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A readers uses the Mafia to explain net neutrality

Every week we like to highlight some of the great conversations that take  place here at The Switch. And there was plenty of fodder this week. In the wake of the federal appeals court opinion on the Federal Communication Commission's net neutrality rules, Brian Fung explained how net neutrality works. Reader garym66 provided another helpful way to look at it...

Just for fun, let's try another analogy: the Mafia (which may or may not exist). One of the more powerful families, the Verizona family, controls packet deliveries in your neighborhood, and you pay them a considerable fee for their messenger service. You sometimes pay other fees to various packet suppliers, but those were always separate transactions outside the purview of Verizona's messenger service. You've been getting your regular fixes of packets without a problem, and up until now, the packet messengers haven't cared what was in the packets or where they came from.

But now the head of the Verizona family wants to increase his income, let's say because Senators are becoming pricier, a perfectly reasonable expense in his business. Rather than raising your delivery service fees directly, he comes up with an innovative plan to charge the packet manufacturing kingpin (whose codename is HuFlix) for the privilege of selling packets in your neighborhood. Don Verizona makes it clear to HuFlix that without the extra "protection" payments, the packets might very well get lost or meet with an unfortunate accident in the dangerous internet neighborhood he controls. Only these protection fees will keep the packets safe.

Perhaps it all started when Don Verizona noticed how deep HuFlix's pockets had become and how few alternate delivery routes were available.

I wrote about RAM scrapers, the class of malware reportedly used in recent retail hacks. Reader YankInSlough wrote about one possible way to avoid this kind of hack in the future:

Pin and Chip would solve a lot of problems. UK's had it for years. Changeover went very smoothly. UK is also ahead of the States in the distribution by banks of second-level authentication: a cheap little device that gives you an additional number (which changes each time) which you have to enter along with uid/pwd to log on to your bank account.

Our story on Yale's reaction to a student created version of its online course catalog which featured the ability to compare professor and class ratings attracted a lot of comments. HK_Vol suggested that Yale might have its reasons for wanting to restrict reliance on course ratings:

The only downside? Student rating end up in part reflecting the grade that they got in the class. Everyone wants to sign up for the class with the professor that gives "A's" rather than "C's." The result is what we've seen at most Ivy Schools (and recently written up in regards to Harvard)....and that is grade inflation. Pretty soon, everyone will get an "A" in every class.... But otherwise, Yale looks like the idiot bad guy here...

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.



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Brian Fung · January 18, 2014

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