Wednesday, June 11
Tomorrow, the biggest sporting event in the world — the World Cup — kicks off in Brazil. At Fast Company, Neal Ungerleider writes about how Twitter is working to ensure their service doesn’t buckle from the massive surge in traffic:
Raffi Krikorian is one of Twitter’s main engineers who keeps the service’s backend working. Krikorian, a vice president of platform engineering, helms a team (which encompasses approximately one third of Twitter’s software engineers) responsible for preventing outages and making sure the service is available.
“I’ve been here just shy of five years, and I still have PTSD from the last World Cup at Twitter,” Krikorian told me. “When you come to my floor at Twitter headquarters, we have signs all over the floor with a countdown to the World Cup. Reliability is at the top of our minds, and reliability first is the mantra. Somewhere in the world, there is a sporting event, an election, or an earthquake.”
But it also poses very specific engineering challenges for Twitter. Krikorian’s team plans for the World Cup using worst-case scenarios of extremely high site traffic. One hypothetical he brought up on the phone was a Brazil-Japan match; Twitter’s market penetration in Japan is massive and a Japanese television show holds the record for inspiring the most tweets-per-second.
Four years ago, the World Cup created a whopping 150,000 tweets per hour. Given how much the service has grown in popularity since then, expect that number to be even more massive this year.
Over at The Hill, Tim Devaney highlights an interesting report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that shows how mobile banking can be beneficial to low-income people:
The bureau said 74,000 people each day signed up for mobile banking services last year, many of whom are low-income individuals whose only access to the Internet is through their phone, the agency said.
According to a Federal Reserve study, 39 percent of underbanked people use mobile banking applications.
84%, which is how much Internet traffic Cisco expects to be video in four years. As Marina Lopes of Reuters reports:
Video consumption of the World Cup alone will generate nearly as much Internet traffic as occurred in all of Australia in 2013, according to a new Cisco Systems Inc report that shows growth in Internet traffic is fueled by video.
The report, which says video is expected to grow to 84 percent of Internet traffic in the United States by 2018 from 78 percent currently, raises questions about whether Internet service providers should prioritize traffic, which has become a controversial issue.
“In the future at some point every month is going to look like the world cup month because the consumption just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Robert Pepper, Cisco’s vice president of global technology policy.
Often forgotten in the great net neutrality debate is the fact that bandwidth-intensive video is the future of the Internet. And that presents some very real engineering challenges.
Friday, June 06
With the net neutrality debate once again on the front burner, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Jim Cicconi has penned a lengthy post at the company’s Public Policy Blog to break down how reclassifying broadband service under Title II is a bad idea for just about everyone with a stake in the open Internet. An excerpt:
Title II would not prohibit the creation of fast lanes and slow lanes on the Internet — that is clear in the plain language of the law, not to mention 80 years of FCC precedent and court decisions. Arguments to the contrary are pure fantasy. At a minimum, Title II supporters have to concede that their argument depends on the bank shot that an appellate court will agree (a) that the FCC can change its mind about how the Internet works after the Supreme Court has validated its prior decision; and (b) the FCC can then ignore the plain language of the statute and 80 years of precedent to determine that the prohibition of “unjust and unreasonable” discrimination actually means it can prohibit any discrimination. And think of all the additional proceedings that will be needed to unpack where we draw the lines between information services “haves” and telecommunications services “have nots.” If that is the road we choose to travel, the investment uncertainty alone will have a massive negative impact on American broadband deployment for years to come.
There’s another important argument against Title II — invoking it would risk massive collateral damage to many, if not most, U.S. Internet companies. Title II could turn every edge or content company into a common carrier for at least part, if not all, of their services.
Cicconi goes on to argue that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler already has a way to ensure an open Internet without the regulatory hammer of Title II:
Section 706, as interpreted by the court and explained by Chairman Wheeler, does provide a path. It’s a path AT&T supports. For one, it has already been blessed as a valid source of jurisdiction to address the kinds of concerns articulated by Chairman Wheeler and others throughout the current debate. In upholding Section 706 authority, the Verizon court gave the FCC wide latitude to prohibit conduct that would deter broadband investment. And the approach that Chairman Wheeler has proposed would clearly prevent practices like paid prioritization that we feel would change the fundamental nature of the Internet.
