Internet service provider

How (and Why) to Change Your MAC Address on Windows, Linux, and Mac


A device’s MAC address is assigned by the manufacturer, but it’s not to hard to change—or “spoof”—those addresses when you need to. Here’s how do do it, and why you might want to.

Each network interface connected to your network—whether it’s your router, wireless device, or network card in your computer—has a unique media access control (MAC) address. These MAC addresses—sometimes referred to as physical or hardware addresses—are assigned in the factory, but you can usually change the addresses in software.

What MAC Addresses Are Used For

At the lowest networking level, network interfaces attached to a network use MAC addresses to communicate with one another. When a browser on your computer needs to grab a web page from a server on the Internet, for example, that request passes down through several layers of the TCP/IP protocol. The web address you type gets translated to the IP address of the server. Your computer sends the request to your router, which then sends it out onto the Internet. At the hardware level of your network card, though, your network card is only looking at other MAC addresses for interfaces on the same network. It knows to send the request to the MAC address of your router’s network interface.

In addition to their core networking use, MAC addresses are often used for other purposes:

  • Static IP Assignment: Routers allow you to assign static IP addresses to your computers. When a device connects, it always receives a specific IP address if it has a matching MAC address
  • MAC Address Filtering: Networks can use MAC address filtering, only allowing devices with specific MAC addresses to connect to a network. This isn’t a great security tool because people can spoof their MAC addresses.
  • MAC Authentication: Some Internet service providers may require authentication with a MAC address and only allow a device with that MAC address to connect to the Internet. You may need to change your router or computer’s MAC address to connect.
  • Device Identification: Many airport Wi-Fi networks and other public Wi-Fi networks use a device’s MAC address to identify it. For example, an airport Wi-Fi network might offer a free 30 minutes and then ban your MAC address from receiving more Wi-Fi. Change your MAC address and you could get more Wi-Fi. (Free, limited Wi-Fi may also be tracked using browser cookies or an account system.)
  • Device Tracking: Because they’re unique, MAC addresses can be used to track you. When you walk around, your smartphone scans for nearby Wi-Fi networks and broadcasts its MAC address. A company named Renew London used trash bins in the city of London to track people’s movements around the…

Why 2017’s net neutrality battle is crucial for the game industry

Two years ago the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules went into effect, giving consumers what was supposed to be a ‘free and open’ internet.

Unfortunately, the future of the FCC’s Open Internet Order (OIO) is in jeopardy and this is bad news for game developers.

What ‘net neutrality’ means

The primary goal of net neutrality is to ensure that no single U.S. internet service provider can arbitrarily decide to slow down (or speed up) a consumer’s access to/from specific content providers — regardless of the content or where in the world the content is coming from.

In 2009 the FCC started the process that would eventually make this goal a reality and they were immediately met with resistance by many cable companies, wireless providers, and lobbying groups.

Many court battles, protests, and 4 million public comments on their website later, the FCC was able to reclassify ISPs as a “telecommunications service” and the Open Internet Order was enacted in 2015. [For a more in-depth timeline of events check out]

Essentially, by classifying high-speed internet services under Title II of the Federal Communications Act, U.S. wired and wireless broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, and Verizon were prohibited from prioritizing traffic from some sources over others.

For example, Comcast and Time Warner are part of a group of companies who own Hulu, a streaming service that competes with Netflix. Without the OIO in place, their broadband divisions could throttle the connection speeds to Netflix resulting in a poor streaming service for their subscribers. This would give those consumers an extra incentive to make the switch to Hulu which would directly benefit Comcast and Time Warner’s bottom line!

Does that sound too far-fetched to be true? Then read this report from Time that goes over the deal Netflix made with Comcast pre-Open Internet Order to pay them to make sure their subscribers “receive reliable, high-speed streaming service from the online video giant for years to come.”

The Open Internet is under attack, again

Telecom companies and associations fought hard to overturn the Open Internet Order, but even though the courts stood by the FCC’s Open Internet rules, many of those same organizations have continued to lobby against these rules to try and get them overturned.

