TIME politics

FCC Votes ‘Yes’ on Strongest Net-Neutrality Rules

Net-neutrality advocates quite literally danced in the snowy streets Thursday outside the Federal Communications Commission in Washington just before the agency voted to approve the strongest ever rules on Net neutrality.

The vote marks the culmination of a yearlong struggle that pitted grassroots Internet advocates and Silicon Valley tech giants against the titans of the telecom industry.

The FCC’s vote is considered a historic victory for so-called open-Internet advocates, and a major blow to big Internet service providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, which will now be subject to stronger regulations.

Crucially, the FCC’s new rules were designed to give the agency explicit legal authority to regulate broadband-Internet providers by reclassifying broadband under Title II of the federal Communications Act.

Because of a weedy legal issue, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found in January 2014 that the FCC did not have authority to regulate broadband, and therefore threw out the FCC’s previous rules on Net neutrality, which were passed in 2010. The court recommended that the FCC reclassify broadband under Title II in order to establish its regulatory authority. Mobile-phone companies and public utilities are also classified under Title II.

The ISPs strongly opposed the Title II reclassification. They argue that the move will destroy innovation and investment in the nation’s digital infrastructure by imposing burdensome regulations on the industry. For example, under Title II, the FCC technically has the power to dictate how much ISPs can charge customers for online access.

The FCC has vowed it won’t regulate broadband as strongly as it could and that it will not control broadband prices. The new rules include a line guaranteeing that the FCC will not regulate “unbundling, tariffs, or other forms of rate regulation.”

Many Net-neutrality advocates, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton, who did not immediately support Title II reclassification, have announced their support for the move recently. Clinton said at a conference on Tuesday that the move is the only plausible option available to the agency, which needs to establish its legal authority in order to regulate broadband at all.

Earlier this week, Republicans on Capitol Hill said they would not actively oppose the FCC’s new Net-neutrality rules, since any new bill would be nearly impossible to get through Congress without Democratic support. But Verizon, AT&T and their trade group, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, aren’t giving up quite yet. They are expected to sue the FCC again this year in an effort to have the rules thrown out.

The stakes in this battle are high. Net neutrality, the concept that an Internet-service provider can’t block, slow or otherwise hamper users’ access to any online site, has an immediate impact on nearly every business and individual in the country.

One of the biggest sources of controversy has been over what’s known as paid-prioritization agreements or Internet fast lanes. Open-Internet advocates and Silicon Valley tech firms, such as Google, Amazon and eBay, lobbied hard that any new Net-neutrality rules should explicitly forbid ISPs from collecting payment from web companies for delivering their content to Internet users more quickly or in higher quality in paid fast lanes. A record-breaking 4 million people wrote to the FCC last year to comment on its proposed Net-neutrality rules. The majority of commenters supported a version of Net neutrality that prohibited fast lanes.

The ISPs, meanwhile, have argued that paid-prioritization agreements should be allowed, and that the notion was not at all at odds with the concept of “Net neutrality.” (Comcast, for example, has spent millions of dollars on advertisements saying it is in favor of neutrality rules. But its definition of Net neutrality allows for paid-prioritization agreements.) The FCC’s new Net-neutrality rules, passed today, bar paid-prioritization agreements.

The FCC’s 3-2 vote Thursday broke down on party lines. Both Republican commissioners opposed the rules; all three Democrats, including chairman Tom Wheeler, who has close ties with the telecom industry, voted in favor of it. When the vote was announced, the room exploded in cheers.

Read next: The Other Reason Cable Companies Are Sad Today

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TIME technology

Grumpy Cat Grounded By Blizzard

"Grumpy Guide To Life: Observations From Grumpy Cat" Book Event At Indigo
George Pimentel—WireImage Grumpy Cat attends the "Grumpy Guide To Life: Observations From Grumpy Cat" Book Event on Aug. 9, 2014 in Toronto.

A mischievous plan by net neutrality advocates to hire an airplane to tow a banner-sized image of Grumpy Cat past Comcast’s corporate headquarters in Philadelphia on Thursday morning has been thwarted by a snowstorm.

The fly-by was originally timed to happen just after the Federal Communications Commission votes on rules safeguarding net neutrality.

