a worldwide social network that has fomented revolution in multiple countries

Who would have thought that twitter and facebook could foment a revolution? Yet Wael Ghonim says it did. He’s one of the people behind the “We are all Khaled Said” facebook page, and he spent a dozen days in jail for it: Here’s his TED Talk:
“Because of the Internet, the truth prevailed.
And everyone knew the truth.
And everyone started to think that this guy can be my brother.”

Here’s a post from that facebook page on 3 March 2011:

“I really want you ALL to understand that your support to Free Egypt & Egyptians is vital. Don’t you ever think that sitting on FaceBook supporting & commenting help help Egypt. A whole revolution started on Facebook & is now bringing Freedom & starting a new modern Egypt.”

Other Egyptian organizers say similar things:

“Online organising is very important because activists have been able to discuss and take decisions without having to organise a meeting which could be broken up by the police,” he said.’
( “Internet role in Egypt’s protests,” by Anne Alexander, BBC, 9 February 2011.)

Many of the Egyptians involved were poor and not usually thought of as Internet users, but David D. Kirkpatrick expalined that in the NY Times 9 Feb 2011, Wired and Shrewd, Young Egyptians Guide Revolt:

The day of the protest, the group tried a feint to throw off the police. The organizers let it be known that they intended to gather at a mosque in an upscale neighborhood in central Cairo, and the police gathered there in force. But the …organizers set out instead for a poor neighborhood nearby, Mr. Elaimy recalled.

Starting in a poor neighborhood was itself an experiment. “We always start from the elite, with the same faces,” Mr. Lotfi said. “So this time we thought, let’s try.” ‘

The NY Times story goes into detail about how the online organizing interfaced with and instigated the initial meatspace protests.

And you don’t need a laptop or a desktop computer to use social media. As Reese Jones points out,

in 2010 75% of the population of Egypt had cell phones (60 million phones in service likely with SMS) possible to message via Facebook via SMS at http://m.facebook.com/.
And this was all after similar efforts in Tunisia had successfully exiled their tyrant and inspired the Egyptians, who in turn inspired the Lybians, etc. And what inspired the Tunisians to start was Wikileaks posts of U.S. cables showing the U.S. thought the Tunisian dictator was just as clueless and corrupt as the Tunisians thought.

So yes, social networking on the Internet has fomented multiple revolutions.


Woz to FCC: Save the Internet

Wozniak to the FCC on net neutrality:
Imagine that when we started Apple we set things up so that we could charge purchasers of our computers by the number of bits they use. The personal computer revolution would have been delayed a decade or more. If I had to pay for each bit I used on my 6502 microprocessor, I would not have been able to build my own computers anyway.
He also details examples of how difficult it was to start a new service the way the telephone system used to be, how radio used to all be freely receivable, and how cable TV is mis-regulated. He summarizes his case:
I frequently speak to different types of audiences all over the country. When I’m asked my feeling on Net Neutrality I tell the open truth. When I was first asked to “sign on” with some good people interested in Net Neutrality my initial thought was that the economic system works better with tiered pricing for various customers. On the other hand, I’m a founder of the EFF and I care a lot about individuals and their own importance. Finally, the thought hit me that every time and in every way that the telecommunications careers have had power or control, we the people wind up getting screwed. Every audience that I speak this statement and phrase to bursts into applause.
Then he asks for all that not to happen to the Internet:
We have very few government agencies that the populace views as looking out for them, the people. The FCC is one of these agencies that is still wearing a white hat. Not only is current action on Net Neutrality one of the most important times ever for the FCC, it’s probably the most momentous and watched action of any government agency in memorable times in terms of setting our perception of whether the government represents the wealthy powers or the average citizen, of whether the government is good or is bad. This decision is important far beyond the domain of the FCC itself.
Ain’t that the truth.


Duopoly Cons Congress Members

73 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter drafted by telco and cableco lobbyists against net neutrality. Save the Internet has sufficiently fisked it. My favorite point is that when AT&T was required as a condition of acquiring Bellsouth in 2006 to abide by net neutrality, it increased its infrastructure investments. As soon as that two year requirement was up, so were the investments. (And they didn’t even honor all the requirements, such as a low-end $10/month service.)

