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Net neutrality could be killed under President Trump

(TECH NEWS) We rarely take a political position on anything here at AG, but we’ve long advocated for the policy supporting net neutrality, which could be in danger under Trump.

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With transition comes change

It’s common for presidential transitions to herald changes in perspectives and thus policies, especially when the president-elect hails from a different political party than his predecessor. U.S. History is replete with examples of shifts and changes in programs and policies, but certain principles have stood time’s tests for the republic.

There used to be clear actions of America’s power, ensuring the marginalized within our borders were protected, and that every person was the beneficiary of the powers of a nation that protected families by making certain that caveat emptor was no longer the de facto or the de jure law of the land. When Teddy Roosevelt came to office, for example, filled with a zeal for reform, he was swift to act, ensuring people could eat untainted meat, work in a safer environment for fewer hours, and that the corporations could no longer be controlled by monopolies of power.

America has previously passed needed laws and regulations to ensure that the rights of the many were not impeded by the powers of the few. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look as if net neutrality will belong to that legacy of protection.

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What is net neutrality and why should I care?

Here’s the question: Do you think that your internet service provider (ISP) should allow you to access legal content and applications on an equal basis, favoring none and allowing all sources without having to pay premiums to do so?

If you do, you support the concept of net neutrality — and you’re not alone. Content providers, including Netflix, Google, and Apple, along with millions of others who filed public comments with the Federal Communications Commission last year, support the concept of net neutrality.

Current rules prohibit ISP’s from charging content providers more for faster access to their customers or deliberately slowing the content of competitors.

Net neutrality keeps accessing content on the internet free from bias of who is providing it. Supporters focus on the fact that consumers pay for access to the things that they want to see. Consumers want to access all content at the speeds that they were promised when they bought their plan. The FCC’s adoption of the Open Internet Rule in 2015, protecting net neutrality, has — so far, anyway — made it past the legal challenges that have come its way.

So, who doesn’t agree with that? Typically, dozens of broadband companies, including giants such as Comcast, Cox, Verizon, and AT&T. Their position is that the net neutrality regulations are overly prescriptive and act as a deterrent to innovation and further investment.

And the new president and his FCC advisers agree with them.

Changes are afoot

Trump’s recent appointment of advisers Mark Jamison and Jeffrey Eisenach to the FCC transition team serve as a likely herald regarding the future of net neutrality, as well as the FCC itself.

To be fair, we saw this coming. While not commenting on many things tech during the course of his campaign, Trump did speak directly on net neutrality. “Obama’s attack on the internet is another top down power grab. Net neutrality is the Fairness Doctrine. Will target conservative media,” he tweeted in 2014.

Interesting point, except that it reflects a lack of understanding as to what net neutrality is and how the policy works.

The Fairness Doctrine was an FCC policy that ended in 1987. At its core, it required FCC-licensed TV and radio stations to provide a portion of their programming to issues of controversy and public importance, ensuring opposing viewpoints were aired.

The Washington Post explained the Fairness Doctrine further, writing, “[t]his meant that programs on politics were required to include opposing opinions on the topic under discussion. Broadcasters had an active duty to determine the spectrum of views on a given issue and include those people best suited to representing those views in their programming.”

There’s no missing nuance of Trump’s tweet. His point was that net neutrality rules would somehow censor conservative media. Since the regulations don’t address the specifics of content, and, in fact call for all content to be treated equally, the message is somewhat clear: I don’t get it, but the ISP’s beat content providers.

So, who’s advising the President?

It’s clear that Trump has taken the position that net neutrality isn’t long for the keeping, and the role of the FCC is possibly subject to change as well.

Jamison and Eisenach have both been connected with the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI). AEI focuses on limiting government intervention in business, and providing businesses the ability to operate without what some would call government interference, and others would call government oversight.

While testifying in front of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee in 2014, Eisenach took the position that the broadband market, which is another way of identifying ISPs, is “[not] a cause for concern,” as the market was neither a monopoly nor “cozy duopoly”. It’s not as if history has been vacant of examples of competing businesses within the same field, in which a monopoly did not exist, engaging in collusion to ensure satisfactory business conditions for them all.

While conceding that ISPs have power in the market, and that power “can create the incentive for firms to deny access to their platforms”, he posited that there was no reason for the FCC to inject itself in regulatory affairs because these conditions weren’t unique to the broadband ISP field. Therefore, continuing his logic trail to its end, since the FCC doesn’t need to be involved in regulatory affairs over broadband ISPs, there must not be an existing problem.

