Can Hackers Attack Our Power Grid Right Now And Who Cares?

November 7, 2017

Infrastructure Is Exposed

The short answer is ‘Yes.’ Hackers can take down our power grid right now. How they can do it and why they haven’t done it yet should be a concern for all of us, not just the government or utility companies. As we’ve seen in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, loss of power can lead to fires, explosions and untold human suffering. It’s not the 1800s anymore. We are not set up as a society to function without power for our homes, businesses and national infrastructure.

Hackers and the Grid - NOT SO DEAD - Charles Levin Thrillers Author

So how can our power grid be attached by hackers? In for my latest novel, I explore a few of the incidents that have occurred and could occur. For example, most people don’t realize that Iran has already hacked one of our hydroelectric dams in Rye Brook, New York – the Bowman Dam incident.Using the internet and sophisticated tools, Iranian hackers actually took down the power at that dam. You can read more about it here.

Russia has, in effect, been using the Ukraine as a laboratory for infrastructure hacking, They have blacked out the capital city of Kiev several times over several days. We know they are enemies, but I believe Russia has bigger plans and what better way to test your capabilities than on a weaker foe.

Well you say, why not just disconnect our utilities from the Internet? Iran did that in 2010  by isolating their nuclear centrifuges from any external connections. Allegedly the U.S. and Israel still managed to hack into the centrifuges and set back Iran’s nuclear fuel production by years with the now famous Stuxnet virus.

Hackers and the Grid - NOT SO DEAD - Charles Levin Thrillers Author

Hackers And Social Engineering

How could we do that? I talk about that at some length in NOT SO DEAD. The key to the majority of successful hacks is ‘social engineering.’ For example, talented social engineers, aka hackers, calls your office, gets someone in administration, claims to be you and says, “Oh, I forgot my password and I’m on the road. Can you tell it to me?” More than half the time the admin will oblige. Really. Or too many people use ‘Password’ as their password. In the Stuxnet case, we had a confederate on the inside slip a flash drive, with the virus, into one of the networked computers that controlled the centrifuges inside the Iranian nuclear facility. The world and the Iranians might never have ever figured it out had not the virus somehow leaked out onto the Internet and been tracked down by some security experts.

Clearly, personal vigilance and training for yourself and your organization are needed to prevent socially engineered hacks and identity theft. But what about the bigger, more serious infrastructure vulnerabilities? Well despite our current leadership’s head in the sand on this issue, the U.S. does have the Defense Department’s Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) with 6000 dedicated people fighting the Cyberwar both offensively and defensively. We clearly need more and better people and tools, despite being a world leader. China has already stolen highly classified technology, Russia has hacked our elections, and even North Korea wrecked havoc with Sony’s internal files. All documented and proven.

Mutually Assured Destruction

So if Russia or some other foreign power has the ability to attack our power grid in a big way, why haven’t they done it yet? The answer may be in an age old paradigm from the Cold War and Nuclear Threats, ‘Mutually Assured Destruction.’ Russia knows that if they did to us what they are doing in Ukraine, we would retaliate. I believe the U,S. already carried out some cyber retaliation to the Russian election hacking that has not been reported, butt sent a clear message to the Russians. “You mess with us and we can make you pay.”

So for now, both sides or I should say all major nations are building up their arsenals and their skills, just like the Cold War nuclear build up, both to prevent a major infrastructure attack and to carry one out if need be. Scary, yes. It’s the world we live in. What can we do besides being vigilant in our own security practices? Support and elect people with a will to believe in science and prepare the army, both for our own protection and to lead us into a safer future.

