Increasing Understanding of Technology and Communication

Broadband Internet Providers Lose to Net Neutrality

Providers-Lose

WASHINGTON — In a long-awaited decision, a federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules, dealing a punishing blow to telecom and cable companies that have sought to overturn the regulations.

Characterizing the government’s net neutrality effort as an “attempt to achieve internet openness” and “the principle that broadband providers must treat all internet traffic the same regardless of source,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit concluded that the rules are authorized under current law.

The FCC rules — which the Obama administration has strongly supported — prevent internet service providers, or ISPs, from charging content producers for faster or more reliable service, a practice known as “paid prioritization.” The rules also ban blocking and purposefully slowing the traffic of lawful services, and apply to both mobile and fixed broadband service.

Taking each of these proposals in turn, the appeals court looked at how they fit within the legal framework that Congress has given the FCC to set the rules for internet service — from dial-up to DSL to cable modem service — and determined that the agency has the power to reclassify broadband service in its various forms as a “telecommunications service” for regulatory purposes.

Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the FCC, praised the ruling in a statement. “Today’s ruling is a victory for consumers and innovators who deserve unfettered access to the entire web, and it ensures the internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth.”

For years, activists, businesses, politicians and regulators have debated how ISPs should be treated. The ISPs want less regulation so they have more freedom to choose how they manage their services. President Barack Obama and major tech companies have argued that ISPs should be treated more like the legacy phone companies, which cannot unjustly discriminate when providing services.

The current legal spat is an extension of that dispute. Last year, the FCC voted 3-2 to reclassify broadband internet service as a utility under a 1934 law called the Communications Act, which originally aimed to ensure that customers would have access to universal radio and wire service at a reasonable price.

This didn’t mean ISPs would be treated the same as old-school utility companies — they have their own unique rules — but defining them this way gave the FCC broader powers to regulate them. The agency used this authority to enact the net neutrality rules.

AT&T and cable and wireless trade groups sued the agency last year, arguing that the FCC had overstepped. They argued that the Communications Act, which provided legal backing for the new rules, is an outdated framework that was never intended to be used this way. Providers have repeatedly said that they support net neutrality, but believe it can be accomplished under a lighter regulatory regime.

But the FCC already tried using a lighter touch with net neutrality rules. In 2010, it adopted an order that drew authority from a section of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a law meant to promote investment and competition. Verizon sued the FCC in 2011 to overturn the rules, and the same appeals court agreed that the FCC did not have solid legal footing, even as it upheld the commission’s power to promulgate open internet rules.

The agency went back to the drawing board and — after receiving more than 4 million comments from the public, activists and business — came up with its new approach, which is how broadband providers ended up with rules they disliked even more. (Verizon is now the parent company of The Huffington Post.)

Though the ruling is a victory for the government and consumer advocates, other big winners include “edge providers” — companies such as Netflix and Google that depend on third parties’ broadband services to drive their product offerings.

In a prior ruling, one of three touching on the legality of regulating broadband services, the D.C. Circuit said these businesses are part of the “virtuous circle” that leads to increased innovation and investment. They, too, were giddy with Tuesday’s watershed result.

“The third time was the charm,” Pantelis Michalopoulos, a lawyer who argued in favor of the net neutrality rules on behalf of Netflix and other intervenors, said in a statement. “The open Internet rules are here to stay.”

Read Article (Liebelson & Farias | huffingtonpost.com | 06/14/2016)

In plain words, ISP’s have distributed Internet service as if “They Owned It!” Yes, some people have forgotten that the Internet belongs to us, the public. We built it and paid for it, we only need ISP’s to access what we own. Hopefully, this will finally put them in their place.

As owners of the Internet, don’t you think you should know how to fully take advantage of it and any device that connects to it? That’s what our campaign is all about.

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Microsoft Moves into the Legal Cannabis Business

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America’s burgeoning weed industry just seems to be climbing higher. Tech giant Microsoft announced Thursday it is partnering with a cannabis industry-focused software company called Kind Financial. The company provides “seed to sale” services for cannabis growers, allowing them to track inventory, navigate laws and handle transactions all through Kind’s software systems. The partnership marks the first major tech company to attach its name to the burgeoning industry of legal marijuana.

