This is What Open Government Aught to Look Like

The New York State Senate has created a new website for themselves as part of their commitment to open government and civic participation at The new site bases itself around the “Web2.0” style technologies that are expected of modern websites, rather than trying to stick stuff into an existing site with duct tape. Lets run through some of the more impressive features:

The front page is nice and crisply styled with an eye towards the blues and muted fades that made so popular and continue to make a successful site. As a web designer, I look to a front page to immediately inform the reader what a site is about and give them instant access to the things I want them to see. On the Senate site, the first non-navigational thing you see is a form that allows you to look up your Senator, with another form for getting updates immediately below that. There’s lots more information on the front page, including the latest happenings in the Senate, video clips and popularly-browsed subjects.

One of the more interesting facets of the website is the Legislation Markup feature, which allows users to view and comment on all pieces of legislation currently under consideration. It’s like Thomas meets or something. It’s very nice to see that if I wanted to – and I just might – I could send my readers to comment directly on a piece of legislation before the Senate, rather than having to sign some petition that may never get viewed.

The Reports section lists the most recent officially released reports and the Open Data Reports section includes a lot of study results on budget issues and other more granular details we don’t often get access to in New York.

You can also get deep inside the committee structure of New York’s Senate, a thing which is much more deeply nebulous than it’s name implies and much less discussed than committees in the U.S. Senate, so much the talk of Washington so much of the time.

I’m sure there’s lots more stuff to look at, and you’ll all be able to very shortly: within an hour or two. Stay tuned!


Freedom of Speech on the Internet?

It’s so not needed, especially if you offend someone. That’s what Mrs. Linda (Dirty) Sanchez thinks, and she’s introduced a bill in Congress to make sure everyone else is forced to adopt her personal moral code.

They call it “Cyberbullying.” What a load of horseshit. Defamation of character is as relevant on the Internet as it is anywhere else, as are most laws dealing with such issues. There is no need whatsoever to introduce a new law simply because someone made up a clever new name for the same old thing.


TW Strong Arm Attacks Continue Unabated

The issue may have died down in Rochester for the moment, but Time Warner continues to push it’s caps in various ways elsewhere in the country. In North Carolina, they’re teaming up with another company to put pressure on state legislators to ban municipal broadband. Why? Well because a town called Wilson has created it’s own kick-ass broadband service that Time Warner has no interest in competing with.

And meanwhile, they’re also freezing plans to implement DOCSIS 3.0 in communities that effectively voiced their opposition to caps as consumers. DOCSIS 3.0 is, in short, a huge leap forward in the speed of Internet connectivity the implementation of which Time Warner wants to tie to it’s capped Internet connections. You know, because they listened to their customers. . . and decided those customers were assholes.

So, in summary: Time Warner insists it needs to raise prices because people are using too much Internet, but a capital investment in the quality, bandwidth and speed of the Internet is being held back because we don’t want to pay more. Tell me an industry where you get to charge more *in advance of* improving your product? If you said “Soviet Era toilet paper factories,” you’re probably right.

For more local reaction to the various threads of this story, check out and, who points out from the article above that digital phone service is by far and away more expensive to Time Warner’s bottom line than it’s Internet service is.


Did You Think Earthlink Would Help?

So, many of us are scrambling to find alternatives now that Time Warner is going on about it’s draconian bandwidth cap, irrespective of the objections of it’s captive audience. Well, if you thought that Earthlink was going to be a viable alternative, forget it. Friends of the website have been exploring this exact avenue, only to find out that TW’s bandwidth caps will follow suit there.

So, a monopoly is a monopoly.


Massa’s Fight Against the Cap Makes it to Ars Technica

Representative Eric Massa has ably taken up the cause of fighting against The Cap at Time Warner, proposing a law against such policies across the country. Now his fight has caught the attention of a solid gold biggie in the tech talk world, Ars Technica. Hopefully, this new exposure garners his cause – and that of this website – the attention of even more influential press and activists.


For the Lighter Internet User

Rachel Barnhart posts on the blogs that she’s going all AT&T wireless for her Internet connection. Of course, this plan is really only valid for those of you who don’t use a lot of bandwidth, but that’s a awful lot of people.

So, I wonder how this affected the calculus at TW, if at all? Light users of the Internet don’t really need Time Warner at all anymore. If they can afford a good smart phone and a laptop, they can have their Internet connection wherever they go. And keep in mind: fifty percent of households in America don’t even have a computer, so we’re talking about the affluent half of the country even using the Internet.

So, unless you’re a web designer or a gamer or other such high-volume user, why would you even bother with a home connection? Seems like tethered Internet may soon become the vinyl record of networking in a few years: prized by a few but otherwise untouched. With this in mind, does it really pay to piss off the only customer base you’ll have in five years?

Seems like Time Warner’s just begging for someone to come along and offer a better solution.


Time Warner’s Net Neutrality Sneak Attack

Time Warner’s recent announcement that it will be switching to a new tiered pricing scheme – meaning that users who go over a cap on their bandwidth will be charged per-gigabyte – is making big headlines this week. But are we discussing the actual issue at hand, or are we being played by a corporate sucker game? Let’s discuss the arguments on their merits.