The banner would have featured Grumpy Cat, whose look of withering contempt has become a popular meme for Internet lovers, next to the words: “Comcast: Don’t Mess With the Internet. Public wins. Team Cable loses. #SorryNotSorry.”

The three net neutrality advocacy groups behind the hijinks—Fight for the Future, Demand Progress and Free Press—perhaps chose the plane’s intended flight path to thumb their noses at Comcast, the nation’s largest broadband Internet provider, which has spent millions this year attempting to stop the FCC from passing the version of net neutrality rules it is considering today.

The Flight of the Grumpy Cat has been tentatively rescheduled for tomorrow.

TIME Video Games

The Surprising Reasons People Buy the PlayStation 4, Xbox One or Wii U

Sony Launches PlayStation 4 In Japan As Console Retakes U.S. Retail Lead Over Microsoft's Xbox One
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images The first customer to purchase the PlayStation 4 (PS4) video game console holds the box at the launch of the PS4 console at the Sony showroom in Tokyo, Japan, on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014.

New data offers a few head-scratching reasons why consumers buy

Infometrics guru Nielsen just published the results of an inquiry into why people are buying the latest game systems from Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. The results are surprising in part.

Consider the following chart, which breaks the decision-making variables impacting each system into “factors” ranked by survey respondents:

Nielsen

The chart’s results are weirder than they appear at first. Take resolution, the number of horizontal by vertical lines output as video signal, and constitutive of the number of pixels onscreen. Several first-wave, multi-platform games ran at higher resolution on the PlayStation 4 than the Xbox One, owing, everyone in the media’s assumed based on anecdotal developer chitchat, to disparity between the two systems’ processing power.

The presumption is that slight visual differences shouldn’t matter, that you’re just being slavish to detail if you’re obsessed with subtle pixel differentiation. Yet there it is, the topmost reason for buyers of Sony’s console.

And what’s “Blu-ray Player” doing as PS4 factor number two? The Xbox One’s just as capable a Blu-ray system. Is this telling us something about a Microsoft messaging failure? Or wait—isn’t packaged media all but dead? Whether people are really watching scads of Blu-rays on their PS4s or this is just the psychological “want the option” factor is unclear.

“Game Library” is another head-scratcher. The Xbox One’s library is just as big and just as critically acclaimed as the PlayStation 4’s, while neither system offers native backward compatibility. Is this indication of a preference for the kinds of exclusives Sony’s system offers? And looking across the way at Nintendo, what’s the difference between “Game Library” (PS4) and “Exclusive Games/Content” (Wii U)?

I’m also a little confused about “Brand,” which tops the Xbox One’s factor column. Sony’s PlayStation-as-brand is, judging by platform sales across all systems, far better known than Microsoft’s Xbox—unless it’s more a Microsoft versus Sony (than PlayStation versus Xbox) thing.

And what does “Innovative Features” refer to? Xbox One Kinect, a peripheral the company yanked from the system before its first anniversary? SmartGlass integration? The bifurcated operating system (and Metro-styled interface)? Or the list of features the company wound up retracting in the wake of controversy over player privacy and digital rights management?

What this more likely confirms is that perception remains nine-tenths ownership.

TIME Gadgets

This Is Exactly When We’ll Know More About the Apple Watch

Apple has an event March 9

Apple just sent out media invites for a March 9 event most likely involving the upcoming Apple Watch.

 Invite
AppleApple Invite

“Please join us for an invitation-only event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco on Monday, March 9, at 10:00 a.m.,” the invite reads.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the Apple Watch will hit stores in April, making early March the perfect time to unveil new details about the device. The event could also involve other announcements, like a refreshed MacBook Air or Apple TV.

(Read more: Hands-On With the Apple Watch)

TIME Gadgets

You’ll Be Able to Get Your Cheap Apple Watch Gold-Plated

Apple watch is displayed in a shop in Paris, France.
Loic Venance—Getty Images Apple watch is displayed in a shop in Paris, France.

Here's how you can avoid paying for the gold Apple Watch Edition

This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article below was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

Several companies have revealed to us that they will be offering gold-plating services for the soon-to-be-released Apple Watch.

One such company is Goldgenie, a UK-based company that already offers paid-for gilding of Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus smartphones.

A spokesperson for the company confirmed to TrustedReviews that it would be offering that very same service for both the Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport. This will result in a cheaper mark-up than the expected Apple Watch Edition pricing.

