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First POST: Middlemen

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, May 6 2014


  • Remember disintermediation? How the Internet eliminates the need for middlemen? Well, it sure doesn't look like it's working that way down at the level of connections between the large networks that form the Internet's backbone. As Vox's Timothy Lee explains, Level 3--one of the world's main providers of long-distance connectivity--is reporting that six large broadband providers with dominant local market shares are "deliberately harming the service they deliver to their paying customers" by refusing to augment their capacity. Five of these are in the US. Lee notes:

    The basic problem is those six broadband providers want Level 3 to pay them to deliver traffic. Level 3 believes that's unreasonable. After all, the ISPs' own customers have already paid these ISPs to deliver the traffic to them. And the long-standing norm on the internet is that endpoint ISPs pay intermediaries, not the other way around. Level 3 notes that "in countries or markets where consumers have multiple broadband choices (like the UK) there are no congested peers." In short, broadband providers that face serious competition don't engage in this kind of brinksmanship. Unfortunately, most parts of the US suffer from a severe lack of broadband competition.

  • Related: Mozilla is trying to intervene in the FCC's rule making on net neutrality with an intriguing proposal, writes Stacey Higginbotham for GigaOm. It is asking the agency to treat the relationship between Internet service providers and content providers be classified as transport under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, and thus insure that content providers get equal treatment.

  • ProPublica's Justin Elliott exposes how top officials in Governor Andrew Cuomo's (D-NY) circumvent state Freedom of Information laws by conducting government business using their private email accounts. Elliott notes that when Cuomo ran for governor, he pledged, "We must use technology to bring more sunlight to the operation of government."

  • Wait, we're not finished: The US Attorney Preet Bharara has issued a grand jury subpoena seeking "emails, text messages and other records" of the anti-corruption commission recently shut down by Cuomo, suggesting that his "criminal investigation may be examining allegations of interference with the commission," William Rashbaum and Susanne Craig report for the New York Times. They note that "In the commission’s early days, senior members of its staff were told to communicate with Mr. Cuomo’s aides only via BlackBerry PIN messages, not recorded on government servers." A Cuomo spokesman, Matthew Wing, defended the use of PIN messages as “a common way that many people communicate in 2014.”

  • The USA Freedom Act, which would prohibit the bulk collection of metadata under the Patriot Act and now has more than 140 House co-sponsors, is coming up for a committee vote tomorrow, Dustin Volz reports for National Journal.

  • Wired's Klint Finley profiles the Net Democracy Foundation's Pia Mancini and its Democracy OS system. Sound familiar? Our Rebecca Chao covered the same ground back in January.

  • Adrian Chen writes up Tweetcred for The New Yorker. techPresident readers heard about it from our Jessica McKenzie a week ago.

  • Boston Business Journal profiles four interesting civic tech startups from Harvard.

  • Massachusetts is giving up on its flawed health insurance website and starting over.

  • If your Twitter account was an art project where you tweeted only once a year, it might read like this.