Fight for your right to watch `Madness'

March 06, 2007|By RICK MAESE

Friends, I have met the enemy, and be forewarned, he's more concerned with the hard drive than the hard court, more protective of the World Wide Web than the wide world of sports, and he will stop at nothing to cut out the 'Net to keep you from seeing who cuts down the nets.

That's right, there are computer technicians currently working around the clock to take away our inalienable right to Internet access at work during the NCAA tournament.

I know what you're thinking, and yes, this is something that was guaranteed in both the Bill of Rights and the Ten Commandments. (Using strikingly similar language, though one version used "doth" and the other "shalt" - "Thou shalt not allow any workplace supervisor to come betwixt thy collegiate loyalties and thy Madness of March.")

In the coming weeks, your workplace should be abuzz with tournament fever. Brackets should fall from the vents. Office meetings should be interrupted to clarify the point system and proper payout. And teasing the dude from accounting for picking two 16th seeds to reach the Elite Eight should provide office fodder for the next six months. Heck, the only reason to remain in some jobs is the annual NCAA tournament pools.

And the Internet has become an essential part of this joyous holiday season. We need the 'Net to properly research the teams, follow our brackets, chart the games and watch streaming video highlights. It's amazing - and admittedly immaterial - that we get any work done at all.

Which is where Tim Mauck steps in. Mauck - which sounds like something that gets caught in your throat, doesn't it? - is officially known as the category manager for managed services and data center services for Norlight Telecommunications.

It's my understanding that means he's in charge of "content filtering," which means he's peddling technology to workplace supervisors that effectively bars employees from visiting certain sites on the Internet, namely, all the ones we need like oxygen throughout the month of March - ESPN.com, NCAAsports.com, YahooSports.com, etc.

To understand what would motivate a man to instinctively race for the delete key when he spots happiness, I spoke with Mauck.

Me: So what is it that you do?

Mauck: "Well, we've seen evolution in the last couple of years where you're starting to see more live-streaming video of things, of certain games, over the Internet" - blah blah blah - "the issue with that is, you have a lot more distraction at work.

"Employers provide huge amounts of bandwidth because you need to accomplish work-related tasks. But that also means" - blah blah - "the employer is paying you to get a job done, not so you can watch basketball. It really has gone into a whole new era of productivity loss."

Me: I'm not sure I'm following you. Why do you hate sports fans so much?

Mauck: "I don't think we target sports fans. One of the nice things, it's really flexible. You can block gambling or adult content.

"But sports is where the evolution is and you can see live content being delivered throughout the day."

Me: So, it's not just sports but all types of fun that you're trying to eliminate?

Mauck: "I personally like the fact that I can go online and watch a basketball game, but I can also understand from my employer's point of view why they don't want me doing that at work.

"At home, if you can fire up your home computer and have instant access to five or six games, that's wonderful."

Me: Wait, so your company blocks your Internet usage, too? That's messed up.

Mauck: "Well, we have a lot of sites that are blocked. Probably three or four times a day I have a hard time getting on some site.

"I would call ourselves probably in the mid-range of how people utilize these services. If you look at a bell curve, we're probably in that big portion. Some customers block everything and there are others who don't really block anything."

Me: Any plans for your fancy technology to eliminate our restroom breaks, too?

Mauck: "Not that I'm aware of. I think there's always been a little bit of a battle between employer and employee. This is just one more way for employers to make sure they get what they're paying for."

This technological battle has gone far enough. Didn't we unionize to protect ourselves from this type of inquisition?

In the early days of the Internet, we the people certainly had the advantage. The breaking news, up-to-the-minute information, statistics and video highlights were all at our fingertips - as long as the boss wasn't looking over the shoulder.

We can't allow the technological balance to tip in their favor now. We work too hard those other 11 months to allow them to have March back, which is why I promise that all the money I plan on winning from office pools this month will go toward fighting this workplace invasion. I might even start a Web site for the movement.

Hopefully, you can still access it.

rick.maese@baltsun.com

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