We will be offering a gold-plating service for the standard Apple Watch, and can offer finishes in rose gold, platinum, as well as 24-karat gold,” the source explained. “The service will cost approximately £1,250, ex. VAT.”

While prices won’t be confirmed until the launch, the spokesperson said the rose gold version was likely to cost £1,300, and £1,350 for the platinum version, not including the cost of the actual device.

Just last week, we saw estimates that put the actual price of 18-karat gold on the Apple Watch Edition at a raw value of around $900 (£585).

Apple, meanwhile, is expected to retail its Apple Watch Edition at anywhere between $5,000 (£3,250) and $10,000 (£6,500) – that’s over five to ten times the raw gold value.

If third-party companies are going to take a $349 (£225) Apple Watch Sport, and then gild it with £585 of raw gold, they will be able to undercut Apple pricing while still achieving huge profit margins.

Goldgenie also says that its technicians will use at least 5 microns of 24-karat gold for the plating, which it says is ‘significantly higher’ than the average 2-3 micron thickness of most gold-plated products. The actual value of raw gold in the process is still unclear.

Another company offering a similar gold-plating service is the UK-based Gold Status.


We spoke to the company’s director Luke Paul Waterhouse, who admitted that while Gold Status wasn’t currently planning to offer Apple Watch gilding, he would consider it if there was enough consumer interest.

“If we got a lot of enquiries, we may decide to customise the Apple Watch,” Waterhouse explained. “We would customise the aluminium versions only.”

Unfortunately, Waterhouse wasn’t able to tell us how much the company would charge for such a service.

“We couldn’t estimate a price at this time as we do not have an Apple Watch to take apart and trial.”

It’s not yet clear whether Apple would have any legal recourse against companies looking to woo potential Apple Watch Edition customers with gilding services.

We’ve asked Apple for comment, and we’ll update this article if we receive a response.

For the original article, please go to TrustedReviews.com.

TIME Innovation

Watch How Dust Makes an Amazing Journey From Africa to South America

This NASA footage shows show dust from the Sahara winds up in the Amazon rainforest

The Amazon rainforest might be a little less green if not for a massive plume of Saharan dust that drifts across the Atlantic Ocean each year, according to a new, multi-year study by NASA scientists.

NASA used light pulses from its CALIPSO satellite to measure the transatlantic dust cloud in three dimensions. They found that wind carries roughly 182 million tons of Saharan dust out to sea each year. The cloud sheds roughly 50 million en route to South America, but the remainder fans out over the Amazonian basin and the Caribbean Sea, dusting the soil with 22,000 tons of phosphorus, a nutrient commonly found in commercial grade fertilizer.

Amazingly, the special delivery of plant food almost perfectly matches the amount of phosphorous the Amazonian jungle loses through heavy rains and run-off water.

“This is a small world,” said study author Hongbin Yu, “and we’re all connected together.”

 

TIME climate

These Maps Show How Much Trouble We’d Be in if the Sea Level Rises

New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Vancouver, Seattle and London are all in trouble

At some point in the future, your favorite city might be a patch of sea floor.

Spatialities, a site devoted to spatial information and visualizations, has unveiled a series of maps that show how several urban cities and coastal regions would be impacted by various rises in sea level. And it’s bad news all around for cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Vancouver, Seattle, London, among others, which are prone to flooding—and total submersion.

All the depicted sea levels are possible scenarios: They’re all less than the maximum rise in sea level calculated by the U.S. Geological Survey, which estimates that if all the planet’s glaciers melted, then the potential sea rise is about 80 m., or 262 ft.

But the good news is that you won’t see a sea level this high in your lifetime — according to one study, it would take about 1,000 to 10,000 years.

 

TIME Social Media

Facebook Paid Researchers $1.3 Million in 2014 to Find Bugs

Facebook-logo
Robert Galbraith—Reuters

Facebook has paid researchers in the "bug bounty program" more than $3 million since 2011

Facebook paid security researchers $1.3 million in 2014 to find and and report security flaws.

According to a post by the company entitled “Bounties get better than ever,” Facebook has paid researchers in the “bug bounty program” more than $3 million since 2011 and now has 123 countries reporting security issues. India reported the largest number of valid bugs in 2014: 196.

