Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Net Neutrality Heats Up

Net Neutrality in the News

Net neutrality was in the news quite a bit last week. If you don't know what that is, you can use my short documentary from last year as a primer. It's been in the news off and on in the past 4 years or so but there were quite a few articles last week regarding some rules that the FCC is proposing to preserve net neutrality. Interestingly enough, the EFF is pretty pessimistic about these proposals as giving the FCC power that it doesn't actually have. The so-called Four Freedoms that the FCC is trying to support are venerable ideals: that consumers are entitled to access to legal Internet content, to run applications and services of their choice, to connect to the Internet on their choice of lawful devices that don't harm the network, and competition among content providers as well as service providers. They're simple but elegant principles to stand behind and I'm definitely glad that the FCC is at least not going the other direction and favoring Comcast et al. Even if they don't have the power to foster net neutrality I hope that in investigating their authority the issue gets enough visibility to become something that ISPs don't sweep under the rug before people wake up and figure out what a problem it is when content providers don't get a fair shake at distributing their content.

It's a common misconception that net neutrality means that consumers are entitled to pay a flat rate for unlimited Internet usage as well, but that's actually not the case. It's not as big of a deal to created tiered packages for Internet access as long as each tier has access to the exact same Internet as any other tier. This is what AT&T and Time Warner want to bring about - pay as you go Internet. Charging by the bit for your Internet consumption. This isn't so crazy considering that your water, electricity, and cell phone usage are metered, but in a country that has a long way to go in improving broadband penetration and where the Internet has become so vital to some people's lifestyles it can definitely be detrimental to everyone to have crappy tiers, and that's what I'm worried about. The world that Time Warner envisions where most people are using very little Internet and they want to charge more money to the Internet hogs isn't the future that's ahead of us anymore with things like Hulu and Netflix and YouTube growing in subscribers and content every day. If you have to pay by the bit you may be less likely to stream that movie on Netflix, and I think the Internet could see somewhat of a dip in profitability with less eyeballs. I can understand the ISPs' argument that Internet plans with unlimited access are unsustainable in the long-term, but they still need to work on upgrading their networks and coming up with affordable pricing plans, unlike the ones proposed in Texas not too long ago by Comcast that they had to pull out of because they were so unreasonable. 150 GB is definitely too small of a cap when you consider a family of four using the Internet, especially if one of the parents have a job that involves using a VPN and/or a VNC viewer when working from home.

It's good to see these issues getting slightly more exposure and I hope that we reach an agreement on a future for the Internet that makes sense for companies and for consumers.

Search Deals

There were a few high-profile search deals struck last week. The first one was Bing acquiring non-exclusive rights to search Facebook and Twitter for their real-time status updates. For a few hours, Bing had something that Google didn't. It wasn't even a day though before Google announced a similar deal with Twitter, but they had not struck one with Facebook. Given that Twitter has more public updates than Facebook, it was the bigger deal anyhow. As a cherry on top, Google whispered to the API that they plan on adding music pages to search this week with direct links to download songs and rich content for artists with images, lyrics, song previews, and other goodies. This is akin to the artist pages you find on Amazon when you search for big artists.

The real story on this is between the lines: we have actual competition in search again. Hooray! We have two giants pitted against each other to deliver better sites that ultimately benefit consumers. I'm fairly certain that Yahoo still has a bigger share of the market than Bing, but I don't think that their terrible advertising campaign is making many inroads compared to the good fortune that Bing has had in recent months with drumming up traffic (probably thanks in part to their controversial ad that involved vomiting).

Blur, Droid and a Watch

There were 3 mobile phone stories last week, but none of them were really that big.

Boy Genius posted pictures of Motorola Calgary, which is the codename for the Motorola Blur-branded handset that's coming to Verizon. It looks like a plasticky, low-end smartphone, which isn't a bad thing but that's just what the design tells me. If it's not intended to be that then they need a better design team at Motorola (that's not really news though).

You've probably seen the stupid Droid ads now, so does that mean Calgary is "Droid"? In a manner of speaking, I believe so. It turns out that Droid is not a single phone but a series of Android phones coming to Verizon. Lame. They're re-branding Android as "Droid"? That doesn't make any sense to me. Engadget believe that the Motorola Sholes and HTC Eris are the first of the line and the Sholes may, in fact, end up being called just "Droid". I imagine that we'll hear more from Verizon about this later in the week as the ads now indicate a release of something in November.

Lastly, how stupid does this thing look?

It's a Bluetooth-enabled watch for your Blackberry. They had a bad quarter but decided to sustain development of a dumb-looking watch so you can be even more connected to your Blackberry? How about making a phone that innovates instead of these handsets they put out that are just marginally better than the previous model? Besides me, who uses a wristwatch anymore anyway? I love wearing a watch because I never know what time it is and like quick access to it, especially during meetings where there's no wall clock, but I recognize that most people don't think they need one.

Amazon Tidbits

Amazon had a really great Q3 and posted a 29% increase in sales compared to Q3 2008. There was definitely a lot of hard work behind it and relentless customer obsession, I hope our good fortune and blessings continue.

There were a couple of other recent announcements that I thought were cool. Last week, Amazon announced a free PC application for Kindle owners to read their books on their PC for free and even includes touchscreen functionality for Windows 7 users with multitouch devices. The other thing was same-day delivery in seven major cities, which is just $6 for Prime users on any order. Also, Prime users formerly didn't get Saturday delivery without paying extra but can now get Saturday delivery on orders placed before cutoff on Thursday. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first year ever that Amazon is offering shipping options so that you can order a last-minute gift on Christmas morning and have it at your doorstep in time for dinner.

The Short Stuff

Alright, time to wrap up with some quick stories.

Windows 7 launched last Thursday and hardware manufacturers are hoping to benefit from the release with a sales boost this holiday season.

If you're not sold on Windows 7 yet, I've talked plenty about it already so I'll direct you to Ars Technica's rather thorough review.

If you plan to upgrade to Windows 7 but are worried about re-installing your core base of applications, then you have to check out Ninite. It's a really cool program that allows you to create a single installer based around a list of applications you can choose from. It features a lot of apps that I love.

Gizmodo has a slew of images and a video of the Nook, which is the terrible name Barnes and Noble has decided on for their e-Reader, and you can find even more pictures at Engadget. The price point is $256, I wonder where they got that from.

Inglourious Basterds (see my review) was finally given an official DVD and Blu-ray release date last week of December 15, which is a few days after the UK release. It's available on Amazon for pre-order now! I already ordered my copy and can't wait for the extended scenes and the full version of Nation's Pride.

AMD announced the first triple-core processors defying the longstanding tradition in computing of sticking to powers of two.

Lastly, if you're looking for Google Chrome extensions to install then check this out.

Have a great week!

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