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It's time for the FCC to stand up for Americans instead of ruining the internet 

Oh boy. TC Sottek just published an editorial on the failure of the FCC. Earlier today the WSJ reported that the FCC is planning on proposing new ‘net neutrality’ laws that fly in the face of everything that net neutrality is.

The internet is fucked, and the US government is making it worse.

Political cowardice caused the FCC to lose its first battle for net neutrality regulation: the rules that keep the internet as you know it free and open. The idea of net neutrality is that all traffic is created equal — whether you’re a movie streaming from Netflix, or a WhatsApp message, or a Tweet, or a bulletin board message. But according to a report from the Wall Street Journal, instead of trying to correct the errors it made in open internet rules the first time around, the FCC will consider enacting new rules that directly destroy the principles of net neutrality. The proposal would allow profit hungry behemoths like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to become gatekeepers that give preferential treatment to companies that pay the most for special access to customers.

I know I freaked out when Netflix decided to pay Comcast to ensure it’s customers could stream movies, but it was for good reason. With this new agreement corporations can pay to get preferential treatment. It’s basically the worst idea ever. Read TC’s editorial. 

Cover Story: Station to Station: The Past, Present, and Future of Streaming Music 

This Pitchfork cover story is wonderful, beautiful, and exactly in line with how I’ve been thinking recently. Go read it if only to see the great design.

Introducing Steam Gauge: Ars reveals Steam’s most popular games 

Kyle Orland just dropped a bomb revealing two month look at Steam sales and games played. It’s incredible. Go read the whole thing. Here’s just a sample.

As you can see, just because a game is registered to a lot of Steam accounts doesn’t mean it’s popular. Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, for instance, is the third-most popular game on the service by ownership, registered to about 12.8 million Steam accounts by our count. But the tech demo, which shows off some deleted content from Half-Life 2, has only been actively loaded up by about 2.1 million of those owners, placing it behind 35 other Steam games by that metric.


Star Wars and the Four Ways Science-Fiction Handles Race

It’d be great news if the buzz about 12 Years a Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o being cast in the upcoming Star Wars sequel is true. That’s because Lupita Nyong’o is great, and it would be wonderful to see her get high-profile roles.  

Casting someone whose breakout role explicitly and thoughtfully engaged with the African-American experience may also, hopefully, kick off a discussion about race in Star Wars and in sci-fi more generally. The franchise has often been criticized for its clueless, tone-deaf use of caricature, especially the nods to blackface minstrelsy in Jar Jar Binks. More importantly, Star Wars encapsulates a pop-culture tradition of space operas that can easily invent spaceships and robots and aliens, but that helplessly acquiesce to old, stereotypical treatments of gender and race. Why does that matter? Sci-fi is at least in part a dream of a different world and a different future. When that future unthinkingly reproduces current inequities, it seems like both a missed opportunity and a failure of imagination.

Read more. [Image: AP; 20th Century Fox; Lionsgate]

Worth reading

One more time: can HTC thrive in a Samsung world? 

You should read Dan Seifert’s look at the just announced HTC One M8.

Now the company is launching its next big effort at a comeback. The new One, also known as the M8, is better than last year’s already impressive model in almost every respect: the design has been refined, it has a bigger battery, the processor is faster, the camera has new tricks, and the software has been made friendlier. It is without a doubt a stunning device and it demonstrates that HTC put a lot of effort into making the best smartphone it could.

The phone looks great.

Stand by for plot points: 'Titanfall' doesn't need a story 

To hear Microsoft user researcher Deborah Hendersen tell it, players genuinely do love game stories. We just can’t remember them, have trouble describing them, and usually never find out how they end. Hendersen spoke at GDC about user-testing game narratives: finding out whether early scripts are clear to and resonate with players. The answers, to anyone who hopes players pore over their stories, were probably disappointing. In an attempt to figure out what was important to players, Henderson interviewed hundreds of study participants about their favorite games. The participants took fewer words to describe the stories of games they liked than they did those of their favorite movies. Many could barely describe the plots at all, forgetting major beats and long middle sections. One participant, asked to talk about his favorite Call of Duty character, instead described the sort of person he liked to kill in multiplayer.
Well done, Adi.

So there’s the entire problem, expressed in four simple ideas: the internet is a utility, there is zero meaningful competition to provide that utility to Americans, all internet providers should be treated equally, and the FCC is doing a miserably ineffective job.

Read. Email. Call.

The internet is fucked 

Nilay Patel explains why Netflix paying Comcast and Verizon is bad for the internet, why they feel they had to do it, and (more importantly) how we’ve gotten to this place.

Here’s a simple truth: the internet has radically changed the world. Over the course of the past 20 years, the idea of networking all the world’s computers has gone from a research science pipe dream to a necessary condition of economic and social development, from government and university labs to kitchen tables and city streets. We are all travelers now, desperate souls searching for a signal to connect us all. It is awesome.

And we’re fucking everything up.

In the meantime, the companies that control the internet have continued down a dark path, free of any oversight or meaningful competition to check their behavior. In January, AT&T announced a new “sponsored data” plan that would dramatically alter the fierce one-click-away competition that’s thus far characterized the internet. Earlier this month,Comcast announced plans to merge with Time Warner Cable, creating an internet service behemoth that will serve 40 percent of Americans in 19 of the 20 biggest markets with virtually no rivals.

And after months of declining Netflix performance on Comcast’s network, the two companies announced a new “paid peering” arrangement on Sunday, which will see Netflix pay Comcast for better access to its customers, a capitulation Netflix has been trying to avoid for years. Paid peering arrangements are common among the network companies that connect the backbones of the internet, but consumer companies like Netflix have traditionally remained out of the fray — and since there’s no oversight or transparency into the terms of the deal, it’s impossible to know what kind of precedent it sets. …

If you read one article today, it should be this one.

Verizon CEO says he expects Netflix will sign deal to pay them as well 

Netflix is really screwing over consumers here. This is exactly the reason why we need net neutrality. Hulu, Amazon and anyone trying to start a new streaming service is now going to be forced into making similar deals or face bullying from the carriers / ISPs. You can basically say goodbye to innovation, and count out any new companies from entering the streaming game.

Netflix, for the love of the Internet, please stop this.

Netflix Agrees to Pay Comcast to End Web Traffic Jam 

Netflix Inc. has agreed to pay Comcast Corp. to ensure Netflix movies and TV shows stream smoothly to Comcast customers, a landmark agreement that could set a precedent for Netflix’s dealings with other broadband providers, people familiar with the situation said.

In exchange for payment, Netflix will get direct access to Comcast’s broadband network, the people said. The multiyear deal comes just 10 days after Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner Cable Inc., which if approved would establish Comcast as by far the dominant provider of broadband in the U.S., serving 30 million households.

No. No, no, no, no. This is not how it is supposed to work. How can anyone expect to innovate and compete when giant companies are paying for access. Netflix is just as wrong as Comcast is in this case. They’re setting a terrible precedent.

[edit 1: thanks to makesu1der for the grammar check] 

[edit 2: so, this article is completely readable in my twitter app (Tweetbot) but it’s behind a paywall on an actual computer. I can’t figure out why. I can only point you to my pervious article.] 

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