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AT&T

AT&T To End Targeted Ads Program, Give All Users Lowest Available Price 39

AT&T has confirmed to ArsTechnica that it is getting rid of Internet Preferences, a controversial program that analyzed home internet customers' web browsing habits in order to serve some targeted ads. From the report:"To simplify our offering for our customers, we plan to end the optional Internet Preferences advertising program related to our fastest Internet speed tiers," an AT&T spokesperson said. "As a result, all customers on these tiers will receive the best rate we have available for their speed tier in their area. We'll begin communicating this update to customers early next week." Data collection and targeted ads will be shut off, AT&T also confirmed. Since AT&T introduced Internet Preferences for its GigaPower fiber Internet service in 2013, customers had to opt into the traffic scanning program in order to receive the lowest available rate. Customers who wanted more privacy had to pay another $29 a month for standalone Internet access; bundles including TV or phone service could cost more than $60 extra when customers didn't opt in.
Businesses

Cable TV Companies Could Lose Nearly $1 Billion in the Next Year From People Ditching Their Subscriptions (businessinsider.com) 241

Nathan McAlone, writing for BusinessInsider: Cable TV companies could lose nearly $1 billion to people cutting the cord over the next year, according to a new study by management consulting firm cg42. The firm estimates that 800,000 cable customers will ditch their subscriptions in the next 12 months. Cg42 expects each customer to be an average loss of $1,248 annually, and losses to approach $1 billion over the year. Cg42 also found that the average cord-cutter saves $104 per month by canceling. Some in the industry have argued that cutting the cord doesn't actually save you money if you subscribe to a bunch of streaming services like Netflix, HBO, and so on. But that point of view neglects the reality that many cable subscribers pay for those streaming services already.
Communications

FCC Delays Cable TV Apps Vote, Needs Time To Work Out Licensing (arstechnica.com) 39

The FCC has delayed a vote on a plan that would require pay-TV operators to make free TV applications, so cable subscribers will have to wait longer for an alternative to renting set-top boxes from cable companies. ArsTechnica reports:The FCC was scheduled to vote on final rules at its monthly meeting today, but the item was removed from the agenda just before the meeting began. The commission's Democratic majority still seems determined to issue new rules, but there have been objections from the cable industry and disagreements among Democratic commissioners over some of the details. "We have made tremendous progress -- and we share the goal of creating a more innovative and inexpensive market for these consumer devices," Chairman Tom Wheeler and fellow Democrats Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel said today in a joint statement. "We are still working to resolve the remaining technical and legal issues and we are committed to unlocking the set-top box for consumers across this country." The vote could happen at next month's meeting, but the commissioners did not promise any specific timeline.
Mozilla

Mozilla Has Stopped All Commercial Development On Firefox OS -- Explains What It Plans To Do With Code Base (google.com) 97

Mozilla announced last year that Firefox OS initiative of shipping phones with commercial partners did not bring the returns it sought. The company earlier this year hinted that it intends to shut the project. It is now sharing how it will deal with Firefox OS code base going forward. From their post: We would stop our efforts to build and ship smartphones through carrier partners and pivot our efforts with Firefox OS to explore opportunities for new use cases in the world of connected devices. Firefox OS was transitioned to a Tier 3 platform from the perspective of support by Mozilla's Platform Engineering organization. That meant as of January 31, 2016 no Mozilla Platform Engineering resources would be engaged to provide ongoing support and all such work would be done by other contributors. For some period of time that work would be done by Mozillaâ(TM)s Connected Devices team. We had ideas for other opportunities for Firefox OS, perhaps as a platform for explorations in the world of connected devices, and perhaps for continued evolution of Firefox OS TV. To allow for those possibilities, and to provide a stable release for commercial TV partners, development would continue on a Firefox OS 2.6 release. In parallel with continued explorations by the Connected Devices team, we recognized there was interest within the Mozilla community in carrying forward work on Firefox OS as a smartphone platform, and perhaps even for other purposes. A Firefox OS Transition Project was launched to perform a major clean-up of the B2G code bringing it to a stable end state so it could be passed into the hands of the community as an open source project. In the spring and summer of 2016 the Connected Devices team dug deeper into opportunities for Firefox OS. They concluded that Firefox OS TV was a project to be run by our commercial partner and not a project to be led by Mozilla. Further, Firefox OS was determined to not be sufficiently useful for ongoing Connected Devices work to justify the effort to maintain it. This meant that development of the Firefox OS stack was no longer a part of Connected Devices, or Mozilla at all. Firefox OS 2.6 would be the last release from Mozilla. Today we are announcing the next phase in that evolution. While work at Mozilla on Firefox OS has ceased, we very much need to continue to evolve the underlying code that comprises Gecko, our web platform engine, as part of the ongoing development of Firefox. In order to evolve quickly and enable substantial new architectural changes in Gecko, Mozilla's Platform Engineering organization needs to remove all B2G-related code from mozilla-central. This certainly has consequences for B2G OS. For the community to continue working on B2G OS they will have to maintain a code base that includes a full version of Gecko, so will need to fork Gecko and proceed with development on their own, separate branch.
Government

