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FCC Chairman’s plan to roll back net neutrality laws is met with outrage

(TECH NEWS)

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Grab the pitchforks

Ajit Pai, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), announced his plan, called Title II, to to limit the agency’s regulation of Internet service providers (ISPs), spelling bad news for net neutrality.

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This announcement is causing quite an uproar in the tech community, and understandably so.

So much for the land of the free

The FCC approved the net neutrality rules in 2015, preventing ISPs from selectively speeding up or slowing down traffic from certain websites and apps. With this motion, the FCC also voted to increase regulatory control over ISPs by reclassifying them as common carriers like telephone services.

The rules were put into effect to keep the Internet open and fair.

Pai claims that the rules governing cable and broadcasting companies are harmful to businesses, but it seems TItle II would be even moreso.

A dirtier, darker internet

Revoking the reclassification would all but obliterate the rules protecting the Internet. These rules protect consumers from ISPs trying to act as gatekeepers and favor their own content over competitors’ content. This would limit online competition and give companies like AT&T and Comcast a virtual monopoly over internet browsing. The internet would potentially become an abyss of sponsored data, limited to whatever ISPs are willing to let consumers access.

Consumer groups also claim that publicly traded broadband companies have upped investment by 5% since the current rules were enacted.

Pai hasn’t said much about how the FCC will govern net neutrality after Title II, claiming only that his plan would only include voluntary commitment from broadband services — which would likely only incite sketchy business practices and further reduce competition.

Battle cries

Internet Association President and Ceo Michael Beckerman outlined major issues with Title II, stating that rolling back the restrictions would hinder innovation and make the internet a much worse place for consumers.

Indeed, repealing the 2015 legislation makes little sense. As Beckerman explains, “Robust net neutrality rules benefit all players in the ecosystem by attracting more people to the web and increasing demand for internet connections.”

Beckerman is not alone in his fervent disapproval.

Among net neutrality proponents are heavy hitters like Google and Netflix. In addition, more than 800 startups signed a letter to Pai requesting him to protect net neutrality. A press conference was held hours before Pai’s announcement where Democrats gathered to discuss how best to fight Title II.

At the conference, Senator Richard Blumenthal said opposition of the plan must form a strategy “that mobilizes public opinion, that reaches out to the chairman and others on the commission.”

Pai also endorsed Trump’s recent measure undoing Internet privacy protections enacted last October that limited control of ISPs over consumer data.

He seems determined to shift the power from consumers to ISPs:

“Make no mistake about it: This is a fight we intend to wage and it is a fight that we are going to win.”

Take a breath

Slow down, buddy. While the Republicans’ 2 to 1 majority on this commission is not exactly comforting for net neutrality advocates, the fact that the current rules were affirmed by a federal appeals court could stand in the way of Pai’s plan.

Much remains uncertain except a rough road ahead for both sides.

#NetNeutrality

Helen Irias is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a degree in English Literature from University of California, Santa Barbara. She works in marketing in Silicon Valley and hopes to one day publish a comically self-deprecating memoir that people bring up at dinner parties to make themselves sound interesting.

Tech News

How to opt out of Google’s robots calling your business phone

(TECH) Google’s robots now call businesses to set appointments, but not all companies are okay with talking to an artificial intelligence tool like a person. Here’s how to opt out.

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You know what’s not hard? Calling a restaurant and making a reservation. You know what’s even easier? Making that reservation though OpenTable. You know what we really don’t need, but it’s here so we have to deal with it? Google Duplex.

Falling under “just because we can do it, doesn’t mean we should do it,” Duplex, Google’s eerily human-sounding AI chat agent that can arrange appointments for Pixel users via Google Assistant has rolled out in several cities including New York, Atlanta, Phoenix, and San Francisco which now means you can have a robot do menial tasks for you.

There’s even a demo video of someone using Google Duplex to find an area restaurant and make a reservation and in the time it took him to tell the robot what to do, he could’ve called and booked a reservation himself.

Aside from booking the reservation for you, Duplex can also offer you updates on your reservation or even cancel it. Big whoop. What’s difficult to understand is the need or even demand for Duplex. If you’re already asking Google Assistant to make the reservation, what’s stopping you from making it yourself? And the most unsettling thing about Duplex? It’s too human.

