Consumer Groups Urge FCC to Investigate Zero-Rating

by Matt Klassen on June 30, 2016

zero ratingHaving recently won a landmark victory in upholding the Federal Communications Commission’s authority over establishing and enforcing Net Neutrality regulations, it really wouldn’t surprise me if FCC chairman Tom Wheeler was hesitant to continue pushing his luck, particularly when it comes to investigating the popular zero-rating trend.

But consumer groups continue to urge the Commission to bring the current regulations to bear on this controversial practice, given that it masks all of the evils Net Neutrality was designed to combat, but in an seemingly consumer-friendly package.

The argument is, of course, that despite the fact that zero-rating offers certain streaming video services at no data cost, that these sorts of practices offer broadband providers a great deal of power of subscribers’ online activity, allowing them to direct users towards certain favoured services, giving carriers leave to throttle or otherwise manage data streams, and ostensibly allowing them to block (or at least render completely irrelevant) services unwilling to participate. So will an investigation finally begin?

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When Morals Meet Machines: Should Self-Driving Cars Favour Passengers or Pedestrians in a Crash?

by Matt Klassen on June 29, 2016

robotcarsIn the 2004 dystopian action movie “I, Robot,” the main character (played by Will Smith) harboured a great deal of resentment towards advanced robotic assistants because of their inability to make complex moral decisions. In fact, as you find out through the course of the film, a robot had made a choice to save his life, rather than that of a young girl, based on the logical calculations of both their chances of survival during a catastrophic car accident. The point was simple, the decision making power of robots will always be flawed because they lack the emotional capacity to make nuanced moral choices.

While a decade ago considering moral theory as it relates to robotics might have seemed like some futuristic thought experiment, today it has become a reality, as the advent of self-driving cars is presenting unique moral challenges, particularly related to what decisions robotic cars should make in the event of a crash.

The fact of the matter is that while self-driving cars purport to deliver advantages related to more efficient traffic systems, reduced accidents and lower emissions, even robots will get into accidents, and autonomous vehicles will have to decide how to respond to those accidents and make decisions as to who might be injured in them: passengers or pedestrians.

It is a moral dilemma that is currently facing the autonomous vehicle industry, and one that will need to be programmed and resolved in forthcoming self-driving cars.

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Google plans on producing its own smartphone this year

by Matt Klassen on June 28, 2016

google-androidFor several years now Google has struggled with its role within the Android ecosystem, always tempted to wade into the waters with its own Google-branded hardware in an effort to compete directly with Apple, while equally always worried such efforts would upset the Android partners it depends on to actually make this crazy open source project financially viable.

Granted Google has unveiled its own Nexus line of devices, but over the years these projects have been done in partnership with a variety of Android vendors, almost like Google throwing a bone to the likes of HTC, Huawei, and LG.

But recent rumours indicate that Google may be poised for a significant switch in its Android strategy, as the company is reportedly planning to release its own non-Nexus, Google smartphone by the end of 2016, the Telegraph reported on Monday, citing “sources familiar with the discussions.” Add this to the recent speculation that Google is planning on creating a proprietary, closed version of Android, and we could be seeing a radical change in Google’s mobile strategy.

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Broadband Access still a Dream for Many

by Matt Klassen on June 24, 2016

global internetIn today’s world you might think that the last people to be reached by broadband service would be those in remote or rural locations, particularly given the fact that many of us in North American urban centres likely consider broadband access and affordability to an inexorable and ubiquitous part of our very existence. In fact, I’ll admit that I’ve long considered city life and broadband access to exist hand-in-hand…but not so.

A new study conducted on behalf of the Wireless Broadband Alliance has found that the digital divide has really nothing to do with urban or rural living, and discovered that shockingly 57 percent of the world’s urban population remains unconnected, lacking either fixed or wireless broadband service.

To put in another way, in a classic tale of haves and have-nots, being part of the so-called unconnected billions—and by the study’s own numbers, it’s about 2.2 billion people unconnected in cities alone—has little to do with where you live within a given country, and everything to do with how much money you have while living there.

