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Net Neutrality & Why You Should Care

Net Neutrality & Why You Should Care

Net Neutrality & Why You Should Care

Here at HCD we aim to keep our clients well informed on all subjects that relate to the digital space. The Net Neutrality debate may not be the sexiest topic on our radar, but as it has the potential to change the way we use the Internet, we thought it was worth passing on the following information...

The Net Neutrality debate in the United States is one of those topics that could be nothing, but it could, potentially, be cause for serious concern. In all cases, such as this debate, it is better to be well informed and well prepared so that you can take any necessary steps to minimise any potential for damage before it occurs.

The topic of Net Neutrality is far from new; for the better part of a decade, many parts of the world have been discussing and debating the case for a neutral and open Internet. The debate has become particularly heated in the United States, however, with large corporations supporting both sides and the subject sparking numerous protests and petitions.

Major political decisions in the United States always seem to echo an effect globally, so will the outcome of their decision change the Internet as we know it today?

What is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is a term that was first coined by a law professor in 2003, and very simply, is the idea that data on the Internet should be treated equally by Internet Service Providers in regard to transmission (sending and receiving the data), and in regard to fees applied to the services provided by Internet Service Providers.

In a nut-shell, this is the argument for an "open Internet" or for a "closed Internet".   An "open Internet" being one where people can use the Internet equally without any interference from third-parties (no slowing of Internet speeds, no blocking of Internet services or websites). A "closed Internet" being the opposite, where the content or Internet services a person can access is restricted and managed by the service provider they use to connect to the Internet.

One can imagine the limitations of having a "closed Internet" - for example, not being able to access YouTube, because your Internet Service Provider has their own equivalent website, or is partnered with a different website.

What are the current arguments for Net Neutrality in the US?

In one corner, there are many Internet content and application providers such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft, along with groups such as Free Press, the Consumer Federation of America, the American Library Association, Gun Owners of America who are all in support for Net Neutrality. Just recently, the Major League Baseball (who are the largest distributor of live video on broadband networks in the US) also joined the supporting side.

Their argument is equal access to the Internet is a right, that the current lack of regulation is what created the Internet and Information Revolution in the first place. Supporters also argue that removing Net Neutrality will cause content providers to pay more to deliver their content, which will be passed on to consumers. Also, smaller content providers will have to queue up behind paying content providers who can afford to pay for their content to be delivered faster, resulting in the smaller companies being pushed off the Internet.

What are the current arguments against Net Neutrality in the US?

In the opposite corner, groups like Americans for Prosperity, the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Competitive Enterprise Institute as well as all of the major Telecommunication and Internet Service Providers such as Comcast and AT&T are strongly opposed to Net Neutrality; and are even accused of attempting to essentially buy support and votes to help their cause.

The opposition stance is that Net Neutrality limits the usefulness of the Internet, and will discourage investment in the development of new infrastructure, which would result in limiting the overall bandwidth available for Internet data. The opposition also counter arguments from supporters of Net Neutrality by stating that the Internet is not classified as a utility, and so should not be regulated as such; and that by giving bandwidth preference to popular content is actually in the best interests of the consumer because that is what the majority want to access.

Will the outcome affect Internet in Australia?

The short answer is yes, as much as it will affect the Internet globally, though the effects may be more obvious for Australians as many of the communications cables linking Australia to the rest of the world link to the US. A significant chunk of global Internet traffic flows to and from the United States, and limiting the flow of traffic will have knock-on affects.

What about the Net Neutrality Argument in Australia?

We have already finished our debate about Net Neutrality, and it has been seen as a lost battle. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission already regulates Internet Service Providers, and prevents network traffic management that would be considered as being anti-competitive behaviour. Australian Internet Service Providers could be considered to be discriminating, however, in providing un-metered data however, which provides access to websites or services that does not count to the users data allowance, and could possibly result in users preferring the free service over a competitors. In this sense, Australian Internet is not truly Net Neutral, but un-metered content is seen as a benefit to consumers that have limited data allowance plans as opposed to the unlimited data allowances that all US consumers have.

HCD Tip: Keep an eye on this debate, as it may very well change the way everyone uses and thinks about the Internet.

Further Reading:

What is your opinion? Do you agree or disagree with the idea of a Net Neutrality? How do you think the Net Neutrality discussion in the United States will affect Australia? Share your thoughts on the iASP Central Facebook Page, or Get in Touch.

