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Jan 142014

This morning we were greeted by this tweet from Reuters:

 We looked into it, and here’s what we found out: the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia just invalidated FCC net neutrality rules that would’ve made it illegal for telecom companies to favor certain types of traffic over others.  They reached this decision by way of a loophole.  The Federal Communications Commission had chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, like telephones are, despite the fact that in nearly all cases it’s the same companies providing the phone services as providing the internet services.  According to the Communications Act, they can’t regulate services they don’t identify as common carriers, so the telecomms are free to do as they please.

The ruling lets companies like Verizon and Time Warner to charge web sites to serve up their content faster, as well as now being gatekeepers to the Internet if they want to do that.  In a worst case scenario, you could be charged to access sites you like (like your favorite sci-fi radio station), or if you’re running your own internet business, you could have to pay extra to have your web site viewable by the public.  There is really no restriction on that, other than the latest federal court ruling on Verizon’s appeal to the FCC that telecom companies have to tell subscribers which sites they’re favoring.  That alone could have a chilling effect on how much of this actually happens, but it’s a regulation without the possibility of oversight at the moment, since the court has ruled that whatever the regulating body would be to control this, the FCC wouldn’t be that regulating body.  The further ramifications of this are that since the court’s decision means there is no regulatory body for internet providers, the telecomms are free to do pretty much whatever they want to their own customers without fear of punishment or reprisal.

All is not lost, however.  Since the ruling was from the Court of Appeals, it’s not the end of the road.  For one thing, it can be taken to the United States Supreme Court to be possibly overturned.  Common sense says that the FCC’s fuzzy definitions are a result of technology outgrowing the language of the original Communications Act.  Having been written in 1934, it could not have predicted the existence of the Internet as a communications medium. For another, all the FCC has to do is to reclassify internet providers as common carriers, and suddenly their existing rules apply to the telecomms again, and all is well.

The current chairman of the FCC expressed his strongest statement to date on the importance of net neutrality and the responsibility of the FCC to preserve it just last week according to this article in the Washington Post, so they have a lot of fight left in them.  Don’t expect this to be over.

What happened today is the exploitation of a loophole in legislation that was written so long ago that voice operators were still connecting every single phone call by hand, plugging phone jacks into connection panels, one call at a time.  While today’s ruling looks bad – and make no mistake, it is very bad and has the potential of taking the internet away from the people that built it and giving it to the corporations – it’s not the end of the story by any means.  Good may yet triumph.  Writing your congress critter about the problem may not be a bad idea.

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Dec 062013

by Susan Fox, executive producer

Nelson Mandela has passed away on December 5, 2013,  at the age of 95.  We found that sci-fi fan favorite filker Tom Smith (“Filkertom”) had written a tribute to the first leader of South Africa to be elected in their first fully representative election since the abolition of apartheid in that country.

Indie musician Tom Smith, better known to the science fiction audience as “The World’s Fastest Filker,” watched the annular eclipse of the sun, complete with “Baily’s Beads” shining like a diamond ring over the northern US on May 10, 1994, the same day as the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and was inspired to write a song incorporating the imagery of the pageantry of the heavens and the start of a new political era on Earth.

Please listen via the first link.



Here’s Tom Smith’s appearance on Krypton Radio’s The Event Horizon:



Sep 072013

backupRibbonSexual harassment has become an increasingly disturbing trend at large fandom conventions.  Up to now, there hasn’t been a way for fans to protect themselves against sexual predation at the conventions – it’s important to be able to feel safe at these large gatherings, whether you’re female or male. The Backup Ribbon Project is a project to allow fans to back up each other at science fiction conventions and other geek gatherings. 

Backup Ribbon Project co-founder Tina Beychok joins us on tonight’s show, with guest panelists Dr. Rebecca Housel, the Pop Culture Professor, a vocal activist for women’s rights and safety at sci-fi conventions, and  Corsair’s Closet producer Kristine Cherry.

If you miss our episode of The Event Horizon, it will air again on Sunday, September 7, 2013 at 4PM PDT / 7PM EDT.

The Event Horizon - It’s Sci-Fi for your Wi-Fi!

By the way, if you like what you hear, please come to Facebook and “like” us, and/or follow us on Twitter. There’s so much more in the offing, and you won’t want to miss it – and of course, bookmark this page!

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Jul 182013

Krypton Radio Newswire

President Obama pretends to be caught in Spider-Man's web as he greets Nicholas Tamarin, 3, just outside the Oval Office. Nicholas was trick-or-treating with his father, White House aide Nate Tamarin in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama pretends to be caught in Spider-Man’s web as he greets Nicholas Tamarin, 3, just outside the Oval Office. Nicholas was trick-or-treating with his father, White House aide Nate Tamarin in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Press Release – Washington, DC – This week, as thousands of sci-fi and superhero enthusiasts gather in San Diego for Comic-Con, here at the White House we’ll be gathering some of the Nation’s top innovators who are designing materials to enable real-life superpowers—including invisibility and super-strength.

Join us this Friday, July 19th at 12:00 pm EDT for a “We the Geeks” Google+ Hangout on “The Stuff Superheroes Are Made Of – where we’ll be talking about some of the most exciting new developments in materials science and how they can change our world for the better.

You’ll meet American scientists and innovators working on materials and technologies with amazing capabilities—seemingly ripped straight from the pages of a comic book or film script—including invisibility cloaks,impenetrable liquid armorself-healing, touch-sensitive synthetic skin, and more. You’ll also hear how the Obama Administration’s Materials Genome Initiative – which just celebrated its second birthday – is helping to enable and accelerate these breakthroughs with the goal of making them happen faster and cheaper than ever before.

The Hangout will feature a panel of leading experts including:

Hear from the scientists and engineers who are working to turn science fiction into science fact by watching the latest “We the Geeks” Hangout live on and on the White House Google+ page on Friday, July 19, at 12:00 pm EDT.

Got comments or questions? Ask them using the hashtag #WeTheGeeks on Twitter and on Google+ and we’ll answer some of them during the live Hangout.

Tom Kalil is Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation at OSTP and Meredith Drosback is a TMS Fellow working on the Materials Genome Initiative at OSTP.