PTJ 93 News: Bending the Rules

The new rules on Net Neutrality put forth last month by the Federal Communications Commission have generated quite a bit of a backlash from people who think the agency’s fast lane/slow lane approach was misguided. More than 100 tech companies signed a letter expressing their dismay with the proposed rules.

Other opponents to the rules include Minnesota senator Al Franken, who called the proposal “the opposite of Net Neutrality.” The digital-rights advocacy group Free Press was also planning a public protest outside the FCC’s headquarters in Washington, DC, and is encouraging opponents to contact their Congresspeople. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also put up a post on its site explaining how the FCC makes its rules and explaining how members of the public can comment on policy-works-in-progress.

As first reported by The Wall Street Journal a few days ago, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is said to be working on some revisions to the rules and is scheduled to appear before the House of Representatives’ subcommittee on communications and technology next Tuesday, May 20. CEOs of broadband companies, however, have also warned the FCC not to go too far in the other direction with regulating the industry because it would do things like scare away business investors.

And in more exciting policy news, the European Union Court of Justice has ruled that people have a right to be forgotten when it comes to showing up in Google search results. Google is also hearing in from a court in Germany. A data protection office there in Hamburg says Google is violating German law by quietly compiling users’ data from its different services without their consent. At least the new Moto E Android phone is getting good reviews.

Microsoft is taking another swing at Sony and has released a cheaper version of its Xbox One. This new $399 version of the console does not include the Kinect motion controller and saves the gamer $100. Microsoft may also be gearing up to launch a music locker service for the Xbox One. Although the company hasn’t made any announcements, a Chinese website claims to have found references to a OneDrive Music folder that can stream music from the cloud to the Xbox.

And speaking of streaming music, word of Apple’s $3.2 billion deal to buy Beats Electronics has the tech world thumping. The agreement, which was widely reported late last week and has yet to close, but it’s said to be the biggest acquisition in Apple’s company history. Beats Electronics, founded by musician Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine, makes headphones and has its own subscription music-streaming service. Billboard is among the sites speculating that the Beats founders could be making an appearance at Apple’s World Wide Developer’s Conference next month.

Apple isn’t the only company in acquisition mode. Many sites are reporting that AT&T is quite close to a takeover of the DirecTV satellite service.

Netflix, which officially raised its subscription prices for new customers by a buck to $8.99 a month last week, sent out email messages to existing customers saying it would not hike prices on them for at least two years. But at least that side deal with Comcast seems to be paying off: The monthly ISP speed index on the company’s blog shows that Comcast has moved up another few notches to third place behind CableVision and Cox.

It seems the Office for iPad fans really were suffering until Microsoft released its official iOS tablet version of the suite in March. The suite have now rung up more than 27 million downloads in 46 days after its release.

muteAnd finally, Twitter has announced a new “Mute” feature that lets you temporarily turn off the tweets of somone you’re following.  With the U.S. midterm elections coming up later this year (and with them, the inevitable flowing poltical tweet-spew), this could prove to be a sharply timed and very popular feature. Well played, Twitter. Well played.

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