By Nolan Musslewhite '20
As most of you probably know, the FCC (under chairman Ajit Pai) voted in 2017 to roll back a set of regulations known as “net neutrality.” The decision prompted zealous alarmism, extensive coverage of which has both brought the issue to national headlines and swayed many against the decision without educating as to either its intent or its actual result.
So, that begs the question; what is net neutrality? Well, collectively, it’s a set of regulations passed in 2015 that essentially treats the internet as a utility—think water or electricity—prohibiting internet service providers (ISPs) from offering higher quality services for a premium. Say, for example, you spend a great deal of time on Netflix each month, and would gladly pay a small premium for some sort of plan that allocates Netflix higher speeds and better streaming than, say, Amazon Videos, which you may never use. Under net neutrality, such a plan would be illegal—no website can get faster internet speeds, or access “internet fast lanes,” over another, even if the website (and the consumer) would be happily willing to pay—Infowars or CNN, Netflix or Amazon, every website must be treated the same, regardless of the traffic it gets or consumer preference for it.
It doesn’t take an AP Macro or Micro background to imagine that such regulations probably stifle innovation and investment in the breadth and quality of service; if an ISP is forced to offer uniform service under strict government regulation, and thereby inter-company competition is severely limited, why spend extra money to improve service if the competitive advantage such investment usually provides is curtailed by net neutrality regulation? Do we see utility providers—Pepco, for example—investing millions to make their electricity services more efficient or expand their offerings to areas that need it most? In an era where cutting-edge fiber-optic and 5G (think 4G LTE, but faster and more capable) technology is becoming more widespread in countries like China, the United States needs tech sector innovation and investment—unhindered by anticompetitive regulation—to keep its status as a modern economic powerhouse. Let’s keep in mind that net neutrality only became law in 2015, following a period of explosive, unhindered internet growth since 1990.
By Kevin Fee '18
Most of the fame bitcoin has received is due its recent spike in value. However, the unknown creator of bitcoin, Satoshi Nakamoto, came up with something much more revolutionary than a new currency, blockchain. A blockchain is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the collusion of the network. Bitcoin, uses this technology in order to exchange money securely over the internet. However, there are many other potential uses for blockchain. Blockchain companies are developing ways for people to participate in secure transactions of all types over the internet. Companies are developing means by which people can create secure contracts over the internet. Also, there are companies developing ways to buy and sell stocks and bonds over blockchain which would eliminate the 2-3 day processing time as well as many additional fees. Since the creation of bitcoin, many private companies have sprung up producing many incredibly valuable technologies that will increase internet security as well as cut down on many of the current efficiencies on the internet. Since blockchain is a new technology, there are many new companies forming everyday creating revolutionary new blockchain technologies. Thus, this new industry provides many lucrative investment possibilities outside the big name coins such as Bitcoin.
Head Prefect — Harrison Grigorian
Class President — Simon Palmore
Vice President — Chase Daneker
Prefect — Henry Holliday
Prefect — Ezana Belay
President — Peyton Gordon
Vice President — Sara Roberts
Secretary — Katie Ambrose
Arts Board President — Bo Moukdarath
Athletics Board President — Chloe Conaghan
Equity Board President — Zoé Contreras-Villalta
Green Board President — Taliyah Emory-Muhammad
Service Board President — Avery Kean
Treasurer-Elect — Madeleine Drefke
Liaison-Elect — Kiki Shahida
By Simon Palmore 19'
Since the dawn of the Internet, it has been easy to create a website. You acquire a domain name, create the webpage, and your website is on the Internet, as accessible as any other. And no internet service provider (ISP) can slow down service to your page, or charge you extra for certain content you display. This principle is called network neutrality, and the debate over it set the country on fire for a couple weeks when FCC Chairman Ajit Pai decided to repeal the regulations that protected net neutrality.
Net neutrality allows for innovative websites. Who knows which websites we know and love would not exist had they been forced to jump through flaming hoops in order to exist. Facebook? Amazon? Netflix? Before net neutrality was repealed, the Internet fostered and encouraged startup websites like these. Facebook could not have been censored by an ISP. Amazon could not have been charged more for high traffic. Netflix could not have been slowed down by ISPs who are also cable providers who want to eliminate a major rival to classic television. However, now all of these situations are possible. We will never know what sites we will miss out on because of the new restriction on innovation.
Pai’s decision to repeal net neutrality serves only to increase the profit margins of ISPs like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast. Those who agree with Pai actually acknowledge that the goal is to make these telecom companies more money, and say that these increased profits can be used to innovate networks across the country. They fail, however, to take into account the fact that corporations almost never used increased profits for good like some people think they will. Verizon’s CEO, Lowell McAdam, has a salary of $18 million. AT&T’s Randall Stephenson makes $28.4 million. Comcast’s Brian Roberts gets paid $41 million per year. The repeal of net neutrality will only make these executives’ wallets thicker, all the while hampering the innovation that makes the Internet the Internet.