The simple fact is that net neutrality was the condition under which the Internet grew to be what it is today, which is the last bastion of free speech and a free press in much of the world, especially in the United States. The only reason net neutrality is an issue is that the duopoly (telcos and cablecos) succeeded in their regulatory capture of the FCC during Kevin Martin’s term as chairman and did away with much it. The U.S. used to have among the fastest Internet speeds in the world. Since the duopoly got their way, the U.S. has fallen far behind dozens of other countries in connection speeds, availability, and update. While the U.S. NTIA claimed at least one user per ZIP code counted as real service.

We can let the telcos and cablecos continue to turn the Internet into cable TV, as they have said they want to do. Under the conditions they want, we never would have had the world wide web, google, YouTube, flickr, facebook, etc.

And left to their plan, the duopoly will continue cherry-picking densely-populated areas and leaving rural areas, such as south Georgia, where I live, to sink or swim. Most of the white area in the Georgia map never had anybody even try a speed test. Most of the rest of south Georgia had really slow access. Which maybe wouldn’t be a problem if we had competitive newspapers (we don’t) or competing TV stations (we don’t). Or if we didn’t need to publish public information like health care details online, as Sanford Bishop (D GA-02) says he plans to do. How many people in his district can even get to it? How many won’t because their link is too slow? How many could but won’t because it costs too much?

John Barrow (D GA-12) has a fancy flashy home page that most people in his district probably can’t get to. Yet he signed the letter against net neutrality.

I prefer an open Internet. How about you?

Why did the 73 Democrats sign the letter? Could it have to do with the duopoly making massive campaign contributions to the same Democrats and holding fancy parties for them?

The same lobbyists are after Republican members of Congress next.

Call your member of Congress and insist on giving the FCC power to enforce net neutrality rules.


NPRM Diagram 2: scope of rules

Here’s the diagram from the NPRM that the FCC folks mentioned frequently at the NANOG panel (The Regulators Meet the Operators, at NANOG 48, Austin, Texas, 22 Feb 2010) regarding scope of net neutrality rule making:


It does seem to clarify some of the points made by the panelists.

More Liveblogging from NANOG Net Neutrality Panel

The Regulators Meet the Operators, at NANOG 48, Austin, Texas, 22 Feb 2010. Notes continued from the previous post. See the pages 37-51 of the NPRM.

Question from a provider: VoIP traffic prioritization from essentially our own service?

Moderator: One thing that won’t be allowed is prioritizing your own service over someone else’s similar service; that’s almost the whole point. FCC person: This is contemplated in the document. Existing services wouldn’t have to be reworked rapidly. Seeking input. Reasons to be concerned. Monopoly over last mile has a position to differentially treat such a service. This is one of the core concerns.

Q: Giving the same priority to somebody else’s similar VoIP service is essentially creating a trust relationship; how much traffic will the other service provider send? Continue reading

Liveblogging from NANOG Net Neutrality Panel

The subtitle is The Regulators Meet the Operators, at NANOG 48, Austin, Texas, 22 Feb 2010. The ground rules of the panel are that it’s not about politics or policy. It assumes there will be net neutrality, and it’s about getting actual network engineers and architects involved in implementing it. Prior reading: pages 41-51 of the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). I’d actually recommend starting at page 37, which is where the NPRM discusses codifying the existing four Internet principles (see below).

A huge number of comments have been received already, by Jan 15 deadline. More comments are solicited. See also openinternet.gov.

The general idea is to take six proposed principles and turn them into rules that are enforceable and not unreasonable:

Proposed Rules: 6 Principles

  • Access to Content
  • Access to Applications and Services
  • Connect Devices to the Internet
  • Access to Competition
  • Nondiscrimination
  • Transparency
The first four principles have been around for several years. The last two, nondiscrimination and transparency, are the same as the ones Scott Bradner’s petition recommended back in June 2009. Back then I mentioned as I always do that the FCC could also stop talking about consumers and talk about participants. Interestingly, their slide at this talk did not use the word “consumer”, so maybe they’ve gotten to that point, too.

