AT&T recently filed a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), seeking to overturn its net neutrality ruling, which was just published in the Federal Register.
AT&T joins the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, United States Telecom Association, American Cable Association, and the CTIA in their efforts to change the FCC’s decision. These associations allege the new rules are “arbitrary and capricious, and violate federal law.”
The main complaint shared by these groups is regarding the FCC’s decision to view the Internet as a telecommunications service, as opposed to a utility like phone services.
AT&T has stayed out of previous lawsuits against the FCC in regards to net neutrality. Both Comcast and Verizon have won notable lawsuits about the same issue.
All of the suits have been filed in U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and will be joined into a single case. If more cases are filed in other circuits within ten days of publication in the Federal Register, a lottery will be held to determine where the case is heard.
In an attempt to appeal more to children and family demographics, Google has launched the “Designed for Families” program. This will allow app designers for Android to designate their applications as family friendly. To participate, “Apps must meet a stringent legal and policy bar and pass a specialized operations review,” a Google spokesperson told The Verge.
Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited monthly subscription, which provides families with age-appropriate eBooks, movies, TV shows, educational apps and games, seems to have Google squirming. The company’s PlayStore for Android devices does not currently have any service geared directly at younger users.
Google is not yet disclosing what benefits developers might receive in exchange for complying with this program. However, having a seal of approval from Google and participating in the Designed for Families will make it easier for developers to have their content downloaded, as well as potentially expanding the demographic of those downloading it.
Nothing is happening right away, and Google plans to release more on the program over the next few weeks. “We’ll be adding new ways to promote family content to users on Google Play,” a spokesperson said.
Following Google’s January announcement that it will be bringing high-speed Fiber to Charlotte, North Carolina, Time Warner Cable has increased its own broadband Internet speed by up to 600 percent. It didn’t take long for Google’s presence to motivate the only local cable and Internet provider in the city to step up its game.
The new program dubbed “TWC Maxx” will be a completely digital network, meaning every channel will be broadcast in HD. Analog channels consume three to four times the amount of bandwidth as digital, so eliminating analog will free up a considerable amount of space that TWC will use to increase broadband Internet speeds at no additional charge to its customers.
A release from Time Warner Cable states:
“The Internet transformation will begin this summer and will include speed increases on TWC residential Internet plans at no additional cost, with customers experiencing increases up to six times faster, depending on their current level of Internet service. For example, customers who subscribe to Standard, formerly up to 15 Mbps, will now receive up to 50 Mbps, customers who subscribe to Extreme, formerly up to 30 Mbps, will now receive up to 200 Mbps; and customers who subscribe to Ultimate, formerly up to 50 Mbps, will receive up to 300 Mbps, at no extra charge.”
To make this offering even sweeter, the company will be providing its Ultimate service for $65, which is five dollars cheaper per month than Google’s Fiber service. Regardless of which service customers choose, Google’s injection of competition into the market is bringing prices down, which is good for everybody.
In a move to rival T-Mobile, Sprint has announced a new plan offering users free unlimited text messaging and 2G data for international roaming. This new offer called Value Roaming does not include voice calls, which will be priced at $0.20 per minute.
Sprint customers will now be able to text or browse the web without incurring any extra charges if they are in Argentine, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Germany, Guatemala, Japan, Mexico Nicaragua, Panama, Russia, South Korea, Spain and the UK. In comparison, T-Mobile offers the same service in more than 120 countries along with slightly faster data speeds. Additionally, Sprint’s 2G data speeds will top out at 64kbps, while T-Mobile’s goes up to 128kbps.
Sprint is also offering one-time-use International Speed Data Roaming Passes, which includes 3G data for a set period of time. A 1-day pass provides 100MB of unrestricted data for $15, a 7-day pass allows 200MB for $25, and a 14-day pass offers 500MB for $50.
This new international plan is likely Sprint’s way of competing with T-Mobile, but could also prove beneficial when Google launches its own US network. Recent reports have stated Google is looking to partner with a number of international carriers, a move that would essentially eliminate roaming fees. This development would make international plans imperative.
Google, one of the most powerful companies in the world, has a history of making valuable acquisitions. Many experts, most recently chairman and CEO of Davis Rea, John O’Connell, suggest that it would not surprise them if Google purchased Twitter in the future.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they bought Twitter at some point. It would make sense to me,” said O’Connell.
How much would it actually cost to buy the thriving social networking site? In January of this year, Robert Peck, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, suggested in a TV interview that one would have to pay “north of $40 billion” for Twitter. He also said that it would be a difficult, though not impossible, deal.
Google and Twitter have a friendly history. This February, the two companies made a deal that grants Google access to Twitter’s nearly 9,000 tweets per second to be indexed into Google’s search results. As well, Google can use “real-time” commentary on news as it comes from Twitter. The deal benefits both parties, as Twitter now reaches a larger audience than Facebook through this partnership due to Google’s four billion plus searches a day.