4 Current Super Über KickStarter Projects

4 Current Super Über KickStarter Projects

4 Current Super Über KickStarter Projects

KickStarter is creating a global buzz as a powerful way to gain funding to get new projects off the ground. 

Since the website's launch in 2009, over 60,000 projects have been funded, with over US$1 billion being pledged by over 6 million people around the world. 

A couple of  notable projects that have been kickstarted:

  • The Oculus Rift, a Virtual Reality headset famous for being bought out by Facebook owner Mark Zuckerburg, which received almost US$2.5 million in pledges from backers

  • Reading Rainbow, a project restarted by LeVar Burton (the actor who played Geordi La Forge on Star Trek: Next Generation), a free for schools digital library project to teach children to read. This project smashed expectations when it reached its US$1 million target in just 12 hours!! The project currently has over US$4 million with 6 days to go. Check out the project on Kickstarter

While Kickstart may be better known for projects in creative industries such as fashion, design, art, music, games or theater, there's plenty of notable projects in the Technology category that caught the eye of the Hub Com Digital team.

Here's a few Technology projects we think are great ideas...

  1. Umbrella USB: A little USB jack that you can plug in between your USB charger cable and a USB port which eliminates the threat of data theft via "Juice Jacking". The is especially handy if you use computers on public networks to charge your devices.
    This project has pledges of almost double it's US$10K target with another week to go.

  2. Sherlybox: The Sherlybox is described as a cloud without the cloud. It allows you to manage and share your files securely without the need for a public cloud service like DropBox or Google Drive; and the software with it allows teams to work on the same files without over-riding one another. Pretty cool.
    This project has pledges of almost US$120K, nearly double it's target with 8 days left.

  3. iFind: Keep losing things? Stick an iFind tag on it and you'll never have trouble finding it again. iFind is battery free, and communicates with your smartphone device via BlueTooth to help you locate an item that has been tagged, or to notify if a tagged item is out of range. And if you lose your phone, you can find it with an iFind tag. Perfect!
    This project has attracted more than 20 times it's target pledges with more than US500K raised with 4 days to go.

  4. The 360cam: Billed as the world's first full HD 360 degree camera. This uber-cool device allows image and video capture of full 360 degree panorama's from the palm of your hand.
    No wonder this project has attracked over 3,000 backers who have pledged nearly US1.2M a whopping 800% of it's goal - and the best news is there's still 8 days to go to get on board!

What's the best Android smart phone on the market?

What's the best Android smart phone on the market?

What's the best Android smart phone on the market?
If you're like us, you're torn between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. Both have powerful components and run Google Android's Jelly Bean OS, but are suited to different needs.

The HTC One hit the market in March 2013 and the Samsung Galaxy followed on it's heels in April 2013. In terms of design, the HTC One takes gold. Machined from a solid block of aluminum, it has a more square look but is visually softened by it's rounded corners and convex back.

Although slimmer and lighter than the HTC One, the Samsung S4 closely resembles its predecessor and appears cheapened by the plastic backing. In sharp contrast to it's cheap external appearance, its photo capabilities are far superior to the HTC One. The Samsung S4 has a 13 megapixel BSI Sensor and 2MP user face sensor meaning that it produces a clearer shot.

If you're after a sturdier sleeker looking phone, the choice is definitely the HTC One, but if you rely on your phone for quick quality photo production, you'll want a Samsung S4.

iOS7, Hurrying to be Released?

iOS7, Hurrying to be Released?

iOS7, Hurrying to be Released?

Apple recently announced, iOS7, the newest version of their mobile operating system. Although still in the development stage, iOS7 appears to be the most dramatic change in graphic style since 2000. The familiar stereo-effect is gone in favour of flat icons, subtle gradients, and a cartoon cut-out style.

Some disappointed 3-D lovers criticise the operating system's new style direction calling it "ugly" and "inconsistent" and pointing out problems with overlapping icons. Usability issues overshadow well-received features, like iTunes Radio, and are generating a growing opinion that iOS7 is far from ready and that the development team are in a hurry to release it.

As developers, test driving iOS7 can be a lesson in attention to detail. Because users naturally interpret interface bugs as incomplete and broken systems, it's important to test from an end-user point of view and be sure that the graphic elements are consistent throughout. Thorough testing will ensure that no bugs or graphic problems linger on in the officially released version.