For more:
Bowman Dam Incident
Stuxnet Cyberattack on Iran
Switch A Country Off

Advertisements

Why Voice A.I. Is Taking Off Now

December 20, 2016

What was the best selling Amazon item on Black Friday? It wasn’t holiday bells, Nintendo, UGGs or Fitbits. It was the Echo Dot AI Assistant for $40. They sold so many that they are now back ordered into January. So what’s going on here? After all, we have Siri or ‘OK, Google’ on our phones. What’s the big deal?

echo-dot

Echo Dot

I have an Echo Dot on my kitchen counter and it is tranformative. I think the big difference is that it is hands-free, convenient and often funny. It synchs to your music service, calendar and internet enabled appliances, and has over 5000 ‘skills’ available. Skills are like Apps. So while my hands are sticky with cookie dough, I can just say, ‘Alexa, play Miles Davis’ or ‘What’s the weather forecast?’ or ‘Play NPR’ or ‘Set a Timer for 3 minutes’ and ‘Set a 2nd Timer for 10 minutes’ or ‘CNN, what’s in the news?’ or ‘Turn up the heat to 72 degrees in the living room’ or ‘Buy some more toilet paper’ For fun, I can say ‘Play Jeopardy’ or ‘Tell me a Joke’ or ‘Beam me up, Scotty’ with fun and sometimes surprising results. I don’t have to pull out my phone, key the password, and open the app. It has also been a big boon for the disabled, living alone, to operate appliances, thermostats and other home appliances by voice. For $40 bucks!

So in this article, I’d like to help you see why this is more than a toy, why it may be the next big platform and what its significant implications might be for the near future. If we have time, we might compare competing technology and risks of this evolving technology.

google-home

Google Home

You all may remember Hal from 2001 or the Star Trek Computer. Both interacted conversationally with Dave and Captain Kirk. For example, “Alexa, ask NASA Mars for a Curiosity Rover update.” That’s something Dave or Captain Kirk might say, right? The Echo will answer with the latest update. Right now Echo has the capability to feed back facts and information as well as command devices to perform the functions they were built for. The Hal ability it seems to lack is to think and converse, but that may be coming soon or evolving as we speak.

An interesting early attempt at a natural language interface called ‘Eliza’ was introduced by Joseph Wezenbaum in 1966. Eliza interacts like a psychotherapist, mostly asking seemingly intelligent questions based on your previous responses. People have been known to get hooked and converse with Eliza for for several hours. Think of Scarlett Johannsen playing the AI voice in the movie, ‘Her’ (great movie if you haven’t seen it). Eliza is now on the Echo Dot. If you enable the ‘Therapist’ skill, you can ask things like “Alexa, tell Eliza that I want to talk about my father” and a lengthy conversation with you and Alexa may ensue.

Well it’s not quite there yet, but it is evolving. The ultimate yet-to-be-developed Alexa skill may be ‘Friend’ that engages you and keeps you company. Imagine. 27% of the US population or close to 100 million people live alone in our country- just ask Alexa. Could Alexa become a companion to comfort and engage them?

Meanwhile, what is another smart motive for Amazon to make this device so cheap and compelling? You guessed it. You can order stuff using the Echo. Now at first you might say, why would I do that? I can’t be sure I’d be getting what I want. I’m not looking at a screen. So I can’t be sure. Well Amazon has handled this pretty well and remember when people were reluctant to buy things online having similar concerns? You learn and adapt and boom, there’s an explosion of new business. Alexa could be the next big eCommerce platform. Maybe.

So if you stuck it out and read to this point, what should you do now? First, I’d encourage you to buy one of the Amazon Echo devices (there are 3 versions) or Google Home and try it out. Then think of ways that you or your business might leverage this technology as an opportunity or just to improve your life. Here at Pathfinder we’re exploring ways to create new Alexa skills to help businesses and push the AI envelope. If your intrigued, let’s have a conversation.

I think I’ll save the comparison of Alexa to Siri to Google Home for next time, but here are a few useful links if you want to explore further:
If you want to Buy one.
Alexa Skills Marketplace with over 5000 to chose from.
If you want to build your own skill

Happy holidays and an Intelligent New Year. . .Charlie

 


Is Wearable Technology Really Here?

