A serious question.
Earlier this week, Google released a redesigned version of its Gmail app for iOS, bringing it more in line with its Android equivalent. It’s a big upgrade, and something that, after years of neglect, seemed a long time coming.
But it also brought back to life an argument that, for many people, the iPhone, with its impressive hardware, great camera(s), rich app ecosystem and, of course, iMessage, may be a better showcase for Google services than Android itself. Of course, many disagree, but the iPhone has a 44% market share in the U.S., and Apple maintains a lot of influence over the smartphone world.
For some Android faithful, Google’s commitment to iOS development is confusing: why create great apps for a competing platform when you want people to buy Galaxys, Motos and, ideally, Pixels? Ultimately, Google wants your data, and wants to show you ads, and will do so wherever people are, and that is increasingly on iOS and Android.
Indeed, the last couple of years has seen Google bring almost every notable app and service to Apple’s platform, including long holdout Keep. If you look at Google’s developer page on the App Store, it looks fairly similar to what you’d find on Android: YouTube, Maps, Chrome, Earth, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Hangouts, Photos, Calendar, Inbox, Books, Music, Movies, Wallet, Allo, Duo, Newsstand, Keep and plenty others. Even Google Search has its own app. What you won’t find are apps that Apple doesn’t allow, like an alternate dialler, or an unnecessary intervention like a camera app.
The last couple of years has seen Google bring almost every notable app and service to Apple’s platform.
You’ll also find apps like Gboard, a pretty great third-party iOS keyboard, that many people think should be ported over to Android in some form.
In all, Google has 80 apps to its name right now on iOS, slightly under Microsoft’s 88 and nearly twice as many as Apple itself. This doesn’t really mean anything other than Google is trying to make its most important services platform-independent, but it also brings up an important point: The prevailing tension between Android and iOS is far more about hardware than software, especially for someone entrenched in the Google ecosystem.
This is doubly true when looking at the sorry state of Android tablets, which we’ve been doing in the run-up to the holidays. While many Android users would be happy with a Pixel C, Yoga Book or Galaxy Tab S2, they would likely be just as happy, if not more so, with an iPad. An iPad that runs all of the above Google apps, plus hundreds of thousands of others for which care has been taken to optimize them for the larger screen.
Lots of us here at Android Central like the Google Pixel, which borrows more than a couple of pages out of the Apple playbook. It attempts to standardize elements of Android that were left to the interpretation of various third parties, and it introduces an environment where Google is comfortable offering exclusive services, like Assistant, that are not available to other hardware vendors. People use it as a pejorative, but it’s true that in many ways the Pixel is the iPhone of the Android world.
The main argument I hear for wanting to stick with iPhone, even as an Android fan and a Google loyalist, is iMessage.
The main argument I hear for wanting to stick with iPhone, even as an Android fan and a Google loyalist, is iMessage. That Apple’s closed-loop messaging service is hard to quit once you’re in it — lock-in in the purest sense. Apple did a lot in iOS 10 to make iMessage more attractive and useful, but its success is also a source of frustration for many Android users left out of that experience.
WhatsApp leads the charge for a cross-platform option, along with myriad other services from Kik to WeChat, but Google’s own attempts to build a viable alternative to iMessage with Allo have fallen flat, and a push to introduce a more open platform built on top of existing SMS protocols will take time, and may never be a comprehensive solution.
The appeal of Android is considerably wider than just included Google services, though. Its success comes from the variability of the hardware — in size, form factor, material, color and, of course, price — and from inherent advantages to having an “open” platform. Despite the increasing similarities between the two platforms, Android — especially on Nougat — still handles notifications more elegantly, and there is an argument to be made that a universal share API is far more powerful on Android than it could ever be on iOS. The flexibility of on-screen navigation buttons alone speak to the myriad ongoing cultural differences between Android and iOS. For many people, that’s enough to stay in the Android fold, and I wouldn’t blame you if you never left. It’s pretty nice down here.
But, playing Devil’s Advocate for a moment, in a world where, increasingly, you can access the best of Google from anywhere, what would it take for you to switch to the iPhone?