Although there is no official report of Google purchasing Twitter, it certainly would not be a bad business move. Could this prediction be a real transaction somewhere down the road?
After receiving 170 complaints regarding Bell Canada, the Canadian Privacy Commissioner’s Office (OPC) has launched an investigation of the telecommunication giant’s policy of customer tracking.
Telecommunications companies such as Bell were urged by the OPC to adopt an “opt-in” consent policy in regards to consumer profiles and behaviorally targeted advertising. However, Bell’s “Relevant Advertising Program” continues to collect data about users’ habits, app usage and more to sell to third party companies, even after receiving a customer’s request to opt out.
The Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien, found that Bell would stop serving the customer “relevant ads” but continued to track them anyway, “in case the customer were to change his or her mind in the future, and opt back into the program.”
“Bell’s ad program involves the use of vast amounts of its customers’ personal information, some of it highly sensitive,” Therrien said. “Bell should not simply assume that, unless they proactively speak up to the contrary, customers are consenting to have their personal information used in this new way.”
Alongside the report published by the OPC, the commission stated “We remain hopeful that Bell will reconsider its position but are prepared to address this unresolved issue in accordance with our authorities under [the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)], which could involve taking the matter to the Federal Court.”
Bell has said it will decrease its customer tracking levels, and will more strictly adhere to the OPC’s opt-in approach. In an email to The Register, the company stated: “We’re dedicated to protecting customer privacy and thank the commission for clarifying the rules. These are rules that must apply not only to Canadian companies but to international companies operating here, like Facebook and Google, to ensure a fair and competitive marketplace.”
Netflix intends to help customers make the tricky decision of what TV to puchase by giving certain models their stamp of approval. All “Netflix recommended TVs” come with what it considers to be “easy access to Internet TV services, faster performance, and new features that enable a next-generation smart TV experience.” More or less, if you need the perfect device for binge watching, Netflix has you covered.
Netflix’s aim is for users to have easier access to the one thing it truly wants to sell: Netflix. These TVs are easy for consumers of all ages to use, and they allow users to get from a black screen to Netflix with one push of a button.
The models Netflix suggests are:
- LG 4K UHD TVs with webOS 2.0
- Sony Android Full HDTVs
- Roku Tvs from Hisense, Insignia and TCL
Although this may seem like a limited amount of options now, Netflix plans on adding more in the future.
Intel’s tiny new computer-on-a-stick called the Compute Stick is available for pre-order now. Following the trend of making PCs that fit inside a USB dongle, Intel is making its Atom chips available in a form that can easily fit in your pocket.
First appearing at CES earlier this year, the Intel HDMI Compute Stick gives users access to full PC apps while being much more portable than laptops. All you need is a monitor or TV for the Compute Stick to plug into to create an instant computer.
In order to appeal to as many different users as possible, there are two versions of the HDMI stick. One comes with Windows 8.1, while the other comes with Linux pre-installed. Online retailer Newegg, lists both sticks as having 2GB of RAM and 32 GB of storage.
The Windows 8.1 HDMI stick has a price tag of $149.99, and the Linux variant costs $109.99. Intel’s Compute Stick will debut in direct competition with the new Asus Chromebit, which is slated to launch this summer for under $100.
BlackBerry’s latest ammunition in its fight to become competitive in the smartphone market once again is Leap, an evolved edition of the Z10. Canadians will be able to purchase the Leap for $349.
Due to Canada’s weak dollar, consumers in United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany can purchase the smartphone through ShopBlackBerry for $275. While the device is currently available for pre-order in all of these locations including Canada, there is no solid confirmation on its official release date in Canada as of yet.
Leap is the first all-touch BlackBerry released by the company in over a year. The device has a five inch HD display, front and rear facing cameras, and promises up to 25 hours of heavy battery usage.
BlackBerry Leap comes preloaded with the Amazon Appstore, which will come in handy for users wishing to download Android applications.
Riff, Facebook’s newest social networking app, makes video sharing between friends fun and creative. Inspired by last summer’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Riff allows users to post a video with a caption like “Happy Dance” or “Make a Funny Face” and have their friends add to the video by following that caption’s instructions. If it goes over well, Riff will see videos created by a plethora of users, all with a common theme.
“The potential pool of creative collaborators can grow exponentially,” says Riff Product Manager Josh Miller, “…a short video can become an inventive project between circles of friends you can share to Facebook or anywhere on the Internet.”
As with any social media, Riff has a few rules:
- You can only use footage shot in Riff, and no uploads.
- You can approve your video after shooting it, but there are no editing or multi-shot features.
- You cannot like or comment on another user’s video. If you want to contribute, you have to add to the video.
- You can tap to fast-forward through clips, similar to Snapchat Stories.
- You can only contribute to a video if you’re friends with the creator or another collaborator. The idea behind this is to have videos expand gradually, rather than going worldwide instantly.
Riff is available on iOS and Android as of April 1st. Upon launch, it will be available in fifteen languages including: English, French, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese.