Internet Citizens: Defend Net Neutrality

Tell the FCC to reclassify broadband internet as a title II common carrier telecommunications service:

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Hello Internet,

Enjoying your Internetting session? Perhaps watching this video with lots of tabs open and full of interesting things to check out. The Internet is amazing and that's because of the rules which govern how it works, an important one of which is Net Neutrality: treating all data equally.

But some Internet Providers want to ditch this rule to insert themselves betwixt you and your data as the most meddlesome middlemen in human history -- to their benefit and our detriment.

How? Well think of the Internet as a series of pipes. Some are ocean-and-continent spanning pipes through which vast rivers of data flow.

You don't get access to those -- they're very expensive, and you couldn't handle it anyway.

But you do have a little pipe that connects to the big pipes, through which you can pull down and send out data. Your pay your Internet provider to maintain this pipe.

This rule means that your little pipe, cares not what flows through it: cat videos, discussion forums, calls or games. Whatever you're doing, you're using the whole pipe to do and no website gets preference over another.

Everyone wants faster Internet, but that requires more metaphorical pipe in the ground, the building of which is slow and expensive.

Now you may have heard your Internet provider on the news talking about how this rule prevents them from building 'fast lanes' for special kinds of data -- they want you to think they're expanding your access to the information superhighway. But removing this rule also gives them the power to speedbump the existing roads and charge more to use the 'fast' lane that was just what you had before.

The power to preference some data over others is the power to favor one video site over another and to limit a tiny part of the pipe for the video you're watching right now or trying to anyway.

We've been through this before: and constrain other companies in similar ways. Take the electricity. You pay for a certain amount and when it arrives in your house you can do with it what you wish. The electricity company doesn't get to decide that rather than build more power plants it's going to dim your bulbs and then offer a 'brighter bulbs' monthly subscription. And so it should go with the Internet. Watts are watts and bits are bits and we'll always need more and more.

And preserving this rule for the Internet has much wider impact than just if some company takes more of your coins. Not to be overly dramatic here, but preserving data equality may be one of the most important issues in a generation. Because without this rule Internet providers could cripple competitors they don't like.

Ever notice the same company that sells you internet also sells Cable TV and Landlines -- stuff The Internet totally replaces? Without data equality your Internet Provider could narrow the pipe for competitors until they either go out of business, pay the meddlesome middleman, or both.

It's like if one store in town super-promised to pay for fast roads everywhere as long as the town gave them absolute power over all the roads no backsies. If you agree to that deal don't be surprised when years later all traffic to them is fast and free while the roads elsewhere are slow and neglected.

This town is basically the Internet without net neutrality which some Internet Providers would love, but actual Internet citizens, not so much.

Having the pipes treat all data the same lets one guy with a good idea and a bit of programming knowledge make something today that's seen by millions tomorrow. But only because his data is treated equally with everything else in the pipes.

An Internet that treats data equally is an internet that continues to shower us with wonder. But an Internet where middlemen pick and choose what comes through the pipe is an Internet of stagnation for all and profit for few. Which is why some Internet providers will always want that control, so the cost of preserving our awesome Internet is eternal vigilance on the part of good citizens to defend Net Neutrality.

Are Hong Kong & Macau Countries?


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Welcome to Hong Kong: the island city of China packed with seven million people at unbelievable density. But if you, dear tourist, start from Victoria Harbor and head toward the mainland you'll find that while Hong Kong is China she doesn't act like it.

To cross the bridge your passport must be checked and stamped and checked and stamped. Not because you're a suspicious foreigner: Mainland Chinese can't just stroll across either, but rather because Hong Kong has her own immigration policy.

And Hong Kong isn't the only isolated island, there's nearby Macau with her own passport-checking bridge and a ferry between them -- which also checks passports. Travel from Hong Kong to Macau to the mainland and back and you'll end up with three stamps, and that goes for everyone: Hong Kongese can't just live in Macau and Macanese can't just live in Hong Kong and they both can just live on the mainland.

