TIME legal

Comcast Just Trolled Us All on Net Neutrality

National Cable and Telecommunications Association Cable Show
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The Comcast Corp. logo is seen as Brian Roberts, chairman and chief executive officer of Comcast Corp., right, speaks during a news conference at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) Cable Show in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, June 11, 2013.

Comcast says it agrees with President Obama on net neutrality. It doesn't.

Oh, Comcast.

The country’s largest Internet provider wants you to know that it “agrees with the President’s principles on net neutrality,” as a headline on a Tuesday afternoon blog post from EVP David Cohen reads. Net neutrality is the idea that all Internet content should be treated equally in terms of speed, a concept that’s in jeopardy because of a Supreme Court decision at the beginning of this year that struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 Open Internet rules enforcing it.

It’s an attention-grabbing headline from Comcast, a company that net neutrality advocates are making out to be among the most nefarious of the bad guys in the ongoing open Internet debate. Right off the bat, it looks like Comcast is agreeing with President Obama, who on Monday unexpectedly came out in favor of reclassifying broadband Internet as a utility. That’s a move big telecoms like Comcast should hate, because it would give the Federal government more authority to regulate their business. So what’s the deal?

It turns out Comcast’s post is just clickbait.

Cohen’s post claims Comcast agrees with Obama’s goals for an open Internet — no blocking content, no slowing down content, more transparency about network practices and no paid fast lanes. Cohen goes on to say that Comcast disagrees with the President on how those rules should be enforced. There’s a wide gulf here: Obama only made news Monday because he called for the Internet to be reclassified under Title II of the Communications Act, a bold move that would categorize Internet providers as “common carriers” and trigger an all-out legislative and judicial war between telecoms, the FCC and advocacy groups.

Comcast, meanwhile, says the Internet should fall under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, which gives the government far less authority to regulate Comcast’s business. So there’s no real agreement here at all.

That aside, the problem with Comcast’s Title II/Section 706 logic is that the FCC tried to use non-Title II authority to enforce its Open Internet rules starting back in 2010. But the courts ruled that wasn’t a valid approach, because the agency had previously and explicitly decided not to classify broadband under Title II — meaning the agency starved itself of the regulatory power it would need to legally enforce those rules. Since that ruling, the FCC under Chairman Tom Wheeler has been scrambling to find a way to enforce the Open Internet rules without running afoul of the courts.

Comcast, in its blog post, maintains that the courts left the FCC a way of doing that without triggering the Title II nuclear option — but the reality is that scenario is looking increasingly unlikely. Instead, many observers, including the President, see the FCC’s best path forward as reclassifying broadband providers as common carriers under Title II, but practice what’s called “forbearance,” or use only the regulatory power afforded under Title II the agency deems necessary to enforce its Open Internet rules. How comfortable you feel with that idea, of course, entirely depends on how much you trust a government agency to practice regulatory restraint.

It’s also worth pointing out that Comcast’s blog post makes it a point to advertise that it already practices the Open Internet rules for which Obama’s arguing — but it’s also legally obligated to do so through 2018 as a condition of its merger with NBCUniversal, a fact that’s missing from the post. Comcast also makes a dubious-at-best claim that it doesn’t “prioritize Internet traffic or have paid fast lanes,” even though Netflix is paying Comcast (and, since, other Internet Service Providers) to more quickly deliver Netflix’s content to Comcast subscribers. Whether or not the Comcast/Netflix deal violates “net neutrality” per se is a subject of debate, but that’s splitting hairs: It’s hard to see the arrangement as anything other than a “paid fast lane.”

TIME apps

The Best Smartphone Apps You Can’t Miss This Week

Try 'Today,' a to-do app that helps you keep track of your hectic life

It seems like hundreds of new smartphone apps pop up every day, but which ones should you bother trying? Here, TIME offers a look at five apps for iPhone, iPad and Android that stand out and are worth a shot.

  • iCukoo Charity Alarm Clock

    iCukoo Charity Alarm Clock iCukoo Charity Alarm Clock

    For the last few years, developers have been trying to come up with foolproof alarm clocks. Users have already found ways to beat the apps that only deactivate after a phone is carried for ten steps. Instead, iCuckoo takes a moral and financial approach to the black hole of snooze button-pressing: with every snooze, the app sends a set amount of money to a charity of your choice. In short, you can sleep in and tell your boss that you were actually “volunteering,” and you’ll also feel just awful about yourself if you manage to get around the app’s parameters.

    iCuckoo is available free in the App Store.

