Net Neutrality and Avoiding Crappy Computers

This has been one interesting week in the world of computers and technology.

1. I have already been asked by a few clients — so what do you think of the FCC’s Net Neutrality decision today? I think we need to wait and see how this all plays out. In general, I am against more government regulation of our lives. However, the Internet represents the digital superhighway. There has been a lot of double talk on both sides of this debate. For example, Netflix has been one of the biggest advocates for net neutrality but they also have the most to gain by this decision. Netflix’s business depends on unencumbered access to delivering video content to you. Online streaming video, especially in high definition, takes up the bulk of the bandwidth on the Internet today. I have read various reports that claim Netflix traffic takes up 20 to 30% of the Internet activity in this country on a typical evening. Now that they have over 50 million subscribers, Netflix has to play both sides of the fence. Last year they decided to pay Comcast and Verizon FiOS for “peering” agreements which gave them preferential pipelines to the Internet customers of both companies. I think a very reasonable argument could be made that if Netflix is taking up 30% of the ‘net on a regular basis, they should be paying something.

If Net Neutrality is fully implemented, I believe that Internet prices will increase and providers will try to enforce “bandwidth caps” meaning that you are only allowed to use so much per month. Comcast currently has a “soft cap” of 250 or 500 GB per month. To the best of my knowledge they are only warning residential users who approach this threshold and not doling out extra charges. Roughly speaking 95% of residential internet users stay under those caps. If the Internet providers reduce that cap to 100 GB due to Net Neutrality, I think we are going to have a problem. A family with kids could easily blow through 100 GB of Internet in a month. I also suspect that the only way to get a reasonable price on Internet will be to bundle it with other services. This is the case today, but I believe Internet only customers will notice even more “price discrimination” over the next few years.

Privacy is another concern with these regulations. If the Internet is going to be treated like a public utility, will all browsing history automatically be forwarded to the government? The jury is out on this, but I have a recommendation to offer when and if this occurs.

2. We are now a week beyond the revelation of the Lenovo malware scandal. Once again, to the best of anyone’s knowledge this software was only installed on consumer grade Lenovo laptops sold between September 2014 and January 2015. The company has stepped up their apologies since their weak explanation one week ago. Lenovo published a removal tool for the computers affected by Superfish and all of the leading anti-virus products have been updated to wipe it out as well. Unlike other technology commentators, I am not going to bail on Lenovo. I still think their business class systems sport some of the best hardware of Windows computers on the market. Their Thinkpad laptops and ThinkCentre desktops were not affected by this problem. Certainly, Lenovo is a Chinese company. They purchased IBM’s PC division in 2005. However, they have a great commitment to U.S. based support operations. If you were ever concern about crap software on any PC, whether it be a Lenovo or any other brand — buying a Windows disc from Amazon or New Egg — and doing a clean install will negate the effect of any “crapware” pre-installed on the computer.

Business class systems from Lenovo, HP, and Dell typically little to no trial software (aka crapware) installed.

For clients seeking low cost PC’s, I am recommending that you buy directly from the Microsoft Store only. All of those PC’s have the Microsoft Signature experience, which will give you a clean Windows installation with no junk.