Ced Kurtz’s Techman Texts: Limited choices tie cable customers

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To the dismay of many, TechMan has returned from his trout-fishing trip to the Atacama Desert.

While I was gone, the cable companies continued to have trouble pleasing their customers. Management consulting firm cg42’s study, reported in The Washington Post, showed that 53 percent of respondents said they’d leave their current cable company if they had a choice, but as many as 70 percent said their options are too limited.

Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, said the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and satellite television providers has eaten away at cable’s market share, evidence that competition is working and choices are plentiful.

The study found that each of the nation’s top five cable companies — Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Charter and Cablevision — stand to lose about 10 percent of their customers to cord-cutting or carrier-switching in the next 12 months, the Post reported, a loss of about $7 billion in revenue.

One way the cable companies, many of which are telecoms and Internet service providers, could make up that revenue is by charging customers more for fast enough Internet service to make streaming video more watchable. Thus their opposition to net neutrality.

Streaming spat: Speaking of streaming, Verizon has sent Netflix a cease-and-desist order demanding that it stop presenting its subscribers with messages that blame Verizon’s network for poor streaming performance, The Verge reports. Netflix’s message alleges that Internet service providers have been hurting streaming quality, either actively or through failing to properly maintain their networks.

Verizon, on its blog at PublicPolicy.Verizon.com, says that the problem is most likely congestion on the connection that Netflix has chosen to use to reach Verizon’s network. “Of course, Netflix is solely responsible for choosing how [its] traffic is routed into any ISP’s network,” the blog says.

Just what we need: You probably saw this somewhere, but it is just too good to ignore. The U.S. Secret Service posted a work order Monday seeking the development of social media analytics software capable of detecting sarcasm online. Ars Technica quotes a spokesman as saying the service is trying to automate its social media analysis and eliminate “false positives.”

“Good thinking,” TechMan says sarcastically.

Landmark in computing? Independent.co.uk reports that a computer program convinced humans that it was a 13-year-old boy and became the first software to pass the Turing test, the iconic artificial intelligence test that computer pioneer Alan Turing devised . The test requires that computers are indistinguishable from humans to be considered to be thinking. The program in the test that the Royal Society in London conducted that convinced 33 percent of the judges that it was human, said academics at the University of Reading, which organized the test.

It happened in Pittsburgh: Carnegie Mellon University was one of the first 15 nodes, or connections, in 1971 of the ARPANET, the military network that became the Internet.

3-D tablet: Google just unveiled a $1,000 tablet prototype equipped with 3-D-sensors and a motion-tracking camera. The tablet is the latest venture of Google's Project Tango initiative aimed at bringing 3-D motion and depth sensors to mobile devices. The 7-inch tablet will have 4 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal storage and come equipped with multiple cameras, including one with motion-tracking capabilities, and a depth sensor. The team behind Project Tango hopes to show off the tablet at Google I/​O later this month, Engadget reports.

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