Thursday, June 05
Via David Gelles and Nichael J. De La Merced at The New York Times, the long rumored merger between Sprint and T-Mobile is starting to heat up:
Sprint and T-Mobile have talked about a combination for years but continued to put it off, each preoccupied with other deals, and concerned about scrutiny from antitrust regulators.
But in recent days, the two sides have settled on the terms of a $32 billion deal that is likely to be announced this summer, people briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.
Under the terms of the deal, which are still preliminary, Sprint would acquire T-Mobile for about $40 a share in cash and stock, a 17 percent premium to Wednesday’s price.
Between this, the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger and, to a lesser extent the proposed AT&T-DirecTV coupling, the DOJ and FCC have a lot of work ahead of them.
At The Hill, George S. Ford, chief economist of the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies, warns that dysfunction in Congress could soon have a dramatic effect on Internet adoption:
[W]hen the Internet was in its nascency, Congress sought to encourage adoption by keeping prices affordable. To do so, Congress passed the ITFA, which imposed a three-year moratorium on the imposition of (new) state and local taxes on Internet access. Given that state and local governments aggressively and discriminatorily tax communications services, the moratorium aimed to reduce prices significantly and, consequently, encourage adoption. Since 1998, this moratorium has been extended three times, and is due to expire again in November 2014. While there is generally broad bipartisan support to extend — if not make permanent — the ITFA’s moratorium, given congressional gridlock, there are no guarantees.
With November 2014 rapidly approaching, the question policymakers now need to ask themselves is how a failure to extend the ITFA will affect these efforts to expand broadband adoption? Using both economic theory and empirical evidence, it is possible to make some predictions about the economic effects of failing to extend the ITFA. It isn’t pretty.
Ford predicts a potential loss of 30-60 million broadband connections if Congress fails to act on extending ITFA. Not pretty indeed.
Tuesday, June 03
Remember how awesome the Internet was in the 1990s? Well, kids these days would disagree with you:
Via Kate Tummarello at The Hill, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have some ideas for how the FCC can successfully update an existing program to bring more technology to schools:
A bipartisan group of lawmakers laid out recommendations for the Federal Communications Commission to modernize its E-Rate program to fund technology in classrooms.
“The funding priorities must reflect the changing nature of the Internet, so that our classrooms and students have access to today’s technology,” a group of 46 lawmakers told the FCC in a letter on Monday.
“America’s school and libraries are in need of a technological update to accelerate next-generation education reforms, support teachers and enhance student learning through universal access to high-speed broadband.”
25 years ago this month, pro-democracy protests rocked Beijing, China. In anticipation of the anniversary, Ben Blanchard of Reuters reports, the government of China — which is not exactly Internet freedom friendly — is taking aim at Google:
Google services are being disrupted in China ahead of this week’s 25th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, a censorship watchdog said on Monday.
GreatFire.org said in a blog post that the government appeared to have begun targeting Google Inc’s main search engine and Gmail, among many other services, since at least last week, making them inaccessible to many users in China.
It added that the last time it monitored such a block was in 2012, when it only lasted 12 hours.
While we continue to debate net neutrality here in the U.S., it’s worth remembering that in China and a number of nations, threats to the open Internet are routine and ongoing. Another reason we should be careful moving forward with new regulations. After all, the whole world will be watching what we do here.
Thursday, May 29
Yesterday, actually, which was when the long-rumored deal between Apple and Beats Electronics finally became a reality. Via Darrell Etherington of TechCrunch:
Apple has indeed purchased Beats, which includes both Beats Audio hardware and Beats Music, the streaming radio service that was founded by rapper Dr. Dre and longtime music industry exec Jimmy Iovine. The deal was reported to be in the works earlier this month, and was said to be worth an estimated $3.2 billion at the time, though a recent New York Post report said it was cut to $3 billion after Apple completed its due diligence. The price is indeed $3 billion, with $2.6 billion in cash and $400 million in stock.
While Beats is probably best known for its ubiquitous headphones, most believe Apple actually made the deal in order to get its hands on the company’s music streaming service.