Study on AT&T’s fiber deployment: 1Gbps for the rich, 768kbps for the poor

AT&T’s deployment of fiber-to-the-home in California has been heavily concentrated in higher-income neighborhoods, giving affluent people access to gigabit speeds while others are stuck with Internet service that doesn’t even meet state and federal broadband standards, according to a new analysis.

“Because there is no regulatory oversight of AT&T’s fiber-to-the-home deployment, AT&T is free to choose the communities in which it builds its all-fiber GigaPower network,” UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society wrote in a report released today. “Our analysis finds that AT&T has built its all-fiber network disproportionately in higher income communities. If this pattern continues, it has troubling consequences for low- and moderate-income Californians, leaving many without access to AT&T’s gold standard all-fiber network and exacerbating the digital divide.”

California households with access to AT&T’s fiber service have a median income of $94,208, according to “AT&T’s Digital Divide in California,” in which the Haas Institute analyzed Federal Communications Commission data from June 2016.

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Amazon might use driverless vehicles to deliver packages in the future

Amazon is constantly thinking of new ways it can cut costs and revolutionize the shipping and delivery industry. According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Amazon formed a team about a year ago of a dozen employees to focus on driverless-vehicle technology and develop the company’s plans to use self-driving cars to better its business.

Amazon doesn’t plan on building its own self-driving cars for now. Instead, this newly formed team is tasked with figuring out how the company can use autonomous vehicle technology to deliver packages more quickly. Not only could self-driving cars be used to deliver packages to customers during the final leg of the shipping process, but Amazon could use autonomous cars, trucks, forklifts, and drones to move goods in and around warehouses and elsewhere.

Shipping and delivery costs continue to rise for Amazon as it delivers more categories of products. Autonomous vehicles could cut those costs, especially considering that they don’t have the same time restrictions that humans do. Humans, specifically truck drivers, have a 10-hour limit before they need to stop for rest. A shipment that originally took a few days to move across the country in a human-driven vehicle could take half the time with a self-driving car. According to the report, Amazon is particularly interested in autonomous trucking.

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Verizon bungles launch of $70 gigabit plan, which costs more than $70

Verizon’s rollout yesterday of a $70-per-month gigabit Internet plan was pretty confusing.

The Verizon announcement said the gigabit service would be immediately available to more than 8 million homes and did not say that the $70 price would only be available to certain customers. But it turned out that the $70 price was only for customers who don’t have Verizon FiOS service today. Existing customers who tried to upgrade yesterday were told that the standard price was as much as $200 a month.

After exchanging many e-mails throughout the day yesterday with a Verizon spokesperson, we now have a better understanding of what went wrong and what should happen next. Verizon promised a “revolutionary speed and a revolutionary price.” But there’s more than one price.

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Samsung develops emoji-based chat app for people with language disorders

YouTube, Samsung Italia

You may know someone who sends messages with more emojis than words, but chances are they don’t need those symbols to communicate. For some with language disorders such as aphasia, which can make it difficult to read, talk, or write, emojis can be an ideal way to communicate with others around them. Samsung Electronics Italia, the company’s Italian subsidiary, just came out with a new app called Wemogee that helps those with language disorders talk to others by using emoji-based messages.

Wemogee focuses on “bringing all users together again” regardless of their language abilities. Samsung worked with Italian speech therapist Francesca Polini to translate over 140 sentence units from text into emoji strings, sequences of emojis that accurately convey the meaning of sentences. For example, “How are you?” turns into a smiley face, an “ok” hand gesture, and a question mark on a single line.

The app has two modes, visual and textual, and users can choose which mode they prefer. In visual mode, users send an emoji-based message and the receiver will get it either as an emoji sequence if they’re in visual mode as well, or as a text message if they’re in textual mode. On the flip side, those in textual mode can send text messages that show up as emojis for those in visual mode. The app can also be used to assist face-to-face interactions for quicker and more accurate communication. Wemogee’s promotional video shows a screen in the app with a message written in words and emojis, allowing both users to understand the conversation regardless of language capacity.

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Wikitribune is Jimmy Wales’ attempt to wage war on fake news

Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales wants to bring together unpaid volunteers and journalists to create a rival news publication—dubbed Wikitribune—that he hopes will battle “fake news” more effectively than long-established newspapers.

Volunteers are encouraged to contribute funds to the project via a crowdfunding campaign. They will then shape the topics that Wikitribune will cover as well as offer up fact checking duties—again, the work of a typical newsroom.

“If we have a community guiding the work and we have people who are paying to be monthly supporters we can do the numbers and say, well for this many monthly supporters we can hire another journalist,” Wales told Wired. “Which means if a group wants us to hire a journalist on a particular topic, whatever that might be, then we can do that.”

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Square hires Yik Yak’s engineers, leaving fewer than 10 employees behind

According to a Monday report in Bloomberg Businessweek, Square has acquired the “five- to ten-person” engineering team of Yik Yak for $3 million. That leaves just a handful of employees at the Atlanta-based social networking startup. In December 2016, the company already fired 30 of its 50 employees.

Since late last year, Yik Yak has largely gone silent. Its Twitter account hasn’t posted since January 4, and its corporate blog has not posted since a month before that. According to Bloomberg, Square has not acquired any other companies since it bought the food delivery startup Caviar in 2014. (Square was founded as a mobile payment company in 2009 by Jack Dorsey, who also founded Twitter.)

Yik Yak did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.

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Uber’s app fingerprinted iPhone hardware, breaking App Store rules

Uber’s misfortune continues. In a profile on CEO Travis Kalanick published yesterday, the New York Times says that the Uber CEO was called into Apple for a private meeting with CEO Tim Cook. Kalanick had directed Uber’s developers to break Apple’s App Store rules—he wanted the Uber app to collect unique hardware data about every iPhone it was installed on, something Apple’s App Store rules doesn’t allow. To obscure this from Apple’s App Review team, Kalanick asked his engineers to make it so that the app wouldn’t collect that data from anyone at Apple’s headquarters.

This was eventually noticed by Apple engineers working off-campus, prompting the meeting with Cook. Cook told Kalanick to stop collecting the data or face ejection from the App Store, cutting it off from a wide swath of its user base. Kalanick agreed.

The report isn’t clear on what data, exactly, Uber was collecting, but sleuthing from developer and security researcher Will Strafach found that a 2014-era build of the Uber app was grabbing serial numbers from every iPhone it was installed on. The meeting between Kalanick and Cook apparently happened at some point in 2015. As of iOS 10, it’s no longer possible for apps to reach outside of their sandbox to access this information (Apple also prohibited apps from grabbing devices’ longer Unique Device Identifier, or UDID, back in 2012).

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Verizon’s $70 gigabit Internet is half the price of older 750Mbps tier

Verizon is now selling what it calls “FiOS Gigabit Connection” for $69.99 a month in a change that boosts top broadband speeds and makes lower prices available to many Internet subscribers.

Actual bandwidth will be a bit lower than a gigabit per second, with “downloads as fast as 940Mbps and uploads as fast as 880Mbps,” Verizon’s announcement today said. The gigabit service is available in most of Verizon’s FiOS territory, specifically to “over 8 million homes in parts of the New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Richmond, Va., Hampton Roads, Va., Boston, Providence and Washington, D.C. areas,” Verizon said.

Verizon’s FiOS territory includes more than 14 million homes, of which about 5.7 million subscribe to Verizon’s fiber Internet service. Verizon provided this link for checking gigabit availability.

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