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How the Repeal of Net Neutrality Could Affect You

Think your cable and Internet bill costs too much already?

Enjoy freely surfing the web’s variety of funny, informative, and even weird, content?

Thanks to a party-line vote to repeal net neutrality by the appointed members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last Thursday, you could end up paying more to view certain Internet content or not even be able to access certain content at all.

What is (was) net neutrality?

Net neutrality rules made the Internet a level playing field for all content providers and consumers. They required Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to allow equal access to all lawful web content.

ISPs like Spectrum, Frontier, and Comcast, couldn’t charge you more to access certain websites. Nor could they slow down your connection to other Internet content.

Mozilla – the company known for its Firefox web browser – succinctly describes it this way: “In other words, the Web is a level playing field: you can read, watch, play, browse and share on the same terms as everybody else.”

Net neutrality rules adopted by the FCC went into effect in 2015. Those rules prohibited certain practices by Internet Service Providers, as described in this excerpt from a December 14 New York Times article:

“BLOCKING – Internet service providers could not discriminate against any lawful content by blocking websites or apps.

“THROTTLING – Service providers could not slow the transmission of data based on the nature of the content, as long as it is legal.

“PAID PRIORITIZATION – Service providers could not create an Internet fast lane for companies and consumers who pay premiums, and a slow lane for those who don’t.”

The FCC’s decision

Last Thursday, the five appointed members of the FCC voted along party-lines to repeal those 2015 rules.

Essentially, they caved in to lobbyists of major communications corporations.

Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO, wrote to Google users in 2006, “The phone and cable monopolies, who control almost all Internet access, want the power to choose who gets access to high-speed lanes and whose content gets seen first and fastest. They want to build a two-tiered system and block on-ramps for those who can’t pay.”

How this could affect you

First, Internet providers could begin to create bundles of content – increasing your monthly Internet bill. This is similar to what cable and satellite providers already do for television content.

Want to access social media sites? That’s an extra subscription package per month.

Want to stream videos from Hulu, Netflix and YouTube? You’ll need to pay more for a separate bundle.

This is already happening in other countries, such as Portugal, where no net neutrality rules exist.

Second, they could completely prohibit you from viewing certain content at all – or make it extremely painful to do so.

For example, Comcast is the parent company of NBC and MSNBC. They could decide to deny subscribers the ability to access any news content other than that produced by NBC/MSNBC. Or they could slow down connections to other news sites so that it takes longer to load, thereby discouraging people from trying to even access it.

(I agree, this may be an extreme and unlikely example. But with the repeal of the rules, it is now possible.)

Third, Internet providers could allow deep-pocketed companies to pay for faster load times of their websites.

This could prevent small businesses and non-profit organizations from promoting their products, services and causes to the same audiences.

Your voice matters – Say something!

The repeal of net neutrality is a bad deal for consumers and businesses alike.

The FCC’s decision faces serious congressional and legal challenges in the months ahead. So major changes won’t happen immediately.
But if you enjoy a free, fair access to the Internet, you can’t just finish reading this column, move on to the next article, and do nothing.

I encourage you to call or write your federal representatives in Congress. Let them know you want them to challenge the FCC’s decision.

Call or write the Indiana Attorney General’s office. Encourage them to join with New York’s Attorney General in filing a multi-state lawsuit against the FCC’s repeal.

A free and open Internet is an important platform for free speech and open enterprise.

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3 Affordable Home Automation Gadgets

You wake up at 5:59 a.m. to the warm glow of sunlight in your bedroom. Peering out your window, you see the stars still out and the moon shining brightly.

“Alexa, set scene ‘Morning,’” you say. Within seconds, your house illuminates into soft shades of orange, blue, and white for an energizing ambience.

As the clock strikes 6, your home’s heat kicks on. You find your morning coffee waiting for you in the kitchen. You enjoy your breakfast and leave your house at 6:30.

Behind you, your lights and coffee maker power themselves off. Your home’s temperature is allowed to drop below 50° to save energy. Throughout the day, your lights turn on and off at seemingly random intervals to make your home appear occupied, deterring potential home invaders or sketchy neighbors.

That evening as you drive up your driveway, your garage and front room lights turn on to greet you. You walk inside your recently warmed house to find your TV already tuned to the evening news.

When you walk into your comfortably cool bedroom at 10:00, you command, like an officer in 1969’s Star Trek, your house lights to turn off by saying “Alexa, set ‘Bedtime.’” A single soft light in your bedroom slowly dims over the next hour. You now fall into a natural deep sleep.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a futuristic home like this? I sure think so.

And that’s why I’d like you to know something – for under $1,000 you can have your home transformed into a “home of the future.”

Let me walk you through the three devices that made this 20th century sci-fi-esque day possible.

How are you able to enjoy sunlight at 6:00 in the morning? This is thanks to Philips HUE lights.

These Wi-Fi enabled lights can be controlled using nearly any phone or smart hub. At your fingertips (or even just your voice), you’ll have timers, beautiful scenes, GPS capability, and 16,000,000 beautiful colors.

These lights are my personal favorite of available smart home devices. They’re relatively affordable at about $70 per bulb. These bulbs are installed in regular light sockets for ultimate ease of installation.

Who wouldn’t want their coffee made and TV turned on for them without even flipping a switch?

Belkin agrees and has graced us with their Belkin WeMo Mini for just this purpose (or anything else you can think of).

At just $30 each, the WeMo Mini is the cheapest and simplest way to modernize your home. All you have to do is plug your WeMo mini into a wall outlet and your coffee maker into the WeMo. Then set your desired on/off times via the WeMo app and… voilà! You’ve automated your first task.

You can do the same thing with nearly any other device, such as a TV, lamp, space heater, or even a toaster. And at just $30, why not?

In this perfect home, you may have noticed your home’s temperature smartly adjusting throughout the day. This is thanks to the Nest Learning Thermostat ($249).

It has tons of cool features, like voice control, detailed energy use reports, and smoke detection (with add-ons). You’ll save an average of 10-12% a year on your energy bill, thanks to its adaptive adjustments.

As you adjust your home’s temperature throughout the day, the Nest thermostat learns your habits and creates a schedule accordingly.

Technology is super exciting and can make your life so much easier. However, getting started isn’t always so easy.

Bonus: Amazon Echo ‘Alexa’
Talking to many of these devices is made possible through a Amazon Echo device. The least expensive in the Echo family, the Dot, is just $50 and allows you to speak commands to a large variety of home automation gadgets and listen to online music, podcasts and radio. Alexa can also tell you information, set timers and more. Google, Bose and Apple also make similar assistants.

Email me at christian@calibre-cs.com if you have any questions, are interested in having us set up home automation for you, or just want to share your knowledge and experiences.