August 1, 2014

Dick Tracey update. Well the big talk at the Annual Consumer Electronics Show(CES) this week is Wearable Computing. Smart Watches, Health Monitoring, and Smart Glasses abound. But will any of this new ‘sexy’ technology become mainstream? Will you be wearing a Smart Watch or Google Glass this year?

I think I know the answer to this question, but first a little perspective. I’m an admitted geek and love to test and play with the latest technology. I’m what Regis McKenna would call an “Early Adopter.” If you haven’t read it, you should check out his landmark book, “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers .“

msgwatch-picture

My first wearable “computer’ was a Seiko Message Watch circa 1997. I loved it. People could send me text messages from their computer to my watch. The watch had its own phone number so it also acted as a pager. It knew when you changed time zones and automatically corrected the time. Since it updated regularly to a satellite, the time was always accurate. I was very disappointed when Seiko discontinued the service in 1999. My Smart Watch just became an ordinary watch. The problem: great technology, but a feeble marketing effort meant no sales.

Two years ago, 2011, I bought a Sony Smartwatch. Pretty cool. Did everything the new crop of Smartwatches do. It syncs with an Android Phone, displays text messages, weather, tweets, and even displays traffic cams. Fashionable – no. Was a great toy and conversation starter with potential clients, but not a winner. Three months after I got it, it just mysteriously died. RIP.

Pebble-2259_610x435

Flashback to 2003 and I’m attending what was a big annual Internet Tradeshow at the Javits in NYC. There was a Wearable Tech Fashion Show where sleekly clad fashion models pranced down a runway wearing all forms of electronics on their body, head and other orifices. That was 10 years ago and still no killer product.

So I think you know where this is leading, but hold up a minute. Remember the Apple Newton? It was one of the first tablet computers and a big failure. So why is the tablet from Apple and others, the hottest selling device category now? I think the answer is that all technology evolves. Inventors and tech companies alike try to develop the ‘next big thing.’ They design, do focus groups, and market new tech all the time. Most of it works but fails to capture the imagination of the mass market like the iPad does. However, these failures and small successes are necessary stepping stones to developing the winners.

The developers, engineers and thousands of other people involved in developing new products are to be praised and supported for their efforts. Without them and their many failures, we wouldn’t have the tremendously enabling tech we have today.

Ok, so let’s answer the question posed in the title of this post: Is Wearable Technology Really Here? I think the answer is No, Maybe and Yes in that order.

The ‘No’ is recognizing that 90%+ of what you see at tradeshows either never makes it to market or fails. That’s always true and especially true here.

The ‘Maybe’ is that if a company develops a device that is the right combination of features, usability, price and captures the imagination of the mass market, it could happen. Just like the Newton ultimately led to the iPad, it could and will happen again. The ‘When’ is just unclear.

fitbit-force-2-970x0

The ‘Yes’ is that some successes are already happening. The Fitbit tracker for your exercise and sleep is a winner. It’s really just a pedometer with an Internet connection, but it has the right combination of usability, cool-factor, and price and it’s working. It’s early yet, but I believe Google Glass and/or some iterations of it, will ultimately happen. There still are fashion and privacy issues to be solved there, but those are not really big hurdles.

Whatever happens, it will be fun trying it out.


The Increasingly Mobile Web

March 9, 2013

E-Commerce has, without question, forever changed the way we shop. The question is: has it changed the way you sell? In 2010, e-commerce represented 4.2% of retail spending, that’s $164.6 billion, up from 3.9% in 2009. The internet is constantly changing the way shoppers interact with stores, and nothing is more crucial for retailers in the modern age than to be versatile and adaptive along with the evolving technological stage. Over the past two years, and upcoming in the next 2 to 3, a major change has been and will be taking place. We are smack in the middle of a major shift, truly an epoch-change, in how the internet integrates into modern life and naturally, into business.

