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Scott Ertz Sling joins competitors in raising streaming subscription prices
Sling joins competitors in raising streaming subscription prices When Sling appeared at CES to first introduce the idea of a cable subscription delivered as a streaming service, it was an attractive alternative to traditional hardline cable subscriptions. You got your cable and local channels, you could choose a la carte options, and all of it was far less expensive than your regular cable options. However, in the years since that fateful CES, the cable and network landscape has changed significantly. Comcast has taken a tighter hold over the NBCUniversal ecosystem, AT&T owns the Time Warner and Turner networks, as well as DIRECTV and the competing streaming service HBO Now.

Since the content providers and service providers have gotten closer together, their interest in helping one another out has lessened. Why would AT&T or Comcast want to help a company that is undercutting its recurring revenue? The short answer is, they wouldn't. As such, we have seen these services forced to increase their prices over the past few years. We have seen YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, and even AT&T TV NOW (previously called DIRECTV NOW) raise prices because of increased content costs.

Now, Sling is falling victim to the success of the industry they helped to create. Several of the company's packages are seeing price increases, including the popular Blue and Orange packages. Each will run $30 per month going forward, with the pair together running $45 per month. For Sling, this is an uncommon practice, with Blue having never been raised, and Orange being stead for 2 years.

The good news is that along with the price increases come new channels. So, at least you aren't just being charged more for the same content. The company is also adding free cloud storage to these subscriptions, making the price changes a little more acceptable for current and new subscribers.
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Scott Ertz Cox Communications found liable for its users' internet usage
Cox Communications found liable for its users' internet usage In 2018, a coalition of more than 50 companies filed suit against Cox Communication for not limiting the actions of its users on the internet. These companies included some heavy hitters, such as Sony, Universal, and Warner. The issue at hand surrounds piracy on the internet and the company's lack of response to the activity on its network. The music companies argued that Cox Communications was legally responsible for selectively preventing access to certain content on its network.

This week, a jury in a Virginia Federal Court agreed with this argument and awarded this coalition $1 billion in damages. The ruling came after three weeks worth of trial and testimony, in which the coalition argued that Cox Communications was liable for around 10,000 compromised recordings and compositions, which were made available freely through their network infrastructure, which simply provides access to the internet.

This ruling sets a terrifying legal precedent for the future of the internet in the United States. Legally, the responsibility for breaking the law has always been placed on the person who commits the illegal act, not those who unknowingly provide a structure that is compromised to commit the act. Never has the federal government been held responsible for someone using a public road to escape a bank robbery, nor has Ford ever been held responsible for the Simpson murders. That's because the government and Ford did not intend to help these activities.

By holding Cox Communications liable for the actions of those who compromise the intent of the network has two major issues. The first and most obvious is the idea that the court system is encouraging a network operator to pay strict attention to what you are doing on their network and either prevent or report certain activities. That goes against the very nature of the internet, which is intended to be an open and universal experience. Luckily, these companies have a lot of examples to follow, from China, Russia, and others.
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Scott Ertz Sony is shaking up the DUALSHOCK controller design once again
Sony is shaking up the DUALSHOCK controller design once again Over the past 4 generations of PlayStation, Sony has not made a tremendous number of changes to the design of the controller. In fact, there is a popular meme that plays on this common knowledge, though the meme is really about Nintendo, the inverse of Sony. However, a new filing from the company might indicate what is potentially the largest usability upgrade to the controller design ever. While the front panel on the DUALSHOCK 4 controllers might be a big visual change, they turned out to be less of an everyday feature.

This filing, which comes to us care of the World Intellectual Property Organization, shows a controller with two new buttons across the back. For PlayStation fans, the design will look familiar, in the form of the DUALSHOCK 4 Back Button Attachment. This accessory adds two buttons to the back of the current controller, but any time you have an accessory, you have limited support. If a developer cannot guarantee a piece of hardware, they tend to ignore it.