Android 7.0 Nougat
- Android 7.0 Nougat: Everything you need to know
- Will my phone get Android Nougat?
- All Android Nougat news
- How to manually update your Nexus
- Join the Discussion
Want a cuddly wallpaper that’s still badass? Get a polar bear.
Polar bears are nature’s most adorable killing machines. These pristine, cuddly white bears will absolutely kill you given the chance, and not because they’re a bunch of Coke addicts. These wallpapers are ready to lure you in, but don’t get too cozy! Otherwise, they might end your misery with their cute claws and shiny teeth. Ready for these white wonders? Let’s get to them!
Are you exhausted? Because I’m exhausted. 2016 has really been a rough one, hasn’t it? I just wanna lay my head down and grab a nap. This polar bear? He gets it. It’s nap time. And even if I can’t escape work for some zzzzzz’s on a nice snowy glacier, this wallpaper fills me with the calm of a nap and gives me back a little of the energy I’d’ve gained from one.
Can I get a giant yawn?
Polar Bear by rwgp
Yes. Yes, I can get a giant yawn.
Panda and Polar Bear is one of my favorite UK comics, with lots of heart and light-hearted humor about a Panda married to a Polar Bear. If you haven’t yet, check out their webcomic site and collections on Google Play, and treat yourself to adorable wit and whimsy about cats, beer, and the internet
Roar vs. Yawn
This minimal wallpaper is ready for your material icon packs and your love. Bright and simple, this wallpaper fits perfectly on work devices as well as personal, adding a look of order and sophistication.
Polar Bear by fenguin
A blob of white adorability among the aurora and the stars… now this is a wallpaper I can stare at for hours. Busy or minimal, this is a wallpaper that works with all kinds of users, and it’ll last you all winter!
Polar bear by m-a-r-i
C’mon, I can’t do a polar bear roundup this close to the holidays without these guys! Heck, these adorable, soda-addicted bears are my spirit animals: we both like to bundle up in cold weather and no matter how cold it is, we’re always down for an ice-cold Coca-Cola. Matter of fact, I think I hear one calling me right now.
Coca-Cola Polar Bears
How do you feel about ads on top of your ads? What about advertisements embedded into your messages as “sponsored” messages?
If you’re a Facebook Messenger user, you may start seeing advertisements pop up in the middle of your conversations. The company wrote a blog post directed towards “brands” to learn how to embed this sort of feature. Sponsored messages won’t go out to all Facebook users, but if you’ve “liked” a page, you will likely start seeing interactive ads from those companies show up in your messages. This could be anything from a restaurant offering you a free drink during happy hour or a retailer slipping a discount coupon your way.
It looks like chatbots may be proliferated as an advertising medium, and it makes sense. After all, what better way to entice someone to spend money somewhere than to make them feel like the transaction is somewhat personal? It’s genius, but here’s to hoping that Facebook’s new advertising gimmick doesn’t turn into a headache for its users. Especially mobile users.
Smart smoke detectors come with a higher price tag, but the safety and convenience features they offer offset it very well. The internet of things should make us safer while it makes things easier.
Part of the connected home we don’t often think about, “smart” smoke detectors provide a mix of extra safety and convenience features, but they come at a higher cost. This leaves a lot of us unsure if a smoke detector like a Nest Protect is worth buying. Let’s take a look at what they offer so we can make the decision that’s right for us.
See the Nest Protect at Amazon
There are a handful of highly rated smart smoke detectors from companies with names we might recognize like Kiddie and First Alert, but most people are familiar with the Nest Protect. All brands tend to offer the same core features and cost about the same, somewhere around $100 for either the wired or battery-powered option. That’s quite the jump in price compared to the $15 option available at your local big box store, but you get a smoke detector that’s safer — most smart detectors detect fires three different ways — and because they’re smart they work with other connected things in your home.
The first thing a smoke detector needs to do well is warn us when there may be a fire. Smart detectors use three different methods here.
