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Internet Usage and Net Neutrality

The internet is one of the most important technological advancements of the twentieth century. It has enabled a new type of communication that has reinvented our world: From the advent of constantly connected communities like Facebook; to the newest wave of smartphones that put everything from GPS navigation to television in our pockets; to the easy and instantaneous transfer of financial and business data that makes up the backbone of modern commerce. Our lives – personal, professional, or both – have transformed to rely on reliable access to the internet.

The internet is an ecosystem of interconnected computers, which have, for a long time, operated under an important assumption that all computers have equal access to the internet. The massive servers that operate Facebook have no more or less right to the internet’s underlying infrastructure than the system that hosts your website, the PC that you use at home, or even your phone’s ability to post your photos up to your iCloud or videos to YouTube. This principle of equal access is what is referred to as Net Neutrality.

In 2015, the FCC made an important change in the way that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were regulated. This change was in response to ISPs creating costly bottlenecks for service providers, a practice called “paid prioritization.” Paid prioritization allows ISPs to effectively hold small, internet-dependent businesses hostage, stifling innovation by adding additional costs to developing and deploying new services to consumers. Paid prioritization effectively allows your ISP to govern who and what can afford to be on their internet, rather than allowing free access to the entire internet. The FCC in 2015 decided that this was an unacceptable way to do business, and changed its rules to enforce net neutrality, rather than relying on the ISPs, who demonstrated a willingness to throttle the fair and open internet for commercial gain.

How does this affect us? And how does this affect you?

Tech Lab hosts websites for many of our clients. We provide remote backup service, and support many of our customers through special remote access software. With the lifting of Net Neutrality rules, it may become more costly or even impossible to provide these services, as our ISP will be allowed to charge us a higher cost for our internet services.

Many of our clients also rely on web applications. Cloud storage, client management web applications, and even point of sale software relies on fast, reliable access to the internet, so rescinding Net Neutrality protections means that our ISPs can choose to charge you more for access to these services, if they allow them to function at all. Even our entertainment landscape will be affected, with services like Netflix that might be effectively cut off from large numbers of customers, whose ISPs want to promote their own streaming services (content delivery networks), or those networks who agree to pay their increased prices.

What can we do?

The US Legislature has two avenues to address the issue.

The first is to reject the rules change. Congress has ultimate oversight over the FCC, and if it acts promptly, it can reverse the FCC’s rules change through the Congressional Review Act.

The second is to introduce legislation. Congress can pass a law guaranteeing Net Neutrality, which the FCC will then be obligated to enforce.

As a company, we don’t often feel the need to present our opinion on political issues. However, the issue of net neutrality affects our core business. We also feel that it is important to inform our clients as to how these issues could affect them, their businesses, and the future of their IT environment. The impact of this decision, over the long term, will increase costs while dramatically decreasing the quality of services available over the internet to many of our customers. This affects computer services of every description, on every level, from the home user to to the largest business, desktops to mobile. As your trusted IT professionals, we would be remiss in not explaining the consequences of this to you to the best of our understanding.

Our best recourse at this juncture is to contact our congressmen (Senators and US Representatives) and implore them to take action. Please visit https://whoismyrepresentative.com/ , find your Congressmen, and inform them of the impact eliminating net neutrality will have on your life and your business. Net neutrality is an important regulation that protects individuals’ and businesses’ access to the internet, and should be reinstated as soon as possible to prevent us all from bearing higher costs, or entirely losing services we rely on.

Thank You!

Thank you for a great year! 2018 marks Tech Lab’s 9th year in business and we couldn’t have accomplished so much without your help.

This year we moved into a commercial office building, increased our hosting bandwidth capability, and brought on a fantastic new web developer, Lisa! All of these changes will take our web services to the next level. We continued to offer the same technical services you rely on as well.

In 2017, we also participated in running the secure WiFi network at the Maker Faire Milwaukee event held at the Wisconsin State Fair Expo Center in September. We are already planning our booth for next year. We hope you’ll come see us!

Thank you for trusting us with your web or computer technologies. We look forward to working with you in 2018!

Buying a PC for School

Need a new computer? Purchasing a computer for a student?

At this time of the year, many companies are running PC sales, and you might consider upgrading your computer, or even purchasing a computer specifically for your son or daughter. However, instead of purchasing a machine that will last several years, many people choose a computer based entirely on the price tag. This can lead to purchasing another machine a year or two later, as the components in the inexpensive machine lags behind current technology or fail altogether.