While most big tech companies have been shy to get involved, tech start-ups have been flocking to the up-and-coming pot trade, which is fully legal for both recreational and medical purposes in five states. The marijuana industry’s specific needs for data tracking to optimize plant growth and other logistics, as well as its booming market potential, make it well-suited for tech partnerships. “Nobody has really come out of the closet, if you will,” said Matthew A. Karnes, the founder of marijuana data company Green Wave Advisors, to The New York Times. “It’s very telling that a company of this caliber is taking the risk of coming out and engaging with a company that is focused on the cannabis business.”

This hesitancy comes from the still murky legal status of marijuana in most of the country. Marijuana is still illegal nationwide, and the risk of crackdowns where federal and state laws contradict have discouraged many banks from working with marijuana businesses. There are also risks in taking a weed business across state lines where it could have a different legal standing. And there’s always the danger that a change in government leadership, say with a changing presidential administration, could result in a backtracking of relaxed marijuana laws.

Then there is the potentially negative association. “[My company] has stayed away from investing in the cannabis industry because it’s like investing in the porn industry,” said Zach Bogue, a venture capital investor. “I’m sure there's a lot of money to be made, but it’s just not something we want to invest in.”

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), sees marijuana software and Microsoft as a natural pairing. “If you are trying to go big macro strategy at a company like Microsoft, and you want a super diverse portfolio, and you’re located largely in a place where you can visibly see the marijuana commerce happening, and of course maybe your employees and others are engaged in that commerce, why wouldn’t the company invest in it?” he said.

He adds that he believes that Microsoft’s association with legal marijuana will ultimately be helpful in the legalization effort. (Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., is in a state that has legalized marijuana for recreational use.) The legitimacy it lends will make it easier for marijuana producers to do business, citing growers who see their ad dollars refused by corporations that don’t want to be associated with the substance. “Having a brand name like Microsoft will definitely catch people’s attentions,” he said.

He also thinks the partnership could affect legislation. “Microsoft has a leviathan [lobbying] effort up here in Washington [D.C.],” he said. “One of the things that has been really interesting to see is how the focus is becoming not so much about legalization per say, that’s almost become a bugaboo word up on the Hill, but just focusing in on these commerce reforms, for example to allow banks to handle this trade ... they lobby hard for that stuff on the Hill right now and to have a Microsoft weigh in saying, we want to be part of that commerce, can only buoy those efforts.”

St. Pierre notes that Kind Financial, which is never directly involved in growing, testing, or selling marijuana, is typical for the kind of companies cropping up around lobbying efforts and gaining financial traction. These ancillary companies that provide services around the actual moving of product are legally much easier to handle.

“The fact that one is engaged in their minds in quite legal commerce, one where lawyers are saying, sure you can set up software to track it, you can set up a web page that shows pretty pictures of marijuana and rate it, or get coupon discounts, etc.,” he said. “Compared to the other side of the issue, where you’re growing it, transporting it, you’re selling it, and you’re actually touching it, the lawyering they get is ... more schizophrenic.” These actual producers, he adds, are the most legally vulnerable.

Still, St. Pierre is thrilled at the partnership. “Ten years ago, 20 years ago, if you were saying, I have a software and I’m hoping to track marijuana sale, you and I would be in a RICO conspiracy. So that speaks to how much has changed, and how today what’s heralded in a newswire as a big partnership, years ago would have put you in federal prison,” he said.

Read Article (Karen Turner | washingtonpost.com | 06/16/2016)

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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Internet Pace Grows as Smartphone Slows Down

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RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — What's the state of the Internet? It's growing slowly, but still outpacing the smartphone market.

So says Mary Meeker, the former Internet analyst-turned-venture capitalist who has been the Nostradamus of online research for years. Her highly anticipated annual Internet status update, a staple at industry conferences, offers insight into major mega-trends for the tech industry.

On Wednesday, she was at it again. At the Code Conference here, she said Internet use is at 3 billion people worldwide (42% penetration), with China and India — countries coveted by Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others — leading the way.

But the device of the moment isn't iPhone anymore. Its sales peaked in 2015, she reports, and the action has moved to the voice-activated Amazon Echo speaker, "which is just getting started," she said. Meeker is bullish on messaging (she called it "secret sauce") and ride-sharing services ("We may be entering an automotive golden age") but souring on online search.

In a 213-slide presentation, she said she expects global smartphone user growth to slow to 21% year-over-year from 31%, and shipments to cool dramatically, to 10% from 28%. Internet growth, meanwhile, is a victim of saturation in developed countries.