The most important feature is alerting you and everyone in your home that there is a fire. A smart detector usually has three different methods that each excel at detecting a certain thing.
Smoke is detected by both a photoelectric sensor and an ionization sensor. A photoelectric sensor is designed to detect when something is smoldering. Plenty of things in your home are fire retardant and will smolder and smoke long before they catch a flame. But if they are next to something that not as fire retardant, a fire can quickly become dangerous. Your furniture, your carpet, much of the clothing you wear and more are things that will smolder long enough to cause an alarm before they can start spreading a fire.
An ionization sensor is designed to detect a flaming fire. They have a small ionization chamber where drawn air can interact with a very small amount of radioactive material (Americium-241). The chamber is designed to transfer a micro-current between two conductive plates, and even the smallest amount of smoke (or any solid airborne particles) will disrupt the current and trip the alarm. You’ll find ionization sensors in commercial smoke detectors wherever flammable materials are stored.
According to the CDC, every year 20,000 people visit the hospital and 400 deaths are caused by Carbon Monoxide poisoning.
The third type of sensor is for Carbon Monoxide. CO gas is odorless, tasteless and a by-product of almost every type of fire. Inside your home, it’s one of the leading causes of death due to fire because it can reach toxic levels quickly when it is unable to dissipate. Having a CO detector is not only a good idea but mandatory for many insurance policies.
You can find plenty of dual-sensor smoke detectors and stand-alone CO alarms are reasonably cheap. But smart smoke detectors tend to have far fewer false alarms, and if your smoke detectors are hard-wired having all three types in a single unit is a necessity. We want a smoke detector to do only one thing — alert us when there is a fire. When your detector gives you too many false alarms it’s not very useful — the original Nest Protect was halted and revamped because of this. Personally, I think this feature alone makes them worth the cost.
But we can’t play down the connectivity. Using the Nest Protect as an example I’m familiar with, I know that the Nest application will alert me on my phone when the alarm is triggered no matter where I am. While I’ve never had the misfortune of putting things to the ultimate test, I know that even when I’m not home and out of harm’s way, I still want to know if there were to be a fire at my house.
Connectivity with other smart devices means visual cues can accompany alarm sounds to warn people with a hearing impairment as well as draw more attention from everyone.
Besides remote monitoring — you can get all sorts of data like Carbon Monoxide levels in ppm, for example — being connected means a smart alarm can talk to other smart devices. You can connect a Nest to a Philips Hue bridge and flash the lights when an alarm is triggered as a visual alert. A connection with a Ring doorbell can add the door chime and a blinking red indicator at the doorbell button so someone who is unable to receive a remote alert would know not to enter. These ideas are extendable. It would be great to see a company that makes smart door locks talk to a smart detector to make sure the doors are unlocked in the case of a fire so a child could get out without trying to unlock a deadbolt or the fire department could quickly enter. Smart homes built around Google Home or the Amazon Echo can easily bridge any number of different smart devices.
Ultimately, spending $100 on something we hope to never use is going to be a decision we each need to make for ourselves. I think it’s well worth it, even though I hope I’m being too cautious and never need one.
There have been many attempts to help blind people see, but none of them — so far — have managed to make it to mainstream users. It’s a trend that Budapest-based startup EVA is hoping to buck with its eponymous product, EVA (Extended Visual Assistant). Essentially, it’s a pair of sunglasses with cameras embedded up front that, with the help of a smartphone, converts the written word into audio. That sound is then broadcast to the wearer with bone-conduction “headphones” that are built into the glasses’ arms.
The startup is lead by Krisztián Imre, who was showing off a dummy prototype here at Web Summit in Lisbon. He’s here to help drive investment to help get his concept for a more accessible future off the ground. The idea is that people with visual impairments can walk around and, as signage comes into view, is read out so they know where to go. In addition, they can hold up a food package (or anything else) to eye level and say “recognize this” to be told what’s in their hands. That sounds vaguely similar to a Microsoft project that used bone conduction to help the visually impaired navigate cities.
