TIME Tech Policy

Netflix Is Paying AT&T To Make Movies Stream Faster

Netflix Garners Two Top Show Nominations With 'Cards,' 'Orange'
The Netflix Inc. application (app) displays the "Orange is the New Black" series on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5s in this arranged photograph in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 9, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

After already making similar deals with Comcast and Verizon

Despite its public war against interconnection fees, Netflix has signed another paid peering deal with an Internet Service Provider to improve the quality of its streaming and reduce buffering for its subscribers.

“We reached an interconnect agreement with AT&T in May and since then have been working together to provision additional interconnect capacity to improve the viewing experience of our mutual subscribers,” Netflix spokesperson Anne Marie Squeo said in an emailed statement. “We’re now beginning to turn up the connections, a process that should be complete in the coming days.” AT&T spokesperon Mark Siegel offered a nearly identical statement. Netflix will pay AT&T for this additional capacity, but the payment amount hasn’t been disclosed.

Such fees have become a hotly debated topic among Internet giants this year. Netflix believes it shouldn’t have pay ISPs like AT&T to deliver its video content because consumers are already paying for Internet access. The streaming service argues that these tolls could be used to discriminate against certain Internet companies, and it has conflated the issue with the ongoing debate about net neutrality.

The ISPs disagree. In a March blog post, AT&T executive Jim Cicconi called Netflix “arrogant” for trying to dump its cost of doing business on all subscribers to an ISP. “When Netflix delivered its movies by mail, the cost of delivery was included in the price their customer paid,” he wrote. “It would’ve been neither right nor legal for Netflix to demand a customer’s neighbors pay the cost of delivering his movie.”

For now Netflix has come to an uneasy truce with AT&T in a deal similar to those already established with Verizon and Comcast. But the company is lobbying to get these tolls outlawed when new rules for net neutrality are drafted by the Federal Communications Commission later this year.

TIME Telecom

Sprint Is Offering Super-Cheap Data Plans for Only Accessing Social Media

Sprint New Facebook Only Wireless Plan
A man shows the smartphone photo sharing application Instagram on an iPhone. Thomas Coex—AFP/Getty Images

In the latest example of a wireless carrier offering unique but controversial data plans

As wireless carriers launch services to make mobile Internet more affordable, Sprint is taking a more drastic approach with its new wireless plan—unlimited access to a few popular social media apps, and nothing else.

Offered under Sprint’s Virgin Mobile brand, the $12 monthly plan allows customers uncapped access to either Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, according to the Wall Street Journal. For $10 more, they’ll receive access to all four, and another $5 will grant unlimited streaming from a music app of their choice. The offers are part of a new set of customizable mobile data plans Sprint debuted Wednesday.

Sprint’s announcement arrives on the heels of other wireless carriers’ policies and services that waived certain apps’ data usage from monthly data limits. T-Mobile announced in June that it would stop counting data consumed by music streaming towards monthly caps, one of the perks of its “Un-Carrier” initiative to get away from some of the wireless industry’s long-held policies. Earlier this year, AT&T unveiled a “sponsored data” service where sponsors can entice subscribers to try out their apps while the related data use is billed to the sponsors. (Sprint isn’t being paid by the apps included in its plans, but Dow Draper, president of prepaid at Sprint, has said such a deal is “definitely possible.”)

While Sprint’s new plan seems favorable to users who go online only to tweet, post, upload or pin, it’s already incited criticism from net neutrality proponents who believe all traffic should be created equally. In other words, they argue that no Internet Service Provider should be allowed to enforce preferential treatment—faster speeds—for its users, while other users remain in congested, slower areas of the network. Sprint’s opt-in plan isn’t paid prioritization, but its nature as an exclusive, divided Internet access (like T-Mobile’s unlimited streaming, and also Comcast’s on-demand video games) have some advocates worrying it sets a potentially dangerous precedent during an ongoing debate over net neutrality. (The FCC’s Open Internet rules, however, have never applied to wireless carriers.)

Sprint’s new plan is available at only Walmart with a base offering of 20 minutes of talk time and 20 texts.

TIME digital currency

You Can Now Donate to Wikipedia in Bitcoin

Bitcoin
Thomas Trutschel—Photothek/Getty Images

"We accept 13 different payment methods enabling donations from nearly every country in the world, and today, we’re adding one more."

The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit responsible for Wikipedia, said Wednesday that it will accept donations of the digital currency Bitcoin.

