Recent Net events bugging Techman

Two events have occurred recently that give Techman pause about the future of Internet service in this country.

The first is the move by the nation's biggest cable company, Comcast, to buy Time Warner Cable, the second biggest, for $45 billion. The resulting company would serve about 30 million homes, a third of the U.S. market.

The cable business is already an oligarchy. This would be a further step toward monopoly.

Tech Talk: Comcast buys Time Warner Cable

Comcast Corp.'s $45.2-billion bid to acquire Time Warner Cable would expand the reach of the nation's largest residential Internet provider into one-third of America's broadband households. (Video by Melissa Tkach; 2/17/2014)

The real problem is that such a merger would concentrate control of broadband Internet service and probably affect its pricing.

The federal government has to approve the deal, and I hope regulators consider the ills that could result from such concentrated control of what is essentially a public utility.

It's even more disturbing in light of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington striking down the FCC's net neutrality rules earlier this year, in a case brought by Verizon Communications Inc. Net neutrality means that all traffic on the Internet is treated the same.

The ruling would allow Internet providers to slow down the traffic of competitors or impose fees on companies like Netflix to buy priority treatment, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Comcast agreed to abide by the principle of net neutrality until 2017 as a condition of its 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal, the LA Times reports.

The U.S. is already well down in world rank of broadband Internet speed and well up in the cost rank. This merger could make that worse.


Frequent eater miles: A Chinese newspaper reported that a man bought a first-class ticket and used it to have free meals and drinks at the airport's VIP lounge in Shaanxi, China, almost every day for nearly a year.

The itinerary for the ticket was changed more than 300 times. The passenger then canceled it for a refund.

Apparently the airline's computer reservations system doesn't check for freeloaders.


Nationwide kill switch? We reported here previously about legislation introduced in the California legislature requiring a cell phone kill switch. Now such a bill has been proposed in Congress.

Senate Bill 2032 promises technology that allows consumers to remotely wipe personal data from their smartphones and render them inoperable if stolen or lost, according to The IDG News Service.


Paper or diesel? Researchers at the University of Illinois say that plastic shopping bags, made from petroleum, can be converted into diesel, natural gas and other useful products. The conversion produces significantly more energy than it requires.

Researchers say distilling the bags recovers almost 80 percent fuel compared to 50 to 55 percent from the distillation of petroleum crude oil.


Tabletop computer: Ideum and 3M have come up with 46- and 32-inch Android coffee tables with a 1080p display that supports up to 60 touchpoints, a powerful 3.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 500GB of hard drive. And, of course, they are coffee-spill-resistant. Prices start at $6,950.


Website of the week: After film critic Roger Ebert's death, his widow, Chaz Ebert, has kept his award-winning site,, alive. It features first-rate writing and criticism from several respected contributors.

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