“We’re excited to see what 2015 holds for the bug bounty program,” the Facebook post says. “Report volume is at its highest levels, and researchers are finding better bugs than ever before. We’ve already received more than 100 valid reports since the start of the new year.”

TIME Social Media

The 7 Best Facebook Alternatives You Didn’t Know About

TIME.com stock photos Computer Keyboard Typing
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

People are connecting on more than just Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter

Your Facebook friends are boring. Your Twitter followers sound like a bunch of parrots. And your LinkedIn contacts, well, who wants to talk about work all day, anyway? Amazingly, in 2015, it’s still possible to feel like you’ve reached the end of the Internet, especially if you rely on your social networks for news and amusement.

But there are more ways to connect with people online than the three most popular social networks. In fact, smaller networks are some of the best places to dig into topics you care more deeply about. So sign up and check out at one of these great alternative social networks:

App.net: Two of the largest complaints about Facebook are how the company gives your data to third party applications, and the way the company manipulates its News Feed to show things that aren’t necessarily updates from your friends. App.net is a great alternative to signing into third party sites (where it’s supported) with your Facebook account. But it also has a news stream where many media outlets post their stories. So, if you like to keep your friends’ updates and news stories separate, un-follow the media accounts on Facebook and add them to your App.net account, instead.

BeMyEyes: Technically speaking, BeMyEyes is not a social network. That said, it provides one of the most intimate interactions you’ll ever have with another person via technology. Designed to help blind people to solve everyday problems, the iPhone app connects the vision-impaired with fully-sighted users via video chat. Users can then point their iPhone’s camera to show their remote helpers the situation at hand — a door sign, an expiration date, a piece of mail. The sighted person lends their eyes to help the blind user solve their problem. It’s that simple, but it’s also that amazing.

DeviantArt: While image-oriented social networks like Pinterest and Instagram have rocketed in popularity, DeviantArt has held steady as the world’s largest online art community for 15 years. With more than 300 million original works of art submitted by at least 34 million members, this forum is home to artists from more than 190 countries posting everything from anime to 3-D landscapes for their peers to comment on. Whether you’re interested in traditional techniques like oil-painted landscapes, or off-the-wall topical themes like #cosplayfriday, you’ll find artists who appreciate your efforts and whose expertise will push your craft forward.

Doximity: Whether it’s for finding a new opportunity or making contacts to grow your business, LinkedIn is great for networking. But what happens when you’re already locked into your job and just looking to navigate your field? Doximity is a social network specifically for doctors, allowing them to network with other medical professionals in this secure, closed network. By using the National Provider Information Registry to authenticate doctors signing up, it assures all users are legitimate M.D.s. And with HIPPA-secure and encrypted interactions, safety is built into the network. Simply by reading their personalized news feed, doctors can even get continuing medical education credits using the iOS or Android app.

NextDoor: One of the curiosities of the social media age is how we can be so well-connected with people on the other side of the world, yet still not know our next door neighbors. A network designed for building and strengthening communities, NextDoor connects people within geographic neighborhoods, helping them talk about things that are important to the places where they live. Part Craigslist (with a classified section), part Yelp (where users can recommend local businesses), and part Facebook (with neighbors able to post updates and comments on other people’s posts), NextDoor pulls the seemingly invisible layer of social interaction out of the web and lays it onto the real world. Also, there’s some really catty online neighbor spats on this forum that you’re totally missing out on.

RallyPoint: Service members often equate being in the military with being in a family. If that’s so, RallyPoint is the largest family gathering online. A site that mixes the professional side of serving in the Armed Forces with the personal, RallyPoint lets users weigh in on discussions on everything from military policy to post-military life. It also connects to a variety of other networks to help you find your friends and contacts on its own Android and iOS app. And you don’t need to be an active-duty member to use the service — even military family members can sign up to connect.

Untappd: Of all the things we post for friends on social networks — pictures of our kids, recipes, news stories — beer might be the only one we’d actually share in real life. A social network for people who enjoy great tasting suds, Untappd lets users check in at bars, write a review of their pint, check in to see what their friends at other establishments are sipping, and of course, take that highly-filtered half-drunken beer picture for all to enjoy. If this sounds boring to you, you might want to try ordering something a little more expensive other than Miller Lite once in a while.

Read next: How Facebook Is Helping Suicidal People

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