“It has always been important to the Foundation to make sure donating is as simple and inclusive as possible,” Lisa Seitz Gruwell, the chief revenue officer, said in a statement. “Currently, we accept 13 different payment methods enabling donations from nearly every country in the world, and today, we’re adding one more: Bitcoin.”

The foundation, which runs one of the most visited websites on the Internet, depends almost exclusively on user donations to cover its annual budget of roughly $50 million. Its decision to accept the digital currency comes as a growing list of corporations, including satellite television operator Dish Network, add Bitcoin as a payment method.

Seitz Gruwell said the foundation will use the Bitcoin exchange Coinbase to accept Bitcoin and will convert the currency into U.S. dollars.

“Since we now also have guidance on how to account for Bitcoin, there is a clear understanding of how to legally manage it,” she said.

 

TIME Earnings

Nintendo’s Financial Struggles Continue, Even With Mario Kart 8

JAPAN-COMPANY-EARNINGS-NINTENDO-GAMES
Customers play with Nintendo's videogame console Wii U at an electronics shop in Tokyo on July 30, 2014. Yoshikazu Tsuno—AFP/Getty Images

Even the smash hit Mario Kart 8 doesn’t seem to be able to save Nintendo and its Wii U. The Japanese video game giant posted a loss of 9.92 billion yen ($96.7 million) between April and June, according to its first fiscal quarter earnings report. Nintendo had a profit of 8.62 billion yen ($84 million) during the same period last year.

It’s not a great start to the fiscal year for a company that posted an annual operating loss during its last three. Sales for the company were also down, with revenue of 74.7 billion yen ($728 million) falling 8 percent from last year’s figure of 81.5 billion yen ($794 million).

The Wii U recovered at least somewhat from its disastrous 2013. It sold 510,000 units in the quarter, more than triple the 160,000 it sold during the period last year. Software sales were also way up, mostly thanks to Mario Kart 8, which sold 2.82 million copies and is already the third best-selling Wii U game of all time. But the 3DS, Nintendo’s true moneymaker, is on a precipitous decline, especially in Japan. The handheld gaming device sold just 820,000 units during the quarter, down from 1.4 million during the same quarter last year. Software sales also declined 22 percent to 8.6 million units.

Nintendo is still projecting that it will sell 3.6 million Wii Us and 20 million Wii U games over the fiscal year, while making almost $20 million in profit. That forecast will rest heavily on the performance of Super Smash Bros. Wii U, which is slated to launch in the fall, as well as titles like the Legend of Zelda spinoff Hyrule Warriors.

TIME technology

Amazon Investing Another $2 Billion in India

Customers Collect Online Orders From An Amazon.com Inc. Locker
An Amazon.com Inc. pickup and collect locker at Newbury Park railway station in Newbury Park, U.K., on Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Bloomberg / Getty Images

Amazon CEO says he has "never seen" a market grow quite this fast

Amazon plans to invest an additional $2 billion in its India operations, the company announced Wednesday, in an attempt to grab a growing slice of the country’s online retail market.

“We see huge potential in the Indian economy and for the growth of e-commerce in India,” CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “India is on track to be our fastest country ever to a billion dollars in gross sales.”

Amazon launched its e-commerce site in India last year, going head to head with Flipkart, a local company founded by two former Amazon employees. On Tuesday, Flipkart announced that it had raised $1 billion in funding, the largest-ever sum raised by an Indian internet firm, the BBC reports, but still only half of what Amazon could retrieve from its deep pockets.

“A big ‘thank you’ to our customers in India,” Bezos added, “we’ve never seen anything like this.”

 

TIME Economy

U.S. Economy Bounces Back With 4% Growth

A welder works on a project at Prospect Steel, a unit of Lexicon Inc., in Little Rock, Ark., July 25.
A welder works on a project at Prospect Steel, a unit of Lexicon Inc., in Little Rock, Ark., July 25. Danny Johnston—AP

The figures beat market expectations and reversed the declines of a frosty first quarter

U.S. GDP surged by 4% in the second quarter of 2014, beating analysts’ forecasts and more than compensating for the previous quarter’s severe contraction, according to new figures released by the Bureau of Economic Analysis on Wednesday.

Analysts had forecast growth rates ranging between 2 to 3%, but the economy bounced back with stronger-than-expected rebounds in consumer spending, exports, and business inventories. The growth wiped out the declines of the first quarter, when the economy contracted by 2.1%, one of the sharpest declines in 5 years. Now, with the second quarter’s rebound, the economy has grown by 0.9% in the first half of the year.

