Facebook's Internet.org project, which offers people from developing countries free mobile access to selected websites, has been pitched as a philanthropic initiative to connect two thirds of the world who don’t yet have Internet access. We completely agree that the global digital divide should be closed. However, we question whether this is the right way to do it. As we and others have noted, there's a real risk that the few websites that Facebook and its partners select for Internet.org (including, of course, Facebook itself) could end up becoming a ghetto for poor users instead of a stepping stone to the larger Internet.
Mark Zuckerberg's announcement of the expansion of the Internet.org platform earlier this month was aimed to address some of these criticisms. In a nutshell, the changes would allow any website operator to submit their site for inclusion in Internet.org, provided that it meets the program's guidelines. Those guidelines are neutral as to the subject matter of the site, but do impose certain technical limitations intended to ensure that sites do not overly burden the carrier's network, and that they will work on both inexpensive feature phones and modern smartphones.
According to a recent survey (.pdf) conducted by Wakefield Research for Citrix, approximately 51 percent of the respondents believe that a few rain clouds in the sky will directly interfere with Internet-connected electronics when attempting to upload or download data through cloud computing. Of the 1,004 people surveyed, the majority thought the term “the cloud” was related to actual clouds in the sky and 29 percent thought it had to do with weather conditions. Only 16 percent recognized the cloud as the common term when referring to a computer network that stores data for Internet-connected devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones.
Approximately 54 percent of the respondents stated that they didn’t use the cloud when using their Internet-connected devices. However, over 90 percent of that group admitted to several common actions that uses cloud storage for user data.
These actions included online banking and shopping, browsing social networks like Facebook, using file-sharing services, playing online games as well as storing photos, videos and music on various Web services. It’s clear that people are able to take advantage of cloud computing without actually being able to define it.
Google is requiring more Windows-based Chrome extensions to be installed from its Web Store and will enforce the same requirement on Mac users in a few months in an attempt to prevent users from inadvertently installing malicious titles.
The move comes a year after Google first required Windows users to download extensions from the Chrome Web Store, a mandate that resulted in a 75-percent drop in user support requests seeking help uninstalling unwanted extensions. The policy wasn't enforced on the Windows developer channel, so developers of malicious extensions have increasingly embraced it as a medium for distributing their wares.
Facebook's been taking a lot of heat lately for failing to understand (or pretending to fail to understand) how its Internet.org initiative spells trouble for net neutrality. As noted previously, Facebook's vision has been to deploy a "free" walled-garden service like AOL to developing nations. Critics have been dropping out of Internet.org, stating they don't like Facebook picking which companies get included in the walled garden. Things have gotten particularly heated in India, where neutrality advocates have made it very clear they think Facebook's vision hurts the open Internet long term.
Zuckerberg's response so far? You're hurting the poor if you don't like the way we're doing things, because a walled garden is better than no Internet at all. Of course that's a false choice: Facebook could offer subsidized access to the real Internet, it just wouldn't get pole position in delivering ads to billions of new users in dozens of developing nations. It's a mammoth advertising play dressed up as utterly-selfless altruism, with a dash of indignant at suggestions there's a better way.
DSLReports has received information confirming that Cox Communications will be testing overage fees this summer ahead of a potential nationwide deployment. A Cox insider familiar with the cable operator's network management practices says that customers in the company's Cleveland, Ohio market will be informed on May 19 that they'll soon be facing overage fees of $10 for every 50 GB over their usage cap they travel.
From June to September, Cox customers in Cleveland will have their "overage" usage tallied on their bills, but users initially won't be charged. Instead, they'll see the estimated overage fee and an accompanying credit. They'll face the real charges starting in October, according to the insider.
A draft customer support script obtained exclusively by DSLReports states that this lead-in period will "give customers the opportunity to familiarize themselves with their typical data usage and take action, such as secure their WiFi network or change service plans, if they exceed their limit."