Tag Archives: mobile technology

The War for Net Neutrality! Breaking It Down

The FCC voted along party lines to end the Obama administration’s rules on net neutrality. This war for a free and open Internet has been going on for some time. This is just the latest battle.  This decision is by no means the end of it. But what is happening and what does it mean for Black Internet users?

 

 

What is net neutrality?

Net neutrality is the idea that all data carried over the Internet is treated the same. That means that whether you’re streaming Netflix, shopping online, playing games or just reading the news, all the data is the same. Same speed and same price. For users of the Internet that meant that you could access any website and use as much data as you wanted. Before the change Internet service providers or ISPs like Comcast or Verizon could not deliberately speed up or slow down Internet traffic from specific websites or apps. But they did. The practice was known as throttling. The net neutrality rules, put in place by the Obama administration in 2015, were intended to keep the Internet open and fair. If you really want to understand how this works imagine sitting in traffic while those willing to pay whiz by you in the express lane. That is the basic idea behind the new rules of the Internet. 

How does that affect Black people?

People using the Internet, schools, small businesses and others are now subject to a potential new way of using the Internet and paying for it. You could be charged for high-speed streaming like Netflix. You could also be charged more for using data from some websites or apps over others. The rules used to say that ISPs could not favor one website over another for its content, the aptly named fast lane/slow lane Internet. Those rules just went out the window. Expect more throttling and slower web speeds and loading. Businesses with numerous computers and heavy data consumption could end up paying more. Start up businesses, especially minority owned, could be stifled by high data costs. According to MIT the repeal of net neutrality could be harmful to innovation. The exact opposite of what FCC chairman Ajit Pai claims.

Where this hurts black people, other minorities and the poor, is that just getting Internet could be costly. Already we are dealing with a lack of high speed Internet in poor and minority schools. As matter of fact the United States is already behind in both wireless and fixed wire Internet speeds.

Poor and minority children are already dealing with poor public education. That situation could be further eroded further by a lack of adequate access to the Internet. Classroom instruction will suffer as they fall further behind more affluent school districts. The digital divide is going to grow along with an under-educated under-class that is the source of poverty.

In some cities high speed Internet is nearly non-existent. Detroit for example is one of the worst cities in the country for high speed Internet especially for poor people. Repealing net neutrality is not going to help this situation.

Black people are avid users of mobile technology. The use of mobile devices could become more expensive. Shopping online, banking and other online activities could be slowed down or throttled. Another area of concern for black people is social and political activism.  A free and open Internet meant that no matter who you are you could get your message to the masses. These new rules could make it expensive for, or even censor, groups like #Black Lives Matter. Many believe that the Internet is key to free speech and the right of the public to know. 

Who is benefitting from this rule change?

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai

Most people would agree that the telecom companies are benefitting the most from this rule change. FCC Chairman Pai, an Obama appointment and promoted to chairman by Trump, has claimed that the new rules will not affect a free and open and Internet. Pai has been a critic of the net neutrality rules and believes that the rules of the Obama administration allowed the government to “micro-manage the Internet.”

The telecom industry approves of Pai’s plan. Pai argued that earlier regulation was a drag on broadband investment and innovation. In a blog post, Comcast downplayed concerns, saying customers “will continue to enjoy all of the benefits of an open Internet today, tomorrow, and in the future. Period.” Yet at the same time it appears that Comcast is already planning to charge you for more Internet speed.

According to the Los Angeles Times  several companies have also been preparing for this moment for some time and the profits of priority handling of Internet content. These companies will not say what they consider a free and open Internet is nor will they promise to treat all data the same. Basically they are keeping quiet.

Telecommunications companies like AT&T, Charter Communications and Comcast have run full page ads in the Washington Post claiming to preserve an “open Internet.” These practices supposedly include “no blocking of legal content,” “not throttling” data speeds and “no unfair discrimination.” They never said you wouldn’t have to pay for it. 

Another winner of the repeal are the big content providers. Netflix, Google and other large content providers also have the money and the leverage of millions of subscribers to negotiate deals with ISPs. This would allow them access to the Internet fast lanes and potentially get a competitive advantage. Any deal that Netflix, Google or YouTube cuts with the ISPs could mean a price increase for the consumer. You lose.

Supporters of net neutrality believe that consumers could be charged extra to stream certain content if they don’t want to be hampered by network congestion or throttling. Others are warning that consumer choices of Internet service providers could shrink and prices of broadband service could increase due to lack of competition.

What is actually happening is that the FCC, under the Trump administration, has declared that information is free. Access to it is not. The Internet, until now, was regulated as a utility. This brings that to an end. Now the Internet belongs to private industry and they are willing to make you pay for access because that is what they do. They couldn’t care less about your business needs, your child’s education or your need to know…period. They have the capability to keep the ignorant ignorant, the poor poor and the the competition from competing.. They can slow down information or cut it off completely if you don’t pay. Corporations have scored a victory but the war is far from over. 

Next: The Net Neutrality War is Not Over!

 

 

President Obama to Unlock Cell Phones

Obama Returns To Washington After Primary NightA bill making  it legal to unlock cell phones so they can be used on any service provider’s network has arrived at the White House. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation.