The growth was led by a rebound in consumer spending, which took a hit in the previous quarter due to severe winter weather. This quarter consumer spending grew by 2.5%, compared with 1.2% in the previous quarter. Durable goods, in particular, surged by 14%.

Exports flipped from a decline of 9.2% in the first quarter to a 9.5% increase in the second quarter.

TIME Economy

Revised Data: U.S. Economy Grew Faster in 2nd Half of 2013

(WASHINGTON) — Fueled by healthier consumer spending, the U.S. economy grew in the second half of last year at the strongest pace in a decade and more than previously estimated, new government data show.

Revised data released Wednesday also suggest a possible factor behind the pickup: Americans saved much more in 2012 than previously thought, leaving more to spend in 2013.

The economy grew at an annual rate of 4.5 percent in last year’s third quarter, up from a previous estimate of 4.1 percent. Growth was 3.5 percent in the fourth quarter, up from 2.6 percent. The average 4 percent annual pace was the best six-month showing since 2003.

The government’s newly revised figures show that growth was accelerating before harsh weather in the first quarter contributed to a sharp contraction.

But growth was weaker in 2011 and 2012 than the government had previously estimated, the revisions show. Overall, the growth trend since the Great Recession was little changed by the government’s updates. The new figures show that growth has averaged 2.3 percent at an annual rate from the end of the recession in June 2009 through last year. That’s a scant downgrade from the previous estimate of 2.4 percent.

In 2013 as a whole, the economy expanded 2.2 percent, up from the previous estimate of 1.9 percent. It grew just 2.3 percent in 2012, down from 2.8 percent. And growth in 2011 was marked down to 1.6 percent from 1.8 percent.

The changes stem from a comprehensive revision the government conducts each year to the nation’s gross domestic product data. GDP, the broadest measure of the economy’s output of goods and services, includes everything from restaurant meals to television production to steel manufacturing. Most of the changes were made to the previous three years’ figures.

The revisions are based on updated data from agencies such as the Census Bureau and Internal Revenue Service. Many monthly surveys of consumer spending, manufacturing and retail businesses are updated with more comprehensive annual reports.

Newly available tax data showed that Americans earned more than was previously thought in 2012. Personal income, after taxes and adjusted for inflation, grew 3 percent that year, much higher than the previous estimate of 2 percent.

But the bulk of that gain likely went to wealthier Americans. Most of the upward revision resulted from a sharp increase in interest and dividend payments. Business income was also revised higher. Wealthier Americans own the vast majority of stocks and other financial assets.

The higher interest and dividend payments probably included many one-time payments that were made ahead of tax increases that kicked in at the beginning of 2013.

With income much higher, so was savings. The saving rate was revised to 7.2 percent in 2012, up from the previous estimate of 5.6 percent. Americans also saved more in 2011 and 2013. Though more savings can slow growth in the short run, it can lay a foundation for faster growth in the future.

TIME equality

What Our Culture of Overwork Is Doing to Mothers

Zia Soleil—Getty Images

Just as women were catching up to men in the workplace, the rules changed again

A slew of new research suggests that equality between the sexes, the rise of which seemed to stop in the 90s like a three day old helium balloon, is back in the ascendant. But it also suggests women aren’t paid as much as men because of the longer hours that are now required of employees to get ahead.

In one of several papers released for an online symposium on gender balance by the Council on Contemporary Families (CCF), researchers analyzed data from the General Social Survey, which monitors attitudes in the U.S. towards various social trends. They found that after a negative turn in the late 90s and early 2000s, attitudes toward working mothers had become more positive in recent years. In 2012 fewer people believed that working mothers were less ideal than stay at home mothers, had a lower chance of bonding with their children and that their pre-school kids suffered for their absence.

In one of the biggest changes, only a third of the people surveyed in 2012 (down from 42% in 2000) think that the best type of family set up is the so-called traditional one: where the father is the breadwinner and the mother is the one who turns it into little sandwiches with the crusts cut off then cleans it all up afterwards.

But according to researchers at Indiana University in Bloomington (IU), changes in heart about working mothers are only a subsection of the path leading to equal pay. In a little noticed study published in April’s issue of the American Sociological Review, the authors pointed to the culture of “overwork” as one of the drivers of lower pay for women. “One reason for the stall in gender equity during the 1990s was a change in typical work weeks and remuneration patterns,” wrote Youngjoo Cha, assistant professor of Sociology at IU in a companion brief for the CCF symposium. “This period saw a significant rise in ‘overwork,’ the practice of consistently working 50 hours or more a week, along with a dramatic increase in the financial incentives for working long hours.”

