Government will now regulate the Internet



The FCC yesterday passed new “net neutrality” rules that permit government regulation of the Internet as a public utility.


The Federal Communications Commission finally voted yesterday on the much-discussed “net neutrality” rules. The commission voted in favor of the new rules with a 3 to 2 vote along party lines, with Democrats in favor.

Broadband Internet will now be regulated like other public utilities, such as telephone service, under the new legislation. The FCC recently redefined what qualifies as broadband.

Now, the objective of the latest rules is to prevent web content, such as streaming videos and other data-heavy media, from being blocked, or load speeds manipulated, based on a user’s Internet provider. Supporters of net neutrality claim the Internet was increasingly being divided into fast lanes, for large providers like Comcast and Verizon that can afford to pay more, and slow lanes for smaller providers.

The division, supporters said, was not only bad for new business but also bad for customers. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler agreed, saying his organization was employing “all the tools in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers” and uphold the Internet’s role as a “core of free expression and democratic principles.” Wheeler went on to say that access to the Internet is too important for society to allow service providers to make the rules.

Republicans, however, say the new rules are a classic case of government overreach. An article by David Asman of FOX News said, “Of all the government interventions by the Obama administration, the plan released Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet is the worst.”

Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai said the new FCC plan is “a massive shift in favor of government control of the Internet…everything from your wireless service plan, to your wire line connection at home.”

Beyond just affecting service, the new rules also give the FCC the power to decide what content on the Internet is “just and reasonable” and what is classified as a “threat.” It’s unclear exactly how these new powers will play out, but many are concerned that a new era of censorship is being ushered in.

Private companies are divided, depending on where interests lie. Large providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint are strongly opposed and may file suit against the FCC. Other companies like Netflix and Twitter have pushed for net neutrality to pass.

The FCC has previously appeared to play favorites with private companies. The commission allowed DISH Network Corp. to receive millions of dollars in taxpayer funds that were supposed to be reserved to help small companies compete with large corporations like DISH.



FCC vote today on net neutrality won’t settle the issue



The Federal Communications Commission will vote today on new rules for internet service providers as part of the controversial “net neutrality” legislation.

The new rules would impact companies like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and other mobile and Internet providers, requiring corporations to act in the “public interest” when providing service to customers. That means leveling the playing field and giving smaller companies and start-ups a chance to compete.

The rules would place Internet regulation on par with current rules for phone companies that restrict “unjust or unreasonable” business practices.

Those in favor of the new rules argue that large Internet providers are actively trying to edge out small businesses, to the detriment of consumers. Internet providers, however, are strongly opposed and will likely sue if the plan passes.

Lending much public support to the bill are the companies Twitter and Netflix, which have repeatedly warned of a monopoly.

With a neutral net, however, websites and streaming media like TV shows and videos would all load at the same speed. Consumers, therefore, wouldn’t be more likely to watch a movie or show on one site over another because of a deal in place with the Internet service provider to load data faster.

“Safeguarding the historic open architecture of the Internet and the ability for all users to ‘innovate without permission’ is critical to American economic aspirations and our nation’s global competitiveness,” Twitter stated this week in a company blog post.

Streaming media services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video are known as data hogs, taking up a large percentage of bandwidth.

Google has itself remained fairly neutral in the net neutrality debate. While Google has supported legislation that would keep Internet providers from manipulating speeds to suit their businesses, the company has been expanding its own stake as an Internet provider. Its super high-speed broadband network, Google Fiber, is extending its reach in the country. Ultimately, Google may not need to rely on other Internet providers to funnel traffic.

The FCC’s vote today is therefore unlikely to mark the end of the net neutrality debate.



Netflix caters to kids with five new series


inspector gadget

Netflix is expanding its children’s programming, adding five new shows to its offerings in the next year. Shows will include two remakes—of popular kids’ series “Danger Mouse” and “Inspector Gadget”—plus three new titles.

“We’ve seen great characters and rich storytelling work for a global audience time and time again,” said Erik Barmack, Netflix’s VP of global independent content. “That’s why we’re proud to be working with some of the industry’s best producers and animators on these shows, and we can’t wait for kids and families all over the world to get to know these stories.”

“Danger Mouse” is a re-imagined version of the animated show from the ‘80s. The modern series will air in the spring of next year with the leading voice of U.K. comedian and actor Stephen Fry. Danger Mouse and his hamster sidekick Penfold will fight off bad guys using an arsenal of gizmos.

“Inspector Gadget,” a remake of the classic lovable, but blundering, detective, will debut in March in the U.S. Netflix’s other new kids’ series, “Some Assembly Required,” Bottersnikes & Grumbles,” and “Super 4” are all new. “Super 4” will premiere exclusively on Netflix.

