MONEY

Google Fiber Has Internet Providers Scrambling to Improve Their Service

Google Fiber
Matthew Busch—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Time Warner Cable is the latest ISP to promise better service in advance of a Google Fiber rollout

Here’s a three step plan to getting a free internet upgrade:

  1. Convince Google to announce that it’s bringing Google Fiber to your city. (Note: All you need is a credible-sounding promise.)
  2. Wait for your local internet service provider to freak out and increase your internet speed six-fold.
  3. Sit back and watch all the Netflix you want in 4K “Ultra-HD” resolution.

That’s what’s happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Time Warner Cable has announced it will make subscribers’ internet speeds up to six times faster just as Google prepares to enter the market. The search-giant-turned-ISP previously announced plans in January to expand its high-speed internet business to a number of metro areas, including Charlotte. According to Ars Technica, Google is currently finalizing designs with local officials to clear the way for the network’s construction.

This isn’t the first time an internet provider has dramatically improved service in response to competition from Google. Back in February, AT&T began offering Kansas City internet subscribers up to one gigabit per second for $70 a month, essentially duplicating Google Fiber’s price and level of service. Time Warner Cable also increased speeds in Kansas City following Google’s arrival.

The “Google Fiber Effect” would seem to confirm what some experts, like Columbia computer science professor Vishal Misra, have said for a while: The only way to improve America’s internet service, which lags badly behind other industrialized countries, is through increased competition. And right now, competition is sorely lacking in the broadband space.

According to FCC data from 2013, 55% of American households have no choice in their broadband provider, and the agency has since reported that a Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger would result in nearly two-thirds of consumers having only one choice for broadband internet.

Recent legislative efforts, like new net neutrality regulation, should protect consumers from the worst abuses of dominant ISPs. However, government action probably isn’t enough to incentivize businesses like Comcast and Time Warner Cable to actually make your service better because they know their customers generally don’t have the option of jumping ship and signing on with another broadband company.

Luckily, Google is one of the few companies with enough cash to build its own broadband service, and it seems intent on gradually expanding its fiber network into more and more cities—much to the chagrin of existing ISPs.

Here’s hoping Google Fiber comes to your market next.

TIME Accident

Man Rescued After Spending 66 Days Adrift in the Atlantic Ocean

Louis Jordan was last seen in January before departing for a fishing trip

After spending more than two months missing on the open sea, a man was rescued from his disabled sailboat on Thursday afternoon, 200 miles off the North Carolina coast.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Louis Jordan, 37, was spotted sitting on the overturned hull of his 35-foot sailboat by a German-flagged container ship at approximately 1.30 p.m. He was later evacuated by a helicopter to a local hospital in Norfolk, Va.

Jordan was first reported missing on Jan. 29, after telling relatives days earlier that the he was planning on “going into the open water to sail and do some fishing,” reports the Associated Press.

However, his family says they always held out hope that he would be found alive.

“He’s got very strong constitution,” Francis Jordan, Louis’s father, told CNN. “And he told me on the phone that he was praying the whole time, so I believe that sustained him a great deal.”

Despite injuring his shoulder and suffering from dehydration, Jordan reportedly told his father by phone that he’s “doing fine now.”

TIME Crime

Police Have Arrested a Second Suspect in the America’s Next Top Model Murder Case

"America's Next Top Model" Cycle 21 Premiere Party Presented By NYLON And LINE - Arrivals
Michael Tullberg — Getty Images America's Next Top Model Cycle 21 finalist Mirjana Puhar attends a party in Los Angeles on Aug. 20, 2014

Authorities have charged David Lopez with three counts of first-degree murder

A second suspect turned himself over to Charlotte, N.C., authorities Thursday in connection with the killing of former America’s Next Top Model contestant Mirjana Puhar and others.

Officials confirmed that David Lopez had been charged with three counts of first-degree murder, according to USA Today. The 19-year-old Puhar was found dead in an apartment in Charlotte in February along with her boyfriend Jonathan Alvarado and Jusmar Gonzaga-Garcia.

Lopez is the second suspect to be hit with charges, after Emmanuel Jesus Rangel was arrested late last month. Police have suggested that the motive may be drug related.

[USA Today]

TIME Transportation

Amtrak Train Derails in North Carolina, Injuring at Least 55

Amtrak Truck Crash
WTVD-11/AP Authorities respond to a collision between an Amtrak passenger train and a truck, Monday, March 9, 2015, in Halifax County, N.C.