  • Neato

    Neato Neato

    Part of the reason Apple’s Notes app has been so underused is that it makes note-taking a tedious task — better to forget the idea than to fumble through your phone and wait for a yellow pad app to open. Neato takes this into consideration by inserting itself into iPhone’s notification center, allowing users to access it with one quick swipe. Even better, Neato can save notes to a Dropbox or Evernote account, and can be used to quickly send notes as an email or tweet.

    Neato is temporarily available free in the App Store.

  • Yummly

    Yummly Yummly

    Many of us find it difficult to fully commit to culinary endeavors because good recipes are hard to find, and even harder to keep track of. Yummly—once only for iPhone users—allows you to browse a series of beautifully photographed and easy-to-follow recipes on your phone or tablet, and save them to your own digital cookbook. But like any great online service, Yummly can also recommend recipes based on the ones you’ve used. The app also takes into consideration personal preferences and needs, like allergies and special diets.

    Yummly is now available free in the App Store and Google Play store.

  • Sleep Better

    Sleep Better Sleep Better

    By placing your phone on your pillow and activating Sleep Better, the app will be able to track how long you sleep, the time you spent awake in bed and track your sleep cycles. Users can enter variables like alcohol intake, exercise, or caffeine intake to see how they affect sleep patterns. Also equipped with an alarm clock, the app will track your sleep over time, showing you how miserably and self-destructively sleep-deprived you’ve been after picking up those bad habits in college.

    Sleep Better is available free in the App Store and Google Play store.

  • Today

    Today Today

    Today is a calendar app that takes a variety of commitments into consideration. Not only does it allow you to track work schedules, but it has spaces for habits, hobbies, and down time. Today will remind you that 2 p.m. is Twix time at the office, for example, or that you’re supposed to go for a run at 7 a.m. Today will also help you set goals and keep track of them through the day, such as remembering to drink enough water to avoid 4 p.m. dehydration headaches. The app shows up in iPhone’s notification center as a clock with bars for different activities.

    Today is available for $2.99 in the App Store.

TIME technology

Conservatives Overwhelmingly Back Net Neutrality, Poll Finds

A poll released today by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance (IFBA), found that conservatives voters like the idea of net neutrality.

Within a few hours of President Barack Obama’s call on Monday for regulators to ensure strict “net neutrality“—rules requiring Internet service providers (ISPs) to treat all Internet content equally—the Republican establishment’s hair caught on fire.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) called net neutrality the “Obamacare for the Internet“; House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said it was “a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship”; and House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Lousiana) said Obama’s attempt to “impose net neutrality regulations on the Internet” was a “radical effort” with “no justification.” To list just a few of the howling reactions.

But according to a poll released today by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance (IFBA), a pro-net neutrality association of businesses, Republicans and conservatives outside of Washington D.C., seem to think that the idea of net neutrality is actually a pretty good one.

Some 83% of voters who self-identified as “very conservative” were concerned about the possibility of ISPs having the power to “influence content” online. Only 17% reported being unconcerned. Similarly, 83% of self-identified conservatives thought that Congress should take action to ensure that cable companies do not “monopolize the Internet” or “reduce the inherent equality of the Internet” by charging some content companies for speedier access.

The poll did not ask participants about specific methods of regulation, like whether the Federal Communications Commission ought to reclassify consumer broadband Internet as a utility under “Title II”—as Obama has called for—or whether it should use “Section 706″ of the Telecommunications Act, another statute relating to broadband infrastructure.

The poll, explained Andrew Shore, the executive director of IFBA, was designed to “get to the heart” of net neutrality by asking voters whether they believed that the government should prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from charging Internet content companies for special access to Internet customers.

The poll also asked whether voters were concerned that big ISPs—like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T—could influence the government and elected officials in their favor; 72% of self-identified conservatives said yes.

Last year, Comcast—the nation’s biggest ISP by a long shot—spent more on lobbying than any other company in the U.S. except Northrop Grumman, the defense contractor that makes the B-2 bomber. Of the $16.4 million it has spent on lobbying and campaign contributions this year, large chunks have gone to the National Republican Congressional Committee ($104,000); the National Republican Senatorial Committee ($87,975); and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($85,750), according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Boehner, who was among the first to slam Obama’s call for net neutrality regulations yesterday, has received $107,775 from Comcast—nearly twice as much as any other other member of Congress. Boehner also holds stock in Comcast, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

But big Internet content companies which are in favor of net neutrality regulations, like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Ebay, are hardly wallflowers in this debate. So far this year, Google spent $3.9 million in campaign donations and $13.7 million on lobbying.