Thus, “net neutrality regulation cannot be justified on grounds of enhancing consumer welfare or protecting the public interest”.

Jamison’s approach to the issue is similar. Writing for AEI, he took the stance that FCC’s regulations regarding net neutrality were necessary only if a monopoly of broadband providers existed. Predictably, he doesn’t believe that there is. “If the U.S. is to continue to be a place where consumers, entrepreneurs, and other enterprises can develop the next generation of information technologies, the country must move beyond net neutrality controversies,” he wrote. “This means letting the industry make business decisions and regulating only when monopolies take over.”

Even in “instances where there are monopolies,” Jamison continued, “it would seem overkill to have an entire federal agency dedicated to ex ante regulation of their services.” Let’s let that sink in for just a moment before continuing, shall we?

His solution? Almost everything that the FCC does can be handled by the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services.

But of course. We wouldn’t want an entire federal commission only dedicated to the regulation of public communications in the 21st century. I’m certain those other agencies aren’t too busy with what’s currently in front of them. Surely they can shoehorn in these other responsibilities, as well as get up to speed on the issues facing the FCC in an expedient and efficient fashion.

Jeff Sessions, a United States Senator from Alabama and the presumptive nominee for U.S. Attorney General, is also on record as opposing net neutrality regulations, thus likely securing the perspective for the Trump administration on the near future of Internet regulation. Given the public statements of the two men assisting Trump in the FCC transition team, it is also likely that the FCC may be phased out or leashed to the point in which there are no real regulations on how the companies that control the means of our nation’s communications do so.

We’re not neutral about net neutrality

We at The American Genius believe that reasonable people can certainly disagree on how the country is best run. What we don’t stand for is turning a blind eye to dangers in front of us. Jefferson had it right: some truths are simply self-evident. And those truths are worth defending, loudly and vigorously.

A monopoly of public utilities has rarely proven to be a winning strategy for innovation in the long run, and an unregulated monopoly grows staler still.

Without anyone in a dedicated federal agency to look out after our best interests when it comes to the volume and exchange of ideas and content on the Internet, it will fall to each of us to ensure that our ISP of choice understands what we choose to do with our dollars should they decide to throttle content. It behooves us to ensure that our US Representatives and Senators understand what we will choose to do with our support as well.

#NetNeutrality

Roger is a Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds two Master's degrees, one in Education Leadership and another in Leadership Studies. In his spare time away from researching leadership retention and communication styles, he loves to watch baseball, especially the Red Sox!

Tech News

Chrome can now group and color code your open tabs

(TECH NEWS) Do you have too many tabs, and can’t tell what’s what? Google has tab groups that make it easier to find what you’re looking for.

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Are you a tab collector? That’s Google’s name for people who have tabs upon tabs upon tabs open on their Google Chrome browser. And while third party apps are already available to help collectors manage tabs, Google is now stepping in with Tab Groups.

Tab Groups, try it here, allows users to color-code, group and add text or emoji labels to separate clusters of tabs in their browser.

Right-click on any tab and choose Add to New Group. A gray dot will appear to the left of the tab and outline it in the same color. Clicking on the dot lets users update the color, label and name the group. Once grouped together, the tab groups can be moved and reordered. They’re also saved when Chrome is closed and reopened.

Google said after testing Tab Groups for months, they noticed people usually arranged their tabs by topic and that appeared most common when people shopped or were working on a project.
“Others have been grouping their tabs by how urgent they are, “ASAP,” “this week” and “later.” Similarly, tab groups can help keep track of your progress on certain tasks: “haven’t started,” “in progress,” “need to follow up” and “completed.”

Of course, this new feature does nothing to dissuade users from opening too many tabs, despite research that says multitasking may change the structure of your brain and Chrome is notorious for using too much RAM. So now you can’t concentrate, and your computer is running hot and slowing down.

A solution? Use Chrome extensions such as The Great Suspender, which suspends tabs that have been inactive for a specific amount of time. Don’t worry, you can whitelist specific websites so if you always need a tab for Twitter open, it won’t be suspended.

Another tip is to focus on one task at a time using the Pomodoro Technique, breaking tasks and your workday into 25-minute bursts of productivity with five-minute breaks in between. FocusMe uses a timer and website blocker to reduce the risk of getting distracted. You’re on the internet, after all.

