posted 14 days ago on ars technica
Apple Apple's new Swift programming language has attracted a lot of interest from developers since it was announced last month at WWDC, and now the company is looking to get it in the hands of more developers. Apple launched a new blog specifically for Swift today, and as part of the launch, the company is offering free downloads of the latest Xcode 6 beta to anyone who wants to register for it. The Swift blog will also include "behind-the-scenes" information about Swift from Apple engineers. This is a departure for Apple in a couple of ways—first, Xcode betas have heretofore been available to paying OS X or iOS developers only. The membership is just $99 a year, but it's still a paywall that has separated developers from the general public up until now. Along with the upcoming Yosemite public beta and the Beta Seed program, Apple is offering enthusiasts and developers access to more and more of its software before it's officially ready for public consumption. Second, Apple engineers usually don't get to talk about what they're doing. Apple's official communication comes from its PR department, from various executives giving carefully controlled interviews, or from executives standing up on a stage in front of anyone who wants to stream it. The single post on the blog now doesn't go into detail about much of anything, really, but there's a chance the site could be a valuable source of information going forward. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Chris Young AT&T and Verizon Wireless are extracting "monopoly rents" from competitors who pay them for data roaming, forcing smaller carriers to charge higher prices to their own subscribers, four public interest groups wrote in a filing with the Federal Communications Commission yesterday. By making it difficult for carriers like T-Mobile US to lower prices or offer truly unlimited plans, the nation's two biggest carriers are also able to "charge artificially inflated prices to their own customers" and maintain strict data caps and overage fees, alleges the filing (PDF) by Public Knowledge, the Open Technology Institute at the New America Foundation, the Benton Foundation, and Common Cause. The groups are supporting T-Mobile's request for a ruling from the FCC to force AT&T and Verizon to negotiate lower rates. The T-Mobile petition asks for "prospective guidance and predictable enforcement criteria for determining whether the terms of any given data roaming agreement or proposal meet the 'commercially reasonable' standard adopted by the Commission in the Data Roaming Order [adopted in 2011]." T-Mobile's petition, filed in May, describes an ongoing dispute with AT&T and criticizes Verizon as well. Read 18 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Samsung Tomorrow Samsung has been slowly working on turning Tizen, the company's home-grown OS, into a real commercial ecosystem. The OS first powered a Samsung smart camera and then came to a trio of Samsung smartwatches—both product categories without established software ecosystems. But the real test will come with the first Tizen smartphone, where the OS will have to battle iOS and Android. Samsung's chosen warrior is the "Samsung Z," which has been granted the title of "world's first commercial Tizen phone." Or at least, it will have that title. Eventually. The Samsung Z was expected to launch during Thursday's Tizen event in Moscow, but according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, the launch was cancelled just days earlier. This is just the latest in a series of delays for Samsung's OS. Tizen was originally scheduled to launch on a high-end smartphone in "August or September" of 2013. These plans were scrapped and the launch was then moved to March 2014 in Japan on NTT DoCoMo. Those plans were eventually killed, too, as NTT DoCoMo wasn't convinced that the OS would be successful in Japan's mature market. Tizen was then moved to a July 2014 launch in Russia on the midrange Samsung Z, and now that has been delayed as well. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Thanks to a small problem in data formatting, the US Selective Service System recently sent notices to more than 14,000 Pennsylvania men who were most likely eligible for military service... during World War I. The error came thanks to a Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) clerk’s failure to include the century when exporting data from a drivers’ license database for transfer to the Selective Service. According to an Associated Press report, the error wasn’t caught because the Selective Service System’s database only uses two-digit codes for birth years—so records from men born between 1893 and 1897 were flagged by the system as being from 1993 to 1997. As a result, men born over 117 years ago received notices that they would face imprisonment and fines if they did not immediately register for the draft. PennDOT spokesperson Jan McKnight told the AP, "We made a mistake, a quite serious selection error." Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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HIV (green false color) buds off an immune cell (red). CDC HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, does its damage by decimating immune cells. But it also lies dormant in some cells, creating a reservoir that can restart an active infection long after the active virus has been cleared by treatments. This is apparently what happened to a child from Mississippi who was thought to have been cured of infection following antiviral treatments. Researchers may now have found one of the reasons that it's so hard to clear out these reservoirs of infected cells. As part of the infection process, HIV normally inserts a copy of itself into a cell's chromosomes. By chance, some of these insertions cause the cell to grow faster, ensuring that more copies of the virus are around to cause trouble. The researchers, who are all based in Seattle, took a pretty simple approach to discover this: they sampled cells from HIV patients who were receiving long-term antiviral treatment, looking for the sites of HIV insertion. In these patients, viral replication was suppressed by the drugs, often for periods of over a decade. Therefore, any viruses researchers found were from those cells that had quiescent viruses inserted into their genome. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock Local Virginia police have abandoned plans to photograph a 17-year old boy's erection in connection with his felony prosecution for child pornography after he allegedly sexted his 15-year old girlfriend. The decision was made yesterday following a global outcry. The brouhaha began earlier this week when Prince William County prosecutors obtained a search warrant from a juvenile court judge allowing them to photograph the boy's erection for evidentiary reasons (apparently to compare the photo with a video sent to the girlfriend's phone). The story, which included details that the authorities would chemically induce an erection in the boy, went viral. In response, the Manassas City police department—which is investigating the case—said Thursday that it would let the search warrant expire. Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Syntonic Sponsored Content Store AT&T's Sponsored Data program—in which content providers pay AT&T not to count the use of their services against customers' data limits—is about to get a lot easier to use. AT&T is partnering with a company called Syntonic Wireless, which yesterday announced "the Syntonic Sponsored Content Store for eligible AT&T mobile subscribers." "The Syntonic Sponsored Content Store is integrated with AT&T’s Sponsored Data service and gives content providers an effortless way to offer sponsored application connectivity to AT&T mobile data customers," Syntonic's announcement said. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The @congressedits Twitter feed. Ed Summers, an IT specialist at the Library of Congress and an open source Web developer, recently saw a friend tweet about Parliament WikiEdits, a UK Twitter “bot” that watched for anonymous Wikipedia edits coming from within the British Parliament’s internal networks. Summers was immediately inspired to do the same thing for the US Congress. “The simplicity of combining Wikipedia and Twitter in this way immediately struck me as a potentially useful transparency tool,” Summers wrote in his personal blog. “So using my experience on a previous side project [Wikistream, a Web application that watches Wikipedia editing activity], I quickly put together a short program that listens to all major language Wikipedias for anonymous edits from Congressional IP address ranges… and tweets them.” The stream for the bot, @congressedits, went live a day later, and it now provides real-time tweets when anonymous edits of Wikipedia pages are made. Summers also posted the code to GitHub so that others interested in creating similar Twitter bots can riff on his work. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The time between conception and becoming a fetus is a busy one if you're a human embryonic stem cell (hESC). As the embryo develops, hESCs are allocated into three distinct types of tissue through an orderly sequence of events. Although it's easy to grow hESCs in a culture dish, it's been impossible to make them repeat this orderly process—until now. Scientists from the Laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Molecular Embryology at Rockefeller University are using principles from geometry to control the patterns through which hESCs develop. The scientists tested how stem cell identity is affected by an array of geometries by creating molds made of Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS), a silicone-based elastomer. The group controlled the diameters and depth of the molds by 3D printing them. To get the hESCs to stick to the printed material, the scientists coated the molds with proteins that were known to increase cell adhesion. Once the molds were ready, the cells were added and allowed to incubate. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 15 days ago on ars technica
Vathis Despite being chastised by the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC), which declared quasi-taxi firm Lyft as an “unauthorized” firm, the startup says it will go ahead with its scheduled Friday evening launch. Lyft is a San Francisco-based startup that allows its users to book rides from drivers via its smartphone app, effectively acting just like a taxi service. In a statement sent to Ars on Thursday, the commission said that the firm had “not complied with TLC’s safety requirements and other licensing criteria to verify the integrity and qualifications of the drivers or vehicles used in their service, and Lyft does not hold a license to dispatch cars to pick up passengers.” Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The White House has reportedly put its chosen nomination for head of the US Patent and Trademark Office on ice. Two weeks ago, Philip Johnson, the top intellectual property lawyer at Johnson & Johnson, was set to be named the next director of the patent office. Johnson has opposed changes to patent laws for years, and he was the head of the Coalition for 21st Century for Patent Reform, or 21C, an umbrella group opposing broad patent reform. Johnson's bid looked like a 180-degree turn for the Obama Administration, which had pushed for a comprehensive patent reform bill to be passed. A bill called the Innovation Act was passed by a wide margin in the House of Representatives, but it died in the Senate in April. Large pharmaceutical companies were a key part of the opposition to the patent bill. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Aurich Lawson / Thinkstock On June 28, 2012, in Dayton, Ohio, police received reports of an attempted robbery. A man armed with a box cutter had just tried to rob the Annex Naughty N’ Nice adult bookstore. Next, a similar report came from a Subway sandwich shop just a few miles northeast of the bookstore. Coincidentally, a local company named Persistent Surveillance Systems (PSS) was flying a small Cessna aircraft 10,000 feet overhead at the time. The surveillance flight was loaded up with specialized cameras that could watch 25 square miles of territory, and it provided something no ordinary helicopter or police plane could: a Tivo-style time machine that could watch and record movements of every person and vehicle below. After learning about the attempted robberies, PSS conducted frame-by-frame video analysis of the bookstore and sandwich shop and was able to show that exactly one car traveled between them. Further analysis showed that the suspect then moved on to a Family Dollar store in the northern part of the city, robbed it, stopped for gas—where his face was captured on video—and eventually returned home. Read 38 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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911.gov Newly available data shows that 90 percent of 911 calls made from wireless phones in Washington, DC, "were delivered without the accurate location information needed to find callers who are lost, confused, unconscious, or otherwise unable to share their location," the public interest group Find Me 911 reported today. Just 39,805 calls out of 385,341 over a six-month period ending July 2013 contained latitude and longitude information, the group said. The data, "filed with the FCC by the DC Office of Unified Communications last fall," was obtained from the Federal Communications Commission with a Freedom of Information Act request. Find Me 911 said carriers can generally provide what's known as "Phase I" data, which the FCC says consists of "the telephone number of the originator of a wireless 911 call and the location of the cell site or base station transmitting the call." Phase II data includes latitude and longitude of the caller and should be accurate "to within 50 to 300 meters, depending on the type of technology used." Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Matthew Inman/The Oatmeal In August 2012, cartoonist Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal launched a crowdfunding campaign to purchase and renovate a parcel of property containing inventor Nikola Tesla’s laboratory. The lab and surrounding property had fallen into disuse and could potentially have gone to another buyer looking to transform it into retail space, but Inman’s crowdfunding campaign was successful—it raised a total of $1.37 million. The money went to the nonprofit Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe organization, which purchased the property for $850,000 and used the remaining funds to start renovations. However, it wasn’t nearly enough to build the "Tesla Museum" envisioned by Inman and the Tesla Science Center board. As Inman noted in part 2 of his "What it's like to own a Tesla Model S" comic: "To finish what we started and build an actual Nikola Tesla Science Center, we need something closer to the tune of $8 million." Inman used the back half of the comic to post a polite (if a bit brazen) request directly to Tesla Motors founder and billionaire Elon Musk: You owe us nothing, and you've done nothing but good things in the name of Nikola Tesla. But the fact remains: Tesla Motors, a company now worth billions, is using Nikola Tesla's name and they're using his technology, and all we want in return is a little bit of help....During our initial Tesla Museum fundraiser, you supported the project and donated $2,500. I'm asking you to donate again, but this time donate the full $8 million. The pleas for money didn’t come entirely from Inman either. The cartoon also contained a scan of a letter from one William H. Terbo, the last surviving relative of Nikola Tesla. The letter was polite, but it also made reference to the fact that Tesla Motors is using the "Tesla" name without the permission of the Tesla family, and that can sometimes cause some confusion: Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Verizon used this illustration to make its case against Netflix. Verizon It’s been 10 weeks since Verizon and Netflix struck a deal in which Netflix will pay the ISP for a direct connection to its network. Yet customers are still complaining about bad performance. The reason is that Verizon and Netflix haven’t set up enough connections to make much of a difference, and Verizon has said work may not be completed until the end of 2014. Instead of remaining quiet while they build out the necessary infrastructure, Netflix and Verizon have taken shots at one another. The latest comes from Verizon VP David Young, who wrote a blog post today that aims to dispel what he calls “the congestion myth.” Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Microsoft has issued an emergency update for most supported versions of Windows to prevent attacks that abuse recently issued digital certificates impersonating Google and Yahoo. Company officials warned undiscovered fraudulent credentials for other domains may still be in the wild. Thursday's unscheduled update revokes 45 highly sensitive secure sockets layer (SSL) certificates that hackers managed to generate after compromising systems operated by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) of India, an intermediate certificate authority (CA) whose certificates are automatically trusted by all supported versions of Windows. Millions of sites operated by banks, e-commerce companies, and other types of online services use the cryptographic credentials to encrypt data passing over the open Internet and to prove the authenticity of their servers. As Ars explained Wednesday, the counterfeit certificates pose a risk to Windows users accessing SSL-protected sections of Google, Yahoo, and any other affected domains. "These SSL certificates could be used to spoof content, perform phishing attacks, or perform man-in-the-middle attacks against Web properties," a Microsoft advisory warned. "The subordinate CAs may also have been used to issue certificates for other, currently unknown sites, which could be subject to similar attacks." Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Suburban Express CEO Dennis Toeppen's mug shot at his booking at the Champaign County Sheriff on July 9. Champaign County Sheriff Dennis Toeppen, infamous former cyber squatter and current owner of the Illinois shuttle bus service Suburban Express, rose to further notoriety last year for his attempts to silence social media critics on reddit and Yelp through legal threats and alleged online intimidation. Those critics were responding to Suburban Express's policy of suing students at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in an out-of-county court to coerce them into paying penalties when they didn't follow draconian passenger policies. Unsurprisingly, the situation didn't work out well for Toeppen, resulting in a massive Streisand Effect. Yesterday, Toeppen added another chapter to his strange story when he was arrested in Champaign, Illinois on charges of “Electronic Harassment / Obscene Proposal," according to filings with the Lake County Circuit Court. By this morning, he had posted the $10,000 bond and was free awaiting arraignment, according to a spokesperson for the Champaign County Sheriff's Office where Toeppen was booked. Toeppen frequently posts “dirt” about his competitors and detractors on his company’s website, and he actively defends his reputation on Yelp and reddit by engaging posters of negative reviews. In last year's public incident, Toeppen eventually dropped his legal threats against a redditor and then withdrew over 100 lawsuits against students that he filed in Ford County. (Toeppen later tried to re-file many of those cases with motions to vacate their dismissal, however.) He has continued to aggressively go after people who express negative opinions since, as Na’ame Firestone of Oakland, California recently experienced on Yelp: Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Flooding along the Missouri River on the Iowa-Nebraska border in 2011. US Army Corps of Engineers When the twin GRACE satellites were launched in 2002, the casual observer might have been underwhelmed by their mission—to make precise measurements of Earth’s gravity. They’ve proved, however, to be unbelievably useful Swiss Army knives of geoscience, measuring everything from the loss of ice from Greenland and Antarctica to groundwater depletion in California. Now, the GRACE that keeps on giving has been shown to improve warnings ahead of major floods in some areas. For many, floods seem to show up suddenly and then overstay their welcome. In some situations, they can be incredibly damaging and often quite dangerous. But a lot more goes into determining the size of a flood than just the amount of rain that falls, and that data provides the key to better forecasting of flood risk. When looking at graphs of streamflow—the volume of water traveling downstream per second—for a river or stream, hydrologists can identify two kinds of behavior. There’s the consistent base flow, supplied mainly by groundwater entering the river, and the temporarily higher flow that follows rain storms. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The B-2 Spirit was so expensive that its production run was cut. Now the Air Force is looking for a new bomber that will come in at a quarter of the B-2's pricetag. US Air Force The US Air Force has kicked off the competition that will determine who will build the Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B), a next-generation aircraft intended to replace the venerable B-52 bomber and the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. This week, the Air Force sent requirements to industry for the program. Its goal is picking a winning design by spring of 2015. The requirements were largely classified, but the mission isn't very secret. The Air Force has been driving the development of a new bomber around the mission of defending against the Chinese navy, based on a demonstration in 2004 that echoed Gen. Billy Mitchell's demonstration of the superiority of air power in 1921. The 2004 bombing and sinking of the ex-USS Schenectady by a B-52, using laser-guided ordnance, after it was deliberately set adrift off Hawaii. The ship was found and targeted using sensors aboard the bomber, demonstrating how long-range bombers could be used in maritime strike. Just like the Army and Marine Corps planes' sinking of the "unsinkable" German battleship Ostfriesland was intended to demonstrate the vulnerability of ships to bomber planes—and to shore up the budget for the then-shrinking Army Air Corps—the location and bombing of the former USS Schenectady off Hawaii was intended to demonstrate the role the Air Force could play in defending the Pacific against the growing threat of Chinese naval power. The role could include launching from bases out of range from China's "carrier-killer" anti-ship ballistic missiles and other long-range tactical weapons. The Air Force has been pushing for a plane built for that type of mission ever since, desiring a bomber capable of evading detection by the Chinese and striking at targets at sea. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Greetings, Arsians! Our partners at LogicBuy are back with a pile of new deals this week. Do you like music? Do you have a friend who also likes music? Well then listen up, because this week's top deal is for both of you. $599 gets you two pairs of noise canceling headphones from Monster and a $300 Amazon gift card. If you count the $300 in Amazon money against the cost of the headphones, they're costing you about $150 each! Featured dealMonster Inspiration Active Noise Canceling Over-Ear Headphones (2-Pack) + $300 Amazon Gift Card for $599 with free shipping (list price $999) Laptops and desktops Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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E-mail sent—yes! Microsoft Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sent a company-wide (and public) e-mail to mark the start of the company's 2015 financial year. The message announces a forthcoming reorganization and a shift in focus away from the "devices and services" that Steve Ballmer pushed toward the end of his time at the company. It's not entirely clear what that new focus really is, however. Nadella isn't doing away with his "mobile first, cloud first" mantra, as mathematically challenged as it is, and "mobile first, cloud first" still seems to feel a lot like "devices and services." The lynchpin of the mobile experience is the device; the raison d'être of the cloud is to provide services. The e-mail reinforces some themes that we've already seen from the company in past months. Nadella says that Microsoft's apps will be "built for other ecosystems," a policy that's already extant with apps including OneDrive, Skype, and most recently, Office. The parallel positioning of Visual Studio as an environment that's increasingly suitable for cross platform development lines up neatly with this. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Federal Trade Commission has filed a lawsuit against Amazon over its allowance of allegedly unauthorized in-app purchases charged by children to their parents' accounts, according to a press release Thursday. Kids could charge their parents up to $99.99 per in-app purchase, often without needing a password, writes the FTC, and Amazon's system has been lacking in controls since it was introduced in November 2011. As Ars pointed out in December 2011, Amazon has long had parental controls for in-app purchases in its Kindle Fire OS. However, in its early days, the parental controls were off by default, and in-app purchases were allowed by default. The FTC writes that Amazon updated its policy in March 2012 to require a password only for in-app purchases over $20. Amazon updated the process yet again in March 2013. Now, authorizing with a password opens an undisclosed 15-minute window when any attempted in-app charges will go through. Read 2 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Gliese 581 system, as it looked before the recent paper. NASA Two exoplanets, once considered excellent candidates in the search for life elsewhere in the Universe, do not exist, according to a new study in the journal Science. Both non-planets, Gliese 581d and 581g, were thought to be part of the Gliese 581 star system, located only 20 light-years away. To those familiar with the history of the Gliese 581 system, the news comes as little surprise. Claims have been repeatedly made regarding the likelihood of habitability for some planet in the system, only to see that likelihood vanish upon closer scrutiny. Excitement about Gliese 581 first peaked in 2007 when planet c was discovered. As one of the first exoplanets found in its star’s habitable zone (the region around a star where the temperature is ‘just right’ for liquid water to exist), planet c seemed a good candidate for life. So good that, in 2008, a high-powered digital radio signal, dubbed “A Message From Earth,” was sent in the direction of planet c. (It will arrive there in 2029, and, if anyone’s there to respond, we can expect a reply 20 years after that). Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Jim Ellwanger MonkeyParking, the Italian startup that allows iPhone users to auction off public parking spaces via its smartphone app, announced that it is temporarily suspending operations in San Francisco. The move comes just one day before the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office said it would sue the firm if it did not stop its activities in the city. Last month, the city sent the firm a cease-and-desist letter informing the company that what it was doing violated local law. The company insisted that what it was doing was legal and that it would not shut down. But in a statement Thursday, MonkeyParking said it was altering course. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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You don't say. Steve Rhodes FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly today blasted the commission's net neutrality proposal, calling it too "onerous" for Internet service providers and saying there should be no net neutrality rules until "there’s evidence of an actual problem it would address." O'Rielly, one of two Republicans on the five-member FCC, co-wrote an op-ed in National Review with US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). In it, they discussed the rules the FCC voted in favor of in May. This proposal was also widely panned by net neutrality advocates because even though it would prevent ISPs from blocking content, it would also allow them to charge third-party Web services for a faster path to consumers, or a "fast lane." FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said his rules would prevent ISPs from degrading the traffic of Web services that don't pay fast lane tolls, but opponents say that creating a faster path for those that do pay is essentially the same thing. O'Rielly thinks the FCC erred by issuing rules at all. "In its most recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on net neutrality, the FCC shirked its responsibility again. The commission’s woefully inadequate 'analysis' started with an unfounded assumption that the rules would be beneficial, then proposed several pages of onerous requirements, and concluded with one meager paragraph seeking comment on how to minimize the unquantified burdens," Blackburn and O'Rielly wrote. "Seeking comment on burdens is no substitute for performing an actual cost-benefit analysis, and doing so as an afterthought shows a disregard for the president’s directives." Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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