National / International News

What's the best analogy for the Net Neutrality mess?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 01:00

Truth: sometimes we journalists get tired of reporting a story. And I'll admit it -- trying to describe Net Neutrality a different way every day this week hasn't been easy. But most people we talk to about the issue of whether Internet service providers should deliver all data to the user with equal speed agree it's significant -- maybe the most significant Internet issue of the decade.

For as long as we've all been online, we've basically been able to access web pages with equal speed -- no matter what web page we're trying to get to and what company is helping us get there. But that could be changing; today's Federal Communications Commission vote on new Open Internet Rules could allow for so-called "fast lane" deals, where a company like Netflix pays a company like Verizon or Comcast to make sure you don't get the spinning pinwheel of sadness. Many people say these deals would stifle innovation (making it hard for the next Netflix-like startup to get off the ground without forking over money it doesn't have yet), and allow service providers to degrade the quality of our connections. Others say that more oversight from the FCC would do the same. It's always super helpful when two sides in a debate use the exact same potentialities to argue their case, isn't it?

But the real question is this: what analogy is best for this big, hot mess? Because a hot mess it is. And part of the mess is that it's so hard to describe and understand. On Wednesday, Sen. Al Franken told me Internet service providers should be considered common carriers -- just like the companies that have covered the country in a web of phone lines. He's even made a video to promote his position: 

 

On today's show, University of Pennsylvania professor Christopher Yoo explains his opposition to that idea by comparing the Internet to the postal service. Sometimes, Yoo says, you should be allowed to pay extra for FedEx or Priority Mail Express, so that your package gets to its destination faster than it would with regular old snail mail. Maybe it's like electricity?

I was arguing with Stacey Vanek Smith a few weeks back about Netflix making a deal with Comcast and trying to use the highway analogy -- but I got fouled up trying to decide who the toll booth operators were. I was talking with Vox managing editor Nilay Patel this week -- he thinks the FCC is about to turn the Internet into airport security.

The idea I keep coming back to is that of the Gordian knot -- an intractible problem that seems like it should have a simple solution. But a simple solution isn't in sight, so that doesn't work. So I put it to you: how would you describe the movement of information on the Internet? And what does that say about your position in the debate? 

Is an internet 'fast lane' inevitable?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-05-15 01:00

The recently-announced plans by chairman Tom Wheeler and the FCC to create an internet "fast lane" have been met by a great deal of skepticism from those who worry that large companies could pay to speed past the competition. But Christopher Yoo, professor of Law, Communication, and Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that offering a pricing system for internet speed makes sense.

Yoo points to the varying services one can pay for when sending a package. If a package can take longer to get somewhere, you pay less. But if the arrival date is imperative, then you should pay more.

"If you force everything into a single class of service, you would force people who would have been willing to take slower service to pay more, and you would deny people really fast service the ability to get it at any price."

Others believe that the internet should be re-classified by the FCC as a common carrier. Yoo argues that in light of recent Supreme Court rulings, it would be difficult for the FCC to claim authority to do so.

To Yoo, its also a moot point. He says that even services defined as common carriers are allowed to create different tiers of service as long as they don't have rules explicitly prohibiting anyone from paying for the better service.

"The 'Common Carrier' regime has always acknolwedged that providers can create different classes of service as long as they charge everyone who wants that class of service the same amount....it wouldn’t prevent internet service providers from creating a fast lane in the first place."

15 Crew Indicted Over South Korean Ferry Disaster

NPR News - Thu, 2014-05-15 01:00

Prosecutors indicted the captain of the ferry and 3 crew members on homicide charges Thursday. Less serious indictments were issued against the 11 other crew members.

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Games ticket phone charges refunded

BBC - Thu, 2014-05-15 00:54
Refunds are to be given to people who were charged in error by a phoneline while trying to buy tickets for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Is the craft beer craze going to cause a hops shortage?

BBC - Thu, 2014-05-15 00:50
Hops growers are struggling to meet demand. Could beer-makers run out of a crucial ingredient?

Suarez dismisses transfer speculation

BBC - Thu, 2014-05-15 00:36
Liverpool striker Luis Suarez denies that his contract contains a clause allowing him to join Real Madrid or Barcelona this summer.

I'll gift Chisora my belts - Fury

BBC - Thu, 2014-05-15 00:34
Boxer Tyson Fury will give Dereck Chisora the British and European titles as a gift after their fight on 26 July.

Afghan election goes to second round

BBC - Thu, 2014-05-15 00:22
The Afghan election will proceed to a run-off between the two top candidates, after a vote count showed no-one polled more than 50% of the vote.

VIDEO: The formula to online photo success?

BBC - Thu, 2014-05-15 00:19
The algorithm which claims it can predict photo-sharing success before you post it online. Spencer Kelly reports.

Airgun licensing bill introduced

BBC - Thu, 2014-05-15 00:13
Anyone who owns an airgun will need a licence under new measures proposed by the Scottish government.

US v Europe - a cultural gap on the right to be forgotten

BBC - Thu, 2014-05-15 00:08
What the EU Google ruling says about the US/Europe divide

Museums' night-time festival to open

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 23:59
More than 500 museums galleries and historic spaces across the UK are keeping their doors open late as part of this year's Museums At Night festival.

School bans fish from lunchboxes

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 23:59
A primary school in Swindon bans fish because a pupil has a potentially fatal allergy.

Staff who leaked Jay Z video fired

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 23:57
The employee who leaked footage of Jay Z being attacked by his sister-in-law Solange Knowles has been fired.

Ryanair returns to Cardiff Airport

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 23:45
Budget airline Ryanair is returning to Cardiff Airport after an eight-year gap with a route to Tenerife.

FCC To Unveil Proposed Rules To Govern Internet Traffic

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-14 23:29

The suggestion last month that the FCC might let Internet providers charge companies more for faster service prompted a firestorm of protest. The commission votes Thursday to begin debate on the plan.

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Wiggins extends lead in California

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 23:10
Briton Sir Bradley Wiggins extends his lead in the Tour of California to 28 seconds with four stages remaining.

Thousands flee California wildfires

BBC - Wed, 2014-05-14 23:06
Thousands of people in California are forced to flee after nine wildfires hit San Diego county on Wednesday, damaging homes.

Across The U.S., Bicycle Commuting Picks Up Speed

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-14 23:04

Bicyclists account for a just a small percentage of commuters in the U.S., but their numbers have grown by nearly 60 percent over the past decade as cities have become more bike-friendly.

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Bye-Bye To Barbara Walters: A Long 'View' Of A Storied Career

NPR News - Wed, 2014-05-14 23:03

After 53 years on television, ABC's Barbara Walters is retiring from her work on camera. Steve Inskeep talks to the groundbreaking broadcaster about her life, career and impact on television news.

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