ISP To FCC: Using The Internet Is Like Eating Oreos (consumerist.com) 227

New submitter Rick Schumann shares with us a report highlighting an analogy presented by an ISP that relates Double Stuf Oreos to the internet. Specifically, that Double Stuf Oreos cost more than regular Oreos, and therefore you should pay more for internet: The Consumerist reports: "Ars Technica first spotted the crumbly filing, from small (and much-loathed) provider Mediacom. Mediacom's comment is in response to the same proceeding that Netflix commented on earlier this month. However, while Netflix actually addressed data and the ways in which their customers use it, Mediacom went for the more metaphor-driven approach. The letter literally starts out under the header, 'You Have to Pay Extra For Double-Stuffed,' and posits that you, the consumer, are out for a walk with $2 in your pocket when you suddenly develop a ferocious craving for Oreo cookies." Of course their analogy is highly questionable, since transmitting data over a network doesn't actually consume anything, now does it? You eat the cookie, the cookie is gone, but you transmit data over a network, the network is still there and can transmit data endlessly. Mediacom's assertion that the Internet is like a cookie you eat, is like saying copying a file on your computer somehow diminishes or degrades the original file, which of course is ridiculous.
Entertainment

Plex Cloud Means Saying Goodbye To the Always-On PC (theverge.com) 164

Finally, you don't need an always-on PC or any other network-attached storage device if you want to use Plex's media player. The company has announced that it now allows you to stream TV shows and movies from your own collection via a new online option called Plex Cloud. From a report on The Verge: Plex is giving the world another reason to subscribe to Plex Pass subscriptions today with the launch of Plex Cloud. As the name suggests, Plex Cloud eliminates the need to run the Plex Media Server on a computer or Networked Attached Storage (NAS) in your house. It does, however, require a subscription to Amazon Drive ($59.99 per year for unlimited storage) and the aforementioned Plex Pass ($4.99 per month or $39.99 per year). Plex Cloud functions just like a regular Plex Media Server giving you access to your media -- no matter how you acquire it -- from an incredibly broad range of devices. Most, but not all Plex features are available in today's beta.
Television

You're Paying 40% More For TV Than You Were 5 Years Ago (businessinsider.com) 219

According to data from Leichtman Research's annual study, pay TV subscriptions keep going up and up. So much so that in the last five years, they have gone up by 40 percent. In 2011, subscribers were paying an average of $73.63 for cable or satellite, but now that average stands at roughly $103. From a BusinessInsider report: And it's not helping subscriber growth. "About 82% of households that use a TV currently subscribe to a pay-TV service," Bruce Leichtman said in a statement. "This is down from where it was five years ago, and similar to the penetration level eleven years ago." The pay-TV industry lost 800,000 last quarter subscribers last quarter, according to the research firm SNL Kagan. Putting that on a personal level, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke recently said his own kids don't even pay for TV. Burke has five "millennial" children, ages 19 to 28, and exactly "none" subscribe to cable or satellite, he said at a conference last week.
Communications

Charter Fights FCC's Attempt To Uncover 'Hidden' Cable Modem Fees (arstechnica.com) 65

Charter is trying to convince the Federal Communications Commission to backtrack on a plan that would force cable providers to charge a separate fee for cable modems, an anonymous writes, citing an ArsTechnica report. From the article: Charter is unusual compared to other cable companies in that it doesn't tack on a cable modem rental fee when offering Internet service. But FCC officials don't think that's good for consumers, because the price of Charter Internet service is the same whether a customer uses a Charter modem or buys their own. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler's latest proposal for new cable box rules would require companies to list fees for equipment used to access video. The FCC is clearly hoping that Charter will create a separate fee for cable modems and lower the base price of Internet service by a corresponding amount, thus letting customers save money in the long run by purchasing their own modems. (Separately from modems, Charter already charges monthly fees for the use of its TV set-top boxes.) "As part of the proposal, all pay-TV providers are required to be fully transparent about the cost consumers pay for leased equipment used to access video programming," an FCC spokesperson told Ars. "The goal is to uncover hidden fees and give consumers the ability to make informed choices. If a consumer chooses to purchase their own equipment at retail, our rules would require they no long have to pay for the built-in cost on their bill. We look forward to input from the Commissioners on this aspect of the proposal."
Power