It’s unethical to imply human interaction. We should feel squeamish about a robo-middleman making our calls and setting our appointments when we’re perfectly capable of doing these things.

However, there is hope. Google Duplex is here, but you don’t have to get used to it.

Your company can opt out of accepting calls by changing the setting in your Google My Business accounts. If robots are already calling restaurants and businesses in your city, give your staff a heads-up. While they may receive reservations via Duplex, at least they’ll be prepared to talk to a robot.

And if you plan on not opting out, at least train your staff on what to do when the Google robots call.

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Bose launches headphone-less headphones for your face

(TECHNOLOGY) Bose is using augmented reality in a fascinating new way (even if we’re poking fun at it).

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Just in time for the holidays, Bose releases Frames, their new breakthrough sunglasses that combine the protection and style of premium sunglasses, the functionality and performance of wireless headphones, and the world’s first audio augmented reality platform.

At $199 per pair, they’re the perfect gift for the person who has everything and who will eventually lose them in a lake, leave them in a fitting room, or crush them in a car seat.

Frames have the ability to stream music and information, take and make calls, and access virtual assistants. Bose promises that your playlists, entertainment, and conversations will stay private, although how your conversations will remain private is unclear. Expect confusion from every stranger within earshot.

Bose is calling Frames a revolutionary wearable, but aren’t these just headphones for your face? Very cool headphones for your face?

Bose is pushing the AR functionality hard.

Although they can’t change what you see, they know what you’re seeing using a 9-axis head motion sensor and the GPS from your iOS or Android. Once they know what you see, the AR automatically tunes you into audio commentary for that place, opening users to endless possibilities for travel, learning, entertainment, and gaming.

They claim Frames are hands-free and clear-eyed, but even if that’s the case, do we really need more people walking around under the influence of distraction? As if it weren’t enough to have people’s eyes glued to their phones, now we can have people in matching sunglasses wandering around talking to themselves. Now who looks bonkers?

Frames are available for preorder now and are expected to ship in January 2019. Look for Bose to release updates to their AR at SXSW in March.

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Tech News

What’s TikTok, why’s it so huge, and why is Facebook scared of it?

(TECH) TikTok has taken the internet by storm – you’ve probably seen the videos floating around, so here’s the context your business needs to know.

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Jimmy Fallon recently challenged his viewers to his version of a #sharpiechallenge. That’s where you toss a sharpie into the air, catch it, take the cap off and draw a mustache on yourself with it. He requested that viewers use TikTok to record it and upload it.

As of this writing, the hashtag boasts 8.2 million views in TikTok alone – if it wasn’t big before it gained Fallon as a fan, it is now.

What Is TikTok?

The TikTok app is the brainchild of Bytedance, a Chinese company that once owned Muscal.ly, and it launched in September 2016 as Douyin (it’s Chinese moniker). When it launched internationally, a year later, they branded the social media app TikTok. When Musical.ly shut down, users had to switch.

The app lets users view, create and share 15-second videos (kind of like Vine, RIP). It’s estimated that there are over 500 million users worldwide. The app has been highly ranked in the charts for number of downloads over the past few months, with a spike when Fallon had his first challenge, #tumbleweedchallenge. (For the record, Fallon and The Tonight Show do not have a business relationship with Bytedance.)

Users can lip-sync, do duets, record a reactions video and has some excellent tech in the app for video editing. Users can comment on videos and create video memes. It’s pretty fascinating. And wildly appealing to the masses.

One of the best things about TikTok is that the app doesn’t have advertising or monetization capabilities, even though it has a broad audience. With an estimated 500 million users, it’s just a matter of time.

Facebook launches a TikTok-clone.

Facebook doesn’t want to be late to the game. In classic follower fashion, they have launched their own short-video app, Lasso.

I played with both apps, and Lasso just doesn’t have comparable content.

What Facebook does have is its user base. By integrating with Facebook itself, Lasso may outdo TikTok eventually, but it will need to increase its capabilities.

Why should your business take notice?

Small businesses should be aware of these apps. Online videos are driving social media engagement. Content is king, and you’ve been reading here for years that video is a powerful component of any social media strategy.

TikTok and Lasso give you video-making and video-sharing tools that could increase your online presence.

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