Tag Archives: U.S. Government Accountability Office

Net Neutrality War Rages On!

On April 23rd of 2018 net neutrality will die. The FCC ruling will take affect and the Internet as we know it will change dramatically. There is a lot that could happen between now and then so the war against the ruling rages on.

Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong

Lies were told.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is investigating claims that millions of comments provided to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in support of the repeal were fake. The GAO is looking into the claim that the comments were made by bots impersonating real people.

One study estimated that removing the fake comments left 98.5 percent majority against the FCC’s repeal. According to Emprata.com “The lack of user authentication by the Electronic Comments Filing System (ECFS) makes it difficult to determine ‘genuine’ comment submissions.”

Emprata.com also pointed out that, “9.93 million comments were filed from submissions listing the same physical address and email, indicating that many entities filed multiple comments. This was more prevalent in comments against repeal of Title II (accounting for 82% of the total duplicates), with a majority of duplicate comments associated with email domains from FakeMailGenerator.com.”

ARS Technica did an analysis of the comments and found that hundreds of comments were filed with identical time stamps. Other evidence indicated that others were posted at a steady rate, “unlike the way humans would send in comments.” Others were considered suspicious because the were in all caps indicating they may have been generated or submitted from a database.

The fake comments were so blatant and obvious that even Barack Obama of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was listed as commenting in favor of repealing net neutrality.

The FCC, under the command of Ajit Pai has steadfastly refused to investigate this evidence or hear from others who have complained of the fake comments.

Another lie that came from the net neutrality war was that the Obama administration put pressure on the FCC to maintain net neutrality. The FCC’s own investigation proved otherwise. Motherboard.com obtained a copy of the investigation’s findings via the Freedom of Information Act. Reaching back to 2015 FCC investigators reviewed at least 600,000 emails from all five commissioners seeking evidence indicating the Obama White House pressured the FCC. The report’s final summary reads as follows;

“In conclusion, we found no evidence of secret deals, promises or threats from anyone outside the Commission, nor any evidence of any other improper use of power to influence the FCC decision-making process. To the contrary, it appears that to the extent entities outside of the Commission sought to influence the process, the positions were made known in the record, in full view of all.”

The rebellion inside the FCC.

As you probably already know the Democratic members of the FCC have been vociferous about their opposition to the repeal of net neutrality. But they are not alone among those inside the FCC who oppose the ruling.

The FCC’s own Chief Technology Officer, Eric Burger, who was appointed by Chairman Pai in October, pointed out that the repeal could allow internet service providers (ISP) to block or throttle specific websites. In an email Burger said “Unfortunately, I realize we do not address that at all. Burger went on to say, “If the ISP is transparent about blocking legal content, there is nothing the Federal Trade Commission can do about it unless the FTC determines it was done for anti-competitive reasons. Allowing such blocking is not in the public interest.”

States Rebel

Regardless of the FCC effort to rollback net neutrality it appears that states have declared an open rebellion to the new rule. According to the Supremacy Clause in the U.S. Constitution federal law wins if state laws conflict with federal laws. But several states have take it upon themselves to fight for net neutrality Supremacy Clause be damned!

Currently more that half of the states are setting their own net neutrality protections. California, New York, Montana, Hawaii, and Vermont have all passed legislation that is intended to protect net neutrality. According to the FCC states aren’t allowed to pass their own net neutrality laws.  But that hasn’t stopped them. At least 21 states have sued the FCC to restore its original rules.

Most recently Nebraska, a state glowing Republican red, has also struck back at the the ruling. State Sen. Adam Morfeld (D) introduced legislation to establish net neutrality regulations in law on the state level.  Morfeld’s bill prevents broadband providers from slowing down or blocking internet content and from cutting deals with content companies to give them faster connection speeds. It should be noted that this is just a bill and not yet law.

In Montana the governor, Steve Bullock, a Democrat, issued an executive order in January making ISPs who do not observe net neutrality ineligible for state contracts. This move is intended to preserve net neutrality in the state without passing any law that violates the Supremacy Clause. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a similar order.

Currently there are 21 states and various interest groups that have launched legal challenges to the FCC ruling. In Congress there are currently 50 votes to block the net neutrality rule, one short of the number needed to stop it. The war rages on.

Breaking It Down.

If anyone thinks that the end of net neutrality is near think again. This issue will be fought all the way into the mid-term elections and even the next presidential election. There are just too many questions around the legitimacy of the decision. For such an unpopular decision to take affect is mind boggling. Even if the decision stands, which I doubt very seriously, the states are basically going to undermine it. They have already begun to institute rules forcing the ISP to disregard the new FCC ruling. It it won’t stop there. The big telecoms are playing a game of chicken with the market. Let me explain. The big ISPs and cell service providers were living fat and happy with the cellphone market firmly in their grasp. The had consumers locked up with long term contracts and high rates. Then along came the little guys with a better deal. They were forced to bow to market pressure and now the rates are pretty cheap and the contracts are gone. Same for cable television. They got too expensive and now everybody is cutting the cord. The Internet is the only game left in the telecommunications sector. The big ISPs can start throttling data or blocking websites if they want to. But how long before some small company starts screaming, “NO THROTTLING AND NO BLOCKED WEBSITES!  in their advertising. And before long the game is back where it started. What I am saying is that big ISPs are going to fold. There will be a lot more and a lot smaller ISPs taking over the market soon. The big companies need to move on to something else.