Unfortunately, it’s not even a prototype at this stage, so it’s hard to tell how successful Imre’s idea is going to be out in the real world. There are several questions that he couldn’t answer at this point that means it’s hard feel confident about its prospects. For instance, it’s not clear how the glasses will recognize specific signage without reading out everything a person walks past in a day. While Word Lens-style processing is feasible in a smartphone, it’s not the most reliable of products, and probably not enough to rely upon.
Imre’s business model, too, seems to be idealistic to the point of misguided, selling the device for as little as possible to end users. Rather than making money on hardware, he hopes to charge businesses a fee to install iBeacons to make their venues more accessible. Although non-profits like Wayfindr are already installing trial devices in public spaces which can be used with just a smartphone. Not to mention that smaller firms may not want the extra expense to cater to the visually impaired.
Krisztián Imre is passionate about his project, however, and feels that it’s time that blind people were given a better way to get around than GPS. It’s early days, and a working prototype with a battery life of eight hours is expected to be developed by the end of 2017. We’ll check in with them back then and see how far, or not, he’s come to realizing his vision.
Skiing and snowboarding games used to be inescapable – older gamers will no doubt come over a bit misty-eyed when you mention efforts like 1997’s Cool Boarders (a key title for the original PlayStation), 1998’s 1080° on the N64, 2001’s SSX Tricky, and Shaun Palmer’s Pro Snowboarder (the last of which essentially being Tony Hawk’s on white stuff).
But in recent years, snowboarding games have slipped off the agenda, which is odd considering that they both allow you to experience all the thrills of sliding down mountains on a tea-tray without the huge expense, and that global warming means real-life snow is becoming increasingly hard to find.
However, Ubisoft is about to end the drought suffered by winter sports-loving gamers with Steep, created by its in-house developer in Annecy, situated in the foothills of the French Alps. A perfect pairing, then. We managed to avail ourselves in about three hours’ worth of play with Steep on the PS4 ahead of its full release.
When in Steep released?
Despite only making its first appearance at this year’s E3 Show, Steep is on target to hit the shops without delay on 2 December 2016. And given that Christmas time rarely sees the white stuff these days, this might be your only chance.
Steep is definitely an ambitious game – it clearly aims to set a new, 21st-century-style agenda for winter sports games, as it is determinedly open-world and multiplayer.
Ubisoft Annecy creative director Igor Manceau says: “One of the things we wanted to do was to celebrate the mountains: we felt there was an opportunity to do something fresh and new in that segment, which was kind of abandoned for a while”.
It’s also very much a winter sports game. Although it lets you snowboard, you can switch for skis, wingsuit and paragliding at any point. And in order to complete its challenges, you’ll have to sample all four sports.
What is Steep like as a game?
The first thing you notice about Steep is that it now looks and feels pretty good – it has come on a lot in visual terms since E3, when it looked a bit dodgy, even though it was shown on the PC.
The snow looks convincing, the sounds you make when you carve through it (or transition to ice) also convince and when, say, you’re wingsuiting, there is plenty of feeling and a proper sense of speed.
The fact that Steep has got the basics right brings a grin to the face, as it’s the first mountain-set game we’ve come across that operates on the current crop of consoles, with their ability to run sophisticated particle effects and so on.
Steep starts off pretty gently, with what is essentially a tutorial that introduces you to its key concepts. You start off at a base camp (which you can return to at any time), and are invited to hit L1, which brings out a pair of binoculars; scanning with those brings up new drop-zones to investigate. If you then go to the map-style Mountain View, you can teleport straight to them and then scan for activities. Activities also crop up as you sashay down the mountains, so it doesn’t take long before you have plenty to do.
Does Steep have a single player campaign?
There is also a narrative element of sorts. Dotted around the game-world are 30 so-called Mountain Stories. In terms of storyline, they are basic, to say the least.
One we played set up the premise of a snowboarding-equipment company wanting you to participate in a night-shoot, so we had to follow another boarder, pulling off tricks as spectacularly as possible.