2011 Mobile Usage Statistics via Microsoft Tag

The Mobile Shift

If you haven’t noticed, the web has gone mobile. Of the world’s 4 billion in-use mobile phones, 1.08 billion are smart-phones. According to the Pew Research Center, 11% of adults own tablet computers. By 2015, the majority of users accessing the internet will be doing so on mobile devices. This is an incredibly significant prediction. It signals a complete change in the way we understand the internet and how a business adjusts (or fails to) will without question impact its future. To quote Mary Meeker, Morgan Stanley’s internet analyst, “Rapid ramp of mobile internet usage will be a boon to consumers and some companies will likely win big (potentially very big) while many will wonder what just happened.”

Mary Meeker at Google Event

Mobile Changes Everything

The absolutely crucial piece of information for retailers to know about this mobile shift is what it means for how people use the internet. Let’s say this: it’s very good news for retailers. A smartphone is more than just a laptop with a small screen. It is, and is increasingly becoming, an optimized mobile shopping machine. For a consumer, a smartphone is a store-finder, a quality-distiller, and a bargain-hunter. For a mobile-ready business, the smartphone is a marketing godsend. With the right preparation, on that little screen your store can pop up on a map with positive customer reviews, your phone number and hours, and a link to your handy, mobile-optimized website. If you have a special app through which customers can, for example, view your products, find special deals, and review or share their experiences across various social media platforms, the smartphone becomes a customer-loyalty-machine. This is not a fantasy or a prediction, this is how smart-phones are being used right now. According to Nielson, 50% of smartphone shoppers use a GPS/mapping app to find a retail location; 44% access the site of a retailer where they typically shop; 34% downloaded a retailer’s app; and an equal number (24%) search for a coupon to use at checkout or use a barcode-scanning app to comparison shop. Mobile e-commerce is good for consumers, and it can have huge benefits for involved retailers.

Making your Mobile-Presence

There are basically two options for going mobile:

  1. Optimize your existing website for mobile browsing. This means designing a site which responds to and adjusts for changes in screen-resolution, so that it stays mostly the same from desktop to tablet to smartphone. This requires redesigning elements of your website however, the extensiveness of the redesign required depends on your site’s age, technology, and content layout. Keep in mind that when it comes to the internet, change and adaptation are good things; they mean moving forward, keeping up with or ahead of technological trends.
  2. Design an exclusive mobile site, separate from your existing online presence. Whether this is optimal depends on your business and how well your current website adapts to mobile platforms. However, for certain businesses, a standalone mobile site can attract customers and keep them coming simply by virtue of its ease-of-use. Consider Papa John’s mobile site, which is designed specifically for the needs of mobile-users and is a good example of a straightforward way to make mobile make money, so to speak.

To finish up, here a few tips for a great mobile site:

  1. Large Buttons: Good navigation is fundamental to web-design, and it becomes even more important at the more concentrated scale of the mobile web. When done properly, with big buttons which fit into your overall branding and marketing strategy, even the simplest navigation can guide mobile users quickly to the most important parts of your website.
  2. Vertical Navigation: Due to the dimensions of smartphone screens, horizontal menus will either run off screen or cause your whole website to be shrunken down. Nothing is worse for a mobile user than to have to scroll around a barely visible site, and a frustrated customer is not a customer for long. Vertical menus or, if necessary, shortened horizontal menus with vertical sub-menus, will make your site more compatible and pleasing for customers to use on the mobile web.
  3. Avoid Flash: iPhones and iPads don’t support the flash-player, and flash loads slowly on other mobile devices. A mobile adaptation of your site will require replacements for flash elements. The simple truth is that flash will always be an impediment to the quality and ease-of-use of your website, and is best avoided.
  4. Make Pages Shareable: Social media buttons (“Tweet this” “Like this”) on every page, article, video-clip, and gallery photo on your website will give visitors more chances to do your marketing for you. Mobile users are both likely to share what they like online and likely to notice elements that distinguish your mobile site, such as positive social media response. Total social media integration is a simple step with big benefits on the mobile web.

Yahoo debuts ‘future of search’

March 25, 2011

(WIRED) — Yahoo is looking to one-up Google and its own search partner Bing, offering a new search experience it describes as the “fastest thing you have ever seen.”