 

 

 

Technology’s Dirty Secrets Series – E-Waste and Technology Pollution

WEEE-Dump-in-GhanaTechnology makes our lives easier. But the world we live in has hidden corners where others suffer for our easy life.  E-waste and  technology pollution is wrecking the environment especially in third world countries. Some countries on the African continent are poisoned and polluted by the technology industry we hold so dear in the United States and the western world. This is the dirt and blood that coats the billions of dollars made manufacturing, selling and disposing of technology. In this series the African-American Cyber Report will expose the dirty secrets of the technology industry. In this third and final article of this series we examine the practice and victims of electronic and technology waste disposal.

The explosive growth of the electronics and technology industries has also sparked a tragic onslaught of electrical and electronic waste (e-waste). In 2012, the United Nations reported that in five years, the world’s electronic waste would grow by 33% from 49.7 million tons to 65.4 million tons.

The third world industry of recycling the valuable elements contained in our e-waste such as copper and gold is both a source of income and illness and death in developing or emerging industrialized countries.

Impoverished people are using crude, even primitive techniques to harvest valuable metals from discarded electronics. One technique used is burning cables to get at the cooper wiring. This method exposes children, adults and even entire families to a range of hazardous substances.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) these children and families suffer from e-waste-connected health risks as a result of direct contact with harmful materials such as lead, cadmium, chromium, brominated flame retardants or polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) because they are inhaling toxic fumes.

Not only is the air they breath severely polluted but so is the very ground they stand on. Because of our electronic waste dangerous chemicals pollute the soil, water and food. Recycling industries where workers dismantle electrical equipment with little or no safety precautions also pose the threat of injury.

One of the most polluted places on earth is Agbloboshie in Ghana’s capital of Accra. According to the Green Cross Switzerland and the Blacksmith Institute  Agbloboshie is one of the 10 most polluted places in the world, thanks to toxic fumes, which are a result of consistent dumping of electronic goods.  Agbloboshie has been Western Europe’s dumping ground fordiscarded electronic goods for more than twenty years.  About 215,000 tons of second hand consumer items land in Agbloboshie every year, generating 129,000 tons of electronic waste.

“We estimate that the health of more than 200 million people is at risk from pollution in the developing world,” said Richard Fuller, who heads US-based environment watchdog the Blacksmith Institute.

African nations are not alone as they bathe in the west’s e-waste. Indonesia’s Citarum River Basin in West Java is home to about nine million people and 2,000 factories. The river, source of drinking water and rice farming irrigation,  is contaminated by a wide range of toxins, including aluminium and manganese and tests have shown lead at levels more than 1,000 times above U.S. standards.

American’s fail to understanding of what some parts of the world is going through as we enjoy the age of technology.

A report from the the U.S. Government Accountability Office is a clear indictment of the way Americans dispose of electronic waste. American electronics recyclers appear to be shipping used equipment containing CRTs (cathode ray tubes) overseas in violation of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations.  But even worse is the fact that the agency’s regulations cover only the export of used and discarded CRT monitors, not other electronic equipment. So whatever e-waste we can dump on the third world is fair game.

Only 25 percent of  U.S. generated e-waste is recycled. The other 75 percent goes straight to American landfills or third world nations.

The U.S. is shipping used electronic devices containing toxic substances overseas and there are few if any laws to protect these people and the environment in those countries, according to a government auditor’s report.

“Concerns have grown … that some U.S. companies are exporting these items to developing countries, where unsafe recycling practices can cause health and environmental problems,” the GAO report said. “Imported used electronics that cannot be repaired are often recycled in developing countries by crude and inefficient means and with virtually no human health or environmental protection.”

According to the GAO 20 percent of discarded electronics from the U.S. would add up to 66 million pounds of e-waste being shipped overseas each year. This wastes ends up in places like Agbloboshie.

So how do you dispose of electronic products?   Check the EPA’s website or the Electronics Take Back Coalition for  information about e-Stewards, which are responsible recyclers of electronic waste. If you can’t find and e-Steward near you check the manufacturer’s website or store recycling programs. For instance, Staples and Best Buy both have recycling programs.

There is also a thriving industry in the U.S. that buys old electronics or take trade ins. These include websites like Gazalle.com and BuyBackWorld.com. And for the record you can find electronic buy back programs at Walmart and Target stores.