MY Hines

Posts Tagged ‘censorship

I may be one of the most politically out of tune people out there. I start to cringe when it becomes election season and all the television ads begin. I actually start to watch all of the shows on a delay so I can fast-forward through the ads because I just don’t want to see the political ads. So, take all of my comments below with that knowledge – I’m not a policy nut who understands all of the legal/political jargon that I read. If I’m wrong, let me know – because I hope that I’m wrong!

However, while at NTC last week, Holly Ross mentioned the newest ruling in the ongoing struggle for net neutrality that started with Comcast vs. the FCC, it bothered me. For those of you who may not be up to speed on this issue, which I had been sadly out of the loop on too, basically several years ago Comcast was blocking or slowing down the use of peer-to-peer services for their internet customers (sounds like censorship to me), and the FCC ruled against what Comcast was doing. Comcast did stop the practice, but continued to fight the ruling. But then early this month it was ruled that the FCC had no authority to set policy on what Internet Service Providers can do.

So you might be wondering – what does this mean to me? I’m not sure what it means to me yet too. I’m still trying to figure this out in my head. But the social worker in my gets in a tizzy when there is something that feels like unfair practices that could give a provider of service a way to exclude someone from the table. On an extreme, let’s say an Internet Service Provider decided that they did not like the Wizard of Oz and they did not want their customers to have access to those materials. With this ruling it seems like they could have the right to block the content. Now it seems like a silly example, but change “The Wizard of Oz” to AIDS/HIV, disability, or any other hot topic issue. If the ruling is that FCC can’t stop Comcast from blocking peer-to-peer networks, some policy experts would assert that it means that the FCC can’t stop blocking of other things like this hot topics. Take it a step further, if Comcast acquires NBC, what stops them from blocking their customers from using the internet to get content from competitors?

Scared now?  Yeah, when thinking of the extremes of where this can take us – it can be scary. But please, read the Washington Post about this ruling because they do a much better job at explaining this – and probably without the extremes that I just mentioned.

Some would be wondering why I’m concerned about this – especially since I have been  in the middle of an installation of a Barracuda Web Filtering device at the office. It seems like I might be doing the same thing that Comcast was doing when they were blocking peer-to-peer networks. In fact, availability of the internet to do work is the reason why we are using the Barracuda device, because streaming content was hammering away at our network. But I do see a difference. I’m the customer and my agency is deciding what to block from employees. The employees are not paying for the internet, the agency is paying for the internet. I’m not providing the internet service and I’m not blocking customers from accessing materials – I’m blocking employees. In fact, we are blocking so little right now and just really monitoring because we don’t want to be “big brother”. I can count with just my fingers the websites we have blocked exclusively (Pandora, Playlist,  The fact is, I can take the Barracuda off-line and have access to full internet again – but if our Internet Service Provider blocked, we’d need them to unblock. (And we did have this happen to us for a while with a previous provider who actually blocked us the ability to upload certain files to our former website.)

It is a slippery slope and I can see this being a hot topic for a long time. I can see the gray area issues because I am sort of in that gray area with the Barracuda. I don’t want this ruling to derail the plans that are out there to increase the availability of Broadband internet because it is so important that those continue forward. I can only hope that customer pressure on the Internet Service Providers will keep them in check while this continues to play out.

And suddenly, I find myself interest in public policy – who would have thought that?



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