This year they got their first big break when President Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the new chairman of the FCC.

Pai, who has sided with ISPs in the net neutrality debate, quickly got to work and started the following multi-stage process of rolling back the current rules:

  • April 26: The Chairman announced he was submitting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to accomplish that rollback to be voted on by the commission in May. An early proposal draft was published on the FCC site.
  • April 27-May 17: The filing draft was open to the public for comments. Although the site crashes multiple times (some attribute this to John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight revisit of this issue) the FCC did not push back their meeting and extend the deadline to file comments.
  • May 18: The…

How to Comment on the FCC’s Net Neutrality Proposal

The FCC has proposed an end to net neutrality, meaning the possible end of a free and open internet. Under net neutrality rules, the FCC requires internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T to give equal footing to all websites and internet services.

Like last time, the FCC has opened up a forum for commenting on their proposal. Comments will be open until July 18, and replies to comments are due by August 16. So far, there are five million comments.

To file a comment, visit this link. Click on “Express” to add a comment and click on “New Filing” to upload documents.

Gigi Sohn, a former FCC counselor, gave advice for commenting in a Mashable post. In addition to serving as a counselor to former FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, Sohn co-founded Public Knowledge, a non-profit advocating for equal competition.

Of course, there are templates that you can use to comment, but original, thoughtful comments can help make a stronger case for keeping net neutrality rules and help experts argue for it in an inevitable legal case against the repeal. Posts that say things like “Net neutrality is bad :(” under the name “John Oliver” hold a lot less weight than posts that make a strong, detailed case against it.

Already commented and don’t feel like you nailed it? You can comment again. “Over the course of a proceeding like this, companies and organizations on both sides of the debate will file many comments, including after they visit FCC Commissioners and staff to make their cases,” wrote Sohn.

Below are some tips Sohn has on making your comment matter.

1. Make it personal

Write about how net neutrality personally affects you. “Maybe you are an entrepreneur who sells craft chocolates and coffee and could never compete if Godiva and Starbucks paid for faster carriage. Perhaps you sell crafts on Etsy, which would never have caught the public’s eye if ISPs could favor Amazon or eBay for any reason,” wrote Sohn in her post.

But the…

How to Browse the Web and Leave No Trace

On today’s web it’s hard to set a (digital) foot online without it attracting dozens of trackers and log entries, as companies look to learn everything about you and sell that data on to advertisers. To hide you’ve got a few tools at your disposal, many of which we’ve talked about in the past, and all of which add up to a largely anonymous browsing experience. What we can’t do is promise 100 percent that you won’t be tracked—we’re not privy to the inner workings of the FBI or your employer’s IT system—but this is as much as you can do.

Step 1: Going Incognito

Every browser has some sort of private or incognito mode: When you close down an incognito tab, it waves its hand, Jedi-style, to convince your computer and the web at large that the browsing session you just finished never actually happened.

None of your incognito-mode website visits are saved in your browser’s history, and searches aren’t stored either (at least in the browser—if you signed into Google before searching, they may be logged in the cloud).

Cookies and other types of local tracking data are wiped as well, so if you visit a news site in incognito mode first, and then in a regular tab, that site won’t have any knowledge of your previous visit—unless, as with Google, you logged in somewhere.

If you want to stay anonymous online though, incognito mode only really keeps you anonymous as far as your local computer goes. Your internet service provider (ISP) can still recognize your computer and the sites you’re visiting, and so can your employer, government agencies, and anyone else who might be listening in.

Sign into any site, though, and your cover is blown. Not just for that site, but also to any other partners that it shares data with. Facebook, Google, and other firms track you across multiple sites, so even if you only log into one account, other connected accounts can still be tracking what you’re up to online.

Incognito mode is best used when you want your browsing activity to be invisible to other people who use your computer, or who steal it, or who sneak on to it. It’s useful, but to be well and truly anonymous, you need a bigger cloak.

