One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for February 2018

How Net Neutrality Impacts Chicago Nonprofits

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Why we need net neutrality from Vimeo Staff on Vimeo

With the February 27th  #OneMoreVote campaign on February 27th to overturn the FCC’s repeal of Net Neutrality, many organizations – including Chicago nonprofits – may not understand the full implications of not taking action. And with the FCC repeal entering the Federal Register, it is easy to assume that online headline announcing “Net neutrality is dead”  are true. After all, many nonprofits are struggling to “make do with less”, and this might be just another situation to simply accept as part of their workload…but net neutrality is not just about the cliche “pay-five-extra-dollars-for-Twitter”.

Net Neutrality is still alive and kicking…and recent events have revealed that Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, has focused on prioritizing digital access for businesses and corporate interests over the greater community. And many Chicago nonprofits would advocate that digital access is a basic human right.


First, thanks to Ajit Pai’s dismantling of Net Neutrality, programs that provide broadband services to underserved communities will lose funding. Although there are efforts (notably in the Woodlawn neighborhood) to establish local broadband communities, many states (including Illinois) are suing and/or enacting laws to preserve net neutrality. Many Chicago nonprofits that provide needed services to our communities will find it more difficult to engage their constituents online. (And for those who support Ajit Pai’s efforts, the Chicago Public Library’s Internet-to-Go program would also face potential funding issues).

Since many Chicago nonprofits use online tools and strategies to engage their supporters, having limits on their access also means making tougher marketing and outreach decisions. Nonprofits that focus on recovery issues around substance abuse and domestic violence may shift to a more web-based strategy because access to social media engagement would cost extra. Many nonprofits have filed a joint lawsuit against the FCC to restore net neutrality…and what makes these actions more reprehensible is that Ajit Pai is being investigated for possible collusion with Sinclair Broadcasting.

But right now, there is hope: currently, Senator Ed Markey has introduced a repeal through the Congressional Review Act, and a similar measure was introduced in the House. As it stands, the CRA has up to 60 legislative days to move forward, and they need one more vote in the Senate. Despite the “Net neutrality is dead” headlines, there is still an opportunity to take action – and you can find all sorts of tools via

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

Photo by Gordon Dymowski

On February 27th, Chicago nonprofits should encourage every level of staff – from leadership to administration to front line – to contact their legislator in support of the CRA. (Obviously, this means following IRS guidelines for appropriate political action and lobbying). In preparation, you are all more than welcome to share this post via social media like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn – there’s plenty of information to share with your colleagues (and would not count towards “substantial” effort towards influencing legislation). Chicago nonprofits can also adopt strategies for “pushing back” when their Internet service provider (ISP) engages in less-than-favorable behavior.

But Chicago nonprofits really need to take action sooner rather than later. At a time when our city is seen (erroneously) as excessively violent, we need to strengthen our community and fight for our principles. Net neutrality may seem like a relatively insignificant issue, but for those Chicago nonprofits who are struggling with serving a large number of people with a lack of resources…it’s no longer about productivity.

It’s about survival.

Join the conversation by leaving a comment below or joining our Facebook page. If you wish to reach out to me privately, please check out the resources on this blog’s About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!


Written by gordondym

February 25, 2018 at 12:23 pm

Living The Linux Laptop Lifestyle

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As a freelance writer and social media consultant, I rely on my Windows 10 laptop (a ten-year-old Hewlett Packard Elitebook) for my work. However, the replacement charger blew out…two weeks after the original HP-branded charger blew out, and my laptop battery drained. That meant only one thing…getting my Linux laptop out of storage while I ordered another replacement charger.

My Linux laptop was purchased shortly after my 40th birthday: a decommissioned Panasonic Toughbook CF-29 with an SBC logo. I had always been an advocate of open source software, and considered myself to be living an “open source lifestyle.” After all, it was the integration of two sides of my personality: a rugged, military class laptop integrating community-driven software. It was powered (then) by Xubuntu (following some experimentation with Ubuntu), and towards the end…well, the Toughbook only had 512 KB RAM and was only upgradeable to 1.5 gigabytes. With such limited resources, could my old Linux laptop keep me going until I received a new charger? c-now-linux-03

The answer, with some considerations, is yes.

Thankfully, I had ordered a new 1 GB RAM stick for my Toughbook…but Xubuntu would not be the right Linux distribution (or “distro”); my Linux laptop would require something more flexible with such limited RAM and processing power. After doing a little research (one of the advantages of open source software is that communities have formed specifically around implementing software), I found some Linux distros that work on older computers. After test driving some distros on my mother’s computer, I decided that Linux Lite would best serve my laptop needs.

Another great advantage of open source software: you can run it off of a flash drive before installing it. And I have to admit that I loved Linux Lite’s out-of-the-box feel, so much so that I reconsidered installing my number two selection: LXLE, which is designed for underpowered older machines. According to a label on the bottom of my Toughbook, this pre-Linux laptop was decommissioned in 2005, making it well over ten years old. And so I replaced the RAM, installed Linux Lite, and after a short period, I was back to living a Linux laptop lifestyle while waiting for my charger.

