Can the Market Protect the Internet?

Carl Weinschenk
Slide Show

Don't Let CES Tech Bring You Down

The big story of the week was that the net neutrality laws were thrown out. The ramifications will not be felt immediately, but eventually will be significant. One interesting issue is the impact on equipment that is used to monitor and control networks, because changes in the laws could lead to changes in how data flows and, subsequently, what the gear is called upon to do.

That’s an interesting story for the future. In the here and now, good news and commentary were plentiful this week. Here are some of the highlights:

Fragmentation Issue Lingers for Android


NewsFactor offers a fresh look at the very serious issue of Android fragmentation. The problem is that so many different versions of the operating system (OS) are available, each with somewhat unique capabilities, that confusion and in many cases user dissatisfaction results.

The story says that fragmentation is a “major issue for developers” who must satisfy multiple versions of Android. The numbers can seem extreme:

The best way to describe Android OS upgrade adoption is slow, as it has taken months for new versions to finally attain a small fraction of the overall market. Android 4.4 (KitKat) was released on October 31, 2013 and although it is just now rolling out to popular devices like the Galaxy Note 3, it has only been able to build a 1.4 percent market share over the past two months.

The story offers other similar numbers and says that the problem is worse in foreign markets than in the U.S.

Cellular Companies: No Clear Number One

CNET’s Roger Cheng takes a look at the latest results from RootMetrics, which periodically assesses the performance of wireless networks. As often is the case, the study, which tested in the second half last year in 125 markets, offers a split decision.

RootMetrics found that in 90 markets, AT&T had the best overall performance, which takes into account a variety of metrics, such as speed and reliability for calls, data and texts. Verizon won or tied a new measure, the reliability index, in 102 markets. T-Mobile won the speed category in 16 markets, according to the story.

Another View on Net Neutrality

Most of the communications media, including IT Business Edge, paid a lot of attention this week to the federal court ruling that eviscerated the net neutrality rules. Most of the coverage came from people who favored what the rules attempt to do and most suggested that powerful players would be empowered at the expense of the entrepreneurial class that has given the Internet some of its greatest technologies and services.

It’s worth taking note that the gloom and doom was not universal. At InformationWeek, Jonathan Feldman suggests that the market can compensate for the regulations:

Yet, I fundamentally disagree that Net neutrality is the right thing for the FCC or others to focus on. The right thing to focus on is encouraging a broadband free market. A true free market allows consumers to switch when they're not getting what they paid for. Even in today's market, where there are only two or three choices, if a large company's IP voice traffic starts getting messed with by AT&T, let me assure you that AT&T will be minus one customer.

One of the paths forward that net neutrality proponents are discussing is reclassifying broadband as a common carrier. Feldman suggests that the resulting higher scrutiny this approach would lead to could end up slowing innovation, which is precisely what net neutrality proponents fear will result from yesterday’s ruling.

Intel Looks to Wearables, Mobile

PC numbers have been dropping for a few years and Intel has been paying a price. Venture Beat reports that Intel CEO Brian Krzanich told analysts during an analysts’ call that mobile and wearables will make up the difference. He told the analysts that the company’s chips were part of about 10 million tablets that shipped last year. Microsoft Surface was the main customer.

The story says that in the year ahead, according to Krzanich’s comments to the analysts and at CES, Intel will have flat revenues and that it will tweak the product mix. He mentioned Edison, a small chip aimed at wearables that is based on the Quark architecture, as an example of an innovation Intel will offer. The company is targeting hybrids, devices with tablet and laptop capabilities, and will bring products to market more quickly, the story said.

Communication Breakdown

And, finally, a story about taking steps to maintain communications during crises. One sad reality is that these things happen on a regular basis. Another is that when such events occur, telecommunications systems and networks tend to break down.

An important step to enabling better communication is to understand calling and texting patterns during these hectic moments. Liang Gao at Jiaotong University in China did this, according to the MIT Technology Review.

Gao and his group studied people directly impacted by emergencies and the people they initially called, who presumably are friends and relatives. The first surprise is that no discernable time lapse occurs in the spikes of telecommunications activities between the first and second group. The other surprising finding was that the second thing done by the outside group wasn’t to call others, but to call back the people nearer to the incident.

This kind of data can be used to model systems that are more resilient and responsive for both civilians and first responders when these unfortunate events occur.



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