Tag Archives: United States

Monitoring Your Uptime – Free Tools – Part 2

 

uptime

Generally speaking, you want your website to be available to anyone who wants to see it. Every once in a while, you want it to hide in the darkness, unnoticed and unseen, a bashful teen werewolf at the junior prom … But those moments are few and far between. Additionally, when your site is visible to the public, you want it to look its best. Uptime, the percentage of time over a given period that your site is both available and working correctly, is one of the most important factors of website functionality.

To review, uptime, reliability, and availability are essentially interchangeable terms. The concept of high-availability means that your site has extremely consistent uptime figures because its network is reliable. Availability (uptime/reliability) is in turn much more likely in the context of a redundant network – one with various checks and balances to keep you online.

Let’s forget the back end, though: in this piece, we focus on basic, free software that lets you know when your site is up, and when it’s down. That way you know when to inject it with Botox or epinephrine, preferably both, so that it doesn’t sag or frown.

Hosting companies typically offer guarantees related to uptime, and generally those guarantees are upwards of 99%. It’s worth noting, though, that there is a major difference between 99.9% uptime and 99.999% uptime. There are 8760 hours in a year. 99% uptime could mean as much as 87 hours off-line, while 99.999% uptime means your site must be working for all but 1/10 of an hour annually. 2000% uptime, in turn, indicates that your site must operate impeccably in at least 19 other parallel universes.

*** Why, might you ask, are we so concerned about uptime and downtime, rather than side-time or the-other-side-time? Well, because our hosting company has a 100%-uptime guarantee for all those who use our services. Any exceptions, other than periodic scheduled maintenance, entitle you to a credit and/or a voodoo curse against one of your childhood enemies. ***

This article is the second in a two-part series. We are looking into various no-cost software solutions that you can use to monitor your uptime – pleasant alternatives to loading and reloading your site, over and over and over again, forever. These tools allow you to make sure your hosting company is keeping to its uptime guarantee.

The two sources we are using to get a broad spectrum of uptime monitoring applications are Mashable and WPMU. We looked at five solutions in the previous piece, and we will look at five more today.

Free Online Uptime Monitoring Tools, Continued

Here are several more options to monitor your uptime so you can stop paying your ne’er-do-well cousin-in-law’s ragtag once-removed stepsister (though she means well) to check that it is up and active every 45 seconds.

Service Uptime

Maximum websites monitored: 1

Monitoring frequency: 30 min.

Contact options: text, e-mail, rotary gramophone

This software notifies you if your site is down or behaving improperly, especially if it is making obscene gestures or blowing its nose loudly at visitors.

Site Uptime

Maximum websites monitored: 1

Monitoring frequency: 30-60 min.

Contact options: text, e-mail, accordion solo

This service checks your site every half-hour to hour. Like several of the other solutions we’ve reviewed, it also keeps a record of any instances of downtime. It then sends you full statistical data once each month, with up to 200 messages arriving in your inbox on your birthday, by request.

BasicState

Maximum websites monitored: No limitations

Monitoring frequency: 15 min.

Contact options: text, e-mail, war-cry

This app will look at as many sites as you want, unmatched by any of the other major free services. If you desire, you can receive a customizable message each day giving you details for the last two weeks. You can also decide how and when you want to be contacted, both periodically and when downtime occurs. BasicState can also be used as a solo, minimally-functional dating service.

Montastic

Maximum websites monitored: 3

Monitoring frequency: 30 min.

Contact options: RSS, e-mail, widgets, iPhone, Android, sucker-punch

This application is open source, which is perhaps why it is available in so many different formats. It also verifies uptime from a variety of American locations. In that sense, it is geared primarily toward a US customer base.

Are My Sites Up?

Maximum websites monitored: 5

Monitoring frequency: 60 min.

Contact options: text, e-mail, goose-call

This application does not perform as frequent of checks as some of the others out there do. However, it lets you know the reason for the downtime (as best it can tell) along with a copy of any HTML code problems it encounters. iPhone alerts are available, but only for paying customers and, presumably, friends and family of the site owner.

Conclusion

That closes out our look at tools to check the uptime of your site. One or another of these solutions should be a good fit for you, so that you know how often your site is unavailable and, in some cases, what’s causing the problem.

