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California lawmakers advance a net neutrality bill implementing some protections but not a proposed zero-rating ban that went beyond the FCC’s 2015 regulations

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California lawmakers gut ‘gold standard’ net neutrality bill

The California State Assembly had a proposal with the strongest net neutrality laws ever. But key amendments have “mutilated” the rules.

BY 

President Obama Los Angeles Visit
Ted Soqui

California will not be the poster child for the nation’s strongest set of net neutrality protections, as lawmakers in the state Assembly voted to cut many of the bill’s most powerful provisions.

The vote on Wednesday in a California Assembly committee hearing advanced a bill that implements some net neutrality protections, but it scaled back all the measures of the bill that had gone beyond the rules outlined in the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 regulation, which was officially taken off the books by the Trump Administration’s commission last week. In a surprise move, the vote happened before the hearing officially started, after which the committee listened to public feedback.

“It is, with the amendments, a fake net neutrality bill,” said Sen. Scott Wiener from San Francisco, who introduced the original bill. He said the amendments “mutilated” the rules.

The move is a major blow to Democrats in Congress and in state houses across the country, who were looking to California to set a high standard, as they push to reinstate strong net neutrality protections to replace the Obama-era rules the Republican-led FCC voted to eliminate.

“It sends exactly the wrong message to other lawmakers across the country,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future. “And it’s an embarrassment for both the Democratic party and the California State Legislature as a whole.”

California’s bill was considered the “gold standard” in net neutrality protections, because it went beyond the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality “bright line” rules by including provisions like a ban on zero-rating, a business practice that allows broadband providers like AT&T to exempt their own services from their monthly wireless data caps, while services from competitors are counted against those limits. The result is a market controlled by internet service providers like AT&T, who can shut out the competition by creating an economic disadvantage for those competitors through its wireless service plans.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Democrat from Los Angeles, expressed concern that the bill went too far and could have hurt consumers who would benefit in the short term from perks like zero-rated plans. He also worried the strict rules would hurt investment from broadband and wireless companies, which would be prohibited from experimenting with new business models in a changing market.

During the hearing, Santiago compared internet access to a bridge connecting a village, noting that he doesn’t see an issue with the bridge operator setting up fast lanes. He added that additional regulations would stymie the creation of new bridges, which he argued would result in lower tolls for everyone.

But critics like Fight For the Future say Santiago caved to pressure from industry lobbyists who had donated thousands of dollars to his campaigns.

Watch this: California net neutrality law beset by political infighting
1:00 

Santiago denied those allegations.

“This is the legislative process at work,” he said in an email. “Any suggestions of actions taken today somehow being otherwise motivated are irresponsible, at best and insulting beyond that.”

In a prepared statement, he said he was concerned by “Trump’s rollback” of the net neutrality regulations. He added that, “California should once again stand as a back-stop of ‘the resistance’ by beating back both Trump’s administration and the billion-dollar corporations he’s trying to protect.” And he explained that’s why he supports the amended bill, which he said he is certain will eventually be challenged in court by the industry.

“Make no mistake,” he added. “The industry supports Trump’s actions and will do everything they can to sue and block implementation of net neutrality in California. When that happens, we will fight back.”

An AT&T representative said he opposed the Wiener bill and defended the practice of zero-rated plans. He kicked off his comments during the hearing with the company’s vow that it would not degrade high-speed internet service, and argued that the California bill, as it originally stood, went far beyond the Obama-era FCC’s 2015 net neutrality order.

“There’s no presentation of evidence of an actual problem,” he said. “You’re not blocked.”

Steve Carlson, speaking for the CTIA wireless trade group at the hearing, said he opposed the bill both in its original and amended form, arguing both bills go beyond the 2015 order. He called the fears over the lack of net neutrality laws “alarmist speculation.”

Wiener attempted to pull the bill from further consideration, but the committee overrode his decision and opted to continue the process of turning the amended bill into law.

Sen. Kevin de Leon had introduced a second net neutrality bill, and de Leon and Wiener had plans to combine the bills. The committee denied amendments that would have linked the bills, so they could be considered together.  Sen. de Leon wasn’t present at Wednesday’s hearing and his bill was never mentioned during the proceeding. A spokesman for the senator offered this statement: “I am very disappointed in the outcome of today’s hearing in the Assembly Communications Committee. However, Senator Wiener and I are committed to continue working with all parties to protect consumers and Net Neutrality in California.”

