Master of Science

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Net Neutrality: Ajit's Mug

Fantastical renditions — as improbable or historically false as they might be — serve our thinking in the creation of consciousness.

Tongue in cheek?  Yea, sort of.  But what is the purpose of Ajit Pai's mug?

Commercial plug aside, philosophers of language and theology would explain that the multiple implications expressed in or by symbols, either visibly or verbally, reflect a natural presence of contrasts in the human condition that create new understanding, meaning and direction in life.

We are conscious only of the transfer of meaning from the first term to the second term; aware of the dynamic, but not the process, which can be exploited.

Multiple implications can hide things, Paul Ricoeur said in The Rule of Metaphor.  Thus, it goes without saying, he explained, that the reader (or viewer) of these kind of renditions is often unaware of the “multivalent” meanings in the metaphors and symbols used.

“He is conscious only of the transfer of meaning from the first term to the second,” Ricoeur said, and while we are often aware of the new dynamic, we are not at all aware of the process, which posited here, means it can be exploited when crafted by unscrupulous, naïve or uncaring individuals.

Charles Winquist, who has also written extensively on this topic, said the symbol announces a meaning “other than the self,” and creates the possibility for an expansion of the self through the process of thinking, which he called a “critique.”  He too believed symbols have the power to change us through renewed meaning and understanding.

Unfortunately, critiques do not come easily.  At Iowa State University, for example, a wannabe sociologist, and an engineering student, both came dangerously close to flunking out of their freshman English class, the former hopelessly lost in Altick's Preface to Critical Reading, the latter, skilled in science and mathematics, lost in strange new words, even though both had been accepted into the university.  Luckily there was a librarian close by at the library, a place where people use to go to when they needed help.

Enter Laura Marlane, Director of the Omaha Public Library — just down the road from Iowa State University.  Marlane, in a column for the Omaha World-Herald, reported on some of what she’d seen prior to the passage of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) vote in favor of net neutrality June 12, 2015, which was repealed by the FCC December 14, 2017, again along party lines.

Marlane cited in her column, January 7, 2018, that a top cellphone service provider had blocked the Google Wallet app because they were developing their own wallet app.  Thus, you could not use your Google Wallet app on their phone.

“Allowing broadband providers to segment their IP offerings and reserve huge amounts of bandwidth for their own services will not give consumers the broadband Internet our country and economy need.”

In another example, MetroPCS offered its first 4G enabled phone with an unlimited plan.  Unfortunately, if customers wanted to watch something other than YouTube videos, they could not, unless they upgraded to a more expensive plan.  Most certainly they could watch President Barack Obama pitch his net neutrality idea in The New York Times,couldn't they?

Marlane did not mention anything about a contract for this service, whenever it was that people were signing up for such limited service, but customers should start reading the fine print, and especially these days, before signing on the dotted line.

According to CNET, from the Internet's earliest days, US policy makers have been grappling with the question of if or how much the federal government should be involved in regulating the information superhighway.

But Vinton G. Cerf, widely considered the Father of the Internet, had no doubts at all.  His work dates to 1969, when he was a graduate student in computer science at the University of California at Los Angeles.  He was one of several young programmers and hardware engineers involved in the installation of the first “node” of the original, four-node ARPAnet, the precursor to the Internet, according to Katie Hafner in a 1994 profile in The New York Times.

“Dr. Cerf's principal contribution, however, has been his work on TCP/IP,” Hafner said, “the common language spoken by computers throughout the Internet, a language Dr. Cerf developed with Dr. Kahn.”

On February 15, 2006, Network World published Net Neutrality: The Debate Gets Nasty, which quotes Cerf saying that “telephone companies cannot tell people who they can call; network operators should not dictate what people can do online.”  He worked for Google then and drafted a letter for a congressional hearing on net neutrality, detailing his position.

“Enshrining a rule that broadly permits network operators to discriminate in favor of certain kinds of services and to potentially interfere with others would place broadband operators in control of online activity,” he wrote on behalf of Google, who called him their ‘net neutrality guru’.  “Allowing broadband providers to segment their IP offerings and reserve huge amounts of bandwidth for their own services will not give consumers the broadband Internet our country and economy need.

“Many people will have little or no choice among broadband operators for the foreseeable future, implying that such operators will have the power to exercise a great deal of control over any applications placed on the network.”

Interestingly, broadband providers and ISPs often argue that businesses such as Google benefit unfairly at the expense of facilities providers. Charles E. Grassley, United States Senator from Iowa said he is concerned that the net neutrality rules have done nothing to provide Internet entrepreneurs with legal or marketplace certainty.

“As we have seen before,” Grassley said in a letter to net neutrality supporters, “the Open Internet Order ultimately result in numerous lawsuits and protracted, multi-year litigation.  Existing laws and regulations are ill-suited for the rapidly-evolving, innovative Internet ecosystem.  I hope that stakeholders and policymakers can come together to craft a new legal framework that recognizes the dynamic nature of the Internet.”

So do we all, Senator Grassley, so do we all.  But most on the net-neutrality side of the issue, unfortunately, are not overly optimistic, and waiting for a Democrat to inhabit the Oval Office will only mean others will be waiting for a Republican to inhabit the Oval Office.  Maybe you guys and gals could talk to somebody over at the Library of Congress.  You know, a librarian.  Perhaps Senator Sasse can call Laura Marlane in Omaha to come out and do a training seminar.

“... librarians will continue to fight for net neutrality,” she said, “to ensure that additional barriers to information and opportunities do not emerge.”

What do you think?  No doubt she will bring along a copy of  Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet: A Rule by the FCC on 04/13/2015Please reread it, and share it with your colleagues.  A lot of us are angry, and just plain scared out here.


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