Archives for Broadband

Facebook’s Internet.org Opened Up to All Developers

internetorg_logoAmid criticism that Internet.org – Facebook’s project to provide free Internet to new users – violates the principles of net neutrality, the service is now being turned into a platform for all developers.

Facebook, along with its operating partners from Internet.org, have faced accusations of taking a “king maker” role by picking the services included in the free internet portal, thereby giving an unfair advantage to a selected number of companies. Opening up the platform will hopefully even out the competition.

“Our goal with Internet.org is to work with as many developers and entrepreneurs as possible to extend the benefits of connectivity to diverse, local communities. To do this, we’re going to offer services through Internet.org in a way that’s more transparent and inclusive,” said Facebook in a recent blog post.

Additionally, Facebook has said Internet.org users will soon be able to access new third-party services, as Internet.org will venture beyond the initial limits of the portal to become a free layer of Internet.

The platform will be open to all developers, as long as they adhere to three central principles:

  1. “Services should encourage the exploration of the broader internet wherever possible.”
  2. “Websites that require high-bandwidth will not be included. Services should not use VoIP, video, file transfer, high resolution photos, or high volume of photos.”
  3. Services must be optimized for smartphones and future phones, and not include JavaScript or SSL/TLS/HTTPS elements.

“We’re building an open platform, and anyone who meets these guidelines will be able to participate,” Facebook added.

Internet.org was originally made available in a handful of African countries, and has now expanded into Asia including India (population over 1 billion) and Indonesia (population 250 million).

Microsoft’s New Project Spartan Browser Available This Year

project spartan

Microsoft is coming out with a new web browser called Project Spartan in the hopes of revolutionizing the way people use the Internet. The new browser was first made public in January, but was recently discussed in more detail in a blog post by corporate Vice President Joe Belfiore.

“Project Spartan is designed to work the way you do, with features enabling you to do cool things like write or type on a webpage,” Belfiore wrote. “It’s a browser that is made for easy sharing, reading, discovery and getting things done online.”

Though still in “an early, incomplete state,” Project Spartan has a few features that might get potential users excited. One is Cortana, a Siri-like addition that will help users by sharing what information “she” knows about the Web, based on what they are trying to do. Cortana will only be available to U.S. users when the browser first becomes available later this year, but will eventually become more broadly accessible.

Another innovative idea is Web Note, a feature allowing users to write/type on a web page and either share it on social or simply save it to OneNote. Belfiore also made sure to mention Reading List, which he claims will help users keep up with the latest news on the Internet without experiencing “information overload.”

“Project Spartan helps with a beautiful new Reading List to collect everything you want to read, including the ability to save any webpage or PDF for convenient access later, and an integrated, distraction-free Reading View that keeps you focused on the content,” Belfiore wrote.

Members of the Windows Insider Program can test drive Project Spartan right away. The rest of the public can learn more about it by visiting Belfiore’s blog post, or by checking out the Windows 10 Technical Preview.

AT&T U-Verse Brings Super-Fast Internet to Apple’s Hometown

u-verse

AT&T recently announced the launch of an enhanced Internet service called U-verse with AT&T Gigapower in Apple’s hometown of Cupertino, California.

This new service will provide Internet download speeds of up to 1Gbps in some residential and business areas. An upgraded residential gateway will support the latest Wi-Fi technology, meaning faster home and office Wi-Fi.

TV service will also be available to Gigapower customers, with the ability to watch and record up to five HD programs at the same time. Customers will also have the ability to record up to 900 hours of SD programs, or 330 hours of HD programs. Additionally, U-verse app users will be able to view 230 live TV channels in their home on their mobile devices, and up to 130 of those channels will be available on the go.

Internet service will cost $110 per month for 1Gbps speed, or $80 per month for 300 Mbps speed. With TV service, the 1Gbps plan is $150 per month, while the 300 Mbps will sell for $120. Voice calling can also be added to the TV and 1Gbps service for $180 per month.

U.S. Wi-Fi Innovation Act Seeks More Airwaves Alongside Smart Cars

SONY DSC

Legislation requiring regulators to quickly test how shared radio frequencies could exist alongside those used for communications between smart cars was recently revived by two U.S. senators, in an attempt to allocate more airwaves to public Wi-Fi.

U.S. Senators Cory Brooker, a New Jersey Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, are re-introducing a piece of legislation that aims to direct the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to study how more spectrum can be freed up for public use without interfering with connected vehicles.

The Wi-Fi Innovation Act was originally visited last year. The bill is supported by cable and wireless industries and various makers of high-tech equipment, which are hoping to make their devices more usable in public places.

“The result will transform 75 megahertz of currently moribund and lightly used spectrum into a powerhouse for American broadband,” wrote Comcast’s Regulatory Policy Vice President David Don about the bill in 2014.

This bill remains a concern for the automotive community, who have used the airwaves in question to develop safety systems allowing cars to communicate with each other and elements around them. They believe any interference with this system could potentially pose a safety risk.

“‘Talking cars’ that avoid crashes and reduce traffic congestion and pollution are being deployed today as tests continue,” the groups wrote. “That is why we ask for you to oppose any legislation, such as the Wi-Fi Innovation Act, that could set the program back and risk the implementation of this life saving technology and safety system.”

The bill was first introduced last June but was never voted on. It remains an example of bipartisanship amongst American lawmakers who hope to benefit the general public, as well as the wireless and cable industries. Whether or not this piece of legislation makes progress will determine how the FCC handles the present issue of expanding the use of the “upper 5 gigahertz band of spectrum” in question.