Step 2: Tunneling Out Via VPN

Enter the VPN or Virtual Private Network program, one of the best tools you’ve got when it comes to staying anonymous and safe on the web. It’s particularly useful when you’re on public Wi-Fi, because it encrypts the data coming to and going from your computer.

Whichever VPN you choose and install—and we’d recommend…

How to Switch to VoIP and Ditch Your Home Phone Bill Forever

You can enjoy the convenience of a whole-house phone line without shelling out your hard earned money to your local telecommunications provider. Read on as we show you how to ditch the phone bill, keep the land line, and enjoy free local and long distance calling in the process.

How VoIP Differs from a Traditional Land Line


There are three ways you can pipe phone service into your home: a traditional land line setup through your local phone provider, a cell-phone bridge that extends your cellular plan to your home phone system, and a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) system that uses your Internet connection to bridge your home phone system to a VoIP provider that routes your phone calls back out to the regular telephone grid. But most versions of these plans are expensive:

  • Traditional Land Lines: Traditional land line setups are generally expensive for what you get. Basic packages run around $15 a month and don’t include regional or national long distance calling, or amenities like caller ID. Adding in a modest long distance package and those amenities can easily push the price of a standard land line above $40-50 a month. Traditional phone service includes a host of taxes, regulatory fees, and other charges that can easily add $15 to your bill. All told, a single land line with basic long distance features can easily run you $60+ a month.
  • Cellphones: Bridging your cellphone plan to your home phone system—whether via a special device provided by your cell company or with a home phone that supports Bluetooth linking—is also expensive, as you generally need to purchase a second line on your cell plan and/or potentially add extra minutes with an upgraded plan to cover the home phone usage. For most people, this would add on anywhere from $10-40 on their already pricey cellphone plan. Like traditional land lines, cellphone lines also incur taxes and regulatory fees. In addition the viability of this method is based on cellular reception. Get bad service in your home? Bridging your cellphone to your home phone isn’t going to fix that.
  • Voice-over-IP Systems: VoIP is the newest method of linking your home phone system to the outside world and varies wildly in terms of service quality and price. Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) now bundle VoIP calling with their internet package—in fact, AT&T and Verizon are aggressively pushing customers towards VoIP systems—but the price of the add-on phone service is routinely as expensive as a traditional land line ($30-40). Depending on the provider, VoIP services may or may not collect taxes and regulatory fees—generally, if your VoIP service is bundled with your internet and/or cable service provided by a traditional telecommunications company, you will be paying the additional fees just like you would with a land line or cellphone.

If you stick with a traditional land line, a cellphone bridge, or a VoIP system provided by your phone company or ISP, phone service will cost you anywhere between $200-600 annually—money we would all certainly be happy to spend on other things. None of that sounds particularly appealing if you’re looking to add some breathing room to your budget. Fortunately, with a small investment up front you can reduce your monthly home phone bill all the way to $0 per month (and mere $1 a month if you want to add in 911 service). All you need is a VoIP adapter and a free Google Voice account. Sound good? You bet it does; let’s get started.

What You’ll Need

To follow along with our VoIP tutorial, you will the following things:

  • Broadband Internet Access. (Unfortunately, VoIP is prohibitively bandwidth-hungry for dial-up.)
  • One OBi200 ($48), OBi202 ($64), or OBi110 ($70) VoIP Adapter (see our notes below to see which model is best suited for you).
  • A free Google Voice account.
  • A $12/year Anveo account (Optional: required for E911 service).
  • One Ethernet cable.
  • One RJ11 telephone cable.
  • One corded or cordless telephone.

Not sure what any of this means? Here’s an explanation.

What’s the Difference Between the Obi VoIP Adapters?