One out of the 55 people reportedly taken to the hospital was seriously injured

An Amtrak train derailed Monday in Halifax County, North Carolina, toppling one of its cars and injuring at least 55 people.

The train’s conductor and at least 54 passengers were among the injured, the Associated Press reported. Of those taken to the hospital following the accident, one was seriously injured while the rest escaped with non-life threatening injuries, according to officials.

Federal authorities said they believed 62 people were injured, but there was no confirmation on the final number.

The train, which was traveling from Charlotte to New York City, hit a tractor trailer causing the train’s engine and baggage car to derail.

“There was a massive jerk and we were kind of thrown forward a little bit, and the train came to a sudden stop,” a passenger told local news station WRAL. “I couldn’t tell you if it was trying to slow down or not. There was no whistle. It came completely out of the blue.”

The crash occurred at the intersection of U.S. Highway 301 and N.C. Highway 903. There were 212 passengers and eight crew members on board.

“We are relieved that there are no fatalities reported at this time, and our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured. Safety is always our top priority, and we continue to urge everyone to use extreme caution and stay alert when crossing our railroad tracks,” North Carolina Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said in a statement.

170 passengers were transported by bus to Richmond, Virginia in order to board another train, the state’s Transportation Department spokesman Mike Charbonneau said.

TIME Addiction

It’s Really Easy for Teens to Buy E-Cigs Online

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Most popular e-cigarette sites fail to verify the age of their clients, finds a new study

Young people under age 18 can buy e-cigarettes online, even in states where it’s illegal, a new study shows.

North Carolina researchers asked 11 teens between ages 14 to 17 who didn’t smoke to try to buy e-cigarettes online from 98 of the most popular Internet vendors. The sale of e-cigarettes to minors in North Carolina is illegal—but of the 98 orders, only five were rejected based on a failed age verification. Eighteen orders failed for problems unrelated to age, like website issues. Overall, the minors made 75 successful orders.

The teens were also asked to answer the door when deliveries were made. None of the companies attempted to confirm age at delivery, and 95% of the time, the orders were just left at the teens’ doors.

The findings are concerning for any state trying to regulate youth access, the authors say. Currently, there’s no federal law forbidding the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, despite the fact that they contain nicotine, which is addictive. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed that e-cigarettes fall under their regular tobacco regulation jurisdiction, but the proposal is still not a codified law. “It may be several years before federal regulations are implemented,” the study authors write.

Some states have stepped in and banned the sale to minors within their borders. So far 41 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands forbid such transactions, or have pending legislation to do so.

But as the new study suggests, young people can easily get e-cigarettes online if they want them. “Without strictly enforced federal regulations, online e-cigarette vendors have little motivation to decrease profits by spending the time and money it takes to properly verify customers’ age and reject underage buyers,” says study author Rebecca S. Williams, public health researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

None of the vendors complied with North Carolina’s e-cigarette age-verification law. The majority of U.S. carriers, including USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL, ban the delivery of cigarettes, only allowing the delivery of tobacco products from a licensed dealer or distributor to another licensed dealer or distributor. If these rules were extended to e-cigarettes, the study authors argue it would essentially shut down a major loophole in access.

Getting proposed rules like the FDA’s passed takes time, but when it comes to the safety of children, the researchers argue there needs to be more urgency. Prior data has shown that from 2011 to 2013, the number of young Americans who used e-cigarettes but not conventional cigarettes more than tripled, from 79,000 to over 263,000. The study authors conclude that the ease with which teens can get e-cigarettes online—in a state that forbids the practice—stresses the need for more regulation, and fast.

TIME weather

Southern Snowstorm Knocks Out Power, Wipes Out Flights

Breck Gorman
Steve Helber—AP Breck Gorman clears his driveway with a blower during a snowstorm in Richmond, Va. on Feb. 26, 2015.

The storm left a trail of travel headaches, school closings and power outages

A swift-moving storm that dumped as much as 10 inches of snow and slush across the Deep South on Wednesday brought a wintry blast to the Mid-Atlantic on Thursday. Washington, D.C., and its suburbs were hit with 1 to 3 inches of snow before the storm tapered off after 10 a.m., The Weather Channel reported. It will remain too far offshore to bring significant snowfall to New York or hard-hit Boston.

