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A Disconnected Existence

“The $@%#ing internet’s out again!!!!”

These are the hollers that fill my hallway every few days and inevitably are followed by a frustrated young student in our living room unplugging and plugging back in every last cord. Sometimes it works. Sometimes we wait. But the only other option is calling Charter who may get out here in a few days.

67.7% of internet users age 45 or older say their daily routine would be disrupted if their online access was taken away for one week (42.9% say “significantly”) – with “the oldest segment looking very much like the youngest segment”. Some 43.9% of those age 55+ surveyed say there would be significant disruption in their lives if internet access were taken away.”


South Park did an episode about a nationwide Internet outage that sent our modern society into Grapes of Wrath insanity. Everybody is addicted to the web and an outage is disruptive to most. I talked to my five housemates about how their daily lives are affected by Internet outages.

Christian Sartori, a fifth semester engineering major said “When the Internet goes out here it messes up my daily routine. I have had a lot of trouble with my computer though so I’m a little more used to this.”

Jeff Rudolph, also a fifth semester engineering major said “The Internet going out forces me to get more work done sometimes because it takes away distractions, but if my assignment’s online I’m kind of screwed.”

Dave Tyler, a third semester sophomore who is undeclared said “It always seems to go out at the wrong time: when work’s due and I procrastinated.”

Steve Ellis is a third semester student who hopes to get into the graphic design program. “Up until now I’ve been able to cope if it’s out but nights without it can get quite boring.”

Steve Wasilewski is a fifth semester biology major. He says “I only like to do work at my desk so if the internet’s cut off and I have a test to study for, my study schedule is messed up.”


They don’t even know. Being in a class that requires blog posting, intense linking, steady googling, and use of diverse internet multimedia makes Internet blips absolutely maddening. The way that I feel as I unplug and replug wires is probably the same way I’d feel if I had to safely land a plane full of babies. I also feel that I have to put my guard up when dealing with Charter’s technical service because they may be trying to sell me stuff I don’t need.

Unemployment is also at a 26-year high. It seems to me the government has a great opportunity to create some jobs. If they trained a group of government workers to be skilled in internet repair, troubleshooting problems could be solved and potential future problems that could result from terrorism or disaster could be solvable.

Parks Associates projects that customer support costs for home networks alone could exceed $200 mln annually for US broadband providers.”

That statistic shows there really is a demand. The workers could be government trained and can offer their services at reasonable rates nationwide. The ISP’s won’t be able to have exclusive control over your connection so they would have to get better at what they do too. Eventually, if the Internet truly becomes a public good, you would not need to charge for these services.

Society has become reliant on the web. Internet outages interrupt education (as well as facebook) and how should we expect our country to move forward if we can’t even maintain an Internet connection? The government should realize this and make the web more reliable.



Your Move Barack

Barack Obama is “open for questions” and there are a lot of them.


Thousands of these questions have been fronted to Barack Obama via his website. He opened a site which has a Digg-style format in which anybody can propose a question. Others will vote on whether that question is important to them or not. The top questions rise to the top. The bottom questions get buried. Obama opens the voting in different rounds so they have time to answer the most important ones periodically.

I think what rose as the number one question needs to be addressed in clear terms by our politicians and also believe it to to be a great proposal. Unfortunately I am also a young college student, a demographic that is far more open to social reform than most others and my opinion does not always reflect where the rest of society’s head is at:

picture-31This is where the internet community’s head is at. I am a Digg user and drug law reform is a common topic to come up on the site. The simple implementation of this site does not prove anything about how effective Obama will be in building a “connected democracy.” Obama is very shaky on the topic of marijuana, and now he has a chance to clarify his views. If Obama takes that opportunity it will say good thinks about his allegiance to using the Internet as a democracy. It shows he is more concerned with public interest than ignorant public perception.

This site is nowhere near ready to function as a voice for the people on policy change because not many people are using it. 7,947 people thought the question was important, but these are just tech savvy progressives. This is not a connected democracy model just yet but it shows promise. If Obama acknowledges that rational people are questioning drug laws and not just stoners, we have progress.


Connect Our Youth


In this country you have to be 18 to vote and are controlled by a government that has little representation from anyone who is not twice a old as that. There is always talk from leaders of the youth being our most valuable resource but it’s way easier for them to treat oil and money as that.

I argue that the real most valuable resource we have is the knowledge we have acquired throughout history. (Sorry kids.) The Internet is the best tool at hand for compiling knowledge and spreading it with ease. All the information garnered is worthless if you can’t access it. It’s absolutely insane to believe that our youth, and in turn society, would not benefit from having access to this knowledge. By not embracing the Internet fully, our public school system is missing an opportunity to bring the country out of a rut.


Project Tomorrow is a nonprofit group that describes it’s vision “to insure that today’s students are well prepared to be tomorrow’s innovators, leaders, and engaged citizens of the world.” They launched a “Speak Up” campaign in which students and parents voice their opinions on education. Their key findings include:

  • Over 41% of students believe that online classes will have the greatest positive impact on their learning, a growth of over 20% from the 2006 data findings.
  • Over 20% of teachers chose online classes as a key element for increasing student achievement in the 21st century school an increase of almost 28% over the 2006 data findings.
  • Over 26% of teachers chose online learning as their first choice for training.

Those numbers show some schools are ahead of the game, but I wanted to put things in perspective. I certainly never had a teacher in high school that used the Internet as their main teaching tool. I remember teacher versus teacher battles for the computer lab. I was the last class to graduate from the old high school and an expensive glossier one was opened that fall. I called Principal Joe Bacewicz to find out what role the Internet has in the lives of students now.