Another one involved traversing from one peak to another distant one, which proved to be a pretty epic paraglide, taking about 15-minutes, during which a rather cheesy voiceover extolling the glory of the mountains kept us entertained.
What tricks can you pull off in Steep?
Control-wise, Steep keeps things commendably simple. When skiing or snowboarding, R2 lets you jump when you hit a ramp, while both sticks let you pull off rotational tricks, and R2 and L2 perform grabs with different hands.
Trick-wise, it’s all about nailing your animations before you land, then getting your stance right in the process of landing; you can’t do tricks which are anything like as elaborate as those in Shaun Palmer’s Pro Snowboarder, say, but if you time your jumps over elevated ramps correctly, you can still pull off some breathtaking manoeuvres.
When you’re wingsuiting or paragliding, it’s all about feeling the air-currents and making tiny orientation adjustments; pushing the left stick up when wingsuiting essentially stalls you, helping to preserve height, and you can roll left or right with the right stick. When paragliding, you have to follow contours, otherwise you’ll lose height quickly; R2 lets you pull off extra-tight turns.
No matter what winter sport you’re engaging in, the tricking aspect is geared towards what you would be able to do in real life. So some may criticise it for not being sufficiently elaborate. That’s kind of Tony Hawk’s fault.
Steep preview: XP, rewards and medals
There’s a simple XP system predicated on how well you do in races, challenges and the like: you’ll be awarded bronze, silver or gold medals, and you’re given awards like flash new helmets and snowboards.
When you start levelling up, you gain access to previously locked events. The challenges are mostly self-explanatory – races through gates or designated mid-air circles if you’re wingsuiting or paragliding, or events that require you to pass a threshold of points via pulling off tricks. They are split into freeride and freestyle categories, and there are plenty of snow-parks dotted around the game-world.
How big is the Steep game world?
And that game-world is impressively big: Manceau says it covers 256 square kilometres and is split into seven regions, among which are Switzerland, Aiguilles and Tyrol.
Ubisoft Annecy didn’t go for a lifelike reconstruction of the Alps, choosing instead to pick out areas that would be fun to explore and mash them together. Although you encounter the odd village, they are basically there to provide different terrain through which to ski or board, they are empty of people and there’s nothing you can do in them. Nor are there any ski-resorts with formally delineated pistes: Steep is all about back-country exploration.
Manceau explains that design policy: “We could have gone for GPS data and realism, but that wasn’t an avenue we followed, because the real world doesn’t offer large playgrounds: some places are good for practice, but not that many.
“The way we did it was to go for interpretations of some regions that we thought were interesting. We know, for instance, that you can’t see the Matterhorn from Mont Blanc, but we thought it was cool to give you the possibility to ride the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.”
Steep multi-player challenges explained
Manceau was keen to push the online side of Steep, which represents a first for a winter-sports game. User-generated content looms large: it’s very easy, when randomly exploring, to take whatever new line down the mountain you have discovered, save it and post it to the Steep community as a challenge (you can even choose whether to base that challenge on speed, tricking and so on).
You can also create and join groups of other players, bringing about what feels like the sort of experience you would enjoy on a real-life winter sports holiday – exploring together, racing against each other and taking each other on in snow-parks.
Likewise, you can capture and edit footage of your exploits, switching between various camera-angles including a GoPro attached to your helmet.
Manceau explains what Ubisoft Annecy is trying to achieve with the grouping ability: “When you’re grouped, then you go even further. We call it synchronous and asynchronous, because you’re not forced to start at the same moment. When we’re grouped, we also share our progression. Which basically means that all the world which you’ve discovered, all the challenges, all the drop-zones, I will get access to.”
Manceau concedes that the user-generation element mainly kicks in when punters have played the game extensively on their own: “We’ve seen in closed alpha what people are doing. Depending on the profile, the players do different stuff. Some of them are going for completion: it takes a very long time. Then, at some point, they get into a more competitive element, where they do create challenges. My ability to create a challenge and push it to my friends is definitely the loop that comes after.”
Naturally, given Steep’s open-world nature, Ubisoft Annecy will assiduously add content post-launch. Manceau says that in January 2017, an update will add a whole new play-area – Alaska – “which will be the same size as Europe.”
