Is EU competition working? One company shows a 250 percent increase. Hashtag Trending for Friday April 12, 2024

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US Internet providers must now display clear pricing and product information. HP Ink controversy continues to stain the company’s reputation with consumers. Is the EU’s competition legislation working? Early numbers seem to show it might be. And there’s a 10 million dollar bet that Elon Musk is wrong about AI.

All this and more on the “all bets are off” edition of Hashtag Trending. I’m your host, Jim Love. Let’s get into it.

New regulations from the Federal Communications Commission have taken effect yesterday, mandating that all broadband internet service providers clearly display labels detailing the prices, speeds, data caps and other key information about their service plans.

The rules are aimed at helping consumers make more informed choices by requiring ISPs to disclose this data in a simple, standardized format akin to nutrition labels on food products.

In addition to fees charged, the labels must also now list any monthly data caps or overage fees, upfront costs like equipment rental fees, a provider’s customer service contact information, and any other plan limitations like throttling policies.

Despite this progress, consumer advocacy group Next Century Cities   continued to push for even more information, saying that these broadband “nutrition labels” often overstate the real-world speeds customers can expect or obscures caps and fees.

Speaking to the FCC last month, one group urged that in addition to maximum speeds, the labels should show the average speeds users actually experience, as estimates of “typical” speeds are frequently overly optimistic.

While comprehensive, some experts warn the amount of required disclosures could overburden smaller ISPs with limited resources compared to industry giants. For now, only providers with more than 100,000 subscribers must comply and smaller providers have been given an additional year to comply.

 

The FCC is still gathering feedback on whether to mandate the display of promotional pricing periods and expiration dates, as well as taxes and fees beyond the base rate.

Next Century Cities is further advocating for a streamlined complaint process to report issues like digital discrimination in broadband deployment to the commission.

With the labeling rules now in place, the hope is that customers will be better equipped to comparison shop for broadband and avoid being misled about the true costs and capabilities of different internet packages.

Sources include: ArsTechica, Engadget, and BroadbandBreakfast

Of all of the emails I get about stories, the HP printer issue is near the top of the list. People write me, with their frustrations. And it turns out, they take these to the courts as well.

Printer owners are pushing back against HP Inc. in an ongoing class action lawsuit over firmware updates that allegedly disabled their devices from using third-party ink cartridges.

In a filing this week in an Illinois court, the plaintiffs accused HP of using software changes to monopolize the replacement ink market and “take advantage of customers’ sunk costs” in HP printers.

The consumers claim that despite never agreeing to only use HP-branded ink, recent firmware updates prevented their printers from accepting more affordable third-party cartridges.

They allege HP violated several anti-competitive statutes through this “tying scheme” accomplished via unauthorized software changes solely aimed at blocking rival ink suppliers.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages covering the cost of now-useless non-HP cartridges, as well as an injunction forcing HP to undo the firmware lockout.

For its part, HP insists it went to “great lengths” to inform buyers that its printers are designed to exclusively use HP cartridges containing security chips.

The company says the updates represent legitimate “dynamic security” measures to combat counterfeit ink, and that it does not conceal or block remanufactured cartridges reusing official HP chips.

HP also argues the plaintiffs cannot claim overcharge damages from the manufacturer under federal antitrust laws when they purchased through intermediaries.

As printer makers increasingly push subscription models, the controversy highlights long-standing tensions over the high costs of proprietary ink replacements versus third-party alternatives.

The bitter legal battle seems primed to further antagonize HP’s customer base over what critics condemn as anti-competitive practices designed to sustain lucrative ink sales.

Sources include: The Register

We’ve done a number of stories on legisltation and regulation from the EU that is aimed at increasing customer choice and promoting real competition. Is it working? In one case it seems to have had an impact.

It turns out that some alternative web browsers are reporting an uplift in user interest and downloads in the European Union following the recent enforcement of a new digital regulation called the Digital Markets Act or DMA.

The landmark rules, which took effect last month, require dominant tech gatekeepers like Apple and Google to present mobile users with choice screens displaying alternative browsers and other core apps.

The goal is to shake up competition against pre-installed defaults and make users more aware of their options beyond Safari on iOS or Chrome on Android.

While it’s still very early days, several smaller browser makers have already shared positive metrics pointing to increased attention from EU users.

Norway’s Opera says new user growth was up 63% from February to late March, while fellow Norwegian browser Vivaldi reports a 36.7% jump in EU downloads, rising to nearly 70% in the eight countries where it appears on Apple’s choice screen.

The privacy-focused Brave browser also cited a doubling of daily iOS installs in the EU compared to pre-choice screen levels.

And little-known Cyprus-based rival Aloha claimed to have seen 250% growth in new users as it jumped from the 4th to 2nd biggest EU market.

However, not all alternative browsers are seeing clear gains yet. Veteran players like Mozilla’s Firefox, DuckDuckGo and Ecosia say it’s too early to accurately assess the DMA’s impact as choice screen rollouts are still ongoing, although some claim that these browsers are purposely holding back from reporting success because they want to keep the pressure on to make the choices even more clear and easier to adopt.

For example, the are complaints that Apple’s iOS implementation in particular has significant design flaws hampering users’ ability to make meaningful choices about switching browsers.

The European Commission has open investigations into suspected cases of improper compliance by the tech giants, including Apple’s choice screen methodology.

With this continued pressure from the largest alternative browsers, and given the EUs track record, it is likely they will be monitoring closely to ensure dominant gatekeepers are genuinely opening their platforms to greater competition and consumer choice as intended.

Sources include: TechCrunch

Some tech industry CEOs are putting their money where their skepticism is when it comes to Elon Musk’s ambitious predictions about artificial intelligence surpassing human intelligence in the next few years.

During a recent interview, the billionaire claimed AI will likely exceed the cognitive capabilities of any single human by the end of 2024, with AI as a whole outstripping the combined intelligence of all humans within just five years.

But those bold forecasts are being met with raised eyebrows and big bets from some AI experts who view Musk’s timeline as wildly unrealistic.

Gary Marcus, CEO of machine learning startup Geometric Intelligence, publicly offered up $1 million to anyone, including Musk, who can prove him wrong.

That prompted Damion Hankejh, CEO of ingk.com, to raise the stakes even further, saying he’d cover a $10 million wager against Musk’s AI predictions coming true.

Marcus said Musk has not responded to the million-dollar challenges yet, but added the Tesla CEO has previously ignored Marcus’ smaller $100,000 bet that artificial general intelligence was not actually imminent, as Musk claimed.

For Marcus, the bets are about more than just money. He wants to spark a public discussion with Musk about what artificial intelligence can realistically achieve in the near-term versus the almost utopian promises that have become common from tech leaders.

Marcus argues many in the industry have a track record of making scientifically implausible claims and missing self-imposed deadlines, pointing to the ongoing challenges with self-driving cars as one example.

While large language models have made rapid advances, Marcus contends the notion they could exceed human-level general intelligence within just a couple of years is fanciful, estimating that milestone may still be decades away.

As CEOs literally gamble over contrasting AI outlooks, the high-stakes bets underscore an intensifying debate over whether too much hype is obscuring the real state and timeline of artificial intelligence development.

I don’t know. Just this once and only once. I’m putting my money on Elon being right.

As always, love to hear what you might think.

And that’s our show for today…

Thanks for those who’ve written in with comments including the person who wrote me about their trials and tribulations HP printers and ink purchases.

Keep it coming.  And don’t forget, you can find us on YouTube now. If you check us out there, please give us a like or even a subscribe as we try to build and audience there as well.

I’m your host Jim Love, have a Fantastic Friday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The post Is EU competition working? One company shows a 250 percent increase. Hashtag Trending for Friday April 12, 2024 first appeared on IT World Canada.

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