A well-designed and well-chosen computer can have a lifespan of five years or even more. Save yourself (and your children!) the frustration of a slow, outdated machine, and save yourself the cost (and frustration!) of frequent replacements by shopping smart. Here are a few of the things we consider when deciding what machine to recommend. Read More »

Managed Antivirus Software

We have a new enterprise antivirus and reporting software we recommend to our clients. But first here is some information on the different types of antivirus.

Antivirus is important because it removes viruses on your computer and prevents future infections on your machine. Without an antivirus program, a repair costs 5x more than if you had purchased a product for protection. It is not advised to run two antivirus programs at the same time. They can conflict with each other and reduce your overall protection. New computers come with introductory antivirus protection but it usually expires 15 or 30 days later. You need to either activate it or replace it with your preferred antivirus program. Read More »

Tech Lab featured in Wauwatosa Now

Tech Lab was recently featured in the Wauwatosa Now in their Business Brief section. The article is regarding our recent move. To see the article click here.

Roger, company president, says, “I’m thrilled we found a place at the heart of the majority of our clients, between Milwaukee and Waukesha. We do all we can to put the needs of our clients first and provide the best service possible. I look forward to serving you and our community from this great central location.”

Ransomware

In the news recently, you may have heard the term “Ransomware.” This particular type of malicious attack is a multilayered attempt to lock you out of your computer, and extort money for the promise to unlock it.

The mechanisms used by ransomware can be intimidating to understand, and becoming the victim can be frustrating. In essence, a computer victimized by ransomware is locked, and cannot be accessed by anyone but the person who holds the key. Ransomware attackers will often try to extort victims for money in exchange for the key. Ransomware demands will usually ask for payment in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.

Ransomware can infect a computer through most of the same avenues as other viruses and malware. You can stay protected from ransomware by using safe browsing practices, up-to-date operating systems, and malware and antivirus programs.

Ransomware sometimes masquerades as a law enforcement action, such as a demand from the FBI to pay a fine. In our experience, no ransomware demand is legitimate. Tech Lab does not endorse paying ransomware extortion in any case. We consider paying ransomware demands to be encouraging and directly funding acts of computer terrorism. Tech Lab will not assist our clients in facilitating ransomware payments. However, we can help you with your computer in other ways.

If your PC has been attacked by ransomware, or you would like to take precautions against it, please contact us! We can help you set up backups, and deploy security tools that will protect you or your company from ransomware. Let us consult with you to help you understand the risks of ransomware, and how to minimize them. Read More »

We’ve Moved! 3 Simple Steps To Prep Your Tech

We are excited to announce that Tech Lab has moved to a new location in Wauwatosa! Our new address is:

11617 W. Bluemound Rd.
Unit 3
Wauwatosa, WI 53226

Moving a business from one location to another can be a complicated process, fraught with logistical challenges. You want to be up and running as soon as possible at your new site, so your employees can start work right away and your customers can expect the same level of service starting the hour you open your new doors.

Moving a business raises some unique technical challenges. Business computers rely on a stable environment to properly share files, report activity, and remain secure. Moving them from one location to another can cause unexpected issues. However, following these three simple steps can ease the process and help make sure you are up and running as soon as you open your doors. Read More »

Spring Clean Your Computer?

Warmer temps are here and spring is in the air. You may be working to deep clean around your home and want to bring some freshness into your life.

One area you may not consider cleaning is your computer. If your computer is running slower than it used to, it may be because your computer has built up items it does not need and it is bogging down your computer. Or you may have picked up a virus or malware which can slow down computers as well. Tech Lab can provide you with a PC tune up or assist you with virus and malware removal.

Maybe neither of those situations fit you but your computer is still slower than you would like. Options exist to speed up your computer. One way is to replace your current hard drive with a solid state drive. This drive works using electrical parts instead of mechanical parts so it operates at a faster speed. Another option is to increase the amount of memory or RAM in your system. This isn’t always necessary but may help to improve performance.

If you are not ready to invest in a new computer, your PC can be refreshed with these simple improvements. Tech Lab can help you choose which parts will give you the best increase in speed. So as you clean up your home remember to clean up your computer too!

Social Media Digital Dilemma?

Have you ever had questions about social media? Would you like an account for Facebook or Pinterest but are not sure how to create one?

Join Tech Lab at Heritage in West Allis on Thursday, February 23 at 2pm for a session on Social Media. You will create an account for Pinterest, learn about the program, and learn more about Facebook. Hands on workshop time will also be given where you can ask experts questions and get personal assistance with your technology struggles. Guests should bring their own device with them. Call 414-302-9700 to register!

We cannot wait to see you!