(The Vox Populi poll surveyed 1,270 active voters on Oct. 26/27, with a margin of error of +/-2.8%.)

Read next: Inside Obama’s Net Neutrality Power Play

TIME apps

Candy Crush Sequel Now Available on Your Smartphone

Owner King Entertainment hopes "Candy Crush Soda Saga" will enjoy some of the success of its earlier hit

The sequel to the mobile mega hit Candy Crush Saga is now available worldwide on iOS and Android devices.

“Candy Crush Soda Saga” had its worldwide rollout Tuesday after previously being available in select markets and on Facebook.

The new title, which hews closely to the addictive gameplay of the original, sports 135 new levels set in the same world as the first game. The game is free to download but charges players for in-game features, a business model that made Candy Crush Saga one of the most lucrative mobile games of all time.

Game developer King Digital Entertainment, which went public in March, has been searching for another hit to prove to investors that it can follow up Candy Crush Saga’s success. The company saw profits and revenue decline in the most recent quarter due to falling interest in its marquee title.

In addition to pushing Candy Crush Soda Saga, King hopes to reverse its fortunes by emphasizing games outside the Candy Crush franchise as well. About half of the company’s revenue now comes from non-Candy Crush titles.

TIME The Brief

#TheBrief: The Battle for Control of the Internet

Explaining what 'net neutrality' really means to you — and the future of the Internet

President Obama took to the White House YouTube channel Monday to call for broadband internet providers to be regulated as a utility — a move that signals his support for the concept of “net neutrality“.

What’s net neutrality? It’s the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) like Comcast or Verizon should treat all content equally. It might not sound like an inspirational cause, but the question of who has rights to control the Internet affects almost everyone.

Cable companies are clamoring for the right to give faster speeds to certain clients, while many content providers are in favor of keeping all data on the Internet on equal footing.

Watch #TheBrief to find out what’s at stake.

TIME Video Games

Assassin’s Creed Unity Review: Not Quite the Revolution We Were Promised

Ubisoft

Ubisoft's recreation of the French Revolution looks and sounds incredible, but the game's design leaves something to be desired

I’m perched on a Notre Dame gargoyle, Batman-like, some 70 meters above a rabble-thronged square. From here I can see the gabled roof of the Palais de Justice and Sainte-Chapelle, the royal church’s spire the next highest object punctuating Paris’s Seine-circled Île de la Cité. Across the river I spy the Louvre, and along the right bank, the Grand Châtelet.

Swiveling 45 degrees, a medieval temple overlooks the 3rd arrondissement. Turning another 45, there’s the Bastille, its broken crenellations like the jags of a giant shattered tooth. The cathedral’s shadow darkens the square below me, where hundreds of tiny figures jostle one another, dangling flaming effigies on poles, chanting, squabbling and occasionally scuffling with the guards, the city alight with hope and terror.

Assassin’s Creed Unity‘s attention to French Revolutionary Parisian detail is remarkable, every landmark and monument built to scale. (It’s also intimately scalable by the player.) Distractions abound: you could spend an hour registering the gothic minutia of a Rayonnant edifice’s tracery, or another enumerating biblical scenes in a church’s stained glass windows. Observe the burnished filigree crowning the massive wrought-iron gates to the Cour du Mai, the Corinthian portico of the triple-domed and frescoed Panthéon, or the sun glinting off lustrous iconography blanketing the dome of Les Invalides. It’s all here, and kind of nuts.

So is Unity a game or interactive diorama? Another tale of secret warring societies supported by its dazzling late 18th century metropolis, or architectonic fetish with a side of pulp?

Ubisoft

Maybe both. But then you push a button and leap from your roost and start moving through this ridiculously intricate insurrection simulator, clambering over realistically uneven slate rooftops and corroded chimneys linked by fictional passage-smoothing plank and rope skyways, only to find the actual game sagging beneath the weight of its world design. In short, Unity is a phenomenal world-building achievement held back by a glitchy navigation system.

Moving through the Assassin’s Creed games has always been fidgety, but it’s steadily improved over the years. Unity feels like a step back, though it’s hard to pinpoint why. Perhaps it’s the busier world geometry, its handholds and footpaths multiplied who-knows-how-many-fold, making it even easier to snag on something. Sometimes it’s clearly the game’s impaired frame rate in large crowds lagging behind your input. (That’s not an idle complaint; the game actually stutters severely in spots.) Maybe it’s just buggy. Maybe some of that will be ironed out in future patches. What I do know, is that Arno, the game’s French protagonist–an assassin who’s confused revenge for redemption in the game’s story–sometimes has a mind of his own.

