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Subject: Internet piracy can be bad for your health
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Winter is here.
Violet Blue, @violetblue
01.05.18 in Home
Illustration by D. Thomas Magee

Internet slowdowns at home aren't just annoying anymore.
They can be hazardous to your health or dangerous if you're
in an area that freezes.

Internet service provider Armstrong Zoom has roughly a
million subscribers in the Northeastern part of the U.S. and
is keen to punish those it believes are using file-sharing

The ISP's response to allegedly naughty customers is
bandwidth throttling -- which is when an ISP intentionally
slows down your internet service based on what you're doing
online. In this case, when said ISP believes you're doing
something illegal.

As part of its throttling routine, Armstrong Zoom's warning
letter openly threatens its suspected file-sharing customers
about its ability to use or control their webcams and
connected thermostats.

The East Coast company stated: "Please be advised that this
may affect other services which you may have connected to
your internet service, such as the ability to control your
thermostat remotely or video monitoring services."

The Night King will be pleased

A Nest Labs Inc. digital wireless controlled thermostat sits
on display in the Smart Home section of a John Lewis Plc
department store in London, U.K., on Friday, April 8, 2016.
The increasing integration of connected devices into our
lives, what is commonly referred to as the Internet of
things or IoT, promises enormous benefits for consumers and
businesses. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via
Getty Images

It's disturbing news for those facing the severe East Coast
weather this weekend. Even more so in light of the fact that
file-sharing notices are routinely used on innocent people.

Armstrong Zoom delivers its internet service to states
including Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland.
This weekend, brutally cold temperatures are expected to
follow in the wake of the powerful storm associated with the
"bomb cyclone" that hit Maryland.

All US states served by Armstrong Zoom will be experiencing
temperatures around or under freezing over the weekend and
into the near future. Bandwidth throttling for customers in
those areas who have connected thermostats could mean the
difference between sickness and health, or even life and
death. Seems like an extreme punishment for any allegedly
downloaded Game of Thrones cam rips.

It's a literally chilling thought and an entirely new
problem under the gun of a regime absent of net-neutrality
rules. All is connected and everything is affected. It won't
just be a slow Netflix connection that disrupts your online

If your ISP decides to throttle you, that means thermostats,
cameras, lighting, speakers, alarm systems, refrigerators
and everything you need to have a strong and reliable
internet connection for will no longer be, well, reliable.
With thermostats particularly, it's important to learn how
this might affect which one you have, specific to its
generation; especially if you need to know how (or if) you
can manually control it.

When asked about remote thermostat control inside or outside
the home during outage or throttling, a Nest spokesperson
told Engadget via email, "The key word here is 'remotely.'
If I'm in my house I don't need to remotely change the
temperature." They added, "Nest thermostats don't need an
internet connection to operate your heating and cooling.
You'll still be able to control your Nest thermostat from
home, even if your internet is down."

If an Armstrong Zoom customer is accused of illegal
downloading, they have no recourse against being throttled.
Request for comment from Armstrong Zoom was not returned by
time of publication.

Customers who need their full service restored -- to regain
control over their thermostats -- are forced to read an
educational article about copyright infringement, answer
questions about it and then sign an agreement stating
they've done so.

For those in the path of this weekend's killer icy blast
raging into New England, especially pets and elderly, this
is all very bad news, indeed.

Tell gran to buy the bundled thermostat package

That boneheaded net-neutrality repeal, then, could have much
further reaching, and potentially deadly consequences.

Before December 14th, your ISP was not allowed to block or
throttle any otherwise legal content or slow your speeds
based on the types of traffic or application you're using.
However, it can in instances when there's an ISP contract
clause (or a "Fair Usage Policy") stating that if a user
breaks the data limit within a month, their connection would
be throttled next month.

The rationale behind a "data cap" is that ISPs say it
prevents overuse of a network by a small number of users.
Legal things that require higher-bandwidth usage, which
might be noticed by an ISP, include streaming, downloading
and gaming.

But on December 14th any rationale for throttling (or not)
went out the window. Thanks to the Federal Communications
Commission (FCC), ISP's became free to restrict without
reason and make bandwidth deals with whomever it chooses to

That's because the FCC voted to repeal net-neutrality rules
that had previously prevented ISPs like Comcast, AT&T and
Verizon from throttling consumer bandwidth as they please.

We'll never know if the FCC was thinking about grandma
freezing to death in Maryland when her connected thermostat
fails under ISP throttling. But either way, there's a
special place in hell for those who voted to repeal net
neutrality, we can be sure. If gran survives this winter,
maybe teach her how to do a speed test to see if she's being

Let's just hope this isn't the year anti-piracy measures
become lethal.

Images: Bloomberg/Getty Images (Thermostat); Getty Images

Comments to this article were available for the first 24
hours after publication only, and have since been closed.
In this article: armstrongzoom, badpassword, business,
editorial, gadgetry, gadgets, gear, home, internet, iot,
nest, netneutrality, thermostat
By Violet Blue

Ms. Violet Blue (, @violetblue) is a the
author of the forthcoming book How To Be A Digital
Revolutionary. She is a freelance investigative reporter on
hacking and cybercrime, as well as a noted columnist. She is
an advisor to Without My Consent, and a member of the
Internet Press Guild. Ms. Blue has made regular appearances
on CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show and is frequently
interviewed, quoted, and featured in a variety of outlets
including BBC, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal. She
has authored and edited award-winning, best selling books in
eight translations and was the San Francisco Chronicle's sex
columnist. Her conference appearances include ETech, LeWeb,
CCC, and the Forbes Brand Leadership Conference, plus two
Google Tech Talks. The London Times named Blue one of "40
bloggers who really count." Ms. Blue is the author of The
Smart Girl's Guide to Privacy. Find out more about her work
in writing, sexuality, security, and privacy on her

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