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Tech News

Quarantine bod got you down? AI trainer Artifit lifts you up

(TECH NEWS) If staying home has caused some unfortunate weight gain, Artifit can help you keep your home body fit during and way after quarantine is over.

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Mandatory lockdown’s have changed people’s routine’s in every conceivable way. From the way we work and cook to how we exercise. Home workout routines have been a hot topic in the last couple of months. People are trying to find a way to retain some sense of normalcy and maintain their healthy lifestyles We’ve all heard jokes about the so called “Quarantine 15” online and maybe you’ve even made a disparaging comment or two about your weight since gyms closed.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with a little weight gain the face of a global pandemic. The world is changing, your life is changing, and times are scary. Be gentle with yourself and those around you.

If you are looking for a way to get regular workouts back into your life and YouTube videos just aren’t cutting it, there is a high-tech solution. Artifit is an AI personal trainer designed to make your solo workouts safer and more effective. The app acts as your personal trainer by creating your workout plans, tracking progress, and providing posture corrections.

The app uses your phone’s camera to track your reps and spot errors in form while providing real time audio feedback. According to the app creators, [Artifit] recognizes 20 major joints movements via mobile camera, and we are constantly working on adding new joints and improving the algorithm.”

Beyond the workouts, Artifit taps into your competitive side by providing you with a score at the end of each work out that you can then share with friends. The app measures and analyze your progress over time and uses this data to create a workout plan that is best suited for you.

There are a ton of reasons you might be looking for a tech-driven approach to your workout routine. Most of us already rely on technology to track out movement in one way or another – think about the Health app on your phone or your Fitbit. Working out from home isn’t for everyone, but some are thriving under a more flexible schedule and want to keep it that way.

If you are not sure when you’re going to feel comfortable going to the gym again or you no longer want to fuss over scheduling appointments with a personal trainer, this could be the app for you. Artifit can help you keep your homebody tendencies intact way after quarantine is over.

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Tech News

Google has another video conference tool, but are they too late?

(TECH NEWS) Google is making their Google Meet, available for anyone with a gmail account, leaving us to wonder if it’s a little too little, too late.

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Google Is now making its business video meeting tool available for free to everyone with a Gmail account. Wait! What? We already have that, don’t we? We do, kind of. Google has long offered free Google Hangouts, a messaging function that includes chat and video chat features for groups of up to 25 people. Google Duo is a video meeting app that has been available for cell phones and tablets, previously available for up to 8 people, but now for up to 12 people.

Sooooo, why do we care about free Google Meet? Isn’t this taking us back to, say, 2009? The difference is that with Google Meet, you can include up to 100 participants. This service used to be available only to paid G-Suite customers. Video conferencing has never been more popular or necessary, with Zoom leading the pack. Google wants you to blow off the others and give Google Meet a shot.

Why should we care? If you are already using a video meeting tool that works for you, what’s the incentive to switch? If you’re using Skype, you can only have up to 50 participants, while you can have up to 100 participants on Google Meet. On Zoom, you can also include up to 100 people on a video meeting. With a free Zoom account, you can meet for up to 40 minutes, and Google Meet has expanded their free Meet calls to 60 minutes.

Zoom has had serious issues with security and privacy. While Zoom is scrambling to enhance the safety and privacy of users, including ways to prevent illegal Zoombombing. Yet, it will be harder to trust Zoom again, now that the damage has been done. Google Meet already has a robust security system, including end-to-end encryption of all video calls. All calls go through Gmail, which already lives behind a bunch of protections, which has to be a good thing.

Google Meet also offers easy live captioning through their own voice recognition service and other accessibility considerations such as screen readers and magnifiers. People who are already familiar with Google chat/meeting tools will likely try Google Meet right away to see how it compares to Zoom, Skype, and other video conferencing tools. Google is betting on it.

However, if you already have a tool you love, you might be like, “Meh.” If you are the type who loves researching all of the tools to find your perfect match, then this is likely exciting news for you. Options are always good, though. The strangest thing is that Google has had this capability all along. When schools started shuttering during the pandemic, Zoom immediately stepped up and offered educators its professional tools for free–a clutch move that garnered them loads of positive press and help propel them past competitors into the top spot.

Google Meet will have to prove to be at least as clear, fast, easy to use as Zoom. With Google’s collection of launched and abandoned video tools, though, we have to wonder if it will be. At least Meet is already starting out more secure, which is a superb start. With the launch of Zoom 5.0, though, will it be too little, too late for Google Meet to capture a good chunk of the video tool?

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