Netflix Moves Down Under

netflix logo

In a recent announcement, Netflix confirmed rumors that it plans to launch its television internet service in New Zealand and Australia. By March, consumers will have access to the globally popular video streaming service.

Cliff Edwards, director of communications and technology at Netflix said the company aims to get at least 10 percent of households with broadband to subscribe. However, he did not give a timeframe for that goal to be achieved.

In New Zealand alone, Netflix will be competing with local services such as Sky TV and Quickflix. Within an hour of the announcement, Sky TV shares dropped 9 cents to $6.40. CEO John Fellet said it took all competitors seriously “especially global ones”.

Netflix has yet to mention how much the service will cost. The current U.S. rate of $8.99 would be equivalent to NZ$11.40.

More Canadians Accessing the Internet from Mobile Devices

Ontario wireless contracts

Canadians now spend half of their Internet hours on mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets have revolutionized our ability to access the web. As of August, there are 27.8 million Canadian adults who have access to the Internet.

The majority of hours during the day are spent on PCs, while mobile device use peaks during the evening. Both the U.S and Canada follow this trend of spending time streaming video, scrolling through social media and reading the news.

A study conducted by ComScore shows the average Canadian adult spends 39 hours a month on the internet on their PCs alone. With the use of smartphones and tablets, that number rises to 75 hours. In fact, Canadians aged 25 to 34 average 110 hours of Internet usage per month. As well, 48 percent of Canadians accessed the Internet from more than one device.

Demographics in this study were certainly interesting. For example, men accessed the internet twice as much as women, but women stayed twice as long each visit. 44 percent of smartphone users were aged 18 to 34, and 67 percent of tablet users were aged 35 to 55. ComScore also found tablet usage has increased 37 percent since June 2013.

Mesh Networks and Firechat Prevent Hong Kong Government from Switching Off Internet

iphonesThe Firechat app has recently played a huge role in organizing political protests in Hong Kong. It has been downloaded 4 million times from one Chinese app store alone, and for good reason. The Firechat app does not function in the same way as mobile phone networks, but instead each phone running the app acts as a node in a mesh network. Messages pass from node to node, not through a centralized service, so they cannot easily be blocked by the government.

Mesh networks such as Firechat take advantage of peer-to-peer networking, allowing mobile devices to communicate directly with each other rather than through base stations. Over recent years, this model has proven particularly useful for bringing low-cost Internet to areas that are not well provided for. It also has benefits including lower costs and higher performance.

Firechat’s mesh networking has been used to the advantage of protestors, but the app also has its limitations. Firechat allows three different types of messaging, all of which are highly open in nature. Nearby users are all part of the same conversation, bringing up issues with privacy and anonymity. Developers of the app have said it is not a tool for communicating sensitive information.

Firechat is not a perfect app, but it is playing an important role in ensuring the Internet remains democratized and cannot be switched off by those in a position of power to silence the people.

The Role of Cable Companies is Changing

tvA few decades ago, it seemed unfathomable that a cable company’s core offering would be anything but TV service. But that’s all changed according to the Leichtman Research Group, which reports the number of cable broadband subscribers has officially exceeded the number of cable TV subscribers in the United States.

“With the addition of more than 30 million broadband subscribers over the past decade, cable providers have clearly expanded well beyond their roots in cable TV service,” said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, Inc., in a press release “As of the end of 2Q 2014, the top cable providers now have more broadband subscribers than cable TV subscribers.”

Currently there are 49,915,000 cable broadband subscribers compared to 49,910,000 TV subscribers. That, according to Wired, demonstrates a shift in consumer priorities.

“Cable subscribers don’t have to worry about TV as they know it going away any time soon,” states the Wired article by Marcus Wohlsen. “But cable is on its way to becoming secondary, the ‘nice to have’ compared to the necessity of having broadband access.”

AT&T Launching GigaPower in Miami

AT&TResidential and small business customers in Miami can expect to soon benefit from symmetrical broadband speeds of 1-gigabit per second as AT&T prepares to roll out its GigaPower network.

Miami isn’t alone – the company has said it is also looking at other nearby areas including Hialeah, Hollywood, Homestead, Opa-Locka and Pompano Beach. The move comes on the heels of an upgrade in Austin, Texas, where AT&T is facing stiff competition from Google Fiber and Grande Communications.

Just how fast is the service? To put it in perspective, a user can download 25 songs in one second, an entire TV show in three seconds or an HD movie in about 35 seconds.

“For well over a century AT&T has been committed to bringing the latest, most advanced technology to our Miami customers and today’s announcement is the latest step in fulfilling that commitment,” said Joe York, president of AT&T Florida – external affairs, in a press release.

“Smart public policy decisions, such as adopting competitively neutral local ordinances and modernizing state regulatory statutes, play a key role in driving investment.

“Today’s announcement reflects the wisdom of the forward-looking leadership of Mayor Tomas Regalado and other state and local leaders who have worked diligently for many years to create a public policy climate that encourages investment in advanced technology in Miami and in Florida.”

Unlimited Data = Throttled Users

smartphoneMobile users who have held onto unlimited data plans tend to guard them with their lives. The treasured flow allows them to surf the web and stream video to their hearts’ content without hitting any caps. But that doesn’t mean the experience is always pleasant.

While Verizon is the latest to face criticism for its plans to throttle data, it appears none of the major providers are innocent.

AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint have all been known to throttle unlimited data users as they gobble up bandwidth. Not all of them use the same methods, but results are the same – the heaviest users experience major slowdowns at some point. It’s something that the Federal Communications Commission isn’t pleased with, either.

Check out the ReadWrite article to learn a bit more about this practice.