The new product called Search Direct combines instant search — showing results as you type — with instant answers, so that typing in “amzn” instantly shows a full box with stock quotes about Amazon.com. For searches it has no answer to, it shows search links immediately in an easy-to-navigate box above a typical search-results page.

Yahoo, which looked to have abandoned the search game when it outsourced its search backend to Microsoft, says Search Direct — and its emphasis on user experience — is the future of search.

“I want you to remember three words: ‘answers, not links,'” Shashi Seth, Yahoo’s vice president for search told a room of tech reporters in San Francisco as he demo’d the product.

Search Direct is live on search.yahoo.com and other U.S. Yahoo search properties, but not the homepage yet. The same experience will soon come to all search boxes on Yahoo, Seth said, and it will find its way to non-Yahoo properties as well.

The product has “answers” for 15 categories of entities, including movies, professional athletes, music, celebrities, weather info, news, shopping, local and stocks.

The new search builds on Yahoo’s attempt to stay relevant in the lucrative search market by focusing on user experience, now that it has farmed out the expensive infrastructure to Microsoft, in exchange for ad-revenue sharing.

“People still come to Yahoo and search on Yahoo,” said Yahoo chief product officer Blake Irving.

Yahoo compared the new experience favorably to Google’s own Instant Search, saying that Google’s feature merely shows search-result pages faster, while this brings people answers incredibly quickly.

WIRED: Yahoo and Microsoft join search forces

Search Direct doesn’t require a fast net connection, the company said, and the system is built using infrastructure that Yahoo owns. That could put the feature in conflict with its search partner Bing.

For instance, Yahoo says it can come up with new ad formats that fit in the Search Direct box, but it hasn’t yet figured out how or if it would share that revenue with Microsoft, as it currently does with search ads.

Yahoo emphasized that it had built instant search first (though it never released it) and that it owns patents on both that technology and the new technology.

Neither Irving or Seth would say what Yahoo would do with those patents.

Irving tried to be diplomatic.

“Licensing is something we have done in the past and continue to do in the future,” Irving said.

Yahoo expects to license the service to others around the web and seems confident it’s built the future of search — even as the tech world has written the firm off as a third-place player destined to keep falling behind.

It’s not clear if Yahoo’s figured out search’s future, but Direct Search is incredibly fast and could prove to be so useful that we’ll all soon forget when we had to type a full word and hit Enter to figure something out.

And combined with Yahoo’s promising new tablet-publishing platform Livestand, we may just be seeing a revitalized Yahoo that is actually a tech company once again, despite its recent financial woes and layoffs.

Subscribe to WIRED magazine for less than $1 an issue and get a FREE GIFT! Click here!

Copyright 2010 Wired.com.


5 Predictions for 2011

February 10, 2011

Here are 5 Technology predictions for 2011, but first how did we do with the 10 predictions we made a year ago for 2010. I’ll highlight a few here and you can read more at https://outofchaosblog.wordpress.com/?s=predictions

1. Increased shift towards online sales. Online sales increased 30% plus for most retailers over this last holiday season. Amazon’s sales hit a record $10 billion in the last quarter – a 33% increase from same quarter last year. Whereas Brick & Mortar stores were lucky to eeck out 2%. With the rough Winter weather in the Northeast and Midwest, expect more folks to do their shopping from home as 2011 gets underway.

3. Search engines will interface with social media. Where is most of the online content coming from these days? Social media, of course. So it only makes sense that the Search Engines, to keep up, have to produce Social Media results and they did as predicted last year. You’ll even see realtime Twitter feeds appear scrolling on some of your Google searches.

5. Increase in people trying to find and save money online. Well this is no surprise, but the trend picked up speed with the use of smartphones last year. You could actually take pictures of products in the store and then get the best prices online. This was a real factor this past holiday shopping season for the first time. Shopping for my wife’s favorite perfume at the mall, I found myself shopping prices by Android and it was much cheaper online!

8. Proliferation of social gaming. Social gaming took off last year. Games like Farmville, Angry Birds, and even Poker took off in Facebook and on other Social platforms.  Expect to see even more robust games this year.

10. Further development of 3D technology and further penetration of 3d into traditional media. We predicted it but underestimated the traction it would have. Besides the huge success of 3D Movies. 3D TV and Games are invading the scene. 3D TV  will go past the early adopters this year to the mainstream as expensive clunky 3D glasses are replaced by either light inexpensive ones or no glasses at all!

Predictions for 2011

1>     Digital eBooks Replace Paper Books. Book publishing is changing so fast that blood is flowing in the street. Amazon sold more eBooks than paper books for the first time. More and more authors are bypassing traditional publishers to to go direct to eBook. This isn’t just no-name vanity publishing. Authors like Stephen King have already done this. The fact that eBook versions of Bestsellers are 60% to 80% cheaper than their paper siblings provides a strong financial incentive for this change. Throw in saving the trees and reading in the dark and why wouldn’t you switch?

Kindle

Kindle

Personally, I have been reading eBooks for years but I have always enjoyed the tactile experience of reading a real book and I’m a big reader! However, this year, I downloaded the free Kindle software onto my Android and I find the reading experience and the convenience just beats the traditional paper experience. I’ve gone 100% eBook and am starting to unload, sell and clear the clutter of my paper library out of the house. I believe you will all ultimately do the same.

2>     Social Applications dominate the Web. By now you’ve either played or heard of Farmville and Angry Birds. Since these programs cost in the neighborhood of $100,000 to create and are yielding $ million(s) per month, you can bet you will see many, many more. These fall into a new category called ‘Casual gaming’ and it is attracting a much broader demographic ,including women and older people, than the hard-core Xbox and Playstation gamers.
And it’s not just games. You will see multi-media rich and business applications popping up inside Facebook in abundance this year.

3>     Apple becomes the most valuable Company in the World: for a company that was on life-support only a few years ago, this is an amazing statement. Apple’s Market cap is already more than Microsoft and when it hits $422 per share(now $353), it will pass Exxon to be #1. With the iPad rapidly becoming the fastest  selling higher end product of all time; Apple iPhones for sale on Verizon’s network for the first time; and a seemingly endless stream of market-savvy innovations, I believe this will happen this year.

4>     A New Online Paradigm will arrive. Amazon, eBay, Google, and facebook – what do they all have in common? They leveraged the special advantages of the Internet to create brand new concepts of human interaction, communication and commerce. We used to call this the ‘Digital Advantage.’ Let me give you an example. The first step that traditional retailers take when they go from selling in the store to selling online, is take their store products, catalog pictures and descriptions and put them online to sell. This is all well and good and can work for some. The big breakthroughs come, when someone creates something online that can’t be done offline in the ‘real’ world. For example, eBay can only exist with the digital connection it can make globally to run an auction with millions of participants not just 100 people in a barn. Facebook uses the digital connection to keep us in touch in ways that we never could before.
So what’s next? I believe we are still in early adolescence with the World Wide Web and great new paradigms seem to come along every 2 years. We’re due. What will it be? I don’t know yet – do you?

5>     Electronic Fashion Takes Off. When we were kids, did anybody carry their school books in a backpack? Of course not. Now, where did that fad come from and do you know any kids without a backpack? Well all these devices we carry around need to go somewhere. Guys, in particular, don’t want to start carrying handbags and women don’t have much room left in theirs.

So expect more companies like Scottevest, with its line of iPad and iPod compatible clothing to spread like backpacks across the landscape. See

Now the first round will be utilitarian like Scotte, but expect color and fashion to enter soon after.  In fact, if you’d like a diamond iPad case, for $20,000, you can but it now!

diamond-ipad-case

Diamond iPad Case

http://www.ipadaccessories.com/ipad-cases/world%E2%80%99s-most-expensive-and-ridiculous-diamond-ipad-case

If you have some other predictions of your own, please share them here. If you can imagine it . . . .


Assault on Net Neutrality: How Corporations Are Ready To Control The Internet

August 10, 2010

Above is a speech given in July by Senator Al Franken, in which he calls the Comcast-NBC deal the “first domino” in the collapse of internet freedom. Last week’s Google-Verizon deals seems to prove him absolutely right and then some.

This week Google and Verizon partnered up for a deal that has sparked an angry fervor across the web, and for good reason. In public statements, Google veiled the actual heart of the deal with calls for “strictly-regulated transparency” on all wired networks – the DSL or Cable you probably have at home. But if you read between the lines, you can see a very different plan being formed for wireless networks; the real future of the internet.

For those not versed in the debate over net neutrality; here’s a quick catch-up from techngadgets.com:

The debate pits network providers (like Verizon) against companies and individuals who use said networks to deliver products and services to customers (like Google). As web applications become more central in nearly every aspect of public and private life, the network providers have grown increasingly interested in recouping the massive amounts of money they spend on building and maintaining network infrastructure by charging those companies who use an inordinate amount of bandwidth (like Google) for privileged access and delivery to customers. The internet has never worked this way, so the idea is obviously upsetting to many people, who cite the web’s inherent openness as a key, if not the key detail that has allowed it to fundamentally change all of our lives in such a powerful way, and will allow it to continue to do so at the same breakneck pace in the future.

The plan establishes protection against tiered or paid services for any wireline networks, meaning all sites and domains get equal access to users. But the plan explicitly leaves wireless open for complete corporate control. If this plan is implemented, network providers will have the ability to give priority to certain services, such as their own internet tv services (this is mentioned especially in the release), while blocking other services which hog bandwidth. So depending on which corporation you’re getting your internet from, you might be allowed access to Netflix’s watch instantly service and blocked from accessing any other movie streaming service. Network providers would have the ability to block protocols like bittorrent entirely. It’s possible that you would be allowed access to any site you’d like, but only if you pay a certain premium. In the tiered-web model, different levels of payment would allow for different levels of access. Not to mention that the deal claims the ability to ban or remove any content deemed “unlawful”. This seems like a good thing, but it sets a precedent for censorship on the web. If a site like wikileaks is deemed “unlawful”, then there goes the last bastion of true government transparency.

Google justifies all this by emphasizing the freedoms they’d preserving for wireline networks; and deemphasizing the stranglehold they’re placing on all wireless networks. But anyone who’s considered buying a phone in the last 6 years knows that there is no question about it; wireless is the future of the web. Google’s plan even mentions encouraging governments to expand wireless access. This has been my personal tech dream for a long time, blanketed wireless access would be an incredibly important innovation for the internet. Think about the potential of every device you own having constant internet access. Now think about the potential implications of corporations having control over every aspect of the internet, which is constantly connected to every device you own.

Verizon’s reasoning for this is that current-generation wireless networks are fragile to maintain and expensive to build. But this is clearly an excuse for a deal which has been perfectly timed. As technology advances, wireless broadband access will become a much less precious commodity. Think about the amount of bandwidth you had when computers used regular phone lines to connect to the internet. That has changed incredibly quickly, and the nature of technology is that it advances exponentially. Don’t be surprised if soon after the Verizon-Google deal goes through, Verizon comes out with an even faster, more advanced wireless service, and suddenly Youtube looks like HBO and it’s given bandwidth priority over every other video streaming site. One day we will likely be swimming in more bandwidth than we know what to do with, but by that time, we’ll have forgotten what it means to have an internet which is a free, uncensored forum, where anyone can say anything, create anything, and share anything. In a world where so many elements of our lives are controlled experiences, the internet is one of the last places where we as users can freely have an unadulterated experience which isn’t watched by a corporate or governmental eye. The ball is already rolling, and it’s on course to crush net neutrality.

Al Franken Net Neutrality Petition

TechNGadgets Informative Article

FreePress Article

Google Public Policy Statement 1

Google Public Policy Statement 2


%d bloggers like this: