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FCC will also order states to scrap plans for their own net neutrality laws

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Enlarge / Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai arrives for his confirmation hearing with the Senate Commerce Committee on July 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla )

In addition to ditching its own net neutrality rules, the Federal Communications Commission also plans to tell state and local governments that they cannot impose local laws regulating broadband service.

This detail was revealed by senior FCC officials in a phone briefing with reporters today, and it is a victory for broadband providers that asked for widespread preemption of state laws. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposed order finds that state and local laws must be preempted if they conflict with the US government's policy of deregulating broadband Internet service, FCC officials said. The FCC will vote on the order at its December 14 meeting.

It isn't clear yet exactly how extensive the preemption will be. Preemption would clearly prevent states from imposing net neutrality laws similar to the ones being repealed by the FCC, but it could also prevent state laws related to the privacy of Internet users or other consumer protections. Pai's staff said that states and other localities do not have jurisdiction over broadband because it is an interstate service and that it would subvert federal policy for states and localities to impose their own rules.

FCC officials did not take questions from Ars during today's phone briefing, but we have followed up with Chairman Pai's office to get more details on the scope of the proposed preemption. We will update this story if we get a response. Pai's draft order will be released publicly tomorrow and may provide more detail.

Pai staff echoes industry arguments

The arguments made by Pai's staff echoed those made previously by Internet service providers. Comcast, Verizon, and mobile industry lobby group CTIA had all urged the FCC to preempt state laws in the weeks leading up to today's announcement by Pai.

CTIA argued last week that broadband Internet access shouldn't be regulated by states because it is an interstate service "within the sole jurisdiction of the FCC, and Congress has advanced a national policy of non-regulation for information services." That's the exact position the FCC chairman's office is now taking.

Legislators in numerous states have tried to impose state-level versions of the FCC privacy rules that were eliminated by Congress earlier this year. With the FCC about to take its net neutrality rules off the books, ISPs said they worry that states will try to enforce net neutrality on their own.

The FCC's preemption authority does have limits. A previous FCC decision to preempt state laws that restrict the expansion of municipal broadband was struck down by a federal appeals court. The FCC will almost certainly face lawsuits challenging the net neutrality repeal order, and the preemption of state laws could play a big role in litigation.

It's not clear whether the FCC provided adequate notice to the public about the preemption plan. Today's proposal stems from a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that the FCC issued in May, but that proposal did not ask the public for input on preempting state net neutrality laws.

Pai argued in 2015 that the FCC violated federal administrative procedure rules by reclassifying ISPs as common carriers without providing adequate notice to the public beforehand. But in that case, the FCC did ask the public for input on whether it should impose common carrier regulations in an NPRM months before it voted. In the present case, the FCC did not ask for input on preempting state net neutrality laws at all.

We have asked Pai's office about this and will provide an update if we hear back.

More details on net neutrality repeal

Senior FCC officials also provided some more details on the rollback of federal net neutrality rules. For the most part, all consumer protections in the 2015 net neutrality order are being eliminated. That goes beyond the core net neutrality rules that outlaw blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization.

For example, rules requiring disclosure of hidden fees and data caps will be overturned. The FCC will relinquish its role in evaluating whether ISPs can charge competitors for data cap exemptions and will no longer oversee interconnection disputes that harm Internet service quality. For a longer list of what's being eliminated, check out this previous article from July. As we wrote then, numerous consumer protections rely on the FCC's Title II common carrier authority to regulate broadband providers, and those rules will go away as a consequence of Pai's plan to eliminate the Title II classification.

Pai's proposal does add one new requirement—ISPs will have to make public disclosures if they engage in blocking or throttling of Internet content, and they will have to disclose deals that prioritize content from affiliates or content from companies that pay ISPs for priority access.

There won't be any specific FCC rules preventing Internet providers from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing content in exchange for payment. It would be up to the Federal Trade Commission or other consumer protection agencies to determine whether specific conduct should be allowed, FCC officials said. The new disclosure requirements will help the FTC and other agencies decide whether to take action against ISPs, the officials said.

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RIP net neutrality: FCC chair releases plan to deregulate ISPs

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(credit: Free Press)

The Federal Communications Commission today announced its plan to deregulate the broadband industry and eliminate net neutrality rules, setting up a December 14 vote to finalize the repeal.

As expected, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is proposing to reverse the commission's classification of home and mobile ISPs as common carriers, eliminating the legal justification for the net neutrality rules and numerous other consumer protections. The Republican-controlled FCC is likely to vote 3-2 along party lines in favor of Pai's plan at its regular monthly meeting in December, ignoring Internet users who voiced widespread support for net neutrality rules.

Pai's decision is a big win for cable companies, telcos, and mobile carriers that will no longer face regulation of their broadband businesses under Title II of the Communications Act. Pai ignored numerous calls from consumer advocates, website operators, and Internet users who urged the FCC to preserve the rules that force Internet providers to treat all Web content fairly.

Pai was on the losing end of a 3-2 vote in 2015 that imposed Title II regulations, including net neutrality rules that outlaw blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. He started the repeal process shortly after President Trump appointed him chairman this year.

Today, Pai said that he intends to eliminate the core net neutrality rules while preserving some requirements that ISPs inform consumers about their network management practices.

"Under my proposal, the federal government will stop micromanaging the Internet," Pai said in a statement today. "Instead, the FCC would simply require Internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that's best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate."

In May, Pai's FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that proposed overturning the 2015 order and sought public comments. The FCC received 22 million comments, which were dominated by spam and form letters. But Internet users opposed Pai's plan en masse; one analysis found that 98.5 percent of unique comments were against Pai's repeal plan.

Pai claims the rules have forced Internet providers to decrease investment in their networks, despite evidence to the contrary.

Pai is also ignoring a call from Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who said the FCC should hold public hearings across the country before altering net neutrality rules. The public comment process has been marred by spam bots, impersonation, and what the FCC called a DDoS attack on the comment system, she noted. The FCC should thus get the opinions of Americans in person before proceeding, she said.

Pai circulated his proposal to fellow commissioners today and said he will release the draft order publicly tomorrow.

“Restoring Internet freedom”—or destroying it?

Pai titled his proposal, "Restoring Internet Freedom." Democratic Commissioner Mignon Clyburn called it the "Destroying Internet Freedom" plan, saying it will "dismantle net neutrality as we know it by giving the green light to our nation’s largest broadband providers to engage in anti-consumer practices, including blocking, slowing down traffic, and paid prioritization of online applications and services."

Pai's plan "is simply a giveaway to the nation’s largest communications companies, at the expense of consumers and innovation," Clyburn said. "It is not only bad public policy but is legally suspect. I hope my colleagues will see the light, and put these drafts where they belong: in the trash heap.”

Verizon and other ISPs have claimed that they support net neutrality rules and that they merely want them to be imposed "on a different legal footing," without Title II. But Pai is not trying to preserve any of the three core rules against blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. Pai has previously suggested that throttling of online services might somehow benefit consumers.

After the vote, expect a lawsuit

After next month's vote, net neutrality supporters will likely sue the FCC to get the rules back on the books. They could argue that the FCC used flawed reasoning or an improper decision-making process, but courts have generally given deference to FCC decisions on whether to impose common carrier regulations. Former Chairman Tom Wheeler faced a challenge from broadband providers after his 2015 net neutrality decision, but the rules were upheld in court.

While Pai can't stop a future Democratic chair from putting the rules back on the books, Congress could write a law that prevents strict regulation of ISPs.

Today, Pai said that the FCC's former Democratic majority "bowed to pressure from President Obama. On a party-line vote, it imposed heavy-handed, utility-style regulations upon the Internet."

Pai claimed again that this decision "depressed investment in building and expanding broadband networks and deterred innovation."

"Today, I have shared with my colleagues a draft order that would abandon this failed approach and return to the longstanding consensus that served consumers well for decades," Pai said.

ISPs will get to choose whether to uphold net neutrality

Pai's decision to eliminate the Title II classification of ISPs will return some authority to the Federal Trade Commission, which is not allowed to regulate common carriers.

"As a result of my proposal, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will once again be able to police ISPs, protect consumers, and promote competition, just as it did before 2015," Pai said. "Notably, my proposal will put the federal government's most experienced privacy cop, the FTC, back on the beat to protect consumers' online privacy." Previously, Congress and President Trump repealed the FCC's consumer broadband privacy regulations, with Pai's support.

Unlike the FCC, the FTC isn't able to create hard-and-fast rules that ISPs must follow, as we've previously written. But the FTC does have authority to prevent deceptive and unfair practices so that the agency can force companies to live up to the promises they place in their terms of service. If an ISP promises a neutral network and then fails to deliver, the FTC can then step in.

But under this model, ISPs will be able to decide for themselves whether to follow net neutrality principles.