Kids’ programming is an important segment for Netflix. The company remains the number one streaming video service but faces competition from the likes of Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video.

Providing video content specifically for children is also a growing trend and an area of increasing focus for the media/entertainment industry. On Tuesday, YouTube launched the free YouTube Kids app featuring videos aimed at ankle-biters. Earlier this month Vine came out with Vine Kids.

As more parents find streaming media and online videos convenient forms of entertainment, distraction and education for youngsters the trend is likely to grow. Kids who grow up with video-on-demand and streaming media could usher in the era of alternative television in earnest. Instead of cutting the cable cord, the next generation of entertainment consumers is more likely to have never been tethered.



Roku 4 due out soon—what does it have Roku 3 doesn’t? 


Roku device

Roku has long been a major player in the media streaming device competition. With a popular streaming stick and multiple box-style devices, the company certainly has plenty of entries in the increasingly crowded marketplace that caters to consumers who want to cut the cable cord and get more viewing flexibility for less money. Roku 3, the latest generation and most powerful device, will soon lose its position, though, when Roku 4 comes out in the coming months.

Roku 4 is widely rumored to be in development with a release date set for early March. Given the media streaming trends that have been strengthening since Roku 3’s debut, Roku 4 will likely include some predictable upgrades, improvements and fixes.

Ultra high-definition, or 4K resolution, has been gaining ground. UHD/4k means a TV displays a horizontal resolution of around 4,000 pixels. The effect is like watching a TV that’s two 1080p screens tall, and two 1080p screens wide.

Roku 4 will probably be compatible with 4K TV. This will follow in the footsteps of Netflix, which is already offering 4K support for some programs.

Roku may also add wireless antennae to their next device. This would improve signal strength, especially for users who have their wireless router in a different room than their TV.

One fix that could be added to Roku 4 is the presence of a reset button. With Roku 3, a reset can only be achieved by yanking out all the wires if the device freezes.

Other probable upgrades are that Roku 4 will be faster, have more memory, and have a new, even sleeker design. When it finally comes out, provided it doesn’t cost much more than Roku 3 and competitor devices like Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV, Roku 4 will likely attract a swath of new buyers interested in cutting the cable cord.



YouTube Launches Kid-Friendly Video App


YouTube Kids


  • YouTube has launched YouTube Kids, a child- and family-friendly app
  • The free app features videos from makers of children’s entertainment and popular kids’ shows

YouTube is popular not only with adults and teens — but with toddlers as well. However, letting a young child freely surf the online video site is problematic. Videos posted on the site aren’t always appropriate for young audiences, and finding online content specifically for toddlers takes even more searching.

Now, YouTube has released a new app, YouTube Kids, that includes videos designed to entertain youngsters and give parents peace of mind. The app features videos from Jim Henson Co., DreamWorks Animation, National Geographic Kids, Mother Goose Club, and more. It also includes popular children’s shows like “Sesame Street,” “Fraggle Rock,” “Thomas the Tank Engine,” “Reading Rainbow,” “TuTiTu,” and the popular YouTube channel “Super Simple Songs.”

Check out the new YouTube Kids app:

The app is easy enough for small children to use. Parental controls include a timer, sound settings, search settings, and a place for parents to leave feedback.

In addition, it isn’t just kids’ content that the app will include. Other content—as long as it is family friendly—will also be available, such as DIY arts and crafts and educational videos.

In a blog post by Google’s Pavni Diwanji, VP of Engineering, and Shimrit Ben-Yair, Product Manager (and both mothers of two) stated, “For years, families have come to YouTube, watching countless hours of videos on a variety of topics. And today, we’re launching YouTube Kids, a new family-friendly app that makes it easy for kids to explore a vast selection of videos on any topic.”

YouTube Kids is free and is available for download from iTunes and Google Play. The app works on both Android and iOS (iPhone and iPad) devices. If used with a media streaming device like Chromecast so kids can watch videos on a TV, the app could take the place of some children’s cable programming, a feature that will appeal to people interested in cutting the cable cord.

YouTube may be the first to add many features, but in the kid-safe department the site is playing catch-up. Earlier this month, the online video site Vine, which is owned by Twitter and features short, six-second maximum video clips, launched the Vine Kids app featuring child-friendly content.



Chromecast in 2015 is all grown up


chromecast device


Google’s media streaming device, Chromecast, has come a long way since its debut in July 2013. Last month, Chromecast hit the one billion mark for the number of cast sessions it’s been used for. That’s a lot of casting with a device that hasn’t even reached its second birthday.

The cast sessions figure (with a session defined as hitting the cast button—regardless of how many videos are viewed) was announced after Google’s fourth quarter conference at the end of January.