By Katie Klingler 19'
On November 5th, 2017 in a Texas church, Devin Patrick Kelly killed 26 people and injured another 20, aggravating the tension between tech companies and the government. Why? The shooter, who died fleeing the scene, left behind a personal phone which authorities were unable to unlock. This isn’t the first time this issue has made headlines: in the 2015 San Bernardino attack, Apple opposed a court order requiring it unlock the perpetrator’s iPhone. The resulting legal dispute lasted until the government hired a third-party company to unlock the phone for them. No one disputes the government’s right to the information on criminal’s phones, but as encryptions become steadily more challenging to break, the government and tech companies disagree about the companies’ obligation to assist the government’s search. Authorities argue that companies should create “back door” entrances in their encryption codes to allow the government expedient access to the information on a criminal’s phone, while tech companies see creating such access as a violation of their standards, and more importantly, creating a pathway which could put a customer’s personal data at risk. While protecting personal data is important, the time it takes for authorities to access information could be a matter of life or death for innocent Americans. Simply put, it is the company’s responsibility to ensure that their product does not prevent or even delay the government from doing its job. Just because a product is technologically revolutionary does not exempt companies from the same laws that govern each and every American.
By Priya Phillips 20'
Disorienting, confusing, and the worst thing to ever happen to humanity. These are just some of the comments I have overheard regarding the new Snapchat update. Whether you're the savviest of snappers or a complete novice, you probably had a strong reaction to the roll-out of Snapchat’s new design earlier this year. Intended to create a “more personalized” Snapchat experience for every user, this new layout lacks all of the charm of the original version. OG Snapchat’s navigability made it palpable for all consumers and it prioritized people being able to efficiently engage with their friends. As you visited the right screen you would see all of your friends’ stories chronologically displayed while the left screen was solely devoted to the snaps you sent or received. This old layout ensured that no communication between you or your friends would be missed. The superiority of the old version can be accredited to its logicality; it understood that no one wanted to or had the time to search for their friends’ content. This new Snapchat update is more like an unfortunate lovechild of Facebook and Instagram: it’s trying too hard to be a news outlet and social media app. Simply put, the new Snapchat is a sellout. It has given too much power to “media creator” types and at the expense of the every-day user’s enjoyment. I, along with others, hoped the new update would grow on them and, spoiler alert, it didn’t. Old snapchat, we took you for granted and you will be missed. RIP.
By Ashley Harris 19'
Last November, Snapchat released a new update that changed essentially everything about the app. Most people on the Close didn’t see any changes until 2018, but there was major pushback when that day came. The halls filled with angry talk about discover pages and friend pages, classmates laughed mercilessly at peers who had been saddled with the update, and avid Snapchat users seriously considered deleting the app. But, there is a glass-half-full approach to viewing the chaos. I am here to convince you that there are some benefits associated with the Snapchat update.
For example, Bitmojis. The new Bitmojis are actually pretty cool and fairly reflective of everyone’s real appearance. Besides, they eliminate one’s need to OPEN snaps, because the person’s face is right in front of you already. It’s a great way to save data or cut back on that harmful Snapchat addiction that is slowly sinking your GPA.
Snapchat switched around stories a lot as well. Now you tap on a person’s name to view their story, and the app shows you the name of the next story, but does not automatically play it. This really forces each user to contemplate the reality of their relationships with others. Am I really friends with this person? Do I want to expend valuable energy tapping a screen to view their story? Am I still holding a grudge against them from that incident in third grade? These are very important inner monologues that everyone now gets the opportunity to have!
Another complaint about the update is that Snapchat no longer arranges snaps chronologically, but rather by some mysterious algorithm that decides who everyone’s best friends are. If you ignore the unnerving fact that artificial intelligence can figure out who is closest to you, this part of the update isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Think of how much thumb exercise you get scrolling through fifty names looking for the snap you just opened. Say goodbye to gym membership fees, you’re already set!
I won’t lie. When I awoke one morning to a confusing and unfamiliar Snapchat, I was not pleased. But, to write this article, I had to spend a lot of time on the Snapchat website reminding myself what the app was like pre-update. And if people are already starting to forget what things were like before, they can’t be all that bad now.
By Elizabeth Lombardo 19'
Ask anybody over thirty, it seems, and they’ll tell you how bad screens are. The reasoning ranges from “They keep you up at night” to “They make your brain disintegrate,” but they all boil down to the same sentiment: “I used paper textbooks when I was a kid, and I turned out alright. So you should use paper textbooks too.” Here’s the thing: they’re actually right — paper textbooks are way better than digital — but for different reasons.
Your parents’ reasons aren’t necessarily wrong. Numerous studies have shown that reading eBooks late at night will not only keep you awake longer, but also worsen the quality of the sleep you do get. And yes, admit it or not, distractions are a thing. No matter how good you are at staying on task, there’s a definite chance of moving from eBook to Instagram — but it’s impossible to open up Snapchat on the inside cover of your Physics textbook.
An interesting study shows that students reading on an electronic format read significantly faster. Furthermore, they feel like they understood the material better. But they don’t. They read faster but comprehend less. It’s not because screens are worse, but because they’re different. Everything we do on screens, from Twitter to Facebook to Email to BuzzFeed, trains us to move quickly and superficially. And everything we read on paper we are conditioned to take notes on, to analyze, and to remember. Neither paper nor screen is better, but studies show that it is incredibly beneficial to separate that which we read slowly for absorption, and that which we read quickly for surface understanding — and, fortunately, I doubt that Twitter and Buzzfeed will move to paper.