Creators and Net Neutrality

July 14th, 2014

I wrote this as a companion article to Chris Oatley’s post on net neutrality: “Our Creative Future Is At Risk: What ‘Net Neutrality’ Means for Visual Storytellers”

“The internet is a series of tubes”

The Internet is a series of tubesNo analogy is perfect, the internet is a novel beast, but lets imagine it as a series of roadways (an alternative, using package delivery) that service the wonderful city of Toontown, with its information travelling along the streets and highways . It’s an apt metaphor, since just as taxes pay for roads, public funds also heavily subsidized the creation (public research), and often the current maintenance, of the networks that make up the internet through public-private partnerships.

As creators, our audience pays for their connection (the “last mile”), and the more they pay the wider their driveway is. The wider the driveway, the more traffic it can handle and the faster the flow of cars (information) in and out. Driveways turn into lanes on the street and merge to become the roadways that cross the city, and highways that connect cities. On the other end, we similarly pay service providers/website hosts/etc, as middlemen, to create our roads. And all of that pays not only for our direct connections, but for maintenance and expansion (if any is put aside for it). So when the audience requests “one art please,” we load up Benny the Cab (Roger Rabbit’s car) and he delivers right to their door as fast as he can. It all works pretty well.

The FCC proposal, at the encouragement of Internet Service Providers (ISPs, a.k.a. Judge Doom), is to create lanes reserved for special non-toon traffic. “Internet fast lanes” that companies pay to use exclusively. They want to paint those lanes until they’re green with “the dip” (toon dissolving acid), leaving fewer lanes for everyone who isn’t paying Judge Doom’s toll. It will mean less efficiency overall, less speed and our Benny stuck in an artificially created gridlock while the larger company trucks stream by beside us.

The proposal places a scaling limit on our capacity to engage our audience. The slowdown may not be noticeable at first, only a cartoon shoe in a barrel, but just as the intent was always to dip all of Toontown, there’s no reason to think the ISPs will stop with large companies or a small portion of the lanes, either (and there’s no clearly defined limit in the proposal). Our livelihoods will basically depend on Judge Doom being “a nice guy”.

Money makes the world slow down

The Worship of Mammon by Evelyn De MorganIf you’re asking yourself, “doesn’t that mean ISPs would be charging twice for the same service they already provide?” Basically, yes. Their complaint is that large content providers place too much of a burden on their networks. There are too many cars on the streets, even though we’ve collectively been paying for enough road for everyone.

Setting aside that it’s strange (and unethical) to be selling a service they now claim they can’t provide, there’s already been attempts to alleviate traffic for ISPs (e.g. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and peering agreements). CDNs allow for the sending of cars/information from multiple depots spread out across the city, and other cities, that are closer to the audience, instead of from a central office (like distribution centres). Many content providers, large and small, use CDN services to improve the experience of their audience. Less distance to travel and less vehicles on the road for significant stretches of it benefits everyone, what’s not to like? The largest content provider, Netflix, even developed it’s own “Open Connect” network and offered it for free to ISPs, but was still forced to pay (Yes, Judge Doom actually demanded payment to accept free infrastructure and to lessen congestion). They’ve even threatened legal action when customers have been informed their connections are suffering for their refusals and have also tried to default on, or twist, peering agreements.

Even with these systems in place, ISPs still say they can’t handle the traffic, and that’s why they need “fast lanes” (for Netflix, that means they’d be charging 3 times for the same service, if you’re counting). Right now they claim it will only target the largest content providers, Netflix, Youtube, etc. But, even independent creators generate a lot more traffic through our large images, videos, podcasts, etc, than the average user. The same argument could very easily filter down to our levels.

It’s also worth mentioning how badly the U.S. compares to the rest of the world in terms of average speed and access. There are many factors involved, of course, but you have to ask if getting less than half the speed for four times the cost can be explained away, or wonder why countries with more difficult conditions still rank higher. The ISPs claim that additional charges will go to expanding their infrastructure, but there’s no mention or requirement for that in the proposal and cities and towns are already trying to make up for the past lack of progress, at least when they’re not being sued or blocked from doing so or prevented from using existing infrastructure. It’s more likely the proposal will discourage ISPs from investing in infrastructure, as they can just continually carve the existing networks into more and more “fast lanes”.

That’s no moon, it’s the end of the internet as we know it

The internet became such a powerful force in our lives because it’s the closest thing to an even playing field humanity has ever had. Everyone is treated as an equal on the roads, when it comes to information flow the system is blind. Small companies or individual creators can access their audience as easily, or generate as much exposure, as the largest conglomerates. Though, in recent times even western democracies have been attempting to control (if ineffectively) the public’s access to information and now with this proposal, they also want cash to influence the flow. Instead of leading the way, the U.S. is actually taking a step backward while the rest of the world moves forward with stronger net neutrality rules.