Though the company still hasn’t released any sales numbers, usage is clearly growing. Chromecast is also available in Canada, the UK, Germany and other countries.

While Chromecast has been popular since its launch, it has also picked up plenty of converts. At first, the number of services Chromecast supported was a little thin compared to other streaming devices, like Roku.

But today, users can get access to Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, YouTube and plenty more. Amazon Instant Video still isn’t’ supported, but that could change. Just this week VLC revealed their media player will soon support Chromecast.

The number of apps that work with Chromecast has also skyrocketed in the last year. There are now hundreds of apps available, including HBO GO, WatchESPN, and Showtime Anytime, EPIX, Comedy Central, and many more.

The number of supported services makes the Chromecast of 2015 more than just a way to get online videos from a phone to a TV. It makes it an extremely versatile tool—from projecting personal photos onto a TV, to working as a audio adapter, to mirroring web pages and even  offering a virtual reality experience (if used on a 3D TV)—and almost indispensable for anyone interested in cutting the cable cord.



Jerome Kersey tribute: watch the Trail Blazers’ famous “Bust A Bracket” performance


Jerome Kersey in 2003 addressing a group of kids on the basketball court in the Naval Air Facility, Ranger Gym. Kersey taught the kids basic techniques for both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Joshua.C. Millage.

Jerome Kersey in 2003 addressing a group of kids on the basketball court in the Naval Air Facility, Ranger Gym. Kersey taught the kids basic techniques for both the offensive and defensive aspects of the game. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Joshua.C. Millage.


  • Trail Blazers great Jerome Kersey died Wednesday at the age of 52
  • Cause of death is unknown
  • Watch the video of Kersey and teammates performing “Bust A Bracket” 

Fans of the Portland Trail Blazers and sports fans, in general lost a beloved player on Wednesday. Blazers great Jerome Kersey died at the age of 52.

Kersey passed away at the Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center in Tualatin, Oregon. He was transported to the hospital by the Lake Oswego Fire Department after they responded to a medical call at his home. Kersey’s cause of death has not been released.

Kersey played small forward for the Trail Blazers for 11 seasons before retiring in 2001. He was an integral part of the team’s NBA Finals appearances in 1990 and 1992. He ranked as high as second on the Blazers all-time list for most games played, with 831, and most rebounds, with 5,078.

Kersey also played for the Golden State Warriors, L.A. Lakers, Seattle SuperSonics, San Antonio Spurs, and Wilwaukee Bucks. With the Spurs, Kersey claimed an NBA Championship in 199.

Kersey and fellow Blazers Terry Porter, Buck Williams, Kevin Duckworth and Lamont Strothers teamed up for their famous “Bust A Bracket” song to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland. When “Bust A Bracket” came out it received national attention and was featured on NBC’s “Inside Stuff” and ESPN’s “Basketball Today.”

Here, as a tribute to Kersey, is the “Bust A Bracket” video in all its glory.



Online TV takes on a new meaning with latest ‘Modern Family’ episode


The plot of an upcoming 'Modern Family' episode plays out entirely through characters' web-connected devices. Photo: AP

The plot of an upcoming ‘Modern Family’ episode plays out entirely through characters’ web-connected devices. Photo: AP

The term “online TV” typically refers to watching TV shows online on sites like Hulu or on the websites of networks, or through an Internet TV subscription. In the latest example of the merging of technology and entertainment, the TV show ‘Modern Family’ will air an episode that takes place entirely on devices and in the Internet realm. Not only that, but the entire episode was shot with devices—iPads, an iPhone, and a few scenes with a MacBook Pro.

‘Modern Family,’ a comedy currently in its sixth season on ABC, has featured Apple products in other episodes. Just before its retail launch, the iPad starred as a desired birthday gift.

But co-creator and executive producer Steve Levitan told the New York Daily News Apple is in no way compensating the show, nor are there any product placement agreements in place. Apple did, however, have advance notice about the plans for the episode, and provided iPhones for shooting.

Levitan said the idea for the episode came from his personal experience interacting with his daughter online while she was away at college.

“I had emails open, some websites… then my daughter showed up” on FaceTime, he said. “I could not only see her, but I could see me, and there was something going on behind me, my wife or somebody. I realized on that screen, you could tell so much about my life,” said Levitan.

The experience struck him as something that would work well for a “Modern Family” episode. The premise revolves around character Claire’s search for her daughter Haley.

Claire, who is about to get on a plane, can only use her laptop to communicate with family about Haley’s whereabouts. Family members pop up on Claire’s screen from their own devices, and humorous interactions ensue.

The episode, called “Connection Lost” will air on Feb. 25. Fans can see it on TV on the ABC network, or watch it online.



