FCC Votes to Repeal Net Neutrality

The Fight Isn’t Over Yet

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Thursday to repeal the Open Internet Order, effectively eliminating net neutrality. These rules were in place to prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking and throttling internet traffic, helping to keep the Internet open and fair.

Two years ago, the FCC invoked its authority to classify broadband service providers as Title II common carriers. While classified this way, the FCC maintained the ability to regulate broadband service providers, preventing unfair practices like blocking, throttling and paid prioritization of certain websites. In addition, Title II classification carried provisions for network construction, universal service, competition, network interconnection, and Internet access for disabled people.

The net neutrality debate has been steeped in controversy. Fake FCC comments, stymied investigations of those comments, and Ajit Pai’s open mockery of net neutrality protesters have ruined any chance of proper discussion over net neutrality. Big telecom companies have “invested” $101 million in members of Congress to repeal net neutrality.

"FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s open mockery of net neutrality protesters has ruined any chance of proper discussion."

Things look bad right now, but there is still a chance. Pro-neutrality groups are have been preparing legal challenges ever since Pai’s draft text for the order became public. Challenges to FCC orders have to be filed within ten days of the order’s issuance, but the actual case may not take place for a full year to reach an appeals court, and longer if it makes the Supreme Court.

It’s unclear what legal basis lawyers will use to reverse Pai’s decision, but irregularities in the comment process and a probe by New York’s state attorney general may provide enough reason to bring it to court.Unfortunately, ISPS are free to do whatever they want for now. “Cable packages” of your favorite websites, throttling competing services and more might become the norm until net neutrality gets its day in court.


Fingerprint Sensors are Here to Stay

In-display fingerprint sensors coming next year

Synaptics, the company best known for its Windows trackpads, has announced mass production for its optical in-display fingerprint sensors. This tech was first announced last year and will reportedly be available in consumer devices in 2018. 

This announcement will hit home for users of Samsung or Apple smartphones, which until this year, used front-facing home buttons located below the display. The Galaxy S8 moved the sensor the the rear of the device, specifically next to the camera. This placement has rightfully garnered a great deal of criticism, considering that other Android OEMs place the fingerprint sensor in the more ergonomic location of the center back.

Apple, meanwhile, has done away with the fingerprint sensor entirely on its flagship iPhone X. The Xbox Kinect-like TrueDepth camera array is no doubt a feat of engineering, but fails to offer the same ease-of-use as Cupertino’s ubiquitous Touch ID. The technology behind Face ID is an answer to a problem Apple itself created.

"Face ID is an answer to a problem Apple itself created."

Bezeless smartphones have been the trend this year, and the holy grail of handset design is to marry the intuitive nature of a front-facing fingerprint sensor with the Samsung-style Infinity Display. Synaptics’ technology and the imitations that are sure to follow move this once-impossible combination of features within reach.

The odd placement of the Galaxy S8 and Note 8’s biometric scanner were clearly a stopgap measure so that their Infinity Displays could ship this year. While more flashy, Apple’s TrueDepth Face ID is another way to appear forward-thinking and innovative while they await in-display biometric authentication. As TrueDepth scales, it may become less expensive to produce and so may be here to stay. That being said, it will likely play second fiddle to the return of Touch ID in the iPhone 11.


Mozilla Countersuing Yahoo

Alleged Breach of Contract over Default Search 

Last month, Mozilla shook up the internet search world by ending a previous deal with Yahoo. Firefox 57, dubbed Quantum, would have Google as the default search engine, with the potential to further increase Google’s estimated 77% search market share. On December 1, Yahoo Holdings and Oath filed a complaint against Mozilla for an alleged breach of contract. Four days later, Mozilla announced that it would file a counter complaint.

Mozilla unveiled Firefox Quantum about three weeks ago, to great reception. Along with numerous changes and optimizations, Mozilla announced its change of default search engine to Google. The complicated part of this is that Mozilla had signed a five year agreement with Yahoo back in 2014 making Yahoo Firefox’s default search engine.

Although users have the ability to change their default search engine at any time for all major browsers, most don’t know how, or care enough to do so. This is very important to search companies, as demonstrated by Yahoo’s five-year high search share just five months after signing the deal. Google itself was worried, as evidenced by their “Switch your default search engine to Google” messages at the top of their search results.

“This may protect Mozilla from Yahoo’s accusation, but many specifics have been redacted in the court filings.”

During negotiations over Yahoo’s sale to Verizon, a clause in the contract between Mozilla and Yahoo was found, allowing Mozilla to walk away from the deal if Mozilla was not pleased with its new partner. This may protect Mozilla from Yahoo’s accusation, but many specifics have been redacted in the court filings. Further complicating the relationship, the clause requires Yahoo’s purchasing company to pay $375 million per year to Mozilla until 2019 if Mozilla chooses to end the contract.

The upcoming court battle is definitely one to watch. Whether Mozilla can change their default search or not will affect Yahoo for years, but things look pretty good for Mozilla. After all, they got it in writing.