The stability of the internet as a unified global force has always been tenuous, even more so with recent revelations. Most nations have been discouraged from splitting off their networks by virtue of the opportunity and real costs being too great to seriously consider. That disincentive erodes with the introduction of fast lanes, as it unbalances competition from existing companies in other nations. It also creates additional barriers for new entrants locally and internationally, and even as only a proposal it has already hurt competition and the creation of new businesses. It will even negatively effect education.

The new proposal also sets a precedent where ISPs have influence on how, or what, content flows through their systems. If the past is anything to go by, that’s probably not a good idea, Judge Doom doesn’t play fair.

And it doesn’t end there. Free services such as comic hosting sites, video hosting, communities like artist hubs and gallery sites can’t afford to have their media heavy content discriminated against, or pay for it not to be. And if they have to pay for access to the audience, those costs will be passed on to us, the creators and may still not be sustainable. If you have a presence or reliance on these types of services or sites, on top of your own website, that means you may also end up paying three times for the same access to your audience that you have now.

Saving Toontown

Why are we even faced with this problem? Well, there’s an issue with the FCC and regulatory capture. It’s not so much a citizen’s institution, staffed by those concerned for the public good, as it is a layover for lobbyists and Telecom/ISP employees. There’s a blatant revolving door that’s widespread and with a long history. Not satisfied with that, the companies involved also like to pretend to be public groups and have influenced elected representatives to create bills that need to be opposed. That’s why we’re facing proposals that threaten net neutrality for the third time now.

More than just defeating the FCC proposal, we need to ensure a lasting solution.

Some suggest that the internet be reclassified as a common carrier (Title II telecommunications service). That classification is what protects against discrimination when it comes to phone lines. Without it, when you made a call you’d have to wait for an undefined period of time as you waited through a queue, and when it did connect you could never be sure of line quality, and might get cut off, regardless of your location/service. That’s what it means to have a lower priority than major companies who are tying up the infrastructure.

Other countries have managed to ensure net neutrality through very specific rules around service, something which was also just put on the table. But, there’s no silver bullet. It’s a complex subject and each method has it’s pros and cons. Preferably both, or more, should be applied for safety and continued equality.

If you agree we need net neutrality, know that there are many organizations (including tech giants) and groups who are fighting to keep the internet free and functional. To add your own voice to theirs, you must submit a comment before the first comment period ends on Tuesday, July 15th (tomorrow), with the chance for you to respond to other public comments occurring afterwards and until September 10th.

The EFF, which has actively fought for net neutrality for many years, has provided an easy form for you to make public comment to the FCC here (alternative).

(Comment directly. Or with attachments here using proceeding number 14-28. Or email directly: openinternet@fcc.gov)

And if you want to go the extra mile, the most effective things you can do is contact your elected officials through letter writing or phone calls (alternative), or by involving the media through letters to the editor.

And finally there are a number of petitions available (though their effectiveness is questionable), such as one for startups and from the ACLU.

Thanks for reading and let’s keep fighting for a free and open internet!

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Status update… Pain, plans and good people

May 3rd, 2014

So, it’s been an interesting few months, yet again…

The latest turn of events means that, once more, access to shelter for myself and my wife is in jeopardy. You can read what’s happen here, if you’re at all interested: http://chattelevision.ca/__news/massive-rent-hike-shocks-tenants/

We ourselves are facing an increase of 40%. And it seems they’re doing the same in at least 4 different cities, possibly more, from what I’ve been told. With the experience of current tenants being they don’t maintain anything, e.g. http://globalnews.ca/news/970287/tenants-homeless-after-saskatoon-apartment-deemed-fire-risk/. Exploitative capitalism ho! :P We’re not sure what we’re going to do/be able to do, at this point… But, we’ll get through it somehow, I’m sure. I’m incredibly thankful for the friends who’ve offered their support during this time though. Never underestimate the effect that even a few kind words can have :)

That said, this being the many-enth time I’ve had a wrench thrown in the works, I’m just going to go ahead and pursue a number of things that I’ve wanted to do for a while, but have been putting off while waiting for a good time (silly, I know). That means a number of changes, including the quick modification to my website, which you may have noticed, which I’ll expand on over time. Things to look forward to include book reviews focused around art, both on the instruction and inspiration side; useful links or resources for the same purposes; and more art in general from those I find (with some analysis thrown in). If you’ve got any requests/suggestions on any of those, please let me know!

On another note, a friend of mine is starting a new art gallery with her partner and I’ve been helping them out with various design related things. They’re actually running a Kickstarter at the moment to help with the costs and have almost reached their goal (with some cool stretch goals in mind). There’s some nifty rewards available, so be sure to check it out: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1596143344/building-lovecraft-gallery

I’m also doing a comic with a friend of mine, with the current plan to launch in August (you can see the awesome energy in his work here: http://tongman.deviantart.com/). I’ll be posting more information/teasers on that, as time goes on.

