FCC Starts Lining Up It’s Net Neutrality Game Plan

Federal Communication Commission(FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler waits for a hearing at the FCC December 11, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Federal Communication Commission(FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler waits for a hearing at the FCC December 11, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Today Tom Wheeler, The FCC Chairman publicly rejected the notion of Internet toll lanes which have been all the buzz by which big companies could (and probably would) charge consumers ridiculously large fees in order to receive preferential treatment and greater access to consumers’ homes and businesses.

However Wheeler compares Internet providers to public utilities. Like utilities, the Internet has become a common carrier in very much the same way the telephone has done. No matter who you are, you likely rely on the Internet to get your job done, communicate with others and conduct research.

Wheeler promises to submit proposed new rules to the full commission for a vote on Feb. 26. His goal is “preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression.”

The notion of net neutrality is especially important to startup companies and innovators who need equal Internet access, just like Google, Apple, Facebook, Netflix.

Wheeler seeks to apply Title II of the 1934 Communications Act to the Internet. The 1934 act was intended to prohibit radio, phone and telegraph operators from price gouging and restricting access to critical service. The FCC obviously has concluded that the internet is just the latest addition to this very important communication tools which impact all of our lives.

Of course there are detractors to a free an open internet. For example Michael Powell, head of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, has issued a statement denouncing the proposal, saying it “goes far beyond the worthy goal of establishing important net neutrality protections.” Powell was FCC chairman under President George W. Bush.

As you can see, the very basic question of should the internet be an open platform to everyone has turned into a political football with democrats and republicans lining up on opposing sides. For example, as compared to Michael Powell, President Obama has made clear that there should not be fast lanes for the corporations that can afford to pay. There is no doubt that Tom Wheeler is implementing the president’s vision. This “open internet” vision is shared by the majority of Americans.

Stay tuned…

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What is DHCP?

dhcp-logoThis past couple of days have brought some weird DHCP woes to our network. The resulting digital turmoil was causing connectivity issues for workstations and printers. As I worked on the issue over a course of a couple of days I must have mentioned “DHCP” dozens of times to confused co-workers who would look at me strangely as I raced through through their offices “rolling their eyes” with comments like “whatever”.

Anyway with the DHCP problems hopefully behind us I wanted to explain a little bit about “DHCP” and why it such a critical element which works behind the scene, not only on your office networks but often at home on your wireless network as well.

DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) is a communications protocol that allows network administrators to centrally manage and automate the assignment of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in an organization’s network. Using the Internet Protocol, each machine that can connect to the Internet needs a unique IP address, which is assigned when an Internet connection is created for a specific computer.

Automation & DHCP

Without DHCP, the IP address must be entered manually at each computer in an organization and a new IP address must be entered each time a computer moves to a new location on the network. DHCP lets a network administrator supervise and distribute IP addresses from a central point and automatically sends a new IP address when a computer is plugged into a different place in the network.  this is why when your DHCP was experiencing some sort of hangover I was able to get those effected workstations back online. By manually assigning the IP address at the workstation.

Leasing your DHCP

DHCP uses the concept of a “lease” or amount of time that a given IP address will be valid for a computer. The lease time can vary depending on how long a user is likely to require the Internet connection at a particular location. It’s especially useful in education and other environments where users change frequently. Using very short leases, DHCP can dynamically reconfigure networks in which there are more computers than there are available IP addresses. The protocol also supports static addresses for computers that need a permanent IP address, such as Web servers.

DHCP Server Performing DNS Dynamic Update on Behalf of DHCP Client

DHCP Server Performing DNS Dynamic Update on Behalf of DHCP Client

 

So there you have it. DHCP is a service which usually runs on a server in your network, automating the assignment of IP addresses to workstations and other networked devices. When this does not work properly, which is very infrequently, chaos often results for the IT staff and confusion for everyone else, because their computers just won’t “get online”.

Notice to Technology Professionals

So what actually caused my DHCP meltdown anyway? Well it seems that when Symantec Endpoint Protection was upgraded from 12 to 12.2 the application added a new “feature”, network intrusion protection to the DHCP server which was refusing connections from our workstations.

Once this was disabled DHCP returned to normal and so did my work day.

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Securing Your Wireless Network

Wireless-Home-Network-Security-Tips-

I have covered this topic before but I feel it is important to return here from time to time. Almost everyone now has a wireless network at home. This usually starts with your ISP (Internet provider) installing a internet / wireless router at home when you sign up for service. Often this is the same company (Comcast, Verizon etc.) who are also providing you with TV service.

When the “cable guy” installs your router very often, unless you say something at install the default settings regarding security are left in place. This is not good.

So the first thing you need to do is change the default username and password. These settings work on all of the model routers you were given “out of the box”. Manufacturers of these devices publish the instructions for proper setup on their websites, and it is not hard at all to go through this process to get the information and it is very easy for hackers to access networks where the default settings have not been change.

So Here Is What You Can Do

Turn on compatible WPA/WEP encryption. Technology of encryption makes the messages that go over WiFi unreadable to people. There are several technologies for wireless encryption and, of course, it would be best to use the strongest method of encryption. Keep in mind that encryption technologies require all WiFi devices to use the same setup.

You should change the default SSID (network name) as well. First thing someone needs to get into your network is the SSID. When someone finds out that your default SSID has not been changed, they know that your network is weakly configured. Networks like this are targets of attacks more often.

After you did all this, you should activate the firewall on every computer or router. Modern wireless routers allow you to use their implemented firewall, but they also let you deactivate it. You need to check if firewall on your router is on, and for even better protection, you should also use the firewall on every computer you have.

You should also position your router in a safe spot. It is normal that some wireless signal reaches out of your home and that it not the problem. If your signal reaches far away from your home, it is simpler for an unknown person to find it and use it. The position of an access point or router determines its reach. Try to position your device as close to center of a house as possible, that’s going to reduce your signal reach. You really do not need the signal strength so strong that your neighbors can see your network.

As the last security measure you should turn off your wireless network if you don’t use it for long periods of time. Even though it might not seem like a practical solution, you should consider it if you’re out of your home for a couple of days.

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