Time Warner representatives claim that, “We want our customers to download as much data as they want from wherever they want. All we ask is that they pay for whatever they consume.” Are we not already doing that? Time Warner has advertised for years – along with every other High Speed Internet company – that we could “download movies and music” with their service. If we weren’t able to do that, why would any of us ever have paid for a service literally double the price of the standard service ten years ago, dial up?

Time Warner also throttles our bandwidth and has for years. That means that while the pipes connected to your house might be able to handle 20Mbps of service, the company prevents you from getting more than 10Mbps on a good day. So, we’re paying more money for a service designed to download movies and music – which doesn’t even operate at the speed it should – and now they want you to pay for using more of their service? That doesn’t exactly sound like a fair shake.

And in all the years that Time Warner has been in Rochester, their service has never once increased it’s value. If anything, value went down when they opted to throttle bandwidth. Meanwhile, the cost of having a HSI connection has remained the same. Cost stays stead, value goes down, therefore we’re already technically paying more for less. This is exactly the opposite direction we expect technology to go.

What possible justification could there be to pay more for service which is a decade old? If on the other hand, they made capital investments in our infrastructure, raised the throttle cap and made the download cap larger, more expensive service might make sense. And by the way, Road Runner already has a Business Class version of their service, which means they already have a second tier from which to glean more money.

But even more disingenuous is this claim:

When Time Warner Cable introduces a new payment structure for Internet service later this year, it says it will place customers in plans aligned with their current usage.

That means subscribers to the company’s Road Runner service shouldn’t face higher costs, spokesman Alex Dudley said Thursday.

OK, this one’s easy. Why would you open this can of worms with your customers if you didn’t think you were going to get more money? If the majority of users won’t pay more, what is the incentive? Corporations don’t do anything without a motive, so clearly there must be some sort of incentive.

And the incentive is to move the goal posts in the discussion of Net Neutrality. The Time Warner plan will almost certainly fail in Rochester, a city with a heavily technological background where more than a few people know this plan is crap. But that’s OK: the idea is to float the notion of *having* to pay for more service; the idea is to leave the impression that the Internet is getting crowded and someone’s going to have to pay for it.

If this notion becomes a default axiom in the media, then the question becomes: who will pay for this extra bandwidth? Customers won’t want to pay for it, which means that the idea of a two-tiered Internet becomes the only viable alternative.

I’m asking all of you who read this and care about maintaining a viable, healthy Internet to get involved in what ever way you can to put a stop to both the Time Warner service change and the dishonest swindle of Net Neutrality that Time Warner is attempting. Go to for more information, including the phone number of Colleen Bernard at TWC Customer Care.


Share Friendly Local Video, Anyone?

Just popping my head into the blog to say, in case anyone in the local media with power to do any of this actually cares, that it would be nice of local media did not bury their Flash videos in so many layers of crap that you cannot share them with things like VodPod.

You know, in case they’re listening.


Creepy Uncle Google

Apologies for the self-reference, but over at my web design discussion website, I posted an article which I think probably bears some reference on my political one:

It seems Google has decided to change it’s AdSense code to allow it to read Internet user’s cookies and advertise to them based on their browsing history. Why is this a bad idea? Well, let me count the ways (I already did).

This is something for all of you who use Google AdSense on your websites to consider. Personally, I’m not going to be forced to change my privacy policy to satisfy Google’s need to violate or at least dangerously skirt the law. If this plan goes through, I’m ditching AdSense.


Great. Health SPAM by Google?

Am I the only one who thinks that a company that cannot plug a simple security hole in their social networking site should not be trusted to automatically grab data from your grandma’s sugar monitor?


You’ve Been Eaten By a Grue

Zork is back, people. This time as a MMO persistent online game. How frickin’ cool is that?

The new game is available not only for those who’ve bought some fifty dollar game at the store, but rather anyone with a web browser or a compatible cell phone. Zork is now everywhere.

You open the door and find a wide open field. At the far end is a unicorn. . . .


Obama Aide Says Stimulus Will Not Include Much Internet Money

Many of us had hoped that the stimulus package, with its focus on infrastructure projects, would also consider Internet pipes to be part of that infrastructure. Looks as though we may be disappointed. Reuters is reporting this afternoon that Obama aides are signaling that any improvement to existing infrastructures would have to come from “existing structures,” and that the stimulus will probably not include much money for such projects. According to the article:

Blair Levin, a top aide to Obama, said the broadband piece of the stimulus package must be “timely, targeted and temporary.”

I’m not entirely sure what “temporary” means to broadband, but it seems definitive – from this aide’s perspective, anyway – that the stimulus will not include broadband access.

There’s two ways of looking at that, and I’m not sure what the correct one is, if there is one. I tend to think of broadband systems as a modern extension of what we think of as infrastructure. The lack of good connection to the Internet is now probably as prohibitive to rural community job growth as roads and bridges have been in the past. But at the same time, roads and bridges belong to the states, towns, counties and people of the United States. Internet pipes belong to telecom companies. Thus funding huge expansion of Internet cabling is probably as much a sop for big corporations as it is anything else.

Ah, the constant tension between Internet Freedom and Internet Corporatism. It never ends.