Sen. de Leon withdrew his bill when the committee indicated they would add the same amendments as Wiener’s bill, according to a person familiar with de Leon’s thinking.

The fight continues

Still, net neutrality supporters vow to continue the fight. A slew of individuals, consumer advocacy groups and other parties chimed in with support of Wiener’s bill and hailed the amendments as “hostile.” And California is still on track to pass some form of net neutrality protections. The bill still has another committee to face in the California Assembly before heading to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for signing.

Advocates such as Greer said there’s growing momentum for net neutrality and that the fight in California was just one piece of it.

“We are continuing to fight for net neutrality at the federal level in the House of Representatives, in the courts, and in other states,” she said. “We’ve succeeded in making net neutrality a mainstream political issue for the first time ever. And politicians need to decide right now which side of history they want to be on.”

More than two dozen other states, like New York, Connecticut, and Maryland, are also considering legislation to reinstate net neutrality rules. Oregon and Washington state have already signed their own net neutrality legislation into law. Governors in several states, including New Jersey and Montana, have signed executive orders requiring ISPs that do business with the state adhere to net neutrality principles.

Democrats in Congress are also still fighting to roll back the FCC’s repeal of the 2015 rules through a Congressional Review Act resolution, which allows Congress to nullify recently passed regulation. The measure won in the US Senate, but still needs passage in the House by the end of the year. And after that it needs to be signed by President Trump, which many believe is a long shot.

And there are also several lawsuits filed in federal appeals court challenging the FCC’s removal of the rules.

This story originally published at 10:39 a.m. PT.
Update, 1:17 p.m. PT: Adds a statement from Sen. Kevin de Leon.
Update: 3:56 p.m. PT: Adds statements from Assemblyman Miguel Santiago. Update: 5:42 p.m. PT: To include additional background on Sen. de Leon.

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NET FIX
Makena Kelly / The Verge

Twitter temporarily suspended some accounts that simply linked to a Splinter post that shared a phone number for White House adviser Stephen Miller

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Twitter Is Punishing Users Who Tweeted Our Stephen Miller Story

Illustration: Jim Cooke/GMG

This morning, Splinter published the personal cell phone number of White House adviser Stephen Miller, an official so monstrous as to reportedly find humor in the disturbing images of child immigrants separated from their undocumented parents.

Now, Twitter users who have either shared the post or posted Miller’s phone number have had their accounts temporarily suspended, with Twitter citing a violation of the site’s rules against publishing personal information. It’s safe to assume a shit-stirring campaign by all manner of internet assholes and tattletales was also effective:

It started with Splinter’s own account:

But soon, other Splinter staffers and members of the Gizmodo Media Group family who’d tweeted the link found themselves locked out:

And then still other users who dared share the story:

Then, writer Hannah Gais told Splinter she received notification that her account was suspended, not because of a screenshot of her texting Miller’s number but, oddly enough, for drawing attention to Gizmodo writer Tom McKay’s suspension:

Meanwhile, Twitter remains a place where users are regularly subjected to harassment based on their sexuality, religion, race, or having a wrong opinion that day. For the moment, it seems Jack Dorsey is much more interested in placating conservative users, who’ve long claimed the platform is biased against them.

It’s also telling what Twitter allows to stay up on the site, unchecked. A quick sampling of hateful tweets currently live on the site, apparently without breaking rules:

It’s also worth noting, yet again, that we currently live under an administration led by a man best known for using his Twitter as a cudgel and for making veiled threats of retribution.

This is also the same man who published Univision anchor Jorge Ramos’ personal phone number on his Instagram account (Univision is Splinter’s parent company) and gave out South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham’s cell at a 2015 campaign rally.

Just how will Twitter continue enforcing this apparent violation of their absolutely iron-clad rules? I simply can’t imagine and would never urge you, a rule-following person, to break any such rules.

We’ve reached out to Twitter for comment and will update this post as soon as it’s made available to us.