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IoT Won’t Deliver Additional Revenues for the Telecom Industry

by Jeff Wiener on June 24, 2016

iot_nexus1For more than a year now telcos and vendors have been championing the Internet of Things (IoT) as the greatest new vertical revenue stream for operators, arguing that the development of 5G network technology will open up a brave new world for ubiquitous, sustained connectivity of our entire digital existence. The sustained connection of ever-proliferating devices equals increased profits…or so the dream goes.

But unwilling to buy the hype, New Street Research partner Andrew Entwistle has bucked the mainstream and rejected both the notion that 5G will be the great enabler of IoT, or that IoT will unlock erstwhile untapped revenue sources for an increasingly beleaguered telecom industry.

As Entwistle said earlier this week, “I’m perfectly prepared to accept that the internet of things is extraordinarily interesting to equipment makers and vendors, to systems integrators, to policy makers, and to people concerned with the social role of communications services in our lives, but there is an awful lot of noise about the internet of things that doesn’t actually translate into, to put it strongly, a whole hill of beans for the telecoms operator who’s looking to sell services to achieve revenue per customer or revenue per device.”

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Internet as a Public Utility: A Canadian Case Study

by Matt Klassen on June 23, 2016

utility_thumbEven as Canadians attempt to sort out their own Net Neutrality regulations, repairing the debacle left by previous federal administrations, there is one Canadian city that is hoping to pave the way forward towards establishing high speed broadband service as a public utility, even if federal regulatory bodies are unwilling to define it as such.

For the last five years the City of New Westminster, located in the Greater Vancouver Regional District on the west coast of British Columbia, has been slowly deploying its BridgeNet strategy to bring high speed Internet connectivity to the city, hoping that it will be able to “leverage broadband Internet to promote health and social inclusion, with free Internet access, public computers and training.”

“BridgeNet is a key element in our Intelligent City initiative,” said New Westminster City Councillor Bill Harper. “This is part of a strategy to attract knowledge-based startups and high-tech companies into the city. There are a lot of pieces to this plan, but the idea is to come up with a cohesive strategy for building a health-care cluster.”

Frustrated by the slow upgrade schedule of the country’s main telecom companies, the city has decided to piggyback the installation of gigabit broadband service to its other public utilities, meaning that whenever a road is repaired or a new community created, Internet is now added as part of the infrastructure.

If you ever wondered what treating broadband service as a public utility looks like, well here it is folks.

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Will Google Close the Android Ecosystem?

by Matt KlassenJune 22, 2016

Over the years the one thing that as set Google’s Android operating system apart from Apple’s own iOS is that Android has always been open-sourced (sort of), available to all to tinker and modify…if they’re willing to live by Google’s rules of course. By contrast, Apple has always controlled its proprietary platform, not allowing anyone […]

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Domino’s Abandons T-Mobile Promo Due to Huge Pizza Demand

by Matt KlassenJune 21, 2016

I’m still now sure how the general public feels about T-Mobile’s recent promotional campaign to give out shares in the company, but the carrier’s accompanying free giveaways are clearly a hit, evidenced by the fact that the Domino’s pizza chain, a partner for the first two weeks of T-Mobile’s promotion, has abandoned it’s participation in […]

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The Internet is a Public Utility. So has anything changed?

by Matt KlassenJune 20, 2016

As we reported last week, a U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the Federal Communications Commission’s legal authority to implement and enforce Net Neutrality regulations, a landmark victory for the open Internet movement. With it the FCC has had its reclassification of broadband service as a public utility affirmed, and we now officially live in an […]

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Getting Practical about Customer Service

by Jeff WienerJune 17, 2016

In the telecom world (heck, in every service industry) company CEOs love to talk about customer service. Oh my goodness they like talking about it! Nary has a quarterly conference call gone by without some talking head assuring investors that customers come first, that customer service is at the heart of everything they do, and […]

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