Like one of those comic book supervillain crossovers where The Joker meets Lex Luthor or Doctor Doom takes on Magneto, the world’s biggest tech companies are battling one another — with Earth as their ultimate prize.
That might sound a bit melodramatic, but it also sums up a recent trend by Silicon Valley companies looking to bring the internet to our planet’s furthest reaches by launching their very own internet satellites into orbit. Far from some obscure skunkworks project from companies with way too much money, however, these launches have the possibility to finally make the world the hyper-connected place that tech giants dream of. At stake? The chance to connect every last person on the planet to the internet. Oh, and many, many billions of dollars, too.
Wi-Fi networks dependent on radio waves are growing more congested all the time—and can’t be used everywhere—so various researchers and companies are betting light waves from LED lamps and overheads can also stream data and connect people to the internet. So-called Li-Fi technology, which uses a much more abundant slice of the wireless spectrum, is also more energy-efficient than Wi-Fi, though for now people need a special USB drive to use it. Light waves can’t pass through walls like radio waves do, but that also makes the networks more secure. A group from the world’s largest technical association, IEEE, will have draft standards for Li-Fi ready by yearend for companies that want to commercialize the technology, says its chairman, Bob Heile.
HE’S GOT A stunning 7.2 million followers on Twitter but believes digital media “can stop people from learning how to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously.”
He has posed for selfies in St. Peter’s Square, but has lamented the fact that so much communication online is purely about display, not real connection.
He’s called the Internet a “gift from God.” But he’s also warned that the abundance of data and digital stimulation we all consume each day can amount to a kind of “mental pollution” that harms our relationships and shields us from the real pain and joy that comes with human interaction.
Contract workers in San Francisco, processing thousands of complaints a day. Sweatshops in the Philippines, where outsourced labor decides what’s obscene and what’s permissible in a matter of seconds. Teams of anti-spam engineers in Mountain View, adapting to the latest wave of bots. An unpaid moderator on Reddit, picking out submissions that violate guidelines.
So much of the Internet is garbage, and much of its infrastructure and many man-hours are devoted to taking out the garbage. For the most part, this labor is hidden from plain sight. But in recent years, the garbage disposal has broken down. The social media companies have a harassment problem, the pundits have declared.
However, large-scale harassment campaigns are hardly new, and the barrage of crude and cruel messages and undesirable content is only a small part of what makes a targeted campaign a frightening experience for the victim. Yet this part of the equation—the part that is seemingly under the control of Silicon Valley—has received the most attention from the media, because it is the most public, visible and archivable. And as tech companies repeatedly fail to address the problem to everyone’s liking, the problem looms ever larger in the public imagination.
Much of the Internet rejoiced when net neutrality rules were approved by the Federal Communications Commission last week.
The landmark vote will mean that the Internet is under the most stringent regulation yet including enhanced transparency, application to landline and wireless, and a the bedrock Open Internet principles.
But for all the hubbub, it would be hard to blame people who didn’t see why it was a big deal. The Internet worked the same on the days before and after the vote.
Critics of the move have said that the FCC is trying to fix a system that isn’t broken, and that the possible harms that the net neutrality rules seek to prevent are non-existent.
This is mostly true, but every so often there’s an example of why net neutrality advocates fought for the new rules with such fervor.
GOOGLE SAYS ITS new wireless service will operate on a much smaller scale than the Verizons and the AT&Ts of the world, providing a new way for relatively few people to make calls, trade texts, and access the good old internet via their smartphones. But the implications are still enormous.
Google revealed on Monday it will soon start “experimenting” with wireless services and the ways we use them—and that’s no small thing. Such Google experiments have a way of morphing into something far bigger, particularly when they involve tinkering with the infrastructure that drives the internet.
Verizon Communications Inc. has approached AOL Inc. (AOL) about a potential acquisition or joint venture with the Internet company to expand its mobile-video offerings, people with knowledge of the matter said.
The wireless carrier hasn’t made a formal proposal to AOL, and no agreement is imminent, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Speaking at a conference today, Verizon Chief Executive Lowell McAdam said the company isn’t having “significant acquisition discussions” and is more interested in partnerships with media companies and content providers, rather than buying them.
President Barack Obama called for the “strongest possible rules” to protect the open Internet, advocating stricter controls than a regulator he appointed and causing shares of Comcast Corp. CMCSA and other broadband providers to drop.
“I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization,” Obama said today in a statement, referring to so-called fast lanes for preferred Web traffic. His comments tilt the White House against positions advocated by broadband providers and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler.
Companies led by Comcast, Verizon Communications Inc. VZ and AT&T Inc. T argue that only light regulation is needed to ensure providers don’t block or slow Web traffic, and they say strict rules would squelch investment. Public policy groups want tough regulations that guarantee all websites are treated equally and can be accessed by people increasingly reliant on the Internet.
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Yesterday, the 20,000 customers who use a Lansing Michigan web hosting company called Liquid Web had some big internet problems. The reason: the internet grew too big for the memory chips in the company’s Cisco routers.
Think of it as the internet’s latest growing pain. It’s a problem that networking geeks have seen coming for awhile now, but yesterday it finally struck. And it’s likely to cause more problems in the next few weeks. The bug doesn’t seem to have affected core internet providers—companies like AT&T and Verizon, which haul vast quantities of data over the internet’s backbone, “but certainly there are a number of people that were caught by this,” says Craig Labovitz, founder of network analysis company Deepfield Networks.