities you want, just like in China (NOT!) 

Well, for what it’s worth, the banned downloads of LinkIN are limited to Russian smartphones (several million users) which seem to be the most popular mobile technology devices in the world today.  In addition, LinkedIN’s website has also been blocked in Russia, so just get over it, at the same time you’re trying to get over the recent U.S. presidential election.  Fortunately, I am not alone in my concern (paranoia?).  Robert McDowell, a former member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has stated: “Internet free speech and internet freedom are increasingly under attack all over the globe, and not just from authoritarian regimes.  It appears to be a one-way ratchet with speech control getting tighter.”

But why should I worry?  Only a few days left.  We will soon have a president who has a good friend in Moscow, who can help us get all of these Internet freedom issues cleared up.

Ray Myers



Lost in Space – Broadband for All at What Level of Risk?

In the past five years the number of operational satellites has nearly jumped 40 percent, and nearly 1,400 now orbit the planet.   Companies such as OneWeb, Boeing and SpaceX plan to put up constellations of small satellites that could number in the hundreds, if not thousands, and beam the Internet to the billions of people not yet connected.  That’s if they don’t crash into each other first.  “As space becomes more congested and contested and competitive, there needs to an agency with unambiguous authority that can compel somebody to maneuver,” says U.S. Congressman Jim Bridenstine.

In the U.S. we have multiple agencies that would potentially be involved in trying to regulate all this outer space activity and, to me, that might be the most challenging problem of all.  Let’s just name three agencies that might be the most familiar: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  And that is just a small sampling of government regulators on the U.S. side.  We are not the only nation interested in the increased communication capacities utilizing outer space.  Some have suggested that this is simply a matter that can be left to the satellite companies to regulate themselves and work together to stop collisions.  Really?

Congressman Bridenstine is also wary of self-regulation.  There would be no “watchdog” agency to ensure that private companies would make safety decisions in the best interests of the world’s population instead of the corporate bottom line.  Any potential collision of these satellites “could create 5,000 pieces of debris that would be up there for 100 years.”

Ray Myers

Let’s Make America Great Again – Really Connect All Schools to the Internet

It’s almost been twenty years since American schools began having access to funding to wire their schools though the federally funded e-Rate program administered by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).   Unfortunately, if you live in a poor rural area of this country, you will still find that the speed and reliability of connections to your schools are not what they are in your state’s larger cities or more populous communities.  It will not be high-speed Internet.  In fact, teachers and students may be spending more time trying to connect to the Internet than in actually teaching and learning with it.  I know Al Gore has moved on to saving the world’s environment but we could really use his help on this one since he very instrumental when all this began during the Clinton years.  He must be feeling our pain.

There are a relatively small number of schools and communities that have this lack of needed connectivity, but our larges telecommunications companies seem to have little interest in connecting to them.  And there is little competition to provide services.  Seven percent of U.S. schools nationwide fail to find bidders when looking to upgrade Internet connectivity according to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).  Should our federal, state and local governments be doing more?  Or should we just let a “free market” take care of all this.  Students in many European and Asian countries have better connectivity.  (See U.S. Department of Education report on International Experiences with Technology in Education, http://tech.ed.gov/files/2013/10/iete-full-report-1.doc).

I know there are many geopolitical and geographic challenges that are unique to our American schools.  But we are, or can be, “great” again as we will continue to hear throughout this campaign year.  Let’s make our schools part of that challenge, promise?

Ray Myers

Throwing an Internet Lifeline to Low-Income Households in U.S.

This is all about broadband access for millions of households that have been described as living on the poorer side of the digital divide.  They will receive a monthly subsidy of $9.25.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) estimates that one in five people do not have access to broadband in their homes, and the vast majority of those disconnected are poor.  Only about 40 percent of people earning less than $25,000 a year can afford broadband whole 95 percent of all households making over $150,000 have high-speed Internet at home, according to the FCC.

Consumer advocacy groups cheered for this decision by the FCC.  Inexpensive options for access have dwindled, not grown.  “A broadband subsidy for Lifeline will transform access to this basic human right in American cities, where such access is necessary to apply for even the lowest-wage jobs.” (Media Mobilizing Project).   There will also be benefits for students from low-income families who do not have Internet in their homes.  Seven out of ten schools assign homework that requires Internet access.

Let’s remember that connectivity and all the technology tools that are now available to today’s learners and future generations can only be as helpful as we make them.   Educators and families remain the primary guiding forces.  I don’t think there will ever be “Siri teachers” that will replace classroom teachers in any of our communities, regardless of income.  But I could be wrong?

Ray Myers



A Digital Divide That Keeps Widening?

Technology has certainly created many more opportunities for many more students to learn more about the world around them. So why does the digital divide keep getting wider in many parts of the U.S.?  I think this is more of an economic issue than a question of public policy or good legislation, intention.  We now have federal initiatives and programs supporting educational technology and Internet connectivity in our classrooms as prerequisites for learning in the 21st Century.  These programs began in the 1990s during the Clinton administration, and it seems that the students who may need them the most still have not benefitted to the degree intended.

The Federal Communications Commission’s eRate and Lifeline programs are often touted as two of the most enabling federal programs leveling the playing field for all American students wherever they may live, transcending zip codes and economic status.  Unfortunately, in spite of all the good intentions and rhetoric, this now appears to be a case of the rich getting richer, and the poor poorer.  Connectivity still seems to be a major issue contributing to this disparity, but it goes beyond the classroom. Students living in poorer districts do not have access to all the technological assets that their counterparts have in richer communities across the country.  So the digital divide may have moved more dramatically to the home environment where poorer students will always be more disadvantaged than their more affluent peers.

This was not intended to be part of the plan created at the end of the last century.  Where is Al Gore when we need him?  Perhaps the real issue is the structure of our public school financing and its dependence on property taxes as its base.  “New wine in old wineskins.”

Ray Myers