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Sunday, July 27, 2008

FCC About to Spank Comcast...is Charter Next?

The Federal Communications Commission appears poised to take steps to punish Comcast for blocking access to file-sharing traffic. Three of the five FCC commissioners have voted in favor of an item saying Comcast violated federal policy by dialing down peer-to-peer traffic over its network. The news isn't much of a surprise, given that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has publicly criticized Comcast for the practice and recommended to the rest of the commissioners that they vote in favor of the decision.

FCC set to punish Comcast on P2P blocking News - Digital Media - CNET News.com

It appears that the only thing left is for the FCC to hand out punishment. Most media outlets are reporting that the FCC isn't expected to hand down any monetary damages. The most likely outcome will be an order requiring Comcast to cease and desist filtering of traffic and full public disclosure of its network management practices.

This ruling should cause a ripple effect through the industry. It sets a precedent, and one would think the next company caught throttling bandwidth for any reason would get a pretty stiff penalty. I would imagine there are many ISP's out there that are rethinking their network management practices. To be sure, Comcast isn't the only one employing questionable network practices. Charter Communications use a device from a Arbor Networks to restrict certain types of traffic. The device, an Arbor Ellacoya, allows them to throttle bandwidth from specific programs or protocols. It will recognize the different patterns used by each "offending" program and throttle them to a trickle by using deep packet inspection. For instance, your Emule or Bit Torrent program will seem to slow down to a crawl, but your YouTube videos of someone picking their nose will stream great.

It seems that this ruling will send a shot accross the bow of the ISP's. The FCC seems to be sending a message that they intend to protect the consumer before they will cave to the bullshit being spewed from the industry. Let's hope that they continue to set policy based on the premise of true neutrality.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

New "People's Car" Gets 235 MPG!

Volkswagen's had its super-thrifty One-Liter Car concept vehicle -- so named because that's how much fuel it needs to go 100 kilometers -- stashed away for six years. The body's made of carbon fiber to minimize weight (the entire car weighs just 660 pounds) and company execs didn't expect the material to become cheap enough to produce the car until 2012. But VW's decided to build the car two years ahead of schedule.

According to Britain's Car magazine, VW has approved a plan to build a limited number of One-Liters in 2010. They'll probably be built in the company's prototype shop, which has the capacity to build as many as 1,000 per year. That's not a lot, but it's enough to help VW get a lot of attention while showing how much light weight and an efficient engine can achieve.

VW unveiled the slick two-seater concept six years ago at a stockholder's meeting in Hamburg. To prove it was a real car, Chairman Ferdinand Piech personally drove it from Wolfsburg to Hamburg. At the time, he said the car could see production when the cost of its carbon monocoque dropped from 35,000 Euros (about $55,000) to 5,000 Euros (about $8,000) -- something he figured would happen in 2012. With carbon fiber being used in everything from airliners to laptops these days, VW's apparently decided the cost is competitive enough to build at least a few hundred One-Liters.

Laugh at High Gas Prices With a 235-MPG VW

This is probably only the tip of the iceberg of supressed technology. Since the beginning of the automotive revolution, the automakers have been gobbling up any technolgy that would offer a major improvement to the consumer. The general view is that radical change hurts the bottom line. They would argue that the cost of manufacturing retooling would cost too much or that the technology would raise the price of the car to the consumer. In reality, many of the innovations in increasing fuel milage were purchased and shelved to protect the industry and their closely related breatheren in the oil industry. That's right, the greedy bastards in the auto industry have been screwing us for years! What a shocker....

In the movie "Tucker- The Man and His Dream", Jeff Bridges plays real-life automobile inventor/entrepeneur Preston Tucker. Tucker started his own auto company and in 1948, he built a car that made Detroit very nervous. Tucker had added things like seat belts and safety glass that the Big Three didn't offer. In fact they deemed them expensive and unnecessary items. In true DeLorean fashion (or perhaps vice-versa) the big three created a scandal and misinformation campaign that ended up bankrupting the man and his company.

There a million other stories like this out there, but we've just never heard about them. You can bet that critical technology that would help us end our oil dependance is sitting gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. I would be willing to bet that the technology exists today to bring an affordable vehicle to market that would run on no petroleum at all. They're just betting that they haven't milked every last penny out of oil yet.