The storm left a trail of travel headaches, school closings and power outages. More than 156,000 homes and businesses in North Carolina were without power, along with 4,000 in Virginia, 13,000 in Alabama and 2,400 in Georgia…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Health Care

Supreme Court Says Dentists Can’t Decide Who Gets to Whiten Your Teeth

595649-002
Getty Images

The Supreme Court has ruled that dentists can't hold a monopoly on teeth-whitening services

Dentists cannot have a monopoly on teeth whitening services, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court found that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners was wrong when it sent “cease and desist” letters to companies that were offering teeth whitening at strip malls and kiosks. The board held that it was regulating the practice, but it was sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for creating an advantage for its members and blocking competition.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of the FTC, agreeing that the board was acting on behalf of private members and not as a state regulatory agency since it was not being actively monitored by the state.

North Carolina law does not specify whether teeth whitening is a practice only allowed by dentists. The smaller businesses were offering the procedures for a lower costs than the dentists.

TIME infectious diease

2 Superbug Deaths Reported in North Carolina

The bacteria is thought to kill 50% of those infected

Two North Carolina residents have died in recent months from a deadly “superbug,” out of the approximately 15 who have been treated.

Carolinas HealthCare System told the Associated Press it has begun an aggressive effort to combat the superbug, formally known as Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae, which includes isolating the infected and using special cleaning procedures in rooms where they have stayed. Hospital officials cited patient privacy laws to explain why the deaths were not reported earlier.

The bacteria, which is thought to kill 50% of those infected, was recently revealed to have infected two patients who died in a California hospital. More than 100 more were thought to have been potentially exposed.

MORE: What You Need to Know About the California ‘Superbug’

[AP]

TIME Crime

Grand Jury Indicts Suspect in Chapel Hill Shootings

Craig Stephen Hicks, is seen in court in Chapel Hill on Feb. 11 2015
Chuck Liddy—AP Craig Stephen Hicks, from his first appearance in court in Chapel Hill on Feb. 11 2015

The deaths of the three Muslims sparked outrage over perceived media religious and racial biases

A North Carolina grand jury on Monday indicted Craig Hicks, the man accused of shooting three Muslim students in their apartment, on three counts of murder.

The indictment, first reported by WRAL and WTVD television channels, accuses the 46-year-old Chapel Hill resident of killing University of North Carolina dental student Deah Shaddy Barakat, 23, his wife Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, 21, and her 19-year-old sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in what police have said was a crime sparked by a row over a parking space.

Friends and family have called for the killings to be classified as a hate crime, which would demand a more severe sentence. Investigators say they do not have enough evidence to support that claim.

Hicks described himself as an avowed atheist, and the New York Times reports that last month he criticized religion in a Facebook post, saying, “Praying is pointless, useless, narcissistic, arrogant, and lazy; just like the imaginary god you pray to.”

The murders triggered public outrage over perceived religious and racial injustices as the hashtags #muslimlivesmatter and #chapelhillshooting trended on Twitter. Some users have called for the media to brand Hicks a terrorist, suggesting that he would have been if he was a Muslim.

Hicks will remain in jail without bond and is next scheduled to appear in court on March 4.

[WRAL News]

TIME Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia Says the Chapel Hill Shootings Were a ‘Terrorist’ Act

Namee Barakat, center, watches during funeral services for his son, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Feb. 12, 2015, in Wendell, N.C.
Chuck Liddy—The News/ Observer/AP Namee Barakat, center, watches during funeral services for his son Deah Barakat in Wendell, N.C., on Feb. 12, 2015

Thousands also march in Qatar to show solidarity with victims

Saudi Arabia has condemned the killing of three American Muslims in North Carolina as “heinous” and a “terrorist” act.

A statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency on Sunday also called for an end to incitement against Muslims, the Associated Press reports.

On Sunday, several thousand people took part in a march in neighboring Qatar to show solidarity with the families of the North Carolina victims.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which is made up of 57 Muslim countries, also expressed concern, saying the murders reflected “rising anti-Muslim sentiments and Islamophobic acts” in the U.S.

Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha and her sister Razan Abu-Salha were killed last Tuesday by their neighbor Craig Hicks. The FBI is now investigating whether their deaths were the result of a hate crime.

[AP]

 

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