Update, 4:43 pm: When asked about the suspensions by BuzzFeed, Twitter provided a boilerplate response: “We are aware of this and are taking appropriate action on content that violates our Terms of Service.”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Katherine Krueger

News Editor, Splinter

Discussion

Reply
    • Wow, that screenshot captured a hell of lot more specific response from Twitter than I ever got! My account, @AtTheRazorsEdge , was ‘temporarily suspended’ sometime in late March. It’s still ‘temporarily suspended’ and upon emailing Twitter’s customer service, I was only told that my account had violated several of their rules, without the slightest indication of what rules I had broken.

      That screencap of yours not only states why that individual was suspended, but exactly how long they’re under suspension. I’m nearly three months into my suspension and still haven’t a clue why it happened or if/when it’s going to end.

    • No, I meant to say that – Squidworth is an original character- a squid who inherited the woolworths fortune but the twist is he’s an asshole. Also the version of Office i use corrected it that way for some reason…

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Makena Kelly / The Verge

Sources: nonprofit financial platform Stellar in talks to buy Chain, a startup building blockchain tech for the finance industry, for $500M in Stellar’s Lumens

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Stellar In Talks to Acquire Blockchain Startup Chain

The cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Dash, Ripple and Monero represented in Hong Kong.
The cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum, Dash, Ripple and Monero represented in Hong Kong.
S3studio—Getty Images

By POLINA MARINOVA

June 20, 2018

Stellar is in talks to acquire Chain, the San Francisco-based startup building blockchain technology for the financial industry, according to people familiar with the deal. Fortune understands the sale price to be $500 million in Stellar’s digital currency Lumens.

Chain previously raised more than $43 million in venture funding from investors including Khosla Ventures, RRE Ventures, Blockchain Capital, Pantera Capital, Nasdaq, Visa, Citi Ventures, Thrive Capital, BoxGroup, and Haystack.

Chain’s backers will receive payment in the form of Lumens, which they should be able to hold or sell immediately after the transaction, Fortune understands.

Lumens were created by Stellar, a company founded in 2014 by Ripple co-founder Jed McCaleb. Stellar Lumens (XLM) is the seventh most valuable cryptocurrency with a market cap of more than $4.3 billion. This week, the cryptocurrency was approved by New York financial regulators to trade on the itBit exchange.

With funding from payments company Stripe, Stellar’s blockchain technology is now used by companies from messaging startup Kik to IBM, which use Lumens to send payments between countries in the South Pacific region.

The pairing makes sense — Stellar has the money, and Chain has the engineering talent. One source familiar with the deal said it is likely in response to the heated battle for top developers between crypto companies.

It’s still unclear how Stellar will incorporate Chain into its ecosystem, whether Chain will continue building its existing products, and whether Chain CEO Adam Ludwin will stick around. Fortune has reached out to both companies for comment.

Makena Kelly / The Verge

Microsoft says it does not have any plans for VR or mixed reality support for Xbox consoles

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Microsoft withdraws promise of VR support from Xbox One consoles

A bummer for virtual reality enthusiasts.

xbox-one-x-e3-2017-7833-016
Josh Miller/CNET

Microsoft’s plans to include virtual reality in Xbox game consoles are virtually over.

The software giant told GamesIndustry.biz it isn’t working on VR support for its popular Xbox console, contradicting the company’s earlier comments that it would support the technology. The company also isn’t adding support for mixed reality, a hybrid technology that allows digital objects to co-exist with physical ones.

“We don’t have any plans specific to Xbox consoles in virtual reality or mixed reality,” Microsoft Chief Marketing Officer Mike Nichols told the website at the E3 video game convention in Los Angeles last week. “Our perspective on it has been and continues to be that the PC is probably the best platform for more immersive VR and MR.”

That’s a stark difference from what Xbox chief Phil Spencer originally promised when he introduced the company’s Xbox One X console, originally known as Project Scorpio, in June 2016. “This is hardware built specifically to lead the console industry into true 4K gaming and high-fidelity VR,” he said at the time, adding the hardware would enable “premiere VR experiences without sacrificing performance.”

One year later, Xbox chief Phil Spencer told CNET again that the Xbox One X would still fully support virtual reality, even after the Wall Street Journal reported that it wouldn’t.