“We’d like to treat Steep as we did the Crew or Rainbow Six: Siege, where live content is really important. So we plan to release a new challenge every week. You will be able to participate in the Freeride World Tour, and we are pretty much mimicking the way [the real-life Freeride World Tour] works. So you can participate in selection, be selected, get to level two and then reach the final: we’ll have one every two weeks, which is pretty intense.”
With Steep, Ubisoft has eschewed the tried and tested blueprint for winter sports games, and its attempt to drag such games into the 21st century is pretty ambitious.
After our play time with the game, we can’t definitively say whether or not it will manage to achieve what it set out to do. There’s a big question-mark over whether those who play it will take to the user-generation side and maintain interest once they’ve explored the game-world fully.
It will undoubtedly strike a chord with keen snowboarders and skiers who fancy getting their winter fix vicariously without running the risk of injury or having to lash out vast amounts of cash. But whether it will capture the imagination of the wider gaming public remains to be seen.
If you’re desperately in need to de-stress this morning (I can’t imagine why) and you’re an Android user, there’s a new app out there worth checking out. Simple Habit started out as an iOS meditation and mindfulness app with a Netflix-style model — after signing up for a weekly or monthly subscription, you get access to a huge library of guided meditation exercises. Now, that app is available on Android as well as the web.
We checked Simple Habit out earlier this year when it launched and found it to be one of the better apps out there in a crowded marketplace of mindfulness tools. There’s a set of things you can try for free, and if you sign up for a subscription you’ll get access to the full library. There are hundreds of different topics so you can focus on your specific needs — from broader things ilke sharper focus and stress reduction to more niche things you might be dealing with like breakups or calm before a job interview.
Simple Habit has changed its pricing structure a few times, but currently the subscription options are $11.99 per month or $8.99 per month if you sign up for a full year. You can also get a lifetime subscription for the rather high cost of $399. Fortunately, there are plenty of free sessions you can try before signing up for a subscription.
Telling people that you’re thinking about them is so much of a chore for energy-deficient millennials that something had to be done. That’s the idea behind Twinkl’s charm bracelet, a wearable that lets you send positive thoughts to your chums at the push of a single button. Each device comes with five slots that you can buy charms for, each one identifying a family member, close friend or your favorite content creator. When you want to let ’em know they’re in your mind, simply hit their corresponding button and their wrist will buzz.
The product is launching this week in Denmark and is aimed squarely at the much-coveted 13-to-16-year-old market. This modern-day friendship bracelet is connected to your smartphone and will last for one and a half days of “normal usage,” although if you have no friends it’ll last closer to a week. Tweens will then be encouraged to shell out for custom charms to fill the bracelet so that they can better represent their social circle. A heart charm, for instance, signifying their significant other, while the BFF button is.. you get the idea.
The bands themselves retail for just $60, and each individual charm will set you back a further couple of bucks a time. One particular charm covers your friend circle more generally, and can be used to contact up to eight people, with a colored LED underneath used to differentiate ’em. That’ll be closer to $6, although really the charm itself is just a piece of etched plastic, it’s the code to enable the LED that you’re paying for.
Twinkl’s strategy is only partly hardware-based, however, since it has one eye on developing a fresh alternative to Snapchat and/or YouTube. The firm has paired up with a group of successful Danish YouTubers that’ll enable kids to buy personalized charms. My favorite Danish YouTuber is Kristine Sloth, so I’d love to spend $13 on a Kristine Sloth charm that’ll let me tell her how much I’m thinking of her, and vice versa.
The other part of the deal is that the YouTubers in question have pledged to produce original content for the Twinkl app. If you buy one of the celebrity charms and your wrist buzzes twice, you’ll know that there’s a new behind the scenes photo or short video clip that’s exclusively available for those who’ve bought the charm. It’s also, as creator Róbert Jónsson notes, a nice and easy way to get some good publicity for a nascent startup without any money.
