Is the End of Unlimited Broadband Coming Soon?

Two ISPs have already begun a slow, clever plan to eventually make big money from overage charges.

Until you might actually need it, your Internet service provider (ISP) happily gave you all the data you could consume.

Until the rise of streaming video, the only people eating up tons of data were high-end gamers and maybe people stealing movies. It simply wasn’t possible to be a data hog for the average person watching cat videos, checking sports scores, and/or visiting social media websites.

Because of that — much like wireless providers were more receptive to unlimited plans when the mobile web was a barren wasteland of repurposed sites and little else — broadband providers never bothered to cap their plans. Consumers got “unlimited” service only because the vast majority of us barely moved the needle. It wasn’t generosity.

Before streaming video came along, ISPs offered consumers the equivalent of an all-you-can-eat buffet featuring nothing but egg salad and clams of a questionable age. Now however streaming video has added prime rib, crab legs, and lobster tails to the mix and the all-you-can-eat offers are going away or getting more expensive

It’s already started with Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and AT&T (NYSE:T) enforcing data caps with customers and it’s going to get worse.

Wifirouter

UNLIMITED BROADBAND DATA MAY ULTIMATELY BECOME A THING OF THE PAST. IMAGE SOURCE: AUTHOR.

How are Comcast and AT&T using data caps?

In both cases, the two ISPs have not set data caps in order to make more money today. Instead, they have cleverly laid the groundwork to collect them down the road. The two broadband providers have set relatively high caps  — 1 TB across the board for Comcast and the same for many AT&T users — and they are not quick to add charges, giving consumers multiple months over the cap before charging them.

At 1TB, or even at half that number, few people are likely to go over the cap today. Going forward however, as streaming video grows, gets joined by virtual reality, and Internet of Things devices all eating data, then what seems like a huge number today may not be so big going forward.

As data needs grow, consumers will use more, and going over may become the norm. When that happens, Comcast and AT&T won’t be adding new charges, they will simply be collecting ones that had been in place for years.

Why will unlimited broadband go away?

It all boils down to two things. The first is that all the major ISPs also operate as cable providers and if a customer cuts the cord they lose revenue. Adding data caps makes it possible to recoup lost pay-television revenue and even dissuade people from leaving cable. If it’s cheaper to stay and pay overage fees due to increased streaming, then why cut the cord at all?

The second reason, however, may be the more important one. Comcast, AT&T, and any other ISPs see how much overages have made the wireless carriers. First it was through people exceeding their allotted calling minutes and now it has moved to money made from people either exceeding their data cap or buying bigger data plans than they actually need in hopes of avoiding overage charges.

T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS) CEO John Legere, a crusader against overage charges, peggedthe total current annual total at $2.5 billion, but noted at a November 2015 Uncarrier X eventthat the number might be closer to $45 billion a year when you factor in over-buying.

Not every ISP will be on board

In the same way that T-Mobile has made not charging overage charges part of its business model (it instead slows data speeds when consumers reach their limit), there will be ISPs that continue to offer unlimited broadband. Charter Communications, the second biggest provider behind Comcast, can’t implement a cap for seven years under the deal it made to win Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval of its deal to buy Time Warner Cable.

But while it might not happen quickly and it won’t be universal, data caps and overage charges are coming because ISPs see how much money the wireless carriers make from a confused public. People accept the idea that if they consume more data they should pay for it and people have shown with their phones that they are either unwilling or unable to keep track.

Comcast and AT&T are building up the expectation that using more data means paying more money. That will lead to people paying for unlimited plans when they don’t need them or running up overage charges when they do. The profit potential for ISPs is simply too high to let unlimited broadband live and it’s slow death has already begun.

Daniel B. Kline (TMFDankline

https://www.citizengoods.com/sales/tv-show-movie-posters-throne-poster?aid=a-t05y2r3p

First contact: how we’ll get the news that we found aliens

Image result for alien contact

Cathal O’Connell explains the challenges that will face scientists when they break the biggest news story in history.

However unlikely contact with aliens may be, scientists are thinking about how they would break the news to a nervous planet.CREDIT: AARON FOSTER/GETTY IMAGES

Detecting a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence would be life changing for everyone on Earth – the biggest news story in history – and could potentially be dangerous, especially if badly handled.

Writing in the journal Acta Astronautica, scientists at the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) institute describe a protocol for how to break it to the world that we’re not alone in the Universe – without causing global mayhem.

Rather than a conspiracy of government cover-ups so beloved of sci-fi writes, the study strongly recommends openness as the key to having a “sane global conversation” about the discovery of ET.

Nobody knows how the world would react to the discovery of extraterrestrial intelligence. All we have to go on are the bizarre occurrences where the public thought they were hearing such news.

In 1938 Orson Welles’ radio-play based on HG Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds caused widespread panic in the United States (although the scale of that panic was likely exaggerated). In 1949, a Spanish language version of the same program incited rioting in Ecuador, leading to at least seven deaths, and possibly as many as 20.

Then there’s the risk of the media misreporting or exaggerating the importance of a tentative signal. In October 2015, for example, when a newly discovered extrasolar planet, KIC 8462852, was discovered to show a periodic dip in brightness, the mainstream media latched on to the most speculative, and least likely, explanation – namely that an “alien megastructure” was passing in front of its star. (The periodic dimming is more likely caused by a cloud of comets passing by.)

As a result of these excesses, scientists have been worried about how to break SETI news for decades.

In 1989, the International Academy of Astronautics drew up a set of guidelines for releasing information about a potential alien signal. But that was before the internet and social media transformed the way we consume news stories.

Now, Duncan Forgan and Alexander Scholz, from the University of St Andrew’s in Scotland, have prepared an updated protocol for how scientists should navigate the “unprecedented media onslaught”.