For the most part, the two newest OBi models—the 200 and the 202—are functionally identical. Both have updated hardware, both support up to 4 VOiP services, and both support the T.38 fax protocol (for IP-to-IP address faxing). The OBi202, however, includes two additional features that may be of use to you. First, the OBi202 supports 2 separate phone lines. If your home is wired for multiple phone lines and you wish to preserve that experience when you switch over to a VoIP system, the OBi202 allows you to hook up 2 lines to ring two separate phone systems in your home.[/related

Additionally, the OBi202 includes VoIP-specific router functionality. If you plug the OBi202 box in between your modem and router, the OBi202 will automatically prioritize all VoIP traffic before any other internet traffic to ensure optimum call quality. This feature is of more limited utility than the dual-phone-line feature, however, as nearly every router supports custom Quality of Service rules to achieve this same end and, honestly, in our personal experience with years of VoIP use, we’ve never had issues with heavy internet use lowering call quality.

Finally, both models have a USB port that accepts OBi accessories like the OBiWiFi5 ($25, a Wi-Fi adapter for your OBi unit), the OBiBT ($23, a Bluetooth adapter so you can answer your cellphone using your home phone system), and the OBiLINE ($40, allows your OBi200 or OBi202 to connect to a land line).

What’s the benefit of connecting your OBi VoIP unit to a traditional land line? One of the few drawbacks of using a many VoIP services, including Google Voice, is that they do not include traditional emergency number (e.g. 911) support. If retaining traditional access to your local 911 service is critical (or you want to keep a barebones line for use with a security system) then opting for a the OBi200 or OBi202 (with the USB adapter) or the older OBi110 (which includes an extra built in RJ45 jack for this purpose) is necessary.

If you’re comfortable using E911 service (which is simply an adaptation of the traditional 911 service for cellular phone and VoIP technology), we will show you how to set that up later in the tutorial, and you don’t need your basic land line. If you haven’t tried to sign up for a basic phone line in awhile, you will likely be shocked by the price—our local phone provider insisted that $35 a month was as low as they could possibly go for a local only, 911-enabled phone line with no extra amenities.

Do I Have to Use a Google Voice Account?

You do not have to use Google Voice as your VoIP provider. OBi VoIP adapters are not locked to any given service and can be used with multiple services including Anveo, Callcentric, CallWithUs, InPhonex, RingCentral, Sipgate, Vitelity,, and VoIPo. In addition you can manually configure many other VoIP providers to work with your OBi device.

We are using Google Voice because it’s absolutely free for North American to North American calls and features dirt-cheap $0.01 per minute international calling. Should that change in the future, you can easily change your OBi device to use a more economical VoIP provider.

Why Do I…

The FCC’s New Plan Dismantles Net Neutrality to Rely on the Free Market

Today, chairman of the Federal Trade Communications Commission, Ajit Pai outlined his new plan to loosen the FCC’s oversight of internet service providers. As expected, his dream plan effectively kills off many of the ideas of net neutrality.

During a speech today, Pai outlined his plan, the full text of which we’ll see tomorrow. The plan attacks the 2015 ruling that treated internet providers like traditional utilities, like a telephone company, under what’s known as Title II of the Communications Act. This meant ISPs were subjected to tougher, utility-style regulations. While the Title II mandates had no effect on the price of services, they did require internet providers to follow a few rules, including: no blocking of sites, no paid “fast” lanes, and no throttling of speeds. Which is largely all beneficial for consumers.

For example, Title II meant that a company like Comcast could not throttle your speeds just because you watched too much Netflix, or in turn give Netflix a priority fast lane to provide higher quality streaming exclusively for Comcast users. The rules applied to wireless and wired providers. It also paved the way for regulations meant to protect your privacy, which Congress overturned before they could even take effect. As you’d expect, ISPs weren’t fans of Title II because it meant they were subject to countless rules and oversight.

Pai’s plan is still vague in details, but he gave us broad strokes. The new plan would reclassify internet providers as Title I information services again, moving most oversight from the FCC back to the FTC. This isn’t necessarily true, because while the FTC is prohibited from regulating common carrier, removing the common carrier designation won’t necessarily give the FTC authority. That would likely take another action by Congress.

Pai also argued that by rolling back the…