LLAP Leonard Nimoy

This is a subject that I have shared with people close to me, mostly as idle discussion, shared geekery, or drunken rambling. This morning's news about the passing of Leonard Nimoy has brought it to the fore for me so I thought I would try to put it in writing somewhere where it can be seen without having to worry about my bar tab.

Anecdotally there seems to be a certain fondness for Mr. Spock amongst segments of the Neurodiversity/Autism/Aspergers community. A wonderful example is this piece by Pensive Aspie (a 'pen-name' but, so what, it is the best way to find this person's writing) titled "Thank you Leonard Nimoy." In it the author describes growing up as an undiagnosed Aspie and the relationship they had with both the fictional Mr. Spock and the real Leonard Nimoy. With a few changes, it is pretty close to my life. I grew up with LtCdr Data and LtCdr Spock (TNG was airing weekly and TOS was given eagerly anticipated annual marathons on a local broadcast affiliate).

It would be nearly twenty years before I was ever formally diagnosed as an Aspie but I still identified with these observers of the 'human condition'. My heros were not the bold captains/explorers/ladies-men, they were the outsiders, logical, knowledgeable, and skilled; trying to find a middle ground where they could be accepted by the rest of the crew and the rest of society. They were often the butt of jokes which they did not understand or derided for their 'overly-cerebral' approach to the problems they faced, but every episode it usually fell to them (at least in part) to make sense of what was happening and how to put things right. When they had to hide themselves from an alien civilization donning a wooly hat could cover their ears or claiming to be from a far-off continent could explain their complexion but they were always betrayed by their mannerisms and intonation. No matter how they tried to be similar to everyone else on their ship they were always the outsider. To me these were people (fictional people but people nonetheless) who shared much of my existence.

Even as an adult, after I was diagnosed I still felt this kinship with those alien outsiders. In some ways, especially so. Once labeled as an Aspie, or placed on the Autism spectrum, I was given an explanation for why I didn't fit in but that just meant that I now had to contend with the people who view Autistic people as some cruel aberration that needs to be locked away, studied and prodded, and eventually eradicated. Leonard Nimoy never made me feel that way and often seeing him play Spock, or even reading or hearing his kind words could make me feel just a little better. Knowing that there was someone in the world that thought 'we are all people' was a good enough reason to show kindness and compassion, could get me through at least a little more of the day.

Now, today, we face a world where there is one less voice saying, 'we are all people'. And the world is poorer for that.

Confusion about what Title II is

Some of my friends on Twitter seem to be confused about the nature of Title II authority and classification and Twitter is a terrible medium for addressing that sort of thing so I thought I would try this as a medium for explaining what I think about the new FCC order.

To start off, it helps to look at the FCC's summary of the "Net neutrality" order they issued yesterday: http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2015/db0226/DOC-332260A1.pdf
We don't have the full text of the order but that is long, dense, and mostly legalese that doesn't matter much to you and me (unless you are the embodiment of an ISP).

The largest point of confusion seems to be over exactly who is covered by this Title II reclassification. The answer is simple: ISPs such as Verizon (Wireline and Wireless), AT&T (U-Verse and Wireless), Comcast, Time-Warner Cable, Clear (if they still exist), and any other wireline or wireless broadband provider. Note the absence of hosting companies, web services, content services, and so on. This order affects how your internet access is delivered to you, not what content is available on the Internet.

One fact that was largely left out of the hype on both sides of the fight over "Net Neutrality" before this order is that this really just brings the regulation of ISPs back under the same rules they operated under before 2002. In 2002 the FCC classified Cable Modem service as an "Information Service" (http://transition.fcc.gov/Bureaus/Cable/News_Releases/2002/nrcb0201.html) instead of a "telecommunications service". The effect was to reduce the authority the FCC had over last-mile ISPs to regulate their behavior. ISPs who used other methods of providing access (telcos providing ISDN and DSL, anyone providing fiber-optic lines or the many different forms of wireless access) managed to get their ISP operations classified under this rule (even while the standard analog telephone service that were provided on the exact same strand of copper as the DSL service remained a Title II service). The logic of the Information Service classification were born out of a very different time and in a very different environment from what we have now. The bulk of the population had only experienced being 'online' through services such as AOL, CompUServe, and so on; broadband connectivity was novel and only available in very limited areas; the bulk of online content still catered to users on dial-up connections (which were a strange hybrid of the two classifications, the connection between you and AOL (provided by your local Baby-Bell) was still covered under Title II because it was just a funny sort of phone call, but AOL itself was an 'information service' which acted as a portal to data from their own private network and the various networks they connected to.

The concerns about websites suddenly being shuttered and popular services being blocked are essentially the opposite of what this new FCC order does and are mostly the result of FUD spread around by ISPs opposing Net Neutrality rules. The legal status of Google's web sites, Netflix, or any website, IRC network, FTP server, or any other site, node, service, you connect to through the internet has not changed. They are still covered under the same patchwork of laws with terrible acronyms containing lots of "C"s such as the CFAA (Computer Fraud And Abuse Act of 1986, as amended in 1989,1994,1996,), CDA (Communications Decency Act of 1996), DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act of 1998), and ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986), as well as amendments to those laws by the USA PATRIOT Act (not going to spell that one out Act of 2002) and Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2008 (and many more laws concerning the content of communications, email, hosting and all of the other stuff that actually makes up what you see and do on The Internet. The Title II classification specifically bars ISPs from discriminating against content or interfering with your connection based on the content, protocols, and services you use.

While the new FCC order does not do many things that I believe would be positive for customers (such as measures which would quickly increase the number of choices consumers have for ISPs or regulating rates to reduce the absurdly high costs ISPs charge because of their near monopoly position in local markets), this order definately does not pose a threat to the content and services you use your ISP to access.