As stated in the first installment of this series, it’s now time to discuss difficulties I’ve been having in my love affair on the high seas, particularly the threats to be thrown overboard with her other ex-boyfriends (all of whom, awkwardly, are still clinging to the sides of the ship).

And one more thing before we begin our lengthy and heart-warming discussion: Superb offers a 100% uptime guarantee, available to all our shared, dedicated, and VPS hosting customers.

By Kent Roberts

Reselling Hosting & Other Services or Products … Plus Some Jokes

 

authorized reseller

Since one of the relationships that we offer at Superb Internet is our reseller program, I thought it might make sense to take a look at reselling Internet-wide. By Internet-wide, I mean the part of the Web commonly considered its business side: I will skip over popular reseller programs such as Justin Bieber fan pages, which resell the awesomeness of the pop star.

First, let’s take a look at reselling as a point of focus and how to prepare for it. What does it take to establish a plan, figure out what your needs are, and conduct appropriate research? Well, for one, it takes forethought, which we will elaborate. The other thing it takes, though, is gumption: talk to your grandparents if you don’t know what that is. They have some, and they might be willing to let you borrow some to start your business.

Second, though reselling for us and many companies can certainly be one piece of a larger business, let’s take a look at how an entire business can be focused on reselling. We will go through how to establish a business that sells products through wholesalers and distributors. Of course, you can also sell services virtually, but it’s good to get a sense of that broad picture.

Finally, we will look at a couple of excerpts from my forthcoming book Kids Resell the Darndest Things, because they really, really do.

Reselling Preparations

Here is a step-to-step guide for preparing to resell:

  1. The Plan – Do you want reselling to be the entire focus of your business (or your income, if your website is entrepreneurial), or do you want it to be a side project? Figure out how much time will need to be devoted. Knowing what the outlook is on time will give you a better sense of how to choose resellers that fit your time needs. Make sure you account for “me time” as well, which should never go over 2 minutes and 15 seconds per day. Finally, determine the investment – how much financing you need to put in to get the site operative and successful. Strong reseller programs like ours make the process simple and fast.
  2. The Needs – Figure out exactly what you’re going to need to get the reseller program up and running. Will you need to buy new software, for instance, to make the process more efficient? Reselling obviously get significantly more complicated when you are dealing in products, because then you’ll need a scale, packing supplies, and a large stuffed moose to watch over you and keep you motivated.
  3. The Research – Determine the demand: you want a product or service that sells well so you know income will be coming in. Researching the market can give you a sense of what is ideal to sell. As we know, Internet hosting is a massive industry, so you could do that with us. You can also sell gumballs one at a time – very popular, because no one ever wants more than one. They’re just too sweet.

Kids Resell the Darndest Things – Excerpt #1

Four-year-old Russell Mills of Bismarck, North Dakota, started a reseller program selling sticks. His only sale so far has been to his mommy, who bought four. Please don’t tell him.

Using Wholesalers & Distributors

Let’s now look at what it specifically takes to get a reseller business started buying products from wholesalers and distributors:

  1. The Niche – When you’re looking at reselling, it is often wise to choose a specific niche. Rather than selling many different types of items on your site, you may want to focus on one specific type of product or service. Furthermore, you want to make sure that the market is not oversaturated, or it will get your hands wet when you touch it, and you’ll ruin your computer.
  2. The Application – Go straight to the company you are considering and ask them about wholesale pricing, because this information is generally not posted online. You will typically be able to find contact information and a form or application to get started. For wholesale, expect about a 40 percent reduction from retail price and an infinity percent reduction from pricelessness.
  3. The Shipping – Find out about drop shipping, which will mean you don’t need to store the products. Drop shipping also means that you only have to pay once the customer has paid you, a process typically conducted at a distance but that you can also conduct on a street corner, while wearing a disguise.
  4. The Content – Consider informational articles that you’ll want to have on the site. This content will vastly increase your likelihood of making sales. The search engines like information. So does the CIA. Kill two birds with one stone, and make everybody like you for your information.

Kids Resell the Darndest Things – Excerpt #2

Three-year-old Nancy Jones of Providence, Rhode Island, started a reseller program selling ice cubes. No one has bought any of Nancy’s ice cubes yet, because she is an orphan. Please don’t tell her.