Sling TV adds more movie and on demand content


Sling TV

Popular movies like Hunger Games: Catching Fire will now be available to Sling TV customers through a new deal with EPIX


  • Internet TV provider Sling TV announced a deal with EPIX
  • Over 2,000 movie and entertainment titles, plus the full EPIX channel lineup will be available to Sling subscribers

Sling TV has announced another expansion of its offerings for customers interested in cutting the cable cord. After launching only last week, today Sling revealed a new partnership with the movie and entertainment provider EPIX.

Per the new deal, Sling TV subscribers will have access to the EPIX channel, EPIX2, EPIX3, EPIX Drive-In, plus over 2,000 on-demand movie and entertainment titles. That includes new movie releases, concerts, comedy shows, documentaries and classic films.

“Our customers crave the newest movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Transformers: Age of Extinction, but they also have a growing appetite for the classics and EPIX delivers both,” said Roger Lynch, CEO of Sling TV. “Sling TV will feature EPIX’s linear channels and movies on-demand in an add-on package that is accessible and affordable.”

Sling has yet to say when the new EPIX content will be available, or how much it will cost.

EPIX, which is dedicated to providing consumers with “TV Everywhere,” is an obvious match with Sling. Sling TV, a subsidiary of DISH Network Corp., is one of the new breed of Internet TV providers—offering access to popular channels via the Internet (instead of via cables or satellite).

Sling’s basic “Best of Live TV” package includes 15 channels, among them AMC, ESPN, CNN, and TBS, for $20/month with no contract. Sling also has a video on demand library—which just got a big boost with the addition of EPIX selections.

EPIX was the first premium network to be available on a number of media streaming devices such as Chromecast and Roku. EPIX is a joint venture with Viacom Inc., Lionsgate, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.



Android TV wants to turn “smart” TVs into geniuses with personalized recommendations of what to watch


Android TV will act as a "recommendation engine" on smart TVs to help users find quality content to watch.

Android TV will act as a “recommendation engine” on smart TVs to help users find quality content to watch.


  • Google is working on Android TV, a platform to improve “smart” TVs
  • Android TV is expected to launch this Spring
  • Google is working on plans to have Android TV built into some TV models

When Google pulled the plug on Google TV last month, it was by no means exiting the entertainment segment. Instead, Google TV has been resurrected as Android TV, which already looks poised to be more successful than its predecessor.

Android TV was first announced in June of last year, at the Google I/O 2014 conference, as the successor to Google TV. Google already has technology to get into people’s living rooms. Google Cast is the brain behind Google’s Chromecast, which connects TVs to the world of online entertainment by allowing users to cast online videos from computers, tablets and other devices onto their TVs.

Android TV will make smart TVs even smarter

In simple terms, Android TV is software for your smart TV to make it even smarter. Not surprisingly, as the product of Google, it will work a bit like a giant search engine installed on your TV to make it easier to find shows, movies, and other cool stuff to watch.

Such software is becoming more necessary—or at least more helpful—as access to more video streaming services, like Netflix and Hulu Plus, comes standard on today’s smart TVs. With so many different video and TV libraries accessible from TVs, finding something good to watch could, ironically, become more burdensome.

Android TV will help carry some of the load. The platform uses the “10 foot interface” for large televisions (so called because users are sitting farther away than when using a computer interface), designed to be simple and intuitive to use.

Personalized recommendations

Android TV won’t only help people search. It will also act as a “recommendation engine” by suggesting things for users to watch. Recommendations will be based on user input—keywords like “Mark Wahlberg” or “New York City concert”. Android TV will also make ‘spontaneous’ personalized recommendations of content from GooglePlay, YouTube and other available services—similar to the way Amazon makes product recommendations based on your shopping history.

Android TV will also obey voice commands. Samsung’s Smart TV recently made headlines for its voice recognition feature, which listens in on conversations unrelated to TV commands and then send the data to a third party. This obviously raises some serious privacy concerns. It’s unclear whether the same might be true of Android TV.

Android TV features both coordinate and conflict with Chromecast

The browse, search, and suggest features of Android TV are unique. However, it will also fulfill other functions currently achieved with Google’s Chromecast.

Android TV is being promoted as “Google Cast Ready.” Users can cast content from Android devices, iOS devices, Mac and Windows computers, and Chromebook to Android TV. That includes casting content from apps like HBO GO, WatchESPN, Watch Disney and more. Android TV will also let users watch Google Play movies and TV, as well as YouTube videos, on a living room TV screen. The question remains whether Chromecast will be necessary if someone has Android TV installed.

Coming soon to a living room near you

Android TV is available via the Nexus Player device from Google and Asus. Google is currently working to have the platform built into TV models, and has partnered with Sony, Sharp and TP Vision.