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Monthly Archives: March 2016

23
Mar
2016

Norton’s Enlightening Documentary on Bulletproof Hosting

by Bill

Norton, a computer security company which typically makes anti-virus software, has made an eye opening short video about off shore locations that offer “bulletproof” hosting, with little or no oversight as to what exactly is being hosted. Some speculate that these hosts are on the same level as hackers and online scammers, but they don’t get any of the punishments that those types of criminals get. However, others think that they do provide a necessary service – everyone wants security after all.

How these services even exist is pretty amazing in the first place. These hosting companies typically exist in areas with legal grey areas such as international waters, or areas that cover multiple legal or international borders. Some examples include one company that is located on an abandoned oil rig in the middle of the ocean, or one that is buried deep in a nuclear safe house somewhere in the Netherlands. The companies are often very neutral. It is rumored that the same company protects both ISIS related sites and sites belonging to the hacktivist collective known as Anonymous.

The video is an investigative look into what happens at these secretive companies, and what their effects – both positive and negative – are on the world of technology. The video could be considered a smart move for Norton, who is basically advertising why their services and products are important while educating consumers about a real life issue on which they need to form their own opinions.

These issues show just how important security is to all sorts of people who need hosting service. They are willing to go to secretive companies to get the highest level of security for their web needs. However, most people don’t need to go to these great lengths to get secure hosting for their everyday businesses. Hosting companies such as ourselves provide the highest level of security that consumers need for daily transactions and web activities – without the kind of scrutiny that running servers from a remote oil rig would add to the equation.

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16
Mar
2016

New FCC Measures To Protect Consumer Privacy

by Bill

The Federal Communications Commission is proposing some new, stringent rules which would protect consumer’s privacy. The new rules would restrict what types of information your internet service provider could share, and what they could actually market to you, based on your online behavior.

They seem to be basing the precedent for these new rules on the fact that phone companies are restricted from what they can do based on your phone activities, and the organization feels the internet should fall under the same restrictive guidelines.

The new rules will make customers have to opt-in to having their data provided to third parties, which include advertisers. However, that doesn’t prevent them from sending you ads related to their services. For example, your internet provider could show you ads for their cable TV service or telephone service, however, customers can also opt out of those ads.

The way things are right now, most customers have their data shared because they hastily agree to terms of service without reading them. Recently, AT&T came up with a feature that actually charges users a fee if they opt out of having their data tracked, but under the new rules, this would be a big no-no.

Up until now, the FCC has been more on the offensive, punishing companies along with the FTC for misusing consumer data. Now they are trying to create rules to set a precedent for how companies should behave, instead of just punishing those who they catch acting badly. Many people think that this move will be good for net neutrality, because before the FCC was trying to treat internet providers with the same neutrality rules that phone companies have. Now they are starting to realize that the internet needs its own set of rules so consumers can browse the web as they please, with as much freedom as possible.

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08
Mar
2016

Oregon Lawmakers Accidentally Give Comcast A Massive Tax Break

by Bill

Municipalities are starting to understand that the availability of broadband access at reasonable prices is becoming a driving force in where people and companies want to reside. Recently Google has been rolling out 1GB broadband connections and charging consumers only $70 per month in some select markets as a way to create competitive pressure on other broadband providers to increase speed while reducing prices. The program has had some effect but has still not reached enough areas to cause widespread changes in pricing policy nationally.  Now, in an attempt to lure Google, Oregon lawmakers just gave away tens of millions of dollars to Comcast by mistake.

When the Oregon legislature decided to alter its tax policy last year, it was directly intended to make Portland Oregon more appealing as a region of Google broadband to become available.  The area is already on Google’s short list of sites, and the hope was that the tax incentive would put Portland over the top.

The new tax rule reduces property taxes for companies that offer gigabit-speed Internet service, but it wasn’t enough to get Google to come to Portland just yet. Worse than that, lawmakers failed to specify that companies that provide gigabit service at a particular price point in order to qualify for the tax break.

Comcast has opportunistically claimed the tax benefit because it offers a 2Gbps Internet connection in Oregon, though it charges $300 per month rather than $70 and also tags on another $1,000 in startup fees rather than the free installation Google provides.

Now, Rep. Phil Barnhart (D-Eugene) has told utility regulators that the tax break was meant to spur investments in new networks but the Oregon state Public Utility Commission ruled 3-0 that Comcast’s gigabit service does qualify their company for the tax break because the law as written fails to prevent any company from benefiting, provided that they offer GB internet service.

In fact, the law is so poorly written, that it begs the question, if Starbucks suddenly started allowing customers to use a 1GB connection in their stores for twenty minutes a day from 1:30 to 1:50pm, would that be sufficient to get them a tax break worth tens of millions of dollars per year as well?

The matter is undoubtedly headed for further regulatory debate in court, but Comcast has already issued a statement, saying, “We are pleased with the Oregon Public Utilities Commission’s ruling which affirms Comcast’s significant investment in Oregon. Comcast is proud to provide the infrastructure that powers the fastest residential Internet speeds in Oregon and fuels the state’s ongoing economic vitality and competitiveness.”

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03
Mar
2016

Data Providers Continue To Search For Ways Around Net Neutrality

by Bill

The recent battle of Net Neutrality was supposedly decided by the FCC in favor of free and unfettered access to all kinds of data across any network with a legal prohibition against any provider slowing one kind of content or speeding up another kind of content to suit its own interests. The concept of net neutrality is credited with allowing the robust and incredibly powerful Internet we all utilize to form and continue growing decades after its inception. Now the data providers are seeking to find new ways to profit from tactics that seem to skirt the exact same principles that were just given force of law by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The new scheme is based on the idea of utilizing data cap pricing rather than bitrate speed to create an unleveled playing field for content distribution. Verizon is now offering its subscribers “free uncapped data” on all Verizon Mobile Video, but counting data usage from external sources like Netflix against the data caps of Verizon customer mobile billing plans.

Meanwhile, the FCC is already looking into data cap exemptions (referred to within the industry as zero-rating) that have been implemented by other data providers including Comcast / Xfinity, AT&T / Time Warner, and T-Mobile USA.

The FCC has issued an official letter to the companies stating in part “”We want to ensure that we have all the facts to understand how this service relates to the Commission’s goal of maintaining a free and open Internet while incentivizing innovation and investment from all sources” – which seems like an awfully nice way of asking ‘Hey guys, didn’t we just finish telling you that you can’t do stuff like this?’

For years the fight over net neutrality raged on as well-funded lobbyists and lawyers from the data providers battled the popular notion of what the Internet was supposed to be and the way access was intended to be managed by companies that in many cases have de facto monopolies over customers in one region or another. That fight was fought and won by a vigorous political movement spearheaded by technologists and academics who understood the nature of the Internet and the importance of neutral access to content across the entire web.

It looks like providers are unwilling to take no for an answer, and a new battle is looming, one in which consumers are asked to turn down “free” uncapped data from monopolistic sources to preserve the unbiased nature of information dissemination online for generations to come.

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