Conclusion

That’s a quick look at reselling. Obviously it’s a much broader subject than this. If you think you might want to resell with us, check out our program, and let us know if you have any questions.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

FISMA Web Hosting Compliance – 8 Guidelines … Plus Some Jokes

 

English: Certified HIPAA Privacy Security Expert

FISMA, or the Federal Information Security Management Act, became law in 2002 as a piece of the E-Government Act. The basic idea behind the act is to ensure the security of information handled by a federal agency. Supposedly one or another of the branches of the federal government is in possession of important and sensitive information that another nation or organization might want to see – who knew?

We are FISMA-compliant. That essentially means that we can work with government agencies and other organizations that handle government information. A couple of similar forms of compliance that we have in place are HIPAA, allowing us to work with healthcare companies, and PCI, allowing us to work with any company or organization accepting payments by credit card online.

More importantly than what companies we can take on as clients, though, is what our various compliances and certifications say about our company. We are dedicated to passing every test out there, not just to establish broad international credibility, but also because it allows us to test our standards and security protocols. Undergoing the numerous rigorous crosschecks of these standards makes our infrastructure stronger – or at least gauges the strength and gives us a better sense of any potential problems which need addressed.

Below, we will look at what FISMA is all about. Also, as with my previous two articles on PCI and HIPAA, let’s take a look at a few of the newer standardization acronyms that are becoming more popular (so we can all stay ahead of the curve). Here is the first of those:

Up & Coming Standards Acronyms: CHCS Hootenanny Standards

The Country Hootenanny Standardization Consortium (CHSC), which determines standards for square dancing and instruments such as the fiddle and banjo and jug, releases a set of standards each year to ensure that hootenannies never go out of style. Here are the new 2013 additions to the standards manual:

  • No more R. Kelly covers
  • No huffing gasoline out of the jug while playing it
  • No dirty square dancing
  • Hands and feet must be showing at all times, whereas elbows and knees are still free to go wherever they please.

FISMA Security Protocol – 8 Guidelines

The following are the basic rules established by FISMA. As you will see, these are very simple and broad guidelines but will give you a general a sense of what’s involved with compliance:

  1. Reviews/Checks – On a regular basis, the agency or organization that is compliant with FISMA will assess risk, specifically the types of damage and amounts of damage that would be caused by a breach in security
  2. Adaptable Policy – Policy should be in place that is adaptive to the results of reviews. The policy should determine budget-conscious ways (for government bodies) to bring any security risks within allowable parameters. Security of information should be sustained throughout the entire time that an information database, system, or network is active.
  3. Specific plans should be in place related to each electronic system or any systemic components in use at a particular organization. Particular rules and guidelines pertaining to networks, facilities, and information systems should be delineated.
  4. Training should occur so that the workforce and anyone working within the system on a contractual basis is completely aware of FISMA and the risks associated with breaches to the data contained within the system
  5. Once new sets of policies and controls are implemented, a timetable for further reviews should be set. The regularity of reviews should depend on the extent of risk that is shown by the first review (and similarly moving forward); at minimum, reviews should be conducted once per year.
  6. The process to plan, change, assess, and record any efforts to adapt the systems should itself be on record
  7. A system should be in place to determine when a security problem is occurring, to notify appropriate personnel, and to combat it effectively
  8. Plans should be in place to allow information systems that protect and secure data to run continuously, without interruption.

Up & Coming Standards Acronyms: Eating & Drinking Spillage Standard

Another acronym that has become much more prevalent in the last six months comes from the people of the consumption industry. The Eating & Drinking Spillage Standard (E&DSS) provides guidelines that make it less likely that people will spill anything when they are enjoying a meal, snack, or beverage. Basic parameters of the standard allow all who are compliant to waste less of their drinks and treats, as follows:

  • No consumption on the Tilt-a-Whirl
  • Never share food or beverages – keep them close to your body at all times
  • Adhere to the five-second rule (it’s not spillage, technically, until the sixth second)
  • Throw away anything crumbly – such as crackers and some cheeses. Cheese-and-cracker platter zealots are just asking for trouble.

