Author: Devin Coldewey

Feds look to cash in seized bitcoins at record prices

TECHCRUNCH Federal prosecutors are looking to unload 513 bitoins seized as part of a drug case in Salt Lake City. They originally belonged to one Aaron Shamo, who was arrested earlier this year for allegedly taking part in a massive fentanyl distribution scheme, the online portions of which netted the cryptocurrency in question. Worth about $500,000 when they were seized, their worth has not ballooned to over $8.4 million — and there’s no way the feds are letting that get away. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah has put in the requisite paperwork to sell the bitcoins while they’re...

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Finnish autonomous car goes for a leisurely cruise in the driving snow

TECHCRUNCH It’s one thing for an autonomous car to strut its stuff on smooth, warm California tarmac, and quite another to do so on the frozen winter mix of northern Finland. Martti, a self-driving vehicle system homegrown in Finland, demonstrated just this in a record-setting drive along a treacherous (to normal drivers) Laplandish road. Martti is one of two cars designed by VTT Technical Research Center; it’s designed to handle rough and icy conditions, while it’s “spouse” Marilyn is made for more ordinary urban drives. Different situations call for different sensors and strategies — for instance, plain optical cameras perform poorly on snowy roads, and lidar is less effective, so Martti will rely more on radar. But Marilyn has a rear-mounted lidar for better situational awareness in traffic. Recently Martti accomplished what the researchers claim is a world first: driving fully autonomously on a real snow-covered road (and hitting 25 MPH at that). Others from Yandex to Waymo have tested cars in snow, but from their reports these seem to have been more controlled conditions. Martti’s drive took place in Muonio on a public road almost totally obscured by snow. “It probably also made a new world record in fully automated driving, making 40 km/h in a snowfall on snow-covered terrain without lane markings,” said project manager Matti Kutila in a VTT news release. “It could have had even...

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A timeline of the FCC’s quest to destroy net neutrality

TECHCRUNCH The actual creators of the modern internet tell the FCC it is wrong Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Whitfield Diffie, Martin Hellman, Brewster Kahle, Steve Wozniak, Susan Landau and others, people who literally led the creation of the internet, the web, encryption, hyperlinks, and all that good stuff tell the FCC that it’s both wrong and misguided. “We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet,” they write. “The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to...

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The FCC just repealed net neutrality. What happens next?

TECHCRUNCH The FCC voted this morning to nullify 2015’s Open Internet Order and its strong net neutrality rules, substituting a flimsy replacement with a deeply (and deliberately) incorrect technical justification. The battle is lost. What of the war? Here’s what happens next, and what you can do to help. First, very little As rushed as this vote was, it doesn’t make the rest of the government move any faster. Voting to adopt the order doesn’t magically and instantly eliminate net neutrality. First, the new rules have to be entered into the federal register — and that won’t happen for a little while, perhaps a couple of months. In the meantime, you’re going to get a whole lot of blog posts, opinion pieces in newspapers, speeches, statements, notices of intent and anything else that will keep the topic alive in the public eye. During this time the FCC will point out that despite having voted in new regulations, the internet has not devolved into a corporate free-for-all. Of course it hasn’t, because the rules haven’t taken effect yet. They will point out that companies could start changing policies or making announcements ahead of that event, but for reasons we’ll go into later, that’s extremely unlikely, even if said companies do have evil intent. At any rate, don’t be fooled. Do, however, continue engaging with your elected officials. They are only...

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The FCC officially votes to kill net neutrality

TECHCRUNCH Next Story A new version of Mixer, Microsoft’s Twitch rival, hits iOS and Android Despite overwhelming opposition from Congress, technical experts, advocacy organizations and, of course, the American people, the FCC has voted to eliminate 2015’s Open Internet Order and the net neutrality protections it established. The order passed today, “Restoring Internet Freedom,” essentially removes the FCC as a regulator of the broadband industry and relegates rules that prevented blocking and throttling content to the honor system. The FTC now ostensibly has that role, but it is far from an expert agency on this topic and cannot make preemptive rules like those that have been in place for the last few years. As expected, the vote was 3 to 2 along party lines, with Chairman Ajit Pai and Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Michael O’Rielly voting in favor of the order, and Democratic Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voting against. Clyburn and Rosenworcel made their feelings known at the meeting with some fierce remarks on the order and the procedures leading up to it: “I dissent from this fiercely spun, legally lightweight, consumer-harming, corporate-enabling Destroying Internet Freedom Order,” said Commissioner Clyburn. “There is a basic fallacy underlying the majority’s actions and rhetoric today: the assumption of what is best for broadband providers is best for America. What saddens me is that the agency that is supposed to protect you...

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Comcast reiterates a shifting promise of ‘no paid prioritization’

TECHCRUNCH Comcast has promised before that it does not and will not engage in paid prioritization, and today the company has reiterated that stance — after being called out for having apparently weakened it over the last year. Over the last few years, Comcast’s Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer David Cohen has written several times on the topic of net neutrality. In 2014, when the current rules were pending, he wrote pretty unambiguously: No paid prioritization – We agree, and that is our practice… We don’t prioritize Internet traffic or have paid fast lanes, and have...

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Commission Impossible, part two: How enemies gathered around net neutrality

TECHCRUNCH One would think that the classification of internet providers as telecoms or not, and which federal agency has authority over them, is about as in the weeds as it gets. But it is a symptom of the times in which we live that no issue, however technical, provincial, or jurisdictional, can escape being swept up in the eternal hurricane of partisan politics. The FCC’s masterstroke in 2015, the lead-up to which formed the first article in this series, made a lot of people very angry. It angered the broadband industry, as you might expect, for several reasons. For one thing, decades of legal maneuvering to keep regulations light (or failing that, to switch regulators) were being nullified. This was a worst case scenario: not only were they being classified as telecoms, with all the headaches that brought, but the agency writing the rules was not naive or sympathetic and, in fact, was rather tired of being pushed around. The actual rules being proposed also preemptively banned a number of practices and business models — paid prioritization, zero rating, etc — that might otherwise have proven profitable. It angered the Federal Trade Commission because broadband providers had for a long time largely been considered theirs to regulate. With this responsibility came authority, power, and a sort of obscure glory — all of which now belonged to the FCC. What’s...

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New York City moves to establish algorithm-monitoring task force

TECHCRUNCH New York City may soon gain a task force dedicated to monitoring the fairness of algorithms used by municipal agencies. Formed from experts in automated systems and representatives of groups affected by those systems, it would be responsible for closely examining algorithms in use by the city and making recommendations on how to improve accountability and avoid bias. The bill, which doesn’t have a fancy name, has been approved by the city council and is on the Mayor’s desk for signing. The New York division of the ACLU has argued in favor of it. Say, for instance, an...

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