If I push one way, he’ll occasionally leap in another. If I zig, odds are one out of four he’ll zag. I expect some slack in any 360-degree motion system, but this is something else. I haven’t fought the controls like this since the original Assassin’s Creed. It’s harmless enough when you’re wall-crawling freeform, but under the gun, say in one of those target-tailing missions with bonus challenges like “don’t touch the water,” whiffing the mission because Arno decides to dive off a wooden post into the drink instead of leaping to the next one on the third or fourth replay is exasperating.

But the biggest problem is that sometimes Arno won’t do anything at all.

Ubisoft

Climb a building with clearly navigable points and sometimes Arno gets stuck. Not “That next thing’s too high up, find another way” stymied, but “Why am I halfway up this continuous lattice and hitting all the right buttons and he’s frozen stiff?” I’m not misreading the path, because if I hammer the buttons or reset the thumbstick, he’ll swing into action and clear the distance, no problem. And I ran into this in even the simplest scenarios: dangling from a rope between buildings or hanging from the edge of an unobstructed platform (he’d neither climb nor drop), or trying to dive Dukes of Hazard style through an open window (hammering the button the game keeps telling me to hammer while ignoring my input). This is next-gen parkour?

It’s a shame, because so much else about Unity‘s design overhaul works. The new 3D overview map helps you better pinpoint objects in a 3D world. A downward free-run option (hold a button to climb down automatically) makes descending from even the highest points quick and safe. And Eagle Vision, the game’s spot-the-bad-guys radar system, now only works for brief periods, encouraging more judicious use.

There’s even a modest roleplaying angle: weapons, clothing, stealth moves and combat abilities–most familiar with a few wrinkles–are now spending-based unlocks that let you finesse your play style meaningfully. One of those skills, lockpicking, finally strikes the right balance between twitchy and skillful and now applies to doors that can open up alternate routes in missions. Those missions now feel like proper assassination puzzles, the game dropping you outside heavily patrolled fortresses and folding in optional goals you can engage to tweak your infiltration routes or unlock distractions. Carried over to the new cooperative play modes, where you and up to three other players can work together to dispatch operatives or recover loot, and Unity surpasses its predecessors.

Ubisoft

Some of the improvements are simple subtractions: The removal of automatic counters revitalizes combat, which regains some the original’s brutal simplicity and timing-related volatility. Guards on alert can no longer be assassinated from hiding spots (like hay wagons), encouraging shrewder stealth tactics. The home improvement game has fewer spending tiers and ties this more to side missions like the frontier activities in Assassin’s Creed III. And assassin-recruiting, training and deploying is no more, eliminating a pseudo-strategic moneymaking layer I never particularly liked.

Other changes seem like half-measures or outright missteps. Adding a button that lets you crouch gives you more approach options (to say nothing of making you feel stealthier), but the new guard-luring gimmicks–cherry bombs or taunting guards to probe by letting yourself be spotted then breaking the sightline–often fail because the guards seem to know you’re waiting and stop short of your hiding spot, even as you absurdly pepper them with fireworks.

While combat is more gratifying and enemies more aggressive, your bag of tricks remains small and the opponent A.I. types still too undifferentiated. (I powered through the game using the same attack-parry-stun-attack combos.) The new press-a-button-to-stick cover system often disregards your input and can’t be depended on during hair-trigger maneuvers. And what passes for a future story about leaping between servers and playing through alternate timelines to avoid detection (the series is basically The Matrix meets Ken Follett) recalls the dreary “Desmond climbs” missions in Assassin’s Creed III, where you prosaically pushed the thumbstick in the direction you wanted to travel and watched stuff happen.

Ubisoft

Speaking of the story, Ubisoft was wise to make it about Arno and keep most of the Revolution’s politicking in the background, but the character as written barely connects. Whatever we’re meant to feel about the things he endures, whatever the writers intended beyond a bit of brooding, debauchery and sense of being dragged along by tidal forces, Arno’s a little boring, his arc more an undifferentiated slope. His romantic interest has far more brio, and makes you wonder what might have been, had you been able to explore her story instead.