Conclusion

That should give you a basic sense of the guidelines created by FISMA. FISMA is, in a nutshell, an effort to develop across-the-board guidelines for the entire federal government, agencies using federal information, and/or those that have federal clients. As established above, FISMA is just one of the various certifications we have in place at Superb Internet. Here are our hosting packages as well. If you have any additional game-changing acronyms that are just now becoming popular, please let us know in the comments.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

Hawaii’s High Technology Development Corporation … Plus Some Jokes

 

Downtown Honolulu, HI, view from Punch Bowl.
Downtown Honolulu, HI, view from Punch Bowl.

Superb Internet may have a worldwide presence, with our international clientele and core network in five US states, but our main office is in Honolulu, Hawaii. Though you may not live in Hawaii, looking at our involvement in the local and statewide community might be meaningful for those looking to start a business or get involved with similar associations in their own localities.

Today, I will talk about the High Technology Development Corporation (HTDC), a Hawaii agency started in 1983 by the state legislature. The idea behind the HTDC is to boost knowledge-sharing and innovation in the high-tech field – building a broader, more robust economy with more professional and lucrative careers for those living in the state. The organization also assists high-tech startups to get off the ground so they can have a better chance of competing with the big players.

Our specific involvement with the organization is as a part of its Service Provider Program. After talking a little more about the organization as a whole, we will get into exactly what our involvement in the program is below; I will also discuss the various other initiatives that are part of the HTDC’s efforts to provide support for the high-tech field, creating better integration and synergy between businesses.

Throughout the piece, I will describe one of the more exciting ideas that arose from a former startup that initially utilized the HTDC. Here is the first part of that story:

HTDC Initiative: Helicopter Made out of Coconuts

First they called Hans Frauchild a mama’s boy. Then, they called him a ne’er-do-well madman. Next, they called him a lucky madman. Now, they call him a genius. By “they,” I mean Frauchild’s parents: they were very abusive. Nonetheless, it’s understandable that they doubted their son’s vision. (Continued below)

Mission of the High Technology Development Corporation

Funded by the state of Hawaii, the mission of the HTDC is fourfold:

  1. Create and maintain an infrastructure for business-incubation. The intentions of this infrastructure are to both directly help businesses succeed and to foster the formation of connections between businesspeople throughout the state.
  2. Strengthen and broaden services that are already in place to help new and established companies grow, including the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and FastTrac TechVenture.
  3. Access funds for technological research from public-sector and private-sector sources. HTDC both seeks grants to bolster its own mission and counsels new and small companies to write stronger grant proposals for their internal needs.
  4. Assist with recruitment strategies – through events, affiliations, and the Internet – so that high-tech firms can find better employees.

HTDC Initiative: Helicopter Made out of Coconuts – Continued

Ever since he was 14, Frauchild said that one day he would tie together thousands of coconuts in such a way that they could form a “mega-chopper” – a helicopter the size of a blimp – capable of circling the earth four times before needing to land. Frauchild said that his flying machine would use the coconut milk as its fuel. (Continued below)

Service Provider Program, Workshops & Centers

Let’s take a look at four of the major pieces of the HTDC, a few samples of how its mission is being applied on the ground.

  1. Service Provider Program: This part of the HTDC is the way in which Superb Internet is specifically involved. We and other companies with strong track records from 22 different fields provide consulting advice for businesses that are just getting started – answering whatever questions we can and referring as necessary.
  2. Workshops & Seminars: The HTDC holds various presentations throughout the year, focusing on subjects of interest to those in the high-tech field, including information and advice in the following broad categories: 1.) Law; 2.) Seed funding; 3.) Public relations and marketing; 4.) Sales; and, 5.) Operations.
  3. Manoa Innovation Center (MIC): Located in Honolulu near a campus of the University of Hawaii where most of UH’s research is conducted, MIC focuses on tech firms that are new or relatively new to the market. This facility has been in place since 1992.
  4. Maui Research & Technology Center (MRTC): Located in Kihei, Maui, the MRTC both focuses on assisting newly developing companies, as well as helping tech companies that are just developing a presence in Maui. MRTC also assists with the US government’s tech R&D.

HTDC Initiative: Helicopter Made out of Coconuts – Continued

Oh, they laughed; and some people spray-painted his property. One particularly bold naysayer spray-painted Frauchild himself. In 2013, the jury is in on Frauchild. Over 30,000 Hawaii residents now commute via Frauchild’s statewide system of mega-choppers. Says one happy comptroller who uses the system every weekday, “I always said coconut milk was powerful. But Hans proved it. Then he left on a rocket ship.”

