The poorest Americans could get a broadband subsidy, Google’s AI has beaten a human at Go, Destinations by Google plans your vacations, Flickr shafts free users, and watch the Game of Thrones Season 6 trailer.
The FCC Proposes Subsidizing Broadband
64.5 million Americans live on the wrong side of the digital divide. #LifelineReform
— The FCC (@FCC) March 8, 2016
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is proposing to extend the existing Lifeline program to Internet services. Lifeline currently offers low-income families $9.25 a month to spend on a mobile phone service. The proposal would allow households to spend that on a Broadband package instead. Lifeline support for voice-only services would be phased out entirely by 2019.
“Only half of the nation’s households in the lowest income tier subscribe to broadband. And 43 percent of all people who don’t subscribe to broadband at home say that affordability is the reason. Of the low-income consumers who have subscribed to mobile broadband, 44 percent have had to cancel or suspend their service due to financial constraints and for those whose only access to the Internet is their smartphone, 48 percent have had to cancel or shut off service for a period of time due to financial hardship.”
The Lifeline subsidies are taken from the Universal Service Fund, which is funded from surcharges on phone bills. So, nothing would change except for the type of service being paid for. The plan also includes a commitment to cutting back on fraud, with complaints that some people are cheating the system. The proposal is due to be voted on on March 31st.
Google AI Beats Human Champion at Go
Google’s artificial intelligence, dubbed DeepMind AlphaGo, has beaten the world champion of Go, Lee Se-dol, in the first of a series of five games. Having already beaten the European champion, this is a whole new level of challenge for the AI, but it emerged victorious from the first game held in Seoul, South Korea.
Go is an ancient Chinese game with roots dating back several thousand years. The rules are fairly simple, with players moving black and white stones on a grid, but the number of possible moves is unfathomable. Players not only have a choice of around 200 moves at any one time, there are, according to BBC News, “more possible positions in Go than atoms in the universe.
It’s this level of complexity that makes the win by Google’s AI so stunning. Most human Go players have to rely somewhat on instinct, which is a resource AlphaGo obviously can never call on. You can watch the first game in the video embedded above, or one of the forthcoming games set to be played over the next week. The series victor will win prize money of $1 million.
Google Plans Your Next Vacation
Google has rolled out a new feature designed to help you plan your next vacation. Called Destinations on Google, this brings together information about particular locales you may be planning to visit in the future. You trigger the feature by searching for [Location] followed by “destination” or “vacation”.
This brings up a list of possible destinations, and shows you how much you would need to spend to take a vacation there. Once you have decided where to visit, you can explore it in greater depth, with 201 cities featuring detailed itineraries.
One strange quirk of Destinations on Google is it’s designed primarily for mobile, so desktop searches won’t yield the same results.
Flickr Makes Auto-Uploadr a Paid Feature
Seriously @Flickr the only reason I was using you again was uploadr. I'll go back to not using you again now.
— Chris Demwell (@cdemwell) March 8, 2016
Flickr has taken the unusual, and utterly abysmal, decision to make a formerly free feature exclusive to paid accounts. The feature, called Uploadr, automatically uploads your photos, making them accessible from any of your devices. It was launched last year as part of Flickr 4.0, and was available to both Flickr Free and Flickr Pro members.
But no longer. Flickr has ripped Uploadr access away from those with free accounts, making it an exclusive feature for Flickr Pro members. Perhaps Uploadr should have been reserved for Flickr Pro members from the get-go, but once it was made available to free users it should have remains available to free users.
Flickr is using the opportunity to try to persuade free users to upgrade to Flickr Pro, and offering a 30 percent discount on the $49.99-a-year subscription. Which is an option. However, another option is to switch from using Flickr to Google Photos. Which is completely free and includes an automatic uploader as standard.
The Game of Thrones Season 6 Trailer
And finally, we have the new trailer for Season 6 of Game of Thrones. This is the first full trailer, with everything that has come before being nothing but brief teasers. And there’s a lot of interesting stuff included, with all of your favorite characters checking in. Even Jon Snow, despite the fact he’s (probably) dead.
This new season is set to be the most interesting so far, mainly because it will be the first time the TV show has moved beyond the source material. This means even avid readers of the books by George R.R. Martin will be unaware of what’s going to happen, making the need to avoid spoilers more crucial than ever.
Game of Thrones Season 6 premieres on HBO on April 24.
Your Views on Today’s Tech News
Do you agree with the plans to subsidize the cost of Broadband? Does the brilliance of Google’s AI excite or scare you? Will you be using Destinations by Google? How do you feel about Flickr devaluing the free service? Is Jon Snow actually dead in Game of Thrones?!
Let us know your thoughts on the Tech News of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.
Tech News Digest is a daily column paring the technology news of the day down into bite-sized chunks that are easy to read and perfect for sharing.
Image Credit: Lars Plougmann via Flickr