Microsoft confirmed part of Nichols’s new remarks in a statement.

“Because of the opportunity with Windows Mixed Reality, and because we believe the user experience will be best on PC right now, that is where our focus is,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email statement. “We have nothing to share about MR for console at this time,” a Microsoft spokesperson said..

In comments to CNET sister site GameSpot, Spencer said he hadn’t gotten many requests for mixed reality console games, but didn’t close the door on MR games for Xbox One X.

CNET’s Sean Hollister contributed to this story. 

 

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Makena Kelly / The Verge

Instagram debuts IGTV, a hub for high-profile creators, and says it will begin letting users upload videos up to an hour long, up from previous one-minute limit

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Instagram  is ready to compete head-on with YouTube. Today at a flashy event in San Francisco, the company announced it will begin allowing users to upload videos up to one hour in length, up from the previous one-minute limit. And to house the new longer-form videos from content creators and the general public, Instagram is launching IGTV. Accessible from a button inside the Instagram homescreen, as well as a standalone app, IGTV will spotlight popular videos from Instagram celebrities.

The launch confirms TechCrunch’s scoops over the past month outlining the features and potential of IGTV that we said would arrive today, following theWSJ’s report that Instagram would offer videos up to an hour in length.

“It’s time for video to move forward, and evolve,” said Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom onstage at the event. “IGTV is for watching long-from videos from your favorite creators.” Just before he took the stage, Instagram’s business blogouted details of IGTV.

How IGTV Works

IGTV will let anyone be a creator, not just big-name celebrities. People will be able to upload vertical videos through Instagram’s app or the web. Everyone except smaller and new accounts will be able to upload hour-long videos immediately, with that option expanding to everyone eventually.

The IGTV app will be available globally on iOS and Android sometime today, as well as in the Instagram app through a TV shaped button above Stories. “We made it a dedicated app so you can tap on it and enjoy video without all the distraction,” Systrom explained.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/gHXEUGTAPq8″ frameborder=”0″ allow=”autoplay; encrypted-media” allowfullscreen></iframe>

In IGTV’s dedicated app or its in-Instagram experience, viewers will be able to swipe through a variety of longer-form videos, or swipe up to visit a Browse tab of personally recommended videos, popular videos, creators they’re following and the option to continue watching previously started videos. Users will also get callouts from the IGTV button alerting them to new content.

IGTV will also let creators develop Instagram Channels full of their different videos that people can subscribe to. Creators will be able to put links in the description of their videos to drive traffic elsewhere.

No Commercials In IGTV…Yet

“There’s no ads in IGTV today,” says Systrom, but he says it’s “obviously a very reasonable place [for ads] to end up.” He explained that since creators are investing a lot of time into IGTV videos, he wants to make that sustainable by offering them a way to monetize in the future. Instagram isn’t paying any creators directly for IGTV videos either, like Facebook did to jump-start its flopped Facebook Watch video hub.

With 1 billion users on Instagram, IGTV could be popular with creators not only trying to earn money but grow their audience. Instagram is expected to build out a monetization option for IGTV creators, potentially including ad revenue shares. The big user base could also attract advertisers. eMarketer already expects Instagram to earn $5.48 billion in U.S. ad revenue in 2018. Facebook shareholders loved the sound of more premium ad inventory that businesses crave as they shift spend away from television. Facebook’s share price is up over 2.2 percent today to nearly $202.

Instagram hits 1 billion monthly users, up from 800M in September

Instagram’s meteoric rise continues, dwarfing the stagnant growth rates of Snapchat and Facebook. Today Instagram announced that it has reached 1 billion monthly active users, after passing 800 million in September 2017 with 500 million daily users. That massive audience could be a powerful draw for IGTV, the longer-form video hub it’s launching for creators … Continue reading

Instagram has evolved far beyond the initial simplicity of just filtering and sharing photos. When it launched, mobile networks, screens and cameras weren’t ready for longer-form video, and neither were users. As more families cut the cord or teens ignore television altogether, though, Instagram has an opportunity to become the TV of mobile. YouTube may always have a wider breadth of content, but through curation of creators and publishers’ video content, Instagram could become the reliable place to watch something great on the small screen.