One thing that won’t be coming to the wristband is the ability to serve notifications more widely, from platforms like Facebook or WhatsApp. That would only serve to dilute the device’s purpose and place it in the same group as several other basic notification watches. Duh.
Source: Twinkl (Facebook)
While iOS users have enjoyed full RAW support in Adobe’s Lightroom mobile app since this summer, the Android faithful had to be content with the company’s own DNG RAW format. Thanks to an update to the software today, Android users will now get the same functionality. Adobe has revamped the version of Lightroom mobile to include a technology preview of full RAW support. The new feature set includes the ability to connect a camera directly to a phone or tablet to access files if you have the necessary cable to do so.
As you might expect, the update also means that you’ll be able to edit full-resolution RAW files with the Android version of Lightroom mobile. Adobe says that the app will play nice with all of the file formats the desktop version does, in addition to Adobe Camera RAW. The company also explains that the tools that allow you to edit white balance, access detailed color info, edit uncompressed files and more with the mobile app use the exact same tech that drives those tasks on the desktop version of Lightroom.
What’s more, any imported files to your mobile device will sync across all versions of the photo editing app so you’ll have them whenever or wherever you need them. Lightroom mobile also labels RAW files so you’re less likely to grab a compressed or low-res version of a photo before you begin working. The updated version of Lightroom mobile for Android is available now via Google Play.
For Lightroom on the web, Adobe is giving users more tools when it comes to sharing. You can now add a header image to collections and divide up groups of images into sections. Once you do so, you can also input details about the sections should the need arise. When the time comes to add files to your Adobe Portfolio, you can now do so straight from the web-based version of Lightroom.
Source: Google Play
On January 20th, Donald Trump will be sworn in as president of the United States. With a Republican controlled House and Senate behind him, things in this country are going to change… a lot. One of the things that might be on the chopping block early in his administration is Net Neutrality.
This is obviously an issue near and dear to our hearts here at Engadget, and it’s pretty safe to assume that the rules instituted by the FCC in 2015 will be gutted by a Trump administration. In 2014 he described the concept as “top down power grab” that “will target the conservative media,” and compared it to the Fairness Doctrine — referring to the FCC rule eliminated in 1987 that required broadcasters to present contrasting views on topics of public interest. While it might be tempting to dismiss those vaguely paranoid sounding declarations as simple Twitter bluster, it’s unlikely to be an issue that flies under the radar once he moves into the White House.
Tony Romm at Politico reported that Trump will be appointing Jeffrey Eisenach as the point man for telecom issues in his transition team. Eisenach has made a career out of crusading against industry regulation. He’s spent the last several years at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and has authored several papers and op-ed pieces that were funded by Net Neutrality opponents like Engadget’s parent company Verizon.
Once gutted, there’s little hope that even a weakened version of Net Neutrality could find itself enshrined in law under a President Trump. One of the few concrete policies he’s proposed is a moratorium on new regulations from government agencies.
His fight against industry regulation will also limit the expansion of broadband in America. As a candidate his plan to push high-speed internet deeper into the rural areas of the country and bring the cost down for low-income households has been vague at best. Efforts like these largely rely on regulations, tax breaks and government programs to incentivize businesses to build out infrastructure and subsidize costs for the poor.
Connect America Fund, Rural Utilities Service program, and Broadband Technology Opportunities Program were core to Hillary Clinton’s goal of giving 100 percent of households access to affordable broadband by 2020. But government programs like these face an uncertain future and likely funding cuts under the new administration. And these decisions wont just impact the reach of broadband for the next four years, but potentially for decades to come.
That said, Trump has promised to invest in infrastructure, though not broadband specifically. And there’s a chance that by lowering regulatory walls and offering tax incentives a Trump administration could lure companies to build out broadband in rural areas, but these moves will do little reduce costs. And with with pesky net neutrality rules out of the way, it will be possible for providers to charge higher fees to consumers while actively putting competitors at a disadvantage. As the walls between service providers and content creators crumbles, Net Neutrality rules become more important than ever. But under a President Trump those are unlikely to survive.