The FCC is also making a distinction between broadband and Internet. There are existing rules regarding “managed” vs. “specialized services” for broadband Internet access, but for net neutrality in general, maybe different rules are needed. Continue reading

R.E.A. for Fast Internet Everywhere

In the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt discovered stayed at Warm Springs in south Georgia to treat his polio. He discovered that most of rural America did not have electricity, and thus little light at night, few refrigerators, no eletric irons, and where you could get electricity, it cost much more than he was used to.
fdrbarnesville.gif It was Roosevelt himself who linked the country’s rural electrification program to his adopted hometown of Warm Springs, Ga. In an August 11, 1938, speech at Gordon Military College in Barnesville, Roosevelt spoke at the dedication of Lamar Electric Membership Corporation (now Southern Rivers Energy). His comments there immortalized the impact the president’s connection with rural Georgia had in illuminating the nation’s farms and country back roads. “Fourteen years ago, a Democratic Yankee came to a neighboring county in your state in search of a pool of warm water wherein he might swim his way back to health,” Roosevelt said before a crowd of 20,000 that summer day. “The place, Warm Springs, was a rather dilapidated, small summer resort. His new neighbors extended to him the hand of genuine hospitality, welcomed him to their firesides and made him feel so much at home that he built himself a house, bought himself a farm, and has been coming back ever since.”

Truly, Roosevelt endeared himself to Georgians. He continued his speech with the following words, which have been quoted countless times in promoting Warm Springs, the Little White House and Georgia’s EMCs: “There was only one discordant note in that first stay of mine at Warm Springs: when the first-of-the-month bill came in for electric light for my little cottage, I found that the charge was 18 cents a kilowatt-hour about four times as much as I paid in Hyde Park, New York. That started my long study of proper public utility charges for electric current and the whole subject of getting electricity into farm homes. So, it can be said that a little cottage at Warm Springs, Georgia, was the birthplace of the Rural Electrification Administration.”

The R.E.A. produced more than electricity. “Truly, Roosevelt endeared himself to Georgians”, and to the rest of rural America, making the rest of FDR’s New Deal much easier to sell. Read the rest of FDR’s speech: that’s exactly what he’s doing; using the R.E.A. t o sell the New Deal.

We have a similar situation today with high speed Internet and rural America. Republicans controled Congress and the White House for 8 years and the U.S. fell behind. Democrats want to pass the equivalent of another New Deal. High speed Internet access everywhere would have the effect the R.E.A. had in the 1930s.

Plus more: the Internet is the printing press, the telephone, the telegraph, the radio, and the TV of the 21st century. Without it, people can’t even download the PDF of the CWA report that shows how far behind they are, much less YouTube, facebook, blogs, and access to diverse news sources throughout the world, not to mention the text of every bill in Congress and the voting records of every Congress member, as well as who their campaign contributors are. Those of us with Internet access take those things for granted.

Those without still mostly depend on one local newspaper and TV news for their information. Well, that plus chain emails for those who have dialup. With newspapers failing and TV news controled by a handful of companies, without the Internet there is no free press. Without a free press there is no democracy.

As FDR said in 1938:

Yes, electricity is a modern necessity of life (and) not a luxury. That necessity ought to be found in every village, in every home and on every farm in every part of the wide United States.
The same is true of high speed Internet access in 2009.

We need high speed Internet access everywhere for economic progress, national competitiveness, and for democracy. And yes, since the Internet is a huge source of recipes, for mom and apple pie! In south Georgia, even for okra fritters! All the Internet you can eat: how’s that for a slogan?

U.S.A.: Dead Last in Internet Speeds, and Not Trying Very Hard to Catch Up

Leslie Cauley writes in USA Today:
The average Internet download speed in the USA is 5.1 megabits per second
A programmer on a project I’m working on just moved back to Finland. He’s got 30 megabits per second, and he could get 100 Mbps if he wanted to pay a little more. Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., we’re lucky to get 3Mbps through DSL or 8Mbps through cable. Anywhere in Japan you can buy 100Mbps for about the same price per month as we pay in the U.S. for 3Mbps. I don’t think you can even buy anything as slow as 8Mbps in Japan anymore.


USA Today got its data from a report by Communication Workers of America, which says:

New research indicates that between 2007 and 2009, the average download Internet speed in the United States has increased by only 1.6 megabits per second (mbps), from 3.5 mbps in 2007 to 5.1 mbps in 2009. At this rate, it will take the United States 15 years to catch up with current Internet speeds in South Korea, the country with the fastest average Internet connections.
U.S.A.! We’re dead last and not trying very hard to catch up!