Cha’s research suggests that, along with the higher rewards offered, higher expectations for productivity have been placed on salaried workers. Because mothers, who tend to be the primary parents, feel pressure to be at home and with their children, they sometimes cannot find the extra 10 to 15 hours in their week to keep up with these expectations, nor can they reap the rewards. ‘These trends may have encouraged some couples to revert to a more traditional division of labor, by increasing the likelihood of wives’ quitting their jobs and prioritizing husbands’ careers,” writes Cha.

Moreover the “overwork” trend creates a bit of a vicious cycle, in which those who cannot keep up with the pace, but do not wish to, or cannot afford to leave fulltime employment get seen as lazy or less productive. Sociologist Joan Williams refers to the new “ideal worker norm,” in which employees are expected to be available around the clock on any day of the week, whether by email or phone or in person. “Those who do not work long hours, or those who take time off from work for family responsibilities,” says Cha, “are viewed as uncommitted, not serious about their careers, and lacking in loyalty to the organization.” So they tend to get left high and dry when promotion and bonus time comes around.

“As of 2007, 17% of men, but only 7% of women were working 50 or more hours a week,” writes Cha in the report. The “overpay” that the mostly men are receiving for their “overwork” could account for as much as 10% of the pay gap since 2007.

The upshot is, that while attitudes towards mothers who work outside the home may have softened, there seems to be a keep-up or shut-up system in place at the office. This doesn’t just affect women of course, but, as even successful women can tell you, the social penalties for being an too-busy-to-parent father are much lower than those for the too-busy-to-be-a parent mother.

It wasn’t all grim news on the gender front though. The gap between the views of liberals and conservatives on the role of mothers has been narrowing, for one. “In fact, during the ‘restart’ of the gender revolution in the 2000s the greatest increase in the extent of egalitarian views has occurred among conservatives,” writes David A. Cotter Professor and Chair of Sociology at Union College in New York, one of the authors of the study on attitudes towards working moms.

And from the home office, a happy bulletin. That whole when-housework-is shared-there’s-no-nooky story that made waves recently? That’s based on old data, according to another paper. When looking at data from 2006 “couples who shared domestic labor had sex at least as often, and were at least as satisfied with the frequency and quality of their sex, as couples where the woman did the bulk of the housework,” wrote Sharon Sassler, a Professor in Policy Analysis & Management at Cornell University. “It’s good news for couples, not bad, that men have more than doubled the amount of housework they do since the 1960s.”

TIME Transportation

4 Ways the TSA Could Really Speed Up Airport Security Lines

TSA line
We've all been there Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images

There's actually a science to these things

The Transportation Security Administration needs your help. The organization that scans your bags and invariably yanks your spouse out of line for the hairy-eyeball treatment when you are late for a flight desires to do something about wait times. I’m presuming that the TSA wants to make the lines shorter. Maybe I should double check.

This doesn’t seem like a particularly difficult goal in some respects. Here’s the way the TSA worked at the Delta terminal at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport on a busy afternoon the last time I was flew: There were two positions open to check IDs and three screening lines for bags and people. The line was nearly out the door. I’m no math expert, but I’m thinking that increasing the number of screening lanes by one increases throughput by 33%. Just a guess.

Increasing capacity—that is, adding ID checkpoints and scanning lanes—or at least manning all available lanes, seems like the most obvious way to shorten the lines. But that would involve spending more money, and Congress has proven again and again that it cares little for the flying public, which helps explain the current state of flying.

So instead, TSA is trying to crowdsource a solution. It is looking for someone or some group that can create the Next Generation Checkpoint Queue Design Model. Your model will have to incorporate the TSA’s (very successful) Pre Check program, along with plans to accommodate coach, business/first, crew and special needs passengers. Do that successfully and the TSA will reward you. The agency is handing out $15,000 in prize money for the best ideas, including a $5,000 top prize.

Glad to help:

Ban mobile phone calls in the queue. People who talk on the phone while simultaneously trying to get out their laptops and take off their shoes ought to be shot, but I’m willing to merely silence them to speed things up.

Start a Spirit Airlines line. Passengers on ultra-low cost carriers like Spirit and Allegiant are, let’s say, inexperienced at air travel; okay, hopeless. Even with their own line, they’ll still take forever.