TV Manufacturers Accused of Gaming Energy Usage Tests (cbslocal.com) 86

The Natural Resources Defense Council has issued a new report accusing Samsung, LG and Vizio of "misleading consumers and regulators about how much energy high-definition screens devour, alleging that the televisions were designed to perform more efficiently during government testing than in ordinary use." The report "estimates that the collective electricity bills during a decade of watching the high-definition TVs will be $1.2 billion higher than the energy ratings imply," and that "the higher energy usage generates an additional 5 million metric tons of carbon pollution." CBS Local reports: The findings are based on an analysis of high-definition TVs with screens spanning at least 55 inches made in 2015 and 2016. The estimates on electricity costs are based on high definition TVs with screens 32 inches and larger. The study concluded that Samsung and LG have gamed the system during government testing in an effort to get better scores on the "Energy Star" yellow labels that appear on the sets in stores. Those scores often influence the buying decisions of consumers looking to save money on their utility bills. The report said Samsung and LG did not break any laws in their manipulation of the tests, but rather exploited weaknesses in the Department of Energy's system to measure electricity usage. The Samsung and LG sets have a dimming feature that turns off the screens' backlight during part of the 10-minute video clip used in government tests. But that does not typically happen when the sets are being used in homes to watch sports, comedies, dramas and news programming. The analysis also found that Samsung, LG and Vizio disable energy-saving features in their TVs when consumers change the factory setting on the picture, a common practice. The energy-saving feature is turned off, with little or no warning on the screen, sometimes doubling the amount of electricity consumed, according to the NRDC report.
Television

Netflix Wants 50% Of Its Library To Be Original Content (techcrunch.com) 187

An anonymous reader writes: Netflix is looking to shift its content mix even further towards original TV and movies, with a goal of achieving a 50 percent mix between its own programming and stuff licensed for its use by outside studios. The 50-50 target was revealed by Netflix CFO David Wells at the Goldman Sach's Communacopia conference on Tuesday, and Wells added that they'd like to hit that mix sometime over the course of the next few years. As for its progress so far, Wells said Netflix is already about "one-third to halfway" to that ratio, having launched 2015 hours of original programming in 2015, and with the intend of achieving a further 600 hours by the end of 2016. The benefit for Netflix with a shift to self-generated content is that the licensing situation is much simpler, and the investment made represents a cost that continues to deliver value long after the initial spend. Licensing arrangements with outside TV and film distributors have a fixed term, and thus represent a recurring cost if you want to continue offering their content in your library.
AT&T

AT&T Is Phasing Out the U-Verse Video, Broadband Brand (fiercetelecom.com) 43

AT&T is killing off the 'U-Verse' brand after its $69 billion acquisition of DirecTV. AT&T's broadband and phone services will now be called AT&T Internet and AT&T Phone. The company says the move will bring "simplicity" across the swaths of services it offers. FierceTelecom adds: This transition should not be of any great surprise as the same trend has been taking place with U-verse TV. AT&T has been driving new TV customers to its DirecTV satellite service, a process that could enable the telco to use the additional bandwidth to increase broadband speeds. While AT&T is still supporting current U-verse IPTV customers, the telco has not indicated how long they will continue to offer that service. Additionally, AT&T may also phase out the DirecTV name at some point, but industry insiders said that won't occur until it launches its streaming video service under DirecTV. AT&T has already been moving away from the U-Verse name by directing new TV customers to the company's DirecTV satellite TV service. The company will likely then use the freed bandwidth from that transition to improve overall broadband speeds. Existing U-Verse TV customers are being supported for now, but it's unclear how long that will last.The Hollywood Reporter states that the move is also necessary because AT&T plans to launch three streaming video services next quarter.
Verizon

