IF YOU’RE SICK of hearing about net neutrality, we’ve got bad news: The issue’s only going to get bigger.
Now that the Federal Communications Commission has jettisoned its rules banning internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against lawful content, the issue is heading for Congress. And if the activists who first brought the issue into the limelight have a say, it will become an issue in the 2018 election campaign.
Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Massachusetts) already announced plans to introduce a joint resolution to reverse the FCC’s decision. Several advocacy groups, including Demand Progress, Free Press, and Fight for the Future are calling on Congress to pass it. It’s a long shot: both houses of Congress and the president would need to sign on. But letting net neutrality die is politically risky for Republicans, some of whom are pushing for scaled-back consumer protections to replace the FCC’s rules.
The idea of net neutrality is popular with voters. A recent Morning Consult poll found that 52 percent of respondents (including 53 percent of Republicans) favor the FCC’s recently abandoned rules, though support has dropped since June. Another poll, conducted by University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation, found 83 percent of respondents, including 75 percent of Republicans wanted to keep the rules after being told arguments for and against them.
Democrats and advocacy groups are already using internet-policy decisions as political weapons against Republicans. After Congress voted in March, along party lines, to overturn Obama-era internet privacy laws, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ran Google search ads criticizing Senators Jeff Flake (R-Arizona) and Dean Heller (R-Nevada) over the vote, according to Politico. The group Fight for the Future ran billboard ads in the home states of several Republican lawmakers who voted to overturn the privacy rules. The billboards cited the amount of money each officeholder received from the telecommunications industry, and accused them of selling out their constituents’ privacy. In August, the group ran similar billboards in several states targeting Republicans who opposed the FCC’s net neutrality rules.
The targets included Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), who is now running for the Senate. This week Blackburn said she will introduce a bill that would ban internet service providers from blocking or throttling content but also bar states from passing their own net neutrality laws and limit the FCC’s authority to make future rules. The bill wouldn’t explicitly ban providers from creating so-called “fast lanes” for certain content, the issue that launched net neutrality into public consciousness in 2014. Blackburn, who sponsored the resolution overturning the FCC’s privacy bills in the House, previously announced an internet privacy bill that has yet to move forward.
Advocacy groups remain unimpressed. “Marsha Blackburn is not fooling anyone,” Fight for the Future campaign director Evan Greer said in a statement.
Blackburn’s office didn’t respond to our request for comment, but her moves show that Republicans are thinking about net neutrality. “I think it could become, not a top-three issue, but a salient issue in 2018,” says Sara Solow, who served as a domestic policy adviser to Hillary Clinton during her 2016 campaign.
“Democrats are riled up about it, the base understands the issue, and while the general public may not understand all the particulars, the general public gets that they should have uninhibited access to the internet,” Solow says.
Another possible political point: Former Obama adviser Karen Kornbluh says the FCC’s decision to move ahead with repealing the net neutrality rules despite an apparent flood of fake comments will bolster Democrats’ claims that the decision was made to appease special interests.
Mark Jamison of conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute says that though net neutrality is getting more mainstream attention, it’s still a bit of a niche issue. But he does think it will be at least a minor 2018 campaign issue. “It makes for a wonderful ‘good versus evil story,’ ” he says. Jamison says Democrats can paint Republicans and broadband providers as the bad guys while Republicans must explain their opposition to the FCC’s rules in terms of infrastructure investment and the long-term of effects of regulation on innovation.
The big question is not whether it will come up, but how much spotlight the issue will receive. Michael Mandel of the Progressive Policy Institute think tank doubts net neutrality will get much airtime compared with taxes, sexual misconduct, and healthcare, unless one or more big internet providers changes its offerings in response to the change in the rules. As WIRED has explained before, that’s unlikely to happen next year, since broadband companies will likely want to avoid providing lawmakers with justification for writing new net neutrality laws.
But it’s clear something has already changed. Actor Mark Hamill took the time to tweet about net neutrality during the opening weekend of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, sparking a small Twitter war with Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Donald Trump Jr. You’ll be hearing more about next year.
As we close out 2017, it’s worth looking back on the stories that shaped the past year. For our readers, these 25 most-read stories were the ones that caught your attention more than any others. Some of these are in-depth features while others are breaking news stories, but all of them had one overriding thing in common: They were what fascinated you most in 2017.
In the world of innovation, there were a handful of topics that pop up repeatedly in our most-read list. It’s safe to say that a lot of you would like a Tesla solar roof and an iPhone 8. Net neutrality began and ended 2017 at the top of everyone’s mind as the slow-motion disaster that was the FCC’s plan to end the free internet unfolded. Throw in A.I., strange-looking buses, eclipse viewing, and all things Elon Musk, and you’ve got a good snapshot of just what the year was in innovation.
Here are the 25 most-read stories Inverse’s innovation section got to share with you in 2017.
25. Artificial Intelligence Can Create Faces Never Before Seen
By Graham Templeton, June 8
When you’re an A.I. researcher at Google, even your days off are filled with neural nets. Mike Tyka is a Google scientist who recently helped create the company’s DeepDream venture, but this week he posted details of a personal project that could someday make DeepDream seem primitive. That famous program works by basically blending together elements of other pictures, and then modifying that collage, but Tyka’s new approach takes the much more difficult and potentially rewarding path: teaching an A.I. to create all-new portraits from scratch… [Read More]
24. iPhone X: Here’s What Comes Inside the Box
By Mike Brown, October 27
The iPhone X is almost here. On Friday, preorders for the $999 smartphone went live on Apple’s website, with eager fans snapping up slots in a matter of minutes. There are still some ways left to get your hands on the device, but with the initial rush over, there’s a bit more time to assess what comes in the box and what you might need to buy on top of that… [Read More]
23. Everything We Know About the Power Outages in SF, NYC, and L.A.
By Cory Scarola, April 21
On Friday morning a trio of concurrent power outages hobbled New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, three of America’s fastest moving cities. Here’s everything we know so far about what happened… [Read More]
22. Tim Cook Just Confirmed the Apple Car Project Is Real
By Mike Brown, June 13
Apple’s car project is official. During a press interview last week, CEO Tim Cook made the shocking announcement, confirming a long-standing rumor that the tech giant has its sights on developing technology to conquer the roads… [Read More]
21. On Net Neutrality, Here’s What AT&T, Verizon, Charter, and Comcast Say
By Paige Leskin, November 25
Net neutrality nears a step closer to its death each day as the Federal Communications Commission’s December 14 vote nears without any barriers in sight. The repeal of these Obama-era internet protections would signal the end of a free and open internet, and the imminent rise of major internet providers that can control access and speed as they see fit, unless Congress steps in. One of the major issues lies in the monopoly that the top internet service providers have on access… [Read More]
20. Colanders and Welding Masks? DIY Ways to View the Total Solar Eclipse
By Grace Lisa Scott, August 18
Looking directly at the sun is incredibly unsafe, and the total solar eclipse on Monday will not be an exception to the rule. Just because the moon will cover the sun’s rays for a short period — and even then, this will only fully occur within the geographical stretch known as the path of totality — it’s no excuse to renege on the eyewear. Emphasis on the word eyewear… [Read More]
19. Elon Musk Slices the Idea of Flying Cars with a “Guillotine” Insult
By Nick Lucchesi, April 28
The first-ever flying car conference got underway earlier this week in Dallas, a two-day affair put on by Uber called the “Uber Elevate Summit,” which was chock-full of panels and a big prediction: By 2020 Uber will be testing out its commuter aircraft. On Friday, Elon Musk seized another opportunity to shoot down the idea before it lifts off… [Read More]
The United States Air Force has dropped the “mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan on Thursday around 7:32 p.m. local time. It was the first time this 21,600-pound bomb — technically known as a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, or MOAB — has been used. While incredibly destructive, the MOAB, hailed as America’s most powerful non-nuclear weapon, doesn’t hold a candle to the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki… [Read More]
17. This Incredible Cel-Shaded Tesla is Straight Out of ‘Borderlands’
By Peter Hess, March 10
Burnie Burns, the founder of Rooster Teeth, wanted to set his Tesla Model S P90D apart from the crowd. And while big-ass chrome rims or a sick spoiler might look cool, they could adversely affect a car’s performance — but turning the entire thing into a cel-shaded two-dimensional video game model wouldn’t slow it down at all. The team at Graphics Guys, a design shop in Austin, Texas, used a combination of matte and gloss vinyl, as well as separately printed accent line decals to create the illusion of a car that lies flat on the page… [Read More]
16. China’s Weird Straddle Bus Has Officially Failed
By Eleanor Cummins, June 28
China’s straddle bus was hailed as the futuristic fix for the world’s largest nation and its correspondingly enormous traffic woes. The elevated electric bus, which was only tested for eight months before developers gave up, could move over the traffic, earning it the moniker of “car-eating bus.” But the vehicle, which has been the subject of skepticism since day one in July 2016, was sent to its retirement home June 21. Its paltry 1,000-foot long track will be removed by the end of the month, according to state media China News… [Read More]
15. Mysterious Tesla Model 3 Photos Spark Advanced Charging Rumors
By Mike Brown, May 3
A Tesla Model 3 has been photographed at a charging station under covers, sparking rumors that the company is planning a more advanced charging system. Set to enter production this July, the $35,000 vehicle has been spotted without any disguises on a number of roads over the past month, making this sighting all the more mysterious. Fans are speculating that the car has been covered to stop people from looking at the computer’s user interface during charging… *[Read More]
14. Elon Musk Named ‘Moon Base Alpha’ After Grooviest Sci-Fi Show Ever
By Alasdair Wilkins