The House passed the legislation after the bill passed the Senate last week.  The bill reverses a decision by the Library of Congress that made cell phone unlocking illegal. Unlocking a cell phone was actually legal until a decision by the Library of Congress in 2012 declared that such unlocking was a copyright infringement.

A petition on the White House website demanding the action collected 114,000 signatures thus prompting action.

When it comes to technology legislation or any legislation, it is rare to get action of any kind. But it seems that the both Republicans and Democrats saw a common ground and common sense on this issue and the bill was passed.

Led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and his counterpart in the House Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) the two men took action on the petition.  Both men believed that the issue was a basic consumer demand that made sense in the marketplace. Although there were several versions of the bill with some lawmakers attempting to use the bill to instigate broader copyright reform the bill finally passed.  

The White House has not said when the president will sign the bill.

Public Knowledge Staff Attorney Laura Moy said in a statement. The bill will “make it easier for consumers to switch from one provider to another, improving competition in the wireless market. It will improve the availability of free and low-cost secondhand phones for consumers who cannot afford to purchase new devices, and it will keep millions of devices out of landfills.”

Breaking It Down

Imagine buying a car and the car company puts a lock on the gas cap so that you can only buy gas from them. Well that’s what the cell phone companies have been doing! This was a rip off and the corporations know it. The deal worked pretty well in the beginning. You get a free cellphone if you sign up for their service. OK. But you can’t use that cell phone if you move to a different carrier.OK. But did anyone notice how the cell phone market changed? The first thing that happened was that cell phones got better and smarter. They could do more. And the carriers stop giving away the best cell phone for free. They instead gave you discounts on the best phones. You got the phone and they added a little to your bill each month until it was paid for. You signed up for their service, you paid for the phone but you still could not take it to another carrier. Wait; discount or no discount, didn’t you pay for that phone? Its yours! Why can’t you use it on another service? Because the cell phone companies were forcing you to buy another phone! Now guess what? You got a phone sitting in your closet, in the glove compartment of your car or in your desk drawer (that’s where mine is)  that is perfectly fine but it won’t work. Why? Because the cell phone companies forced you to buy another phone! Well it looks like the president is putting an end to that and justly so. How many phones are the corporations going to force the American consumer to buy? Its gone on for too long! We have a right to use the cell phone we paid for on any service we choose. After the cell phone companies have bled us for two years we have a right to move to a pre-paid or no contract service if we choose. Yeah, now its our choice.

African-Americans Embrace Mobile Banking

 

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhoto.net

African-Americans are banking on the move. A recent report from Pew Research found that African American and Hispanic people are taking the lead when it comes to mobile banking. The research found that 51% of adults in the U.S. bank online and 35% of cellphone owners bank using their phone.

Among the findings in the Pew study was that the popularity of mobile banking continues to grow among minority groups, especially African-Americans, nearly doubling in two years. Forty one percent of non-whites reported using their smartphones to check their bank balances and make payments. This includes 39% of African-Americans.

Another report from the Federal Reserve Board also found that Black and Latinos were significantly more likely to use mobile banking than whites.

None of these numbers surprised the experts. African-Americans and Latinos appear to be more comfortable using mobile technology and have higher ownership rates of smartphones than whites.  In 2010 survey numbers showed that 45% of Latinos and 33% of African-Americans owned smartphones while only 27% of whites did.  That number grew to 71% by 2013, while the national average was only 62%.

The question has to be why? In a report on Diversityinc.com Assistant Professor of Communications at Rutgers University Vikki Katz said that socioeconomic factors are the reason. She highlighted additional data from Pew research showing African-Americans, compared to other groups, had less overall access to home-based broadband. “Higher rates of mobile banking are not surprising among individuals who, if they choose to do online banking, can only do so via a mobile device,” she said, “as opposed to being able to choose between doing so on a mobile phone or a PC.

A more telling factor is revealed by Dedrick Muhammad Executive Director of the Financial Freedom Center who stated; “Historically, access to brick-and-mortar banks is not as prevalent in African-American communities,” he said, adding that many banks charge higher fees to bank in person than online. “So you have a cheaper product, using a cheaper means that provides greater access to African-Americans. It makes sense that African-Americans use mobile banking more.”

Breaking It Down

African-Americans are using mobile banking for different reasons. And Mr. Muhammad hit it on the head. Many black communities simply do not have banks close by. Or grocery stores either! There are vast empty commerce deserts in black communities where businesses simply do not go. You can find the exploiters there like liquor stores and check cashing businesses but not much else. I am not blaming the businesses. There are problems in these communities. But the working black people there have discovered how to manage their money electronically. They go to their smartphones. And how many of these neighborhoods offer high speed Internet anyway? Starting to get the picture? Now let’s visit the other end of the socio-economic scale. Higher income African-Americans expects ease and convenience just like higher income whites. They have access to the technology, the high speed connections and are early adopters of mobile technology. Banking on the go offers them more freedom to manage their busy lives. Black people have to adapt and sometimes quickly. Mobile technology helps us to overcome the hurdles we encounter. And mobile banking is a big help.