Worldwide smartphone unit shipments slipped 3%, to 335 million, in the first three months of 2016, the first such year-over-year decline, according to Strategy Analytics, which tracks smartphone sales.

Apple is feeling the pinch. The first-ever year-over-year decline in iPhone sales during Apple's fiscal second quarter was a major reason for the first drop in Apple sales in more than a decade and lowered expectations for the current quarter.

Worldwide, Android is far and away the dominant mobile operating system. It has 81% market share to 16% for Apple iOS, and three times the audience size of Apple.

Meeker, a venture capitalist at VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has been involved in investments in tech firms such as SoundCloud, LegalZoom, Spotify, Twitter, Instacart and NextDoor. She sits on the boards of Square and DocuSign.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk doesn't see Google as a potential competitor to his firm. Instead, he's focused on Apple.

Apple, maker of the iconic iPhone and Macintosh computers, "will be a direct competitor," Musk said. He expects Apple to be in production with cars by 2020, but thinks it waited too long. "They should have started production sooner. It's a missed opportunity."

Speaking to the Code Conference here, the South African-born, charismatic CEO leads a company that sells electric cars, with a recent software update that includes partial self-driving features. Tesla cars start at around $80,000, but recently announced a 2017 Model 3 that will start at $35,000. The company has reaped about 400,000 orders for the car that include $1,000 deposits.

Internet giant Google is testing self-driving cars, but Musk doesn't see Google getting into the car business. "Google is not a car company," he said. "They'll license the technology."

Apple, on the other hand, hasn't publicly announced its intentions to get into the car business, but has been hiring engineers, and Musk clearly expects Apple to join the fray.

Musk was asked if the new Model 3 will be a self-driving car. He demurred, saying he would have an event in the fall to reveal the answer. Asked for clarifications, he simply said, "We’re going to do the obvious thing."

Musk, who is also CEO of rocket maker Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, also talked about his passion of exploring Mars and space.

Missions to Mars will start in 2018, he said, and he predicted that trips for humans ("if things go according to plan") will begin in 2024 -- for arrival in 2025.

Musk, who has not flown into space, has said he wanted to die on Mars, but not on a landing. "If you had to choose a place to die, Mars is probably not a bad choice. Born on Earth, died on Mars."

Read Article (Graham &Swartz | usatoday.com | 06/01/2016)

To be sure, smartphones almost always get better with each new model introduction, and have beefier specs.  Still, it’s worth asking: is better, better enough? While nearly half the population contemplates “choice”, the other half contemplates simply learning to use the thing (Digital Literacy).

This miss-placed step of the Digital Era must be eventually addressed and sooner or later there will be finger-pointing as to just who dropped the ball.

Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

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Microsoft Cutting 1,850 Nokia Smartphone Jobs

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The cuts, which will mainly fall in Finland, mark the end of the US company’s attempt to take on Apple and Samsung. Microsoft’s attempt to use its $7.2bn purchase of Nokia to get a slice of the lucrative smartphone market appears to have ended in failure.

Microsoft is cutting up to 1,850 jobs in its smartphone business just two years after it bought handset maker Nokia in an ill-fated attempt to take on market leaders Apple and Samsung. In a move that clearly puts the stamp of two-year chief executive Satya Nadella on the US company, Microsoft said on Wednesday it would shed the bulk of the jobs in Finland and write down $950m from the business. It did not say how many employees currently work on smartphones in the group as a whole.

Shares of Microsoft were trading at around $52 late on Wednesday on Wall Street, roughly flat with their $51.59 close Tuesday, but significantly up from $34.20 when Nadella became CEO in February 2014.

Remaking Microsoft, known primarily for its software, into a more device-focused company was a hallmark of previous chief executive Steve Ballmer. In one of his last major acts, Ballmer closed a deal to buy Nokia’s struggling but once-dominant handset business for about $7.2bn in late 2013. The deal closed in April 2014, two months after Nadella became boss.

Since then, Nadella has shaved away at the phone business, starting with a 2015 restructuring that put the devices group, previously a stand-alone unit under the former Nokia chief, Stephen Elop, under the Windows group. Run by Terry Myerson, the Windows division is the company’s biggest.

A Finnish union representative told Reuters the cuts would essentially put an end to Microsoft’s development of new phones. “My understanding is that Windows 10 will go on as an operating system, but there will be no more phones made by Microsoft,” said Kalle Kiili, a shop steward.