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That Time I Was an Imposter

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Credit: Pixabay / Alexas_Fotos

I was reminded, recently, how much I have come to hate the phrase “imposter syndrome”. Not because I don’t think it’s a helpful concept (I do). But because it’s overused, and used harmfully. My post The Trouble with Imposters resurfaced, and I was in a BBC program about it. Then Rachel Smith wrote an awesome post, I haven’t experienced imposter syndrome, and maybe you haven’t either.

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Image shows a TODO list titled “Second Shift”. List items: prep K12 talk, blog on woman at the company, tweet a fun selfie with a hashtag. The last item is “FIX IMPOSTER SYNDROME” (all caps).

Corporate feminists and big companies love to talk about imposter syndrome because then they can shove it into the second shift work that women and minorities are expected to do.

It’s just an expected hazard, ladies, and don’t worry just fix thyself. Once you’ve made sure that we’re making the appropriate effort on the pipeline, of course – we all know that’s the biggest problem. Sometime between the talk you’re giving to those school kids and by the way we thought it would be cool if you wrote something for the company blog talking about how great it is to work here whilst female. PR will help you.

Your male teammate never mentions the blog post, but he does send back that code review you’ve been waiting two days for. He wants you to do it completely differently, and you sigh because you have three other branches on top of that, now. You stay late proving that his way won’t, in fact, work. What a waste of time. Better not include that in the the talk.

You feel discouraged, and try to talk to your manager about it. But he’s just been to the company mandated diversity training. He tells you how much the work you’re doing on the pipeline is appreciated, dodges your question about promotion, and later sends you an article on Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter: one that assumes false identity or title for the purpose of deception.

Merriam Webster

Here’s the thing. Maybe you are, in fact, an imposter. Maybe you are a Hufflepuff trying to survive in Slytherin. You have so many great qualities, but they won’t ever shine when people keep calling you “mudblood” and putting bugs in your bed. Maybe it’s more Mean Girls.

If you have to be like Regina George to succeed, can you? Do you want to? What might attempting do to you?

I’m telling you this, because I was an imposter. I tried to succeed in a system that told me I would never be allowed to. Where I saw ten times as many women burning out and unappreciated close up as I did snippets of women succeeding at a distance.

I tried “working harder” and “being more confident”. It would sometimes work, or maybe I would sometimes get lucky. And then another reorg, another dude who thought that any effort at improving diversity was “lowering the bar” asking me to prove it again and again and again. The voice in my head that questioned whether I belonged, whether I could ever belong, got louder and louder.

Maybe I’m not good enough.

Maybe I can’t work hard enough.

Maybe I don’t want it enough.

I felt like leaving tech was just a matter of time, and how long I survived a measure of my own resilience.

Getting out of that environment, and working to shed the baggage I picked up when I was trying to be a Slytherin – learning how to have opinions again, learning how to be a decent person, and how to expect decency in others… well that was the best thing I ever did for my career.

I recognise the person who wrote the post about leaving. But I’m not her, anymore. I don’t feel that way. I remember it, but it’s not how I feel. I’m not an imposter anymore – I’m where I belong, working at the intersection of multiple things that interest me. I’m appreciated generally, and treated with respect by my team and peers.

The person I was when I wrote the leaving post couldn’t have imagined this. She had no concept that it was possible.

It is.

Maybe imposter syndrome is a sign. It’s telling you to get out – whilst you can.

And managers, consider that if you have capable people on your team with “imposter syndrome” – the causes are largely environmental, so you may well have given it to them.

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The Codex Quetzalecatzin comes to the Library of Congress

Writing is a strange invention. One might suppose that its emergence could not fail to bring profound changes in the conditions of human existence…
                                                                          –Claude Levi-Strauss, Tristes Tropiques

The Codex Quetzalecatzin, also known as the Mapa de Ecatepec-Huitziltepec, the Codex Ehecatepec and Huitziltepec, or the Charles Ratton Codex, is an extremely rare colored Mesoamerican manuscript and one of the most important indigenous manuscripts from the earliest history of the Americas to become available in recent years. Several months ago the Library Congress acquired this world treasure from a private collector in France, and has now made it available to the public digitally, allowing it to be seen and studied by scholars across the world, for the first time in more than a century.

The Codex Quetzalecatzin. Collections of the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

As is typical for an Aztec, or Nahuatl, codex of this early date, it relates the extent of land ownership and properties of a family line known as “de Leon,” most of the members of which are depicted on the manuscript. With Nahuatl stylized graphics and hieroglyphs, it illustrates the family’s genealogy and their descent from Lord-11 Quetzalecatzin, who in 1480, was the major political leader of the region. It is from him the Codex derives one of its many names.