Comcast Will Launch a Wireless Service Next Year (businessinsider.com) 50

Steve Kovach, writing for Business Insider:Comcast plans to launch its own wireless service in 2017, CEO Brian Roberts said at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia conference Tuesday. Since Comcast doesn't have its own cell towers, it'll rely on WiFi networks for connectivity. The user will be switched to Verizon's network when they're away from WiFi. There are already a few smaller carriers that offer services like this, like Google's Project Fi and Republic Wireless. Those companies work as mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) and pay major wireless carriers like Sprint or T-Mobile to use their cell towers when users aren't connected to WiFi. MVNOs tend to be cheaper than traditional wireless carriers, offering benefits like the option to only pay for the data you use. The move will also help Comcast and Verizon compete with AT&T, which merged with DirecTV and is able to offer combined wireless, home broadband, and TV packages.
Television

4K UHD TVs Are Being Adopted Faster Than HDTVs (venturebeat.com) 207

Now this may surprise some: 4K Ultra HD televisions are expected to double sales to 15 million units in the U.S. in 2016, and the next-generation TVs are now being adopted at a faster rate than predecessor high-definition TVs. 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players are also selling at a fast rate, according to Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, the big tech lobbying group, VentureBeat reports. From the report: At a press event in San Francisco, Shapiro said that 62 percent of consumers plan to buy a consumer electronics viewing device in the next 12 months; 33 percent plan to buy a smartphone, and 29 percent plan to buy a TV. "Consumers are showing a strong preference for 4K," which has four times as many on-screen pixels as HDTVs, Shapiro said. "It's faster and more robust than HDTV." By 2017, 4K UHD TV sales will hit 20 million a year in the U.S. That number will grow to 23 million in 2018, and 26 million by 2019, Shapiro said. The 2016 growth rate is 105 percent above the units sold for 2015.
Communications

Cable Lobby Tries To Make You Forget That It Represents Cable Companies (arstechnica.com) 33

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. cable industry's biggest lobby group has dropped the word "cable" from its name in a rebrand focusing on its members' role as providers of both Internet and TV services. The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) will henceforth be called NCTA-The Internet and Television Association. NCTA will be maintained in the name as a nod to the group's past, even though the initials no longer stand for any particular words. "Just as our industry is witnessing an exciting transformation driven by technology and connectivity, NCTA's brand must reflect the vibrancy and diversity of our members," NCTA CEO Michael Powell (a former Federal Communications Commission chairman) said in today's announcement. The group's "mission to drive the industry forward remains the same," he said. This isn't the NCTA's first name change. The group began as the National Community Television Council in 1951 and then became the National Community Television Association in 1952, according to the Museum of Broadcast Communications. Despite dropping the word "cable," the NCTA's name change announcement makes reference to how cable companies are dominating the broadband market. Powell noted that the NCTA "represent[s] an industry that is America's largest and fastest home Internet provider." As it goes forward, the NCTA won't be the only telecom lobby group initialism that no longer stands for anything. The CTIA -- previously known as the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association and then the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association -- is now just "CTIA-The Wireless Association."
Sci-Fi

SciFi TV Series 'Space Patrol Orion' Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary (wikipedia.org) 73

In Germany the phrase "Fallback to Earth!" is about as cult as "Engage warp drive," reports Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino: One of the oldest science fiction TV serials, the famous German "Raumpatrouille Orion" (Space Patrol Orion) turned 50 today. Heise.de has a scoop on the anniversary in German [or roughly translated into English by Google]. The production of Space Patrol Orion predates Star Trek by roughly a year and was a huge hit in Germany, gaining the status of a "street sweeper" (Strabenfeger), referring to the effect it's airing had on public life.
The special effects are pretty good for 1966 -- you can watch episode one on YouTube. (And feel free to share other related videos in the comments.) "In the series, nations no longer exist and Earth is united," according to Wikipedia, which reports that Commander Cliff McLane and his loyal crew fight an alien race called the Frogs, and "He is notoriously defiant towards his superiors."
Businesses

21st Century Fox Sues Netflix Over Executive Poaching (latimes.com) 83

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Los Angeles Times: 21st Century Fox on Friday filed a lawsuit against Netflix, accusing the streaming video giant of illegally recruiting two of its executives who were under contract. The suit, which was filed Friday in California Superior Court in Los Angeles, says Netflix engaged in a "brazen campaign to unlawfully target, recruit, and poach valuable Fox executives by illegally inducing them to break their employment contracts with Fox to work at Netflix." The lawsuit was sparked following the exits of two Fox executives: Marcos Waltenberg, who made the jump to Netflix earlier this year, previously worked as a marketing executive at Twentieth Century Fox Film; Tara Flynn, who made the move to Netflix just last week, had been the vice president of creative affairs at Fox 21 TV Studios. Fox alleges that Netflix pursued and hired the executives even though it knew they each had employment contracts that were still in effect, according to the complaint. The Century City-based studio is seeking an injunction to prevent Netflix from interfering with its employment contracts, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. A Netflix spokesperson said in a statement: "We intend to defend this lawsuit vigorously. We do not believe Fox's use of fixed term employment contracts in this manner are enforceable. We believe in employee mobility and will fight for the right to hire great colleagues no matter where they work."
Network