This filing is, in no way, suggests that this design is the official design for the DUALSHOCK 5 controller. However, the idea that Sony might be bringing additional buttons to the next generation controller is exciting. However, the really exciting aspect is the use of these buttons. Rather than being a new set of semi-supported controls, like the touch sensors on the current controls, these new buttons are designed to be customizable. That means that you could set them to be the X and O buttons, allowing for an easier and more natural jump and melee access.

Over the next 6 months, between this publishing and E3 2020, the company will likely nail down the final design of the controller. So, for today, take this design filing with a grain of salt, as everything is subject to change.
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Scott Ertz Messaging is changing, encryption is more important than ever
Messaging is changing, encryption is more important than ever This week saw a couple of revelations about the state of messaging services. An announcement from Facebook reversed a previous policy, with the company now requiring that new users have a Facebook account to use the service's Messenger app. Previously, new users could get access to the Messenger service without the need to create a Facebook profile. For many, a Facebook profile comes along with significant privacy concerns, and the ability to use the Messenger service without a full profile was appealing. However, as the company begins to integrate the various messaging platforms, they seem to be looking for tighter control. This will not affect current users who signed up using a phone number, however.

But Messenger is far from the only player in town creating controversy. And, in reality, it's pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of problems online. A newer app, named ToTok, has made the rounds this week after it was revealed to be a government spy app for the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The name should sound familiar it is similar to the Chinese social video app TikTok, which has also been tied to government surveillance and censorship activities.

ToTok gained popularity because, unlike services like Messenger and WhatsApp, ToTok was available in countries that are likely to censor internet traffic, such as the UAE itself. The platform makes claims about a high level of security but does not mention any level of encryption. That's likely because data transferred through the service is sent through a data-mining firm that then hands the valuable data to DarkMatter, a government hacking firm located in Abi Dhabi. DarkMatter is already under US federal investigation by the FBI for spy-related activity. In addition to messages, user location data and contact lists are also tracked through DarkMatter, under the guise of providing customized recommendations.

All of these incidents bring to light the importance of end-to-end encryption, a feature that the US government is vehemently opposed to, going so far as to look for international support. The argument against the government's insistence is that, without the end-to-end encryption that the government wants to avoid, the US government could have the same power to spy on its citizens that it is complaining about other countries doing.
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Scott Ertz Binge watching could lead Hulu viewers to an ad-free experience
Binge watching could lead Hulu viewers to an ad-free experience The concept of binge-watching shows has become so common that the streaming networks, like Netflix and Hulu, have changed the way that shows are made and released to lean into the concept. A season of an original show on Netflix tends to have 8-10 episodes and are released at once, with the high profile shows releasing during a time when the next few days will be the most convenient to binge.

Hulu is taking the concept a step farther, giving their binge-watching customers on the base plan a nice new feature. The base plan for Hulu includes ads, the quantity of which has increased fairly dramatically in the past few years, starting with one or two per break, and currently running almost as many as network television. But, if you are binging a show, Hulu will start eliminating ads almost entirely.

The company has defined "binge" as watching at least three episodes in a single session. So, once you have met that qualification, future episodes will be "ad-free." Ish. On broadcast television, when a program is "ad-free" there is always a bumper before the show that says something to the effect of "This episode is presented without ads thanks to *company name*." This will also be the case for Hulu's approach, with a couple of big brands already on-board with the move, including Georgia-Pacific, Kellogg's, and Maker's Mark.

As more streaming services enter the market, consumers are starting to have to decide which they want to subscribe to. The binge feature sets Hulu apart from its ad-supported counterparts. This move comes at a time when the industry is urging Netflix to offer a lower cost plan similar in structure to Hulu's, including running ads. If Netflix were to be considering an ad-supported lower cost plan, Hulu mixing up the formula could put Netflix on their back foot, having to reconsider a service they don't want to offer.
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