Make every airline charge more for using the overhead bins than for checked baggage. Higher fees=fewer bags=shorter waits. Stop hating me. In an ideal world, all baggage would go underneath—for free—and show up 10 minutes after landing.

Fine the TSA for delays. Airlines get fined, so why not the TSA? If it takes me more than 20 minutes get through, the TSA is not doing its job right.

Have a giant, discount health and beauty store at every airport. No need to bring all that product in 3-oz. bottles. Just order in advance and buy’em at the airport, cheap.

There is indeed a science to lines, whether it’s applied to supermarkets, tollbooths, amusement parks, fast food joints, or in the bakery chain Le Pain Quotidien in my office building, where the front end system was designed by people who think dentistry isn’t painful enough. The science is known as queuing theory, and it was invented in 1909 by Danish physicist and mathematician A.K. Erlang to try figure out the optimal size of a central telephone switch to accommodate the most customers most of the time. One of queuing theory’s later advances is something called Little’s Law, expressed as L = λW , where L is the expected number of users in a queuing system, W is expected time in queuing system per user, and λ is the arrival rate. Seems easy, right?

Nope. The TSA’s problem is far more complex because it’s not a steady state system—it ebbs and flows based on the time of day and number of flights, among other factors. “The math gets really hairy, really fast,” says Dick Larson — “Dr. Q” — who teaches queuing theory at MIT. “No human knows how to derive the actual equations.”

Companies like Disney use simulations even before they create rides to try to predict the lines, says Larson, but the math attached to security lines is surely beyond the TSA. “I wish them luck,” he says.

Larson believes that half of the problem in queuing is psychological. People are stressed out about making their flights, about their cranky kids, about setting off an alarm and being groped by TSA agents. Larson’s suggestion for improving matters isn’t mathematical, it’s behavioral. “The key idea is stress reduction versus duration reduction,” he says. “If you can reduce the stress, the complaints would plummet.”

That could be done by guaranteeing that people who arrive at the security line within the airline’s minimum will make their flights, for instance. Diversion may help too. In post World War II New York, office workers in skyscrapers often faced long waits for elevators. The solution wasn’t more elevators, which was not possible. Instead, landlords mirrored the walls at the elevator banks; complaints dropped as worker bees had something to take their minds off the wait.

You can’t do that in airports, but maybe there’s a similar approach. Comedians? A brass band? Magicians? Or how about security-line mimes? Then passengers would have something to hate more than the TSA and the airlines.

MONEY Shopping

The Stunning Sales Figure That Shows Nobody Wants to Grow Up

Businessman carrying backpack and briefcase
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Working professionals seem to be trying really hard to look like they're still in college.

It’s not exactly like Wall Streeters have started wearing hoodies to the office, but it’s in the same ballpark. In a sign that indicates working professionals are embracing the delusion they could still pass for college students, many are skipping the tired old briefcase and turning to the youthful backpack as their go-to office bag of choice.

AdAge and GQ, among others, have noticed the trend, quantified by data from the NPD Group, which has it that for the 12-month period ending in May 2014, backpack sales among adults 18 and over were up 33%. Among adult women, backpack sales were up 48% over that time span, though men still outspend the gals on backpacks annually: $385 million vs. $311 million.

Clearly, one reason that backpack sales are soaring is simply that they’re practical: They can handle your gym gear, sunglasses, snacks, and an ever-increasing amount of gadgets that just wouldn’t fit in even the largest briefcases. Backpacks are also easier to tote around, especially if you’re on a bike or have a long walk.

We also must acknowledge that the rise of work backpacks goes hand in hand with a turn to more casual dress in the workplace, prompted as least partly by all of those scruffy, hoodie-wearing tech workers. By now, the Swiss Army backpack has become a key component of the official Silicon Valley tech uniform, alongside Warby Parkers, skater sneakers, and a general lack of grooming.

Professionals are allowing themselves to strap on the kind of bag they used when they were 15 without embarrassment or totally looking foolish thanks to the introduction of a wide range of packs that are more, well, professional. Tumi lists dozens of understated, black and earth-tone backpacks in the category of being appropriate for business.

What’s more, the backpack’s versatility and youthful cachet sends a certain message, to the wearer if not the entire world. The message is one of adventure and possibility—that you can jump from the boardroom, to a mountain bike, to an impromptu flight to Copenhagen. The backpack says I may work in an office, but I’m not just another drone commuter. I have more going on in my life than any sad, slim briefcase can handle.

Then again, maybe instead it just says you like pretending you’re still in college.

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