It’s not just the U.S. as a whole that’s a backwater, some parts are worse. Let look at Georgia. Don’t stop with the interactive display, which appears to show the fastest tested, click on through to the PDF report that shows a more realistic picture of speeds people actually get; it has the map shown above.

Atlanta is as usual well served, at least by U.S. standards, which is 1/10 the speeds you can get in a couple dozen other countries.

But look at the other half of Georgia. See all the grey in the southeast of the state, between Valdosta and Savannah, and between Macon and Valdosta (GA-01)? Less than 768 kilobits per second. That’s dialup. Which means nobody there will be picking up this PDF, or posting pictures on facebook, or watching clips of the Daily Show on YouTube, or following what their representative is up to.

And that’s just the people who actually use the Internet. Most people don’t. See all the white areas? There are few speed tests there because there are so few people there using the Internet to test.

Last week Rep. Sanford Bishop (D GA-02) said all information about the new health care reform would be online. That’s a good 21st century step. But much of his own district (southwest Georgia) won’t be able to get it that way; they’re still mired in the 20th century.

In the 1930s there was a similar situation with electric power, as FDR discovered when he stayed at Warm Springs in south Georgia to treat his polio. Result: the Rural Electrification Authority (R.E.A.), which brought electricity to rural America and made the rest of FDR’s New Deal welcome to rural Americans. More on that in the next post.


Japan Still Far Ahead of US in Internet Connection Speeds

While the U.S. still hopes to get up to 10Mbps Internet connection speeds by 2012, Japan already has such speeds for cable Internet service almost everywhere. And yes, I mean Internet connections, not just broadband.


But in Japan cable Internet service is of declining popularity, because 30 or 40 Mbps for $50 or $60 per month is not really fast there.

DSL in Japan goes up to 50 Mbps for also around $50-$60/month.


But for actual fast, cheap, Internet connections, people in Japan buy Fiber to the Home (FTTH), which actually costs less and delivers from 100Mbps to 1Gbps.


Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., EDUCAUSE has proposed 100Mbps national broadband using a funding method that already failed in Texas.

Japan didn’t get to 100Mbps by a single government-funded network. It did it by actually enforcing competition among broadband providers. Why did it do this? Because a private entrepreneur, Masayoshi Son, and his company Softbank, pestered the Japanese government until it did so.

Thus it’s refreshing that these graphs laying out how far ahead of the U.S. Japan is come from the New America Foundation. Chair? Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.

Internet, Not Broadband, for National Policy

ipprinciples.png A national broadband policy is what you get when you put bellheads in charge. Fortunately, Scott Bradner has been on the Internet since the beginning, and explains the difference.
Broadband is not the Internet. Broadband is shorthand for a diverse class of wired and wireless digital transmission technologies. The Internet, in contrast, is a set of public protocols for inter-networking systems that specifies how data packets are structured and processed. Broadband technologies, at their essence, are high-capacity and always-on. The essence of the Internet is (a) that it carries all packets that follow its protocols regardless of what kinds of data the packets carry, (b) that it can interconnect all networks that follow those protocols, and (c) its protocols are defined via well-established public processes.

There’s risk in confusing broadband and Internet. If the National Broadband Plan starts from the premise that the U.S. needs the innovation, increased productivity, new ideas and freedoms of expression that the Internet affords, then the Plan will be shaped around the Internet. If, instead, the Plan is premised on a need for broadband, it fails to address the ARRA’s mandated objectives directly. More importantly, the premise that broadband is the primary goal entertains the remaking of the Internet in ways that could put its benefits at risk. The primary goal of the Plan should be broadband connections to the Internet.

It’s a petition. Please sign it.



Therefore, we urge that the FCC’s National Broadband Plan emphasize that broadband connection to the Internet is the primary goal. In addition, we strongly suggest that the Plan incorporate the FCC Internet Policy Statement of 2005 and extend it to (a) include consumer information that meaningfully specifies connection performance and identifies any throttling, filtering, packet inspection, data collection, et cetera, that the provider imposes upon the connection, (b) prohibit discriminatory or preferential treatment of packets based on sender, recipient or packet contents. Finally, we suggest that the Internet is such a critical infrastructure that enforcement of mandated behavior should be accompanied by penalties severe enough to deter those behaviors.
While you’re at it, urge the FCC to stop talking about “consumers” and start talking about participants.