STLR Link Round-Up – Feb. 02, 2015

Climate Change at the Forefront

Climate change has found purchase with Republican voters, half of whom now support government action to combat the global threat, and nearly as many of whom are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change (though the cause of climate changes remains a divisive issue). This development could be a boon for President Obama as he seeks to pass his budget for the federal government, which includes an increase in the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, an initiative entitled the Clean Power State Incentive Fund, and an increase in federal spending on clean-energy technology, among other budget items aimed at climate change and sustainability. The President and his allies in fighting climate change have found what may seem an unlikely ally in the Risky Business Project, a group of influential bankers, business-people, and former politicians who are lobbying for more regulation aimed at fighting climate change. The organization has chosen to frame the issue in economic terms and is hoping that the addition of businesses in the fight against climate change will push Congress to take action.

The FCC Takes Bold Steps

The Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission is expected to propose that high-speed internet should be reclassified as a telecommunications service rather than an information service, allowing it to be regulated like a utility. This would be a significant development towards the legal protection of net neutrality, and comes on the heels of the FCC redefining the term “broadband,” forcing internet companies to provide internet more than six times faster than the previous legal threshold if they want to market the service as broadband. This change should enhance Internet access for Americans living in rural areas, many of who currently lack internet access sufficient to, for example, stream video.

The Internet of Things Grows

The Federal Trade Commission has noticed the proliferation of internet-connected devices—of which there will be 4.9 billion in use during 2015—, and released a report discussing this so-called “Internet of Things.” The report expresses concern over the possibility of hacks, data leaks, and other privacy risks. The FTC lays out what it considers to be appropriate guidance, and describes its plans to regulate under existing authority, but does not suggest any new laws. Still, the agency is encountering pushback. The potential for new regulation hasn’t scared away companies like Intel, which recently acquired German IoT chipmaker Lantiq for an undisclosed amount (the company was purchased in 2009 for $280 million), or Microsoft, which is bringing the Windows operating system to the Raspberry Pi, a tiny and inexpensive IoT computer. Whether you embrace these technologies or worry about their risks (or both), you can expect even more of our most familiar products to be “smart” going forward.

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