First, Forgan and Scholz advise, all scientists performing a SETI experiment should clearly outline their search methodology as well as define what makes a “discovery”, before the search even begins. This information should be published in a format the media can easily access, such as a blog post.

Then if a signal is detected, the discoverers should not to try to keep it under wraps – the potential fall-out from a leak would be too damaging. Much better to announce a tentative detection, but be clear that it must be assumed to be of natural or manmade origin until proved otherwise.

The scientists should submit their findings to a peer-reviewed journal, while simultaneously uploading all data so it can be pored over by other scientists – and potential known sources ruled out.

The problem is these verifications can take a long time. The best case-study is the so-called “Wow” signal, detected in 1977. That signal was exactly what SETI scientists had been looking for – being at the right frequency to hold an interstellar conversation, and being of unprecedented strength – and is still unexplained almost 39 years later. (Although in early 2016, a study published by the Washington Academy of Sciences suggested that comets could emit such a signal, and identified two comets that were in the right place at the right time in 1977. Future measurements of radio emission by comets should hopefully clear this up.)

In the case where the detection cannot be confirmed, say Forgan and Scholz, the SETI scientists should publish an announcement saying so.

In the case of the detection is confirmed, however, the SETI scientists should become deeply involved in the global conversation by engaging across as many social media platforms as possible – a role they would likely assume for the rest of their lives. They should also be prepared for the downsides of newfound fame – such as cyber attacks.

The latest polls (conducted in Germany, the UK and US last September) show that most people in developed countries believe intelligent aliens exist somewhere in the Universe. But that doesn’t mean we’re ready for a “first contact” event.

However unlikely such a discovery is, a signal from an alien intelligence would be the most momentous discovery the human species is ever likely to make. It’s worth a little thinking ahead.

Here’s The Real Difference Between Sativa & Indica Pot Strains

This article was originally published on May 27, 2015.

Now that pot legislation is making its way across the country, it’s time for a refresher on the difference between the main types of marijuana strains: indica and sativa. It’s a lesson some of us have had to learn over and over again. But, this infographic from the recently-released Green: A Field Guide To Marijuana will help us get it right.

At a basic level, we may be aware that sativa strains produce a sort of “up” high that gives users a feeling of euphoria, increased creativity, and energy. Meanwhile, indica strains usually leave us relaxed and “in-da-couch.”

But, as the infographic shows, the differences start with the shape of the plants: Sativas tend to have longer, thinner leaves and are lighter in color. Indica strains, meanwhile, often have shorter, fatter leaves and dark, dense buds.

And then, of course, there’s a whole host of hybrid strains that may produce a high that’s between the two ends of that spectrum. But, when they’re up-close — like in Erik Christiansen’s photos in the book — the differences are easy to spot. Check out the full infographic, below.

IMAGE: COURTESY OF GREEN: A FIELD GUIDE TO MARIJUANA BY DAN MICHAELS, PHOTOS BY ERIK CHRISTIANSEN, PUBLISHED BY CHRONICLE BOOKS.
Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity and would like to remind its readers that marijuana usage continues to be an offense under federal law, regardless of state marijuana laws. To learn more, click here.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF ERIK CHRISTIANSEN.

Cassini spacecraft probes methane-filled sea on Titan

Emilee Speck

Oceanographers may need to study alien worlds sooner than you think.

Observations by NASA‘s Cassini spacecraft indicate Saturn’s moon Titan is more Earth-like with its dense atmosphere, lake-filled surface and possible wetlands.

Other than our home planet Titan is the only known world in the solar system with stable liquid on its surface, according to NASA.

Since 2004, Cassini has found more than 620,000 square miles of Titan’s surface covered in liquid, about two percent of its globe. Planetary scientists have theorized about what elements fill Titan’s liquid bodies, but thanks to Cassini they now have answers

A new study using Cassini’s radar instrument to study Titan’s second largest sea, known as Ligeia Mare, between 2007 and 2015 reveals it’s a filled with methane.

The study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets confirms what planetary scientists have thought about Titan’s seas for some time.

Using Cassini’s radar instrument to detect echoes from the seafloor of Ligeia Mare scientists used the depth-sounding information to observe temperatures, which helped give clues to their composition, according to the news release.

“Before Cassini, we expected to find that Ligeia Mare would be mostly made up of ethane, which is produced in abundance in the atmosphere when sunlight breaks methane molecules apart. Instead, this sea is predominantly made of pure methane,” said Alice Le Gall, a Cassini radar team member and lead author of the new study.

Ligeia Mare is the about the size of Lake Huron and Lake Michigan together, according to NASA and from Cassini’s flybys scientists were able to determine the sea is 525 feet deep in some areas.

All of Titan’s seas are named for mythical sea creatures. The largest sea, Kraken Mare is about 680 miles long.

Another similarity between our home planet and Titan is they both have nitrogen atmospheres, but Titan is lacking much oxygen. Titan’s atmosphere is mostly methane with trace amounts of ethane and because of the distance from the sun, meaning cold temperatures, the methane and ethane remain in liquid form instead of escaping, according to NASA.

Le Gall offered a few possibilities of how Ligeria Mare became mostly methane filled, instead of ethane as Cassini’s team originally thought.

“Either Ligeia Mare is replenished by fresh methane rainfall, or something is removing ethane from it,” said Le Gall. “It is possible that the ethane ends up in the undersea crust, or that it somehow flows into the adjacent sea, Kraken Mare, but that will require further investigation.”

The study also found Ligeia Mare’s shoreline may warm quicker than in the sea, similar to a beach on Earth.

“It’s a marvelous feat of exploration that we’re doing extraterrestrial oceanography on an alien moon,” said Steve Wall, deputy lead of the Cassini radar team. “Titan just won’t stop surprising us.”

 

 

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