Lord-11 Quetzalecatzin (in red) as depicted on the Codex. Collections of the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

The manuscript dates from between 1570 and 1595, making it an extremely rare example of a pre-1600 indigenous American codex. It was created at a time when many cartographic histories were being produced both as a part of a Spanish royal investigation into the human and community resources in the Spanish colonies, and when indigenous families were trying to reassert their ancient land claims. These maps were largely made by indigenous painters and scribes, and that is reflected in the structure and make-up of the Codex Quetzalecatzin. Particular features that point to indigenous authorship include pre-Hispanic illustrative conventions, such as the symbols for rivers, roads and pathways, and of course hieroglyphic writing. The glosses on the manuscript, which utilize the Latin alphabet, are clues to its colonial-era composition, as are the names of some of the indigenous leaders such as “don Alonso” and “don Matheo.” Naming conventions such as these provide evidence that at least some indigenous elites were granted the Spanish title of nobility (“don”) and had been baptized with Christian names.

Extent of the Lands shown in the Codex Quetzalecatzin. Map created by John Hessler, Geography and Map Division.

Like many Nahuatl codices and manuscript maps of the period it depicts a local community at an important point in their history. On the one hand, the map is a traditional Aztec cartographic history with its composition and design showing Nahuatl hieroglyphics, and typical illustrations. On the other hand, it also shows churches, some Spanish place names, and other images suggesting a community adapting to Spanish rule.  Maps and manuscripts of this kind would typically chart the community’s territory using hieroglyphic toponyms, with the community’s own place-name lying at or near the center. The present codex shows the de Leon family presiding over a large region of territory that extends from slightly north of  Mexico City, to just south of Puebla. Codices such as these are critical primary source documents, and for scholars looking into history and  ethnography during the earliest periods of contact between Europe and the peoples of the Americas,  they give important clues into how these very different cultures became integrated and adapted to each others presence.

The form and color of the codex reflects many of the deep artistic stylizations found in indigenous books made throughout Mesoamerica and uses naturally extracted pigments and dyes, like Maya Blue, and cochineal, to create the bold coloring that strikes anyone who looks at the Codex. Color was an important element in all Nahuatl and Maya books and many early sources survive that narrate how they were prepared and used. Perhaps the most important source for our knowledge of the materials and plants used by ancient Americans in the design and construction of the codices comes from the Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espana, compiled by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagun around 1575-1577. His manuscript gives us deep clues on how the Codex Quetzalecatzin was made and painted and is now commonly known as the Florentine Codex.

Detail of Maya Blue on the Codex Quetzalecatzin. Collections of the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress.

The Codex Quetzalecatzin, because of its extreme rarity, and because of its relevance to the early history of European contact with the indigenous peoples of the Americas, is an important addition to the early American treasures at the Library of Congress. To get a sense of the manuscripts rarity, it should noted that only around 450 Mesoamerican pictorial manuscripts survive to the present day, and less than 100 pre-date 1600. The acquisition of this world treasure by the Library of Congress adds to the rare and world class indigenous manuscripts already in its collections, including the Oztoticpac Lands Map and the Huexotzinco Codex, and we look forward to its study by scholars everywhere.

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Browse the CIA's photos of the 1963 Moscow Fair, including declassified cat pics • MuckRock


For 50 years, this adorable stray was considered a state secret

A file recently unearthed in CREST shows that in 1963, the Central Intelligence Agency sent an undercover photographer to the Moscow Fair in the heart of the then Soviet Union.

The photographer also took copious notes …

and while it’s unclear if they were on assignment to document anything in particular, notably, a few of the photographs are still redacted, half a century later.

Among the photos the CIA’s 50 year mandatory declassification review team felt could be made public, however, was the photographer’s b-roll …

where it appears he got bored and started taking photos of a nearby (and adorable) stray.

Let the fact that this cat languished away in Agency archives for decades, and even then is only available to you after a lawsuit, be the cutest possible reminder of the CIA’s abysmal track record when it comes to disclosure.

A low-res version of the file is embedded below, and you can download the full-res version on CREST.

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Collapsed Coalition Talks: What's Next for Merkel and Germany?

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel's attempts to assemble a governing coalition collapsed on Sunday night. Much of the blame is falling on the shoulders of the business-friendly Free Democrats, but what happens next?
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