Shall I bother to malign the ending? Have endings in these games ever delivered? Here it’s another anticlimactic, predictable and tediously difficult mess, where–minor spoiler warning–you’re essentially dueling with Emperor Palpatine (think about what Palpatine’s known for), making use of none of the things you’ve just spent the entire game learning to do, while he chants “I have you now!” (Yes, that’s verbatim.)

“The past is not lost, the past lives inside us,” says a narrator during the game’s intro. It’s supposed to be a reference to the game’s parapsychological conceit about genetic memory, not ironic commentary on the game design. Unity has plenty of moments where some of its re-grounded systems harmonize, but too many where they don’t. Historical flavor and architectural verisimilitude alone can’t carry a game, and may in fact be part of what works against this one, even as I’ll admit to being gobsmacked at the audacity of Ubisoft’s city-replicating exercise, a towering achievement unto itself.

3 out of 5

Review using the PlayStation 4 version of the game.

TIME technology

AT&T Won’t Be Bringing Wi-Fi to Your Next Flight After All

New York City Exteriors And Landmarks
Ben Hider—Getty Images A view of the exterior of the AT&T store in Times Sqaure on February 21, 2013 in New York City.

Hopes for an ATT LTE-based airborne network are officially grounded

AT&T has nixed an ambitious plan to roll out wireless Internet on board commercial flights, choosing instead to refocus its investments on international markets and video services, the carrier said Monday.

The move comes as AT&T is in the process of buying Mexican operator Iusacell for $1.7 billion and satellite broadcasting service DirecTV for $48.5 billion. Those deals are subject to Mexican and American regulators, respectively.

“After a thorough review of our investment portfolio, the company decided to no longer pursue entry into the in-flight connectivity industry,” an AT&T spokesman said in a statement to Reuters.

AT&T unveiled its plan to offer 4G LTE-based connections in April, putting it in direct competition with existing in-flight service provider Gogo Inc. Shares on Gogo Inc. climbed 10% on news of AT&T’s decision to bow out of the market.

[Reuters]

TIME robotics

This 6-Foot Robot Moves Like the Karate Kid

But we're still waiting to see the full-blown crane kick

The Google-owned robotics company Boston Dynamics has created a 6’2″, 330-pound robot that can mimic moves from The Karate Kid.

The robot, dubbed Atlas, isn’t quite a full-blown ninja yet—in a new video, the robot is shown balancing on a cinderblock on one leg and raising his arms slowly in the air, as in the iconic movie scene where Ralph Macchio unleashes the crane kick. While Boston Dynamics built the hardware, a robotics research institute called IHMC programmed the robot’s moves.

When not practicing karate, the Atlas robots are actually designed to provide humanitarian relief in areas that people cannot enter, such as nuclear disaster sites. Boston Dynamics has also created a robotic dog and a wildcat that can run at speeds of 25 miles per hour.

[Wired]

TIME Companies

Elon Musk’s SpaceX Plans to Launch Internet Satellites

Tesla Motors Inc. Makes Announcement About First Battery Gigafactory In Nevada
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Elon Musk, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc., attends a news conference at the Nevada State Capitol building in Carson City, Nevada, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014.

More details to come in "two to three months"

Elon Musk’s space travel startup SpaceX is developing a series of advanced micro-satellites to deliver low-cost Internet access to the masses. The billionaire entrepreneur revealed the plans Monday on his Twitter account, noting that the official announcement is still two to three months away.

SpaceX’s business primarily involves shuttling cargo and soon astronauts to the International Space Station. The Wall Street Journal reported the new venture will include the launch of 700 satellites weighing under 250 pounds each, but Musk disputed the details of the Journal article, saying on Twitter that it was “wrong on several important points.”

TIME Companies

Apple Wants a Bite of Corporate Business

Apple To Report Quarterly Earnings
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images The Apple logo is displayed on the exterior of an Apple Store on April 23, 2013 in San Francisco, California.

The personal device maker eyes the fast-growing mobile market for business professsionals

Apple has created a sales team dedicated to pitching new products and deals to corporate clients, according to a new report, heralding a new focus on office sales at a time when growth in its lucrative consumer business has slowed.

Reuters, citing unnamed sources familiar with the plan, reports that Apple has dispatched a sales team to meet with chief information officers at several corporations, including Citigroup. The company has also partnered with developers specializing in office management apps.

The move comes three months after Apple announced a partnership with IBM to deliver more mobile apps and devices to offices, putting it in direct competition with established players such as Microsoft and fast-growing entrants such as Google.

Read more at Reuters

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