Conclusion

As you can see, the mission of the High Technology Development Corporation is fairly simple: grow the economy, specifically the high-tech economy. Superb Internet is involved in HTDC because we want to be a part of our statewide community, and because we believe that businesses can survive and thrive when we find ways to work together.

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

SEO Basics, Part 2 of 3: 6 Tips & 2 Mistakes in International SEO … Plus Some Jokes

Image of Google & Yahoo offices in Haifa. Both...

This piece is the second part of a three-part series on search engine optimization (SEO). The first part of this series was on local SEO (a.k.a. “search”), and the next and final part will focus on content marketing – which, alongside conversational marketing (which is really built into good content development anyway), is a major part of any search efforts.

SEO of various types is one of a number of different solutions we offer for website owners and administrators at Superb Internet – alongside hosting, co-location, etc. We offer it because often the people that run websites need help either attaining or sustaining high rankings on Google, Bing, Yandex, et al.

Furthermore, since search and “social” (a.k.a. social media optimization or SMO) are being integrated by Google – via incorporation of its social platform Google+ – businesses will no longer be able to rely simply on one or the other of those elements. Instead, Internet presence will rise or fall based on the success of both of them.

Simply put, the Web is evolving. There is much debate online about what phase of the Internet we are currently operating within. As social sharing became a more prominent aspect of the Internet, the notion of Web 2.0 took hold. There is a good argument that as we transition into stronger interconnection between search and social, and as page rank starts to slip away in favor of author rank (led by Google Author tags identifying individual people responsible for online content), Web 3.0 will be born.

Let’s talk a little bit about how to handle international SEO efforts, taking a look at the other end of the spectrum from the local approach. Many of the same principles apply of course, but different strategies will be helpful if you’re looking for more of a worldwide presence. Keep in mind: English only represents 25% of the Web, and users in non-English countries have higher degrees of trust for content written in their own languages.

In addition to discussing our main topic, I will also continue (from Part 1 of this series) to provide valuable non-traditional ways in which you can pull in the attention of visitors when they first arrive at your site. Here is the third of those Attention Grabbers; then we will get into the international strategies:

Outside-the-Box Attention Grabber #3: Shoplifting Videos

One thing I’ve found that people always like to see on a website, right when they first arrive, is a six-hour video of top executives of the website pocketing small objects from various convenience stores, pharmacies, and historical museum gift shops. Here are a few important things to include when creating this type of video:

  • It’s good to have an “apprentice” in the video – a small child who is learning the valuable life skill of petty theft from a seasoned shoplifting guru
  • Make sure it’s clear in the video that the star doesn’t need any of what s/he’s taking, and that there is no Robin Hood attitude or high-minded philosophy behind what s/he’s doing; instead, the individual should say repeatedly, “Everyone should do this: it’s exciting, and they have air conditioning in jail”
  • Close with footage of the perpetrator selling the shoplifted merchandise at a pawn shop, then spending the $17 that s/he made on a misguided bet at a greyhound racing track.

6 Tips to Building International SEO

Below are a number of techniques you can use to develop and refine the way that you target international markets. In some ways this is no more complicated than efforts to gain prominence for local searches; however, there are more and less intelligent ways to go about it.

  1. Understanding the Competition: First of all, be thoughtful about what you are trying to do – because the international space is a different sort of competition. You’re going up against established companies in the nation of your focus. Those companies understand the tone of their own culture and the particular needs of its people. It’s a tall order to overcome: not impossible, but familiarity is your primary challenge.
  2. Creation of Country-Specific Websites: A basic question is whether building additional sites is a good idea or not. Now, it could greatly increase your odds to create a new website for each country where you want to increase your business. This will both allow you to choose a country-code TLD (ccTLD) for the nation – such as .uk or .de – and to generate content tailored for that particular audience. You can also then tie those new sites to specific social media. However, managing and maintaining all of these sites is, obviously, a huge project. Typically you want to use the power of one site rather than spreading yourself too thin.
  3. Country-Specific Domains & Backlinks: Google will give you higher relevance for a nation if you tie to a ccTLD and get links from companies and people who use that country as their principal place of business. In essence, you want – as an example – Japanese links to the Japan subdomain or subfolder of your site. If you buy the .jp domain for your site, you can forward it to the Japanese section of your site as well. You can try tools such as Majestic SEO for automated filtering; but developing real strength will require targeted marketing for Japan.
  4. The Dangers of Broken Japanese: We all know how annoying it is to read an article that is difficult to understand because it is written in mangled English. The same is true anywhere. Be sure you have a copywriter who is either an expert native speaker or is extremely well-trained in it as a second language. Before you start to translate, conduct new keyword analysis. People in different countries (including other English-speaking ones) arrange words differently in their searches. Also be sure to add a meta-tag specific to the language being used on each page. Don’t worry too much about English-to-English (such as different usage between US/UK), but do make changes for currency and other usability concerns.
  5. Choose the Right Search Engines: You want to gear your efforts not just toward the correct languages and keywords, but toward the search engines that are most widely used by members of the target nation. Here are the top five worldwide search engines as of February 2013: 1. Google (US); 2. Baidu (China); 3. Yahoo! (US); 4. Yandex (Russia); and, 5. Bing (US). Also, keep in mind that these are general numbers. The top search engine in the Czech Republic is Seznam. The top in South Korea is Naver. Don’t obsess over Google when you’re trying to get customers in countries where Google is not as relevant as another search engine.
  6. Marketing Integration: Create synergy between what you’re already doing in your company and the international marketing campaign you are initiating. What you are essentially getting is leads. Make sure you are as ready as possible to handle those leads as wisely and carefully as possible. You need to think through the entire conversion process rather than just trying to get links and implementing other data-focused efforts: attraction is only the first step.

Outside-the-Box Attention Grabber #4: Timer Counting Down to “Internet Armageddon”

It is always good to let visitors to your site know that they can always come back for valuable information, such as exactly how much time is left on the Web before Internet Armageddon (IA or Y3K) arrives (in the year 3000) and decimates all websites on the planet. Here are several factors to consider when creating and implementing your timer:

  • It should be at the top of your page: certainly what is currently at the top of your page is not more important than the end of the digital age
  • When visitors click on the timer, they should enter into a video tour of your website’s “Y3K e-bomb shelter”; the shelter should be a virtual reality that is vast, deep, and poorly lit – completely prepared 987 years in advance of IA
  • Include PDFs of pages removed from a post-Internet tract you discovered during your illegal wanderings through the sub-basements of the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, provided you took such a journey (no fibbing).

2 Mistakes in Building International SEO

Finally, here are 2 pieces of advice on what NOT to do so you’re less likely to repeat mistakes other businesses have made when attempting to gain international traction.

  1. Nativity Does Not Translate to Skill: Make sure you do not make the mistake of hiring or designating a person to be in charge of an international campaign just because they are from a certain country or are familiar with its culture. Remember that SEO is an expertise in and of itself; excellence in the field generates salaries well into six figures. Don’t expect great results without a reasonable investment in a service such as ours at Superb Internet.
  2. Focus on the Dominant National Language: When you enter a new market, you need to consider which speakers of a language within that country or region are most likely to become your customers. You may also find cases where a nation’s official language is not what’s used most often in the search engines – at least by certain subgroups. Even in the United States, as of 2007, 24 million people speak Spanish “well” or “very well.” India is an international example that’s linguistically complicated. Over 300 languages are still alive throughout the nation, with only 22 of them officially recognized. English is typically used as a language for SEO in India. However, there’ll be less competition targeting to a specific language; just make sure it represents a reasonable target demographic for your business.

Conclusion

In review, there are a number of tested and dependable tactics that can help you succeed in international SEO campaigns. First, understand your competition, and consider the culture and language you are targeting. Build a system of domains and backlinks that are specific to each nation or geographic area you are entering. Speak the language well, use the most popular search engines for the specific country, and build your worldwide marketing efforts into your business as a whole.

Finally, don’t make errors in judgment that could be costly and frustrating. Make sure you don’t hire someone just based on their cultural familiarity or language skills; rather, focus on search engine expertise. Also, don’t oversimplify your approach to countries where multiple languages are spoken.

This piece is the follow-up to my discussion of Local Marketing (Part 1). Next up: A general discussion of Content Marketing (Part 3).

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood

What’s the i2Coalition, Part 1 of 2: The Open Internet … Plus Some Jokes

 

Seal of the United States Federal Communicatio...

Superb has joined the Internet Infrastructure Coalition (i2Coalition), an organization concerned with how Internet freedom could be damaged by recent and ongoing changes in federal law. These changes – and additional bills that have been proposed – are far-reaching and threaten the Open Internet, the Web as we have come to understand it since its inception, as originally upheld by FCC mandate (and hopefully this article will not quickly become descriptive of an artifact of the past).

Specifically, the US Department of Homeland Security has been placed in charge of online Copyright protection duties. The i2Coalition believes actions at the federal level are ignoring due process. The organization and its members agree that new regulations could negatively impact not just hosting companies but their clients as well. The group disagrees with changes that make it more difficult for users to gather and exchange ideas and information online.

The i2Coalition includes numerous heavy-hitters from the “Internet infrastructure” community (those firms that form the backbone of the Web, such as registrars, sata centers, and hosts). Its members include Google, Parallels, cPanel, and a number of other high-profile infrastructure companies.

Because we are so proud of that membership and view the cause as so important I thought it would be interesting to explore what exactly the Open Internet is; then I’d like to get into why what the i2Coalition is doing could help make positive change on behalf of the hosting world and the many clients who rely on our services. This article is the first in a two-part series. This piece will focus specifically on the Open Internet.

Additionally, I’ll share perspectives from the opposite side, just so we get a balanced view on the subject.

Why the Internet is Dangerous, Perspective 1:

“I believe Internet freedom is scary. If it was a book, I would burn it. Unfortunately, it’s nonflammable. I can’t put it in my hands and set it on fire. It’s a spirit of doom. I remember when I first heard of the Internet. I shuddered. Freedom and ability of individual people to communicate openly always makes me shudder, almost like I’m going into anaphylactic shock. On that very first day when I looked around on the Web, I saw a webpage I didn’t like. I immediately grabbed my lighter and tried to torch its pages, and all I did was horribly damage the library computer I was using. They threw me out. End the Internet now!” – Bradley Battaglia, Spokane, WA, USA

Preserving the Open Internet: What is It Anyway?

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Open Internet http://www.fcc.gov/openinternet is “the Internet as we know it.” The reason the Internet is open is because the standards and protocols that are used on the Web and that make up its infrastructure are free (accessible) and open to all who want to understand and use them.

Anyone can get online and use the Web; anyone can build a website with a relatively tiny amount of money to get something up and going. Accessibility and prominence of course becomes easier with larger sums of money, but the possibilities are there for anyone to grow something online – just as they are in physical reality (where we can print just about whatever we want and hand it out around town).

Furthermore, Web traffic is treated essentially the same as it travels throughout the network. There are of course exceptions to this, such as when certain IP addresses are found to have malicious intent or when trade limitations have been placed on certain countries (such as Iraq and certain other states that can’t but SSL certificates and other pieces of core Internet functionality from the United States and certain other countries).

The philosophy behind the Open Internet is often termed “net neutrality.” The idea behind net neutrality is that a Web user (an individual sitting at a home computer, for instance, or anyone operating on a business network) can decide for themselves what they want to do. I or you or your cousin Theodore can jump online and go wherever we want, and the Web itself could care less.  That’s an important part of what freedom is about, after all: living and letting live, stepping aside and letting someone repeatedly visit websites with insipidly boring and misinformation-saturated blogs by people who dropped out of high school and don’t know how to conduct research … or not.

People can also link to whatever information they like, sharing what they want. The Web, in this sense, has always been kind of a free-for-all, in a good way. The Open Internet, per the FCC, “promotes competition and enables investment and innovation.”

It’s possible via the Open Internet, virtually wherever a person is, to engage in the Web in whatever way they so choose – not just in the creation of online sites and companies but in the interaction and intercommunication that’s possible with such basic tools as email and social media. Once you’re on the Web (and of course there are charges for a home network), there are no fees to communicate with other people on the Web. You share what you want and engage as you want, no strings attached. You can post whatever you want on a site you build and make it immediately available to the public.

The FCC has not attempted to regulate the Web. The content on the Web and the applications that are used to create the content or allow Web users to share and interact with information have been allowed free reign to flourish. The rules of the Open Internet, under the auspices of the FCC, were set, per their explanation, merely “to ensure that no one—not the government and not the companies that provide broadband service—can restrict innovation on the Internet.”

Why the Internet is Dangerous, Perspective 2:

“One time I saw a cat doing something weird on a website. It was unnatural! The cat looked like it was talking. In fact, it looked – out of the corner of my eye – like it was insulting us. By ‘us’ I mean people. I’ve never liked cats. They’re dirty. They’re disgusting. They’re unwholesome. The world of the Internet is a world where cats are given far too much freedom. It’s like they’ve become our gods. Stop the Internet before the cats have completely infiltrated our churches, homes, and hair salons!”– Margaret Scopacasa, Blaine, MO, USA

Open Internet Rules, Proceedings, Considerations & Complaints

Let’s take a look at some of the specs involved with the Open Internet, as established by the FCC.

Open Internet Rules

Three core rules govern the notion of the Open Internet:

  1. The Web must be transparent: Disclosure is required by companies providing broadband pertaining to how their network is managed, how it performs, and its terms of commerce.
  2. The Web must not be blocked: A company providing broadband can’t prohibit any lawful content or service.
  3. The Web must not discriminate: You can’t discriminate in the manner that network traffic is transmitted to or from consumers. No content or application should be decreased in its performance or speed, for any user.

 

The FCC establishes these basic codes in the Open Internet Report and Order (Open Internet R&O). The R&O also mentions that broadband companies should be able to properly administer their networks to prevent such problems as spam and high- traffic users clogging the network and preventing full access to others. Rules #2 and #3 above allow system management to prevent such issues.

Specific to mobile broadband, providers are not able to prevent access to third-party applications that allow transmission of video telephony and voice, overlapping with or replacing the functions of their own applications.

Open Internet Proceedings & Consumer Rights

In 2005 the FCC presented the following consumer rights (applicable within the confines of the law):

  1. right to download, use, and share any online materials desired
  2. right to connect and use any safe and secure equipment desired
  3. right to fair play between providers of networks, applications, and materials.

The FCC announced in 2009 that it would start accepting ideas from citizens regarding Open Internet specifications. Following a number of information-gathering community events and additional collection of individual, external perspectives, the R&O was signed into agreement in 2010 (Dec. 21); it took full effect the following year (Nov. 20).

Open Internet Considerations

The R&O, beyond stating rules and stipulations, allows broadband firms to distribute emergency messages and to comply with the requests of legal entities – regardless if those activities run contrary to any of the three rules. The company is also allowed to take fair steps to protect intellectual property and generally prevent law-breaking.

Open Internet Complaints

Do you think a company or individual is in defiance of the rules presented in the Open Internet R&O? You can state any grievance here http://www.fcc.gov/complaints (although perhaps they will now refer you to the Department of Homeland Security to ensure your complaint isn’t due to an act of terrorism?).

The following is helpful to consider prior to contacting the FCC:

  1. Is your problem in reference to mobile or fixed broadband? (In other words, can you log on to your network away from your home?)
  2. Which of the three R&O rules (stated above) do you believe the broadband company might be breaking?

Why the Internet is Dangerous, Perspective 3:

“I saw someone curse on the Internet once. It was in a comment on YouTube. Destroy Google! Let’s all get our pitchforks and torches! Why not? If you don’t have either one, just grab a couple of objects that look somewhat scary. Let’s do this thing!”– Michael Lesser, San Luis Obispo, CA, USA

Conclusion

The Open Internet, as established by the FCC, is an important set of rights and responsibilities for providers and users of the Web. For American citizens, knowing our rights as they have been established in the Open Internet R&O can give us a better sense of what we’ve had so good since the Internet first went online.

The R&O has been viewed even by the federal government, until recently, as crucial to the continuation and growth of our online economy, as well as to our ability to use the Internet freely without undo interference. Our membership at Superb Internet in the i2Coalition is a statement of our belief that the Internet operates best in an environment of net neutrality, in adherence to the principles of the “Internet as we know it.”

by Kent Roberts and Richard Norwood