Yet it's all China. And inconvenient travel isn't the only speciality of these sister islands. They also have:

  • Separate governments and political parties.
  • Separate police.
  • Separate money.
  • Postal systems.
  • Schools.
  • and languages.

Hong Kong even has her own Olympic team which competed in the 2008 Beijing olympics which doesn't make any kind of sense.

The only things these sister islands don't have that other countries do:

1) Their own armies.

Though that isn't unique with modern countries, and…

2) Formal diplomatic relations.

Though even this unclear as both are members of international trade organizations. And other countries have 'embassies' in Hong Kong and Macau, sure China won't let them be called embassies, those are only for mighty Beijing -- they're called consulates even if they're bigger than Beijing's embassy.

All this makes Hong Kong and Macau, as mentioned in a previous video, the most country-like countries that aren't countries.

So why are they China?

China says so.

It's called 'One China, Two Systems' -- though fast-counters in the audience will see it should be called 'One China, Three Systems. Also there's China's special economic zones (where capitalism runs free) making it more like 'One China Four Systems' -- and if China got her way it might be 'One China, Five Systems'.

But we can't talk about everything so back to China, Hong Kong, and Macau (oh my!)

China ended up having these two essentialy city-states, as always, because Empire.

Portugal showed up in Asia in the 1500s and didn't exactly make friends. China and Portugal skirmished until Portugal used Bigger-pile-of-money diplomacy to bribe a local Chinese official into turning over the islands of Macau as a trading port.

Later, Britannia found China and discovered she had many of lovely things like silks and porcelain and precious, precious tea that Britannia craved. In return China wanted from Britannia… to be left alone and Britannia nobly agreed to respect China's independence and soverenty.



Nothing generates demand like addiction -- which Britannia was happy to supply. And, her bigger-gun diplomacy secured Hong Kong as a base through which the drugs must flow.

Later in a world where telegraphs and lightbulbs were newfangled a lease gave control of Hong Kong to Britannia for 99 years or quote "as good as forever", kicking the transfer problem down the generations to be delt with by the unimaginably futuristic society of the 1990s.

Thus these sister cities grow up under the influence of their Emperiffic parents. Hong Kong had English common law and lived in Britannia's org chart as one of her many crown colonies and Macau had Portuguese civil law.

And the parental effect is still seen today: visit Hong Kong and she is clearly Britannia's daughter what with her love of business and international finance (and lasers!) and english-accented language and near-identical transport system.

Macau had a more troubled adolescence, as her bigger sister stole the spotlight with her trading skills. But Macau eventually grew up to be the gambling capital of the world. She's Las Vegas x10 with a mixture of Portugal and China.

But Empires come and empires go, and the 90s eventually arrived, meaning Britannia's lease expired. Portugal claimed the treaty gave her control of Macau forever but China disagreed and the UN was in a no-empires-no-longer mood, and frankly had Portugal complained too much, China could have used her own bigger-army diplomacy at this point to resolve the situation.

So the transfer was going to happen: but the world was nervous about China, what with the lingering communism and all, so the deal was the Empire's daughters would go but they had to remain basically independent, to which China agreed as long as everyone else agreed to call them China.

The situation was a bit like if the US had to give Alaska back to Russia and Russia super promised to leave Alaska self-governing. You couldn't blame the locals for being nervous.

But, unlike what you'd expect in this case China has mostly left the little sister islands alone.

So everything is dandy...


The handover came with its own version of the as-good-as-forever clause. China didn't agree to leave Hong Kong and Macau alone for all time, only fifty years, again passing political problems to a future generation. (Hopefully one that's actually unimaginably futuristic this time).

Anyway, assuming such provincial concerns as these are not rendered irrelevant by the singularity, what happens in the 2040s? Will Hong Kong and Macau remain tiny city-states or will they lose their independence and be absorbed?

Only China knows, and China does not say.