Beyond that, I’m still studying away at art in every spare moment available. My own personal projects are on hold for the moment, but I’m hopeful that I’ll get to restart them before the end of the year. I think that’s about it… Hope you’re all doing well out there! :)

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Tripp from AARCS

February 12th, 2014

Did another portrait for the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS, http://aarcs.ca/), so here’s Tripp!

Interesting looking character this one, though I’m afraid he’s no longer available for adoption, as it seems he found a home right before I finished, which is excellent/I’m glad to hear.

So, consider this picture just a friendly encouragement to support your local shelters (especially if it’s AARCS, they do great work ;)  ) and to remember that older animals, like Tripp, need and deserve homes too.

Have a wonderful day! :)

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Let’s try this again…

February 8th, 2014

So, been an interesting and incredibly busy year already. Some very cool and big things in the works, though I’ll leave the details that for when there’s something to show. In the mean time, I’m going to be revamping the site and getting reviews and various information up. Hopefully, before the end of February, but, we’ll see how it goes.

Be well everyone :)

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Adopt the very cute Penny!

December 26th, 2013

Recently did a portrait of Penny for the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS: http://aarcs.ca)

Here is her story:
I was surrendered by my previous owner and lived outside with lot’s of brothers and sisters was tied up most of my life. I did not have much interaction with people during this time so I am very shy but I have made huge progress. The first few weeks of my foster care, I was afraid of venturing out of my kennel but now I quite enjoy the company of other dogs and people. I’m now very curious and love to follow the other dogs and people around the house and yard. My favorite spot in the house is lying on my bed and watching everything that’s going on around me. You are more than welcome to talk to me I have a good temperament but still shy of people that come close into my space. I will take gently a treat from your hand, and come to you when my name is called. I am house trained indoors and love being outside, good on my leash however need my distance. Be patient with me I’m still a little nervous and untrusting but believe me I have come a long way I have been told!

I would love to find my furever home, I’m looking for a small family or single person who has lots of time, patience and understanding as well someone who would be dedicated to my confidence building. Someone who can give me the love to trust all in due time, I know I’m worth every penny of it!

Penny would do very well if there was another dog(s) with a yard or acreage as she has always been among other dogs for company. Not too sure about being in a family with small children as she is very nervous if approached too quickly. Penny is playful outside yet relaxed in the house laying on her bed chewing on a bone.

Details on how to adopt her can be found here: http://aarcs.ca/portfolio-item/a19116681/

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Hate in the Winter/Christmas season

December 6th, 2013

There’s only one thing I hate about the Winter/Christmas season, and that’s the ridiculous cultural conflicts that seem to reoccur every year surrounding it. I’ve probably seen over a dozen articles/posts/comments in relation to that in the last week.

There’s always some small, but vocal minority, that seems to consider Christmas a personal assault on their world/life, as if the celebration is an oppressive force to be battled. I’ve seen, as an example, NeoPagans and Animists (who have their own celebration during the solstice) talk about how offensive it is to even receive a friendly phrase or invitation to events… Which seems completely mature and in the spirit of peace, interconnectedness and harmony, right?

And then there’s the vocal minority of Christians who seem to always somehow believe their religion and events are under constant assault. And berate and sometimes flat out lie about occurrences in an attempt to undermine other groups or religions. Who demand exemptions from basic logistics and processes or else it’s a matter of oppression… Which seems completely mature and in the spirit of forgiveness, acceptance and unity, right?

On a day like today, where a man died still believing in a message of mutual respect and reconciliation after having lived under tangible and brutal oppression for the vast majority of his life, it grates on my nerves even more.

I’m not remotely Christian, but I will still say Merry Christmas to those who are. I’m not Pagan/etc, either, but I’ll still wish them a wonderful Yule/Solstice. And I will accept all greetings/phrases/etc, openly and in the manner they were intended. I will still help my wife put up a tree and decorate it, because she is. I will still participate as needed and try to enjoy the atmosphere the season creates. Why? The short version is, “I’m not a self centered jerk”. The long version, is that I understand that being accepting and supportive of someone else’s spiritual beliefs does not somehow take away from mine, or from me as a person. All it does is give respect, kindness and acceptance to them, all of which are an infinite resource. It’s sharing something with those I love or care for, or simply acknowledging the personhood of strangers. There’s no harm or negative compromise in any of that.

Equality means living in balance with all it’s people, regardless of if jingle bells gets stuck in my head or certain phrases continually evoke the image of a happy ham in my mind.