“Every classroom in the new school has two student computers, there is a 30 student computer lab, 20 more computers in the library, and 4 other computer labs,” said Bacewicz. He pointed out how some classes are starting to embrace the internet citing that “a few English teachers and I believe some science teachers set up blog sites for students. There is also a service called Ucompass, which science classes use to have students complete and send assignments online.”

Bacewicz said the budget was not enough to unwire the school’s internet. Students with laptops are only allowed to use their own laptops in class under “special circumstances,” but Bacewicz said “That may be changing down the road.”

He points to limiting accessibility to certain sites as a primary concern that the state government helps them out with. They offer a service that limits sites students can access at a reduced cost.

It’s good to see that my alma matter is getting up to speed with technology. Yet there is plenty that can still be done and Tolland is an upscale town with an emphasis on its education system. Changes must be made in all public schools to ensure our nation will keep up with the rest of the world.


Finding Money in Empty Pockets


Wireless Internet is slowly becoming more common in America. Coffee shops offer it for free as a way to lure in custormers to sit and stay and keep buying Frapuccinos. Campuses are boasting their wireless capabilities to lure students. It’s even becoming a feature in cars. My hope is that in the future, these ideas will all be remembered like the 8-track.

Wireless high speed internet should spread across America as soon as possible. Not just New York, not just L.A., but everywhere. Tech President proposes this in their petition on technology policy, saying that an “Internet Innovation and Investment Fund,” should be established and $20 billion set aside. They point out that this is just half the cost we spend on highways every year.

Business Weekly did a story on the need for wireless:

“Conservatives correctly observe that we treat telecom like a luxury, tax it like a sin, regulate it like a utility, and subsidize uncompetitive players and anachronistic technologies. Tax policies discourage broadband adoption, regulatory policies create barriers to investment, and government actions limit competitive opportunities for new entrants and the dissemination of information in the marketplace.”

I think that if highway budgets are halved, we are compromising safety. Maybe we should look somewhere else for money. Last time I checked the economy wasn’t giving away much of it. Maybe we need to get the taxpayers’ heads in the right place. That shifts the question from how the government will pay for this to how we can get the public to support it.

There are not any clear answers here  but plenty more possibilities. Maybe an ad campaign would work to motivate people towards this. We could create public support by laying out the possibilities. People don’t want to be taxed for a dime more than they already are so our government must begin a search for the best ideas. This is supposed to be the era of change, so I think it is a distinct possibility that the nation would hop aboard if the idea’s sensible. Anybody? Just remember we are pretty broke…


Net Neutrality Can Save the Internet


I hate Charter Communications. It provides my house with laggy, unreliable internet that my friend called to complain about. They told him that his Internet was slow because he lived near UConn. UConn’s internet on campus is not provided by Charter though. Two popular off-campus apartment complexes are the problem. Apparently we’re connected to the same “backbone” and that very backbone is somehow designed to suit the bandwidth needs of the apartment complexes, then the surrounding area. Whatever bandwidth is left goes to our house. This makes the evening a particularly slow time to be online because that’s when ever college student is at their computers most.

But I don’t have a choice because Charter’s all my area has. And their sports package doesn’t even have NFL Network or NBA TV. But I digress.


The point is Charter has us right where the want us. They can do whatever they want and this includes compromising net neutrality. Charter is now giving an “enhanced online experience” as they describe it to customers. This is enhanced in the same way prison rape offers an “enhanced prison experience,” quite intrusively. The service uses “deep pocket monitoring” to see what you’re searching for and shows third party advertisements customized for you.

They monitor and keep track of not just searches, but history and what kind of files you’re transferring around. In doing this, they can potentially use traffic shaping to control exactly where your bandwidth gets devoted. They could give more bandwidth to their advertisers’ websites and in turn manipulate the sites people visit.

I don’t think I need to explain why this is so wrong. Net neutrality is a must and I hope Barack Obama follows through on his goals of establishing it.


Keeping the Internet from Becoming a Public Bad

Last summer, Mozilla held a symposium called “The Internet as a Public Good Symposium.” (Not very creative, but very google-friendly for the topic of this post). Harvard Law School defines a public good as non-rivalrous and non-excludable. This means that one person using of it does not affect another person’s, and it is available to everyone and nobody can be prevented from using it.


Unfortunately, this is not the case today as plenty can’t afford access making it quite excludable. Mozilla is the creator of Firefox and Thunderbird, free software that is quite popular. Mozilla is paving the way for the future because they make money on the Internet but don’t see that as the sole purpose of it. They recognize the internet’s potential and also recognize how quickly that potential can diminish if it’s not used right. A major argument at the symposium is that, by establishing it as a public good, the public will monitor the internet and squash abusers.


I believe this to be the most powerful point. If Internet access is portrayed to the public as a right, then they will watch it closer. Compare it to the highway system. Imagine a world where highways were maintained by anyone. (Money is not a factor in this hypothetical). There is a highway that is owned by a man with a tire store at the end of it and he sprinkles it with nails to bring in business. Nobody can do anything but know to avoid that highway, leaving the ignorant to fall victim to his trap.

As a public good, people could bring that guy to jail and he would know that and be far less likely to abuse the system. People are far less willing to trash a house if the party’s at their own place. Why not make the Internet everyone’s own place?

This is a very theoretical issue that I don’t expect to happen tomorrow. If it did, it would probably be done wrong. The idea of thinking of Internet access like access to clean water is going to help our world change for the better.

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Water Cat

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