In short, it took a week…but I realized that I had missed working with a Linux laptop.

Part of it is the unique look of the Toughbook, especially with its carrying handle. Walking around through various neighborhoods whether the Walker or Beverly branches of the Chicago Public Library or LaCatrina Cafe for the Chicago Doctor Who Meetup, I received plenty of flattering comments about my Linux laptop. (Thanks to some add-on software, I was able to use the laptop for a Meetup screening). One of my old high school classmates revealed via Facebook that he had used Linux to extend the life of his kids’ laptops. Although web browsing was a bit slower than usual, finding alternative browsers helped ease the strain on my Linux laptop.

Mostly, what I missed was the sense of freedom that I had with my Linux laptop. I have a great sense of liberation knowing that I will not get updates for the software unless I specifically request them. (Unlike Windows’ forced updates whichc-now-linux-02 slow down online access). When I had issues or wanted to add or remove software, there was a great sense of discovery. Plus, my Linux laptop became extremely customizable in terms of fonts (which I had to download), wallpapers, and organizing my files. (Linux Lite takes up 10 GB of a 40 GB hard drive, while Windows takes up 60 out of 140 GB). Even working with open source equivalent software became fun…if a bit of a challenge (I love discovering features in VLC Media Player, but could do without the slight learning curves of LibreOffice and GIMP Graphics editor).

In time, the new charger arrived, and my Windows laptop is now working. (In fact, choosing a higher wattage charger has eliminated many of the issues I was having previously). However, when it comes to heading out and above and “fun” computing…my Linux laptop has become my computing “friend with benefits.” I’m not sure I’ll ever be serious about integrating Linux full time…but I have to admit, it provides some great opportunities for learning…and exploring.

And if Windows 10 is too much for my HP laptop, will I go full-on Linux with that laptop? What do you think?

Have questions or comments? Please feel free to leave them below or join the conversation on our Facebook page. If you need to contact me privately, use this e-mail form.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

February 20, 2018 at 4:14 pm

Net Neutrality Update: “One More Vote” on 2/27

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We’ve focused on net neutrality in the past, both in terms of Ajit Pai’s destructive efforts as well as possible next steps to restore net neutrality. Thankfully, there are efforts to push this through…but things are at a bit of a standstill. So this means that not only is there further work to be done, but there’s a general call for a greater push on February 27th.

With news that Charter is reducing its investment in broadband because of the change in rules, it becomes paramount that net neutrality be restored. It’s a simple concept: data has no ideology, and data/information should never be prioritized. With reductions in key services like low-income access to broadband and a reduction in local media…Ajit Pai’s actions as FCC Chairperson aren’t just cruel and corrupt, but reflect a disdain and contempt towards digital access, which this blog considers a basic human right.

Luckily, there’s movement towards repealing it…but your help is needed.

Currently, Net Neutrality is being considered under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to repeal certain pieces of legislation. Here’s a video that explains how the process works:

Currently, fifty (50) senators are in favor of repeal; one more is needed to move this to the House…

…with plans for a major push on February 27th.

That is the date of Operation #OneMoreVote, a coordinated effort by various organizations to encourage legislators to support Net Neutrality. The goal is to encourage one more Senator to join the other fifty in moving towards reinstating Net Neutrality. (The House already has 100 sponsors, and 218 are required to repeal). On February 27th, there will be another push towards contacting legislators to encourage support (and hopefully, to “break the Internet” with these messages).

Let’s be really clear: net neutrality allows for small community organizations to access the same information as large companies. Grassroots websites have the same access to servers, routers, and digital information as Fortune 500 companies. Although Chicago has many resources that provide broadband access throughout the community (like the Chicago Public Library’s “Internet to Go” program), these would be threatened by potential new rules around Net Neutrality. Even household consumers would feel the impact – for example, choosing to watch a movie on pay-per-view to benefit their cable company because their Netflix account is being throttled due to access.

ajitpai01And let’s also be clear: Ajit Pai’s actions were unwarranted, but potentially corrupt. After receiving a Freedom of Information Act request from Gizmodo for alleged “jokes” concerning a “Verizon puppet,” the FCC refused because they believed the release of such materials would “chill deliberations and impede the candid exchange of ideas”. In other words, Ajit Pai is making it clear that he is the “digital gatekeeper” of the country, and that he is serving corporate interests over the common welfare.

If this doesn’t make you angry, I don’t know what will.

So if you can, please join the effort on February 27th. As I’ve written before, digital access is vital to our social, civic and economic infrastructure. Current FCC efforts are being performed in a deliberate manner to favor corporate interests over the common welfare. And this is one issue that truly is bipartisan.

Please feel free to leave comments below or join our conversation on Facebook. Please e-mail me privately if you have any other questions.

And again, thanks for reading!

Written by gordondym

February 8, 2018 at 3:52 pm