Week 2: Ownership and regulation of the Web

Josh Morrison will lead off this week’s class (Sept. 7) with a short presentation. Remember, each of you, alone or in groups, will present so please look over the topics in the syllabus or come up with your own and email me who will present, on what topic, on what day. If not enough of you sign up early, I’ll assign these so you aren’t all stacked up late in the semester – thanks!

Take this fun quiz from Pew which tests your knowledge of the Internet – don’t worry, it’s not graded, but we will talk about it in class.

What Internet Users Know about Technology and the Web

Pew also regularly does reports on U.S. media use, including the Internet. My own research, using Pew data, has found that young Americans (under 30) were early adopters of Internet, social media and mobile use – but that folks in their 30s to 50s are the most likely to follow news online. This Pew report looks at the maturing of the Web over its first 25 years of existence. You should read this, make a blog post about it (don’t panic if you don’t have your blog access set up just yet) and be ready to discuss it in class.

The Web at 25 in the U.S.

I mentioned this in class in week 1 – ICANN, which has already administered assigning/approving domains since 1999 – is about to have more control and less oversight over the Internet.

U.S. Ready To Hand Over Internet Control On October 1st

Read this brief from the Internet Society, an international organization that has led the charge for an open, international, lightly-regulated Internet since 1991.

https://www.internetsociety.org/history-internet-governance

And this report from the Society on why shared “governance” of the Web (multiple stakeholders, all with the same influence) has worked.

http://www.internetsociety.org/doc/internet-governance-why-multistakeholder-approach-works

So, nobody really “owns” the Web but in terms of reach, traffic, advertising and revenue, a handful of companies dominate. They tend to fall in three categories: 1) Those which dominate online traffic (hence, advertising); 2) Internet Service Providers (ISPs – i.e., Time Warner, AT&T), and; 3) Mobile service providers. Note that one company – Google – is uniquely placed with a big presence in all three: It dominates search and online ads; it’s storming into the ISP space with Google Fiber (which includes cable TV); and it offers the Android mobile operating system and Google Play store, which offers more than 2 million apps. Glance at these articles about those who profit from/dominate the Web:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-04-22/google-and-facebook-lead-digital-ad-industry-to-revenue-record

http://www.technewstoday.com/23576-google-dominates-online-advertising-space-with-505-billion-in-revenue/

http://www.recode.net/2016/4/21/11586296/google-adestra-marketing-tech

(It’s funny – in the “recode” article about Adestra and marketing, they treat $4 billion in revenue as, basically, “leftovers” from Google and Facebook)

Finally, there was a big debate last year over “Net Neutrality” – the idea that each bit of Internet data is equal to another. The central issue in the debate was this: Can an ISP like Comcast charge one company more because they use more bandwidth? Or, can a company with deep pockets, like Google, offer to pay an ISP more to get favored status, so its videos can muscle out, say, Netflix? This wasn’t about you, the “receivers” of information – folks who watched Netflix, for example…it was about the “source” or providers of information, especially data hogs like streaming video (Netflix, YouTube). ISPs wanted to charge big data users more for Internet access than it charged companies that just shared things like text. The two sides to this debate are:

1) That’s wrong – it will stifle innovation and creativity by punishing companies like Rooster Teeth, which are trying to experiment with a new business model. The fear is that innovators won’t even try something new because they’ll know they would have to pay a premium. And it would let wealthy companies, like Apple, buy better service, leaving competitors at a disadvantage…or forced to pay more themselves. Besides, the Internet has always cherished equal access and the equal value of every packet of data.

2) That’s right – we charge by amount used for all kinds of stuff, like electricity, water, gas, cable channels and phone data. Besides, the ISPs, like Comcast, Time Warner, and now Google Fiber, spent billions in infrastructure installing fiber optic and coax cable all over the country. Why shouldn’t they be able to set their own rates?

An undercurrent of this debate was the idea that some things we depend on, like electricity and phone service, are vital utilities – necessary for society to function. Others, like broadcast TV, cable TV and radio, have long traditions of regulation, including how much companies can charge. All of that was woven into an intense debate that got settled by the Federal Communications Commission in 2015 with a ruling for option #1, above – all data is equal and ISPs can’t charge type of user more than another.

Read more here and we’ll debate this topic in class.

What Everyone Gets Wrong in the Debate Over Net Neutrality

It’s official: Apple went with BlueTooth headphones but with a Lightning cable adapter, added two cameras (telephoto and long), brighter display, water resistant and longer battery life. Apple Watch is waterproof, adding GPS and getting PokemonGo for the Watch.

http://www.recode.net/2016/9/7/12840630/apple-iphone-7-watch-keynote-highlights