26% of Netflix Users May Cancel Cable TV This Year, Says Survey (huffingtonpost.com) 92

The future looks grim for cable TV providers like Comcast and Time Warner Cable. A new survey says that as many as 26 percent of Netflix users may cancel their cable TV service by next year. Huffington Post reports: Where are they going? If you say "Netflix," you're not exactly correct. The fact is that, according to a recent survey by CutCableToday, 67 percent of Netflix subscribers still have cable. That's pretty much right in line with last year's numbers, insinuating that Netflix isn't necessarily synonymous with cord cutting. However, perhaps a more interesting statistic from the study shows that 26 percent of Netflix users may not have cable by next year. More specifically, 11 percent of Netflix users say they're going to cancel their cable contracts. 15 percent say they are unsure if they'll keep cable or cut the cord. What about the other 74 percent? The survey goes on to say that the most common reason people aren't canceling is due to Big Cable's greatest weapon. The bundle. The survey states that 80% of Netflix subscribers have their internet bundled with TV or phone service.
Sci-Fi

28 Years A Smeghead: Red Dwarf Is Coming Back (theguardian.com) 153

BarbaraHudson writes: Unless you're a smeghead, you'll be excited to know that (after 28 years after the smash cult sitcom began) Red Dwarf seasons 11 and 12 are now in production. The Guardian reports: "'I've known these guys longer than I've known my wife,' says Charles (Lister). 'That was what it came down to -- a choice between staying in Coronation Street or doing this.' Last year, after 10 years on the cobbliest of soaps, Charles left. He missed comedy, and the opportunity to strap on the famous dreads came up. 'I was like 'I've got to do it.' It's a career-defining role.' As it was with Llewellyn's (Kryton) re-application of the rubber head: 'The only reason I do it now -- and I don't do any other acting, it drives me mad -- is because it's being with your mates for a few weeks.' 'There's nothing similar about us,' says John-Jules (Kat). 'Except we all have Red Dwarf.'"
Government

Why The FCC Chair Says Set-Top Box Reform Proposal Could Change (fortune.com) 33

An anonymous reader writes: Hardware costs are down yet fees still seem to climb. The head of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission said he might change his proposal to allow tens of millions of U.S. pay TV subscribers to ditch costly set-top boxes and access video programming online. At a Senate hearing on Thursday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler defended his revised proposal, which is scheduled for a final vote on Sept. 29. The plan, announced last week, lacks some of the most controversial aspects of the original proposal unveiled in January but includes a new licensing body to ensure that pay-TV companies do not enter into anti-competitive agreements. The plan is aimed at ending the cable industry's long domination of the $20-billion-a-year set-top box market and lowering prices for consumers. Nearly all pay-TV subscribers lease the boxes from their cable, satellite, or telecommunications providers at an average annual cost of $231. Those fees have jumped 185% since 1994, while the cost of televisions, computers, and mobile phones has dropped 90%, the FCC has estimated.
China

China Launches Second Space Lab (space.com) 88

Reader hackingbear writes: China's next space laboratory, Tiangong-2 launched from the country's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center today at 10:04 a.m. EDT (1404 GMT) on a Long March 2F carrier rocket. Like its predecessor Tiangong-1, Tiangong-2 is an orbiting space lab -- but this latest model has made several improvements in the series. Among the advances: astronauts can remain on the station up to 30 days; New systems allow in orbit refueling of propellant; and 14 new experiments in a wide range of sciences including composite material fabrication, advanced-plant cultivation, gamma ray burst polarization, fluid physics, space-to-earth quantum communications. The space lab is also equipped with a cold atom space clock, that has an estimated precision of 10 to the power of minus 16 seconds, or a one-second error every 30 million years, enhancing accuracy of time-keeping in space by one to two orders of magnitudes. This exactitude will help measure previously undetectable fluctuations for experiments conducted in zero-gravity.The Tiangong 2, while is an experimental space station, is still operational. The astronauts that would come on board next month are to spend a full month up there -- a longer period of time than possible on Tiangong 1.

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