Microsoft said in a statement it would continue to develop the Windows 10 platform and support its Lumia smartphones, but gave no comment on whether it would develop new Windows phones. Global market shares of Windows smartphones fell below 1% in the first quarter of 2016, according to research firm Gartner.

Last year, Microsoft announced $7.5bn of write-downs and 7,800 job cuts in its phone business. Earlier this month, Microsoft sold its entry-level feature phones business for $350m.

The company said on Wednesday it expected to cut all 1,350 jobs at its Finnish mobile phone unit and close down a research and development site in the country. A further 500 jobs will go in other countries, it said, without giving details.

“We are focusing our phone efforts where we have differentiation,” Nadella said in a statement. “We will continue to innovate across devices and on our cloud services across all mobile platforms.”

Nokia had around 40% of the world’s mobile phone market in 2008 before it was eclipsed by the rise of touch-screen smartphones. As a result, Nokia and Microsoft have slashed thousands of Finnish jobs over the past decade, and the lack of substitute jobs is the main reason for the country’s current economic stagnation.

Nokia, now focused on telecom network equipment, just last week said it was cutting around 1,000 jobs in Finland following its acquisition of Franco-American rival Alcatel-Lucent.

The Microsoft phone business still has a dedicated fan in Ballmer, who bragged about his device at a San Francisco dinner hosted by Fortune in March.

“It’s a Windows phone,” he said as the audience laughed. “Why wouldn’t it be?”

Read Article (Reuters | theguardian.com | 05/25/2016)

Moving on is never easy after a relationship, and the problem after it’s over is you can’t forget the heights of excitement you experienced with new discoveries and sharing stories with friends.  But now “excitement” has given way to “that’s cool”, the centerpiece of your affair has lost its “bling” and you realize it’s over.

The torrid affair between Society and Smartphones is fading but this passionate affair has left society scarred with a massive digital divide. And the industry has only made feeble attempts at addressing the resulting digital literacy aftermath.

The Digital Era is all pervasive; effecting Cultural, National & International laws as well as the General Public, Governments, Government Officials and even Law Enforcement.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device & Internet usage, and we need your support.

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Verizon And Unions Reach a ‘Tentative Agreement’

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The largest strike in five years may soon be over. Labor Secretary Tom Perez said Friday that telecom giant Verizon and two unions representing its workers reached a tentative agreement that will end a massive, six-week strike.

In a statement, Perez said the parties had resolved their remaining issues “in principle,” but were still hammering out the contract language. Once that is done, the unions — the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — will submit the contract to membership for ratification.

“This tentative resolution is a testament to the power of collective bargaining,” Perez said. “I commend the leadership of Verizon, CWA, and IBEW for their commitment to resolving these difficult issues in the spirit of constructive engagement.”

Verizon technicians and customer service reps for the company’s wireline phone business first walked off the job in mid-April. By modern U.S. standards, the work stoppage is huge — including some 37,000 workers, stretching from the Northeast through the mid-Atlantic. It is the largest U.S. strike in five years and has begun to hurt business for Verizon, which owns AOL, The Huffington Post’s parent company.

The two sides had already resolved questions over pay and benefits for workers, but were hung up on contract language that would enable Verizon to outsource work. The unions were adamantly opposed to giving the company that ability. It isn’t clear yet how that issue plays in the tentative agreement.

A spokeswoman for IBEW confirmed that the tentative agreement was reached, but couldn’t immediately comment on the contract language.

Lonnie R. Stephenson, IBEW’s president, called the deal “mutually beneficial” in a statement, and said leadership would be providing the details to members in the coming days. CWA said that the contract accomplished “our major goals” and that the union would be ending its picket lines.

CWA said the deal with Verizon includes a first contract for a group of Verizon Wireless workers represented by the union. The wireless side of the company is overwhelmingly union-free, so the new contract would offer CWA an important toehold in a growing business for Verizon.

A Verizon spokesman declined to comment on the tentative agreement, saying only that Perez’s announcement “speaks for itself.”

Read Article (Dave Jamieson | huffingtonpost.com | 05/27/2016)

Internet availability and access is important without a doubt, but knowing how to fully utilize the constantly evolving devices that connect to it and the Internet itself, is an issue just as important if not more.  Our instructional webinars are the long-term solution for addressing device usage, and we need your support.

Master Level High-Tech Webinars