Be well, and whatever your customs, I wish you the best in them :)

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Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo – Gaming Event

April 25th, 2012

So, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to do some art to help him promote the traditional gaming event at the Calgary Expo this year (http://www.calgaryexpo.com/gaming/). Sounded like fun and being part of the expo, even in a small way, gives me the warm fuzzies so I agreed. The pieces ended up being rushed, honestly, as everything* that could possibly go wrong during the time period, did… But, I think they turned out pretty decently. Hoping those at the expo enjoy it, as that’s the important part.

Finished just this morning after another all nighter, you should be able to see this as a giant poster at the gaming area itself, a dragon who may be hoarding the myriad of prizes up for grabs at the event:

Calgary Expo Dragon

And created for posters/handbills which you may have already seen around the city, a Warhammer 40K: Grey Knight Terminator, firing wildly at something larger than himself that appears to be breathing fire *cough*:

Calgary Expo Grey Knight

If you’re at the Expo, it’ll be worth checking out, the event will be in the main convention hall (it’s marked on their map). Whether you’re into competing in the events(as they have all sorts of ones and for every genre and universe I’ve ever heard of), or just because you’d like to be a spectator and watch the gladiatorial bloodsport of the mighty geeks. (Link again: http://www.calgaryexpo.com/gaming/)

See you there, I’ll be the one fussing about everything I could have done better with the art ;)

* Everything is hopefully taking a break from adding additional things for now, but included: dog dying, sudden deadline changes and doubling of workload, grandmother dying, car breaking down, girlfriend having mysterious illness which led to multiple emergency room visits, sudden pre-emptive concerns of legal issues which required a complete change of concept, my having an entirely unrelated mysterious illness, computer crashes, and, as always, terminal insomnia ;)

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Just an update

March 24th, 2012

Well, that update streak didn’t last too long…

Been more than a little crazy the last while, everything from the car breaking down to “suddenly, deadlines!” Just woke up from a 15 hour sleep streak of recovery… Remember folks, something as simple as not putting your events on a schedule can cause pain and lack of sleep for others.

All during this as well, my very well loved Granny Wyn was in hospital. Her status seemed to change almost daily. One moment near the brink, the next recovering and chatting away to the amazement of the doctor. She was a tough and amazing old lady, and I know many people say that about their grannies, but I truly believe it. I have her Cape Town to Cairo dirt rally trophies upstairs(won via a station wagon) and a father named after and conceived at, the Temple of Angkor Watt, Cambodia, to prove it to. Not to mention the legacy of trips to the Kalahari Desert to search for a lost city.

She passed away, peacefully I’m told, around midnight of March 15th. She was 98 years old, even in hospital she was still teaching herself new things. That she didn’t live to reach a 100 still seems a rather strange and surprising thing. I will miss her greatly.

I’ll get back to posting art, some of my own is even going to see the light of day, as well as have some news about the Calgary Expo soonish. Have a good one, all.

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Mech Monday: RobotJox

February 6th, 2012

RobotJox by Robert Simons

RobotJox by Robert Simons

And to catch up fully, here’s RobotJox by Robert Simons (Falarsimons). Interesting design here, a nice mix between more organic forms and the traditional synthetic ones. I also have a tendency to enjoy reverse jointed legs, they seem to give a much more preadtory feel. Not sure about the overall balance of the design, but nice colouring and forms.

The rest of his gallery has a lot of interesting little twists like this, worth checking out.

Please note: The image in this post is used in accordance with the doctrine of fair use/fair dealing, under the consideration of commentary and criticism. I ensure all images are credited to the creator, link to one or more of their sites and include metadata (when possible) to the same effect. If you are the creator or copyright holder and for whatever reason desire the removal of this image, contact me and I will remove it as soon as I am able. Thank you.

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Space Sunday: Rawkets

February 6th, 2012

Ended up busy with work and half-dead with illness yesterday, so only posting now, but hopefully that’s made up by how excellent this piece is!

Rawkets by Reid Southen

Rawkets by Reid Southen

This is Rawkets by Reid Southen (Rahll). I’ve been following Reid for a number of years now, and his pieces constantly continue to increase in quality. This piece is one of my favorites from him. The composition is good, the designs are excellent and the level of detail, especially in the smoke and explosions is incredible. I also love all the little additions Reid puts into his piecies, like all the falling debris/guy, etc, since it lets my eye roam around exploring and finding interesting things.

Looking forward to see what he produces in the coming year.

Please note: The image in this post is used in accordance with the doctrine of fair use/fair dealing, under the consideration of commentary and criticism. I ensure all images are credited to the creator, link to one or more of their sites and include metadata (when possible) to the same effect. If you are the creator or copyright holder and for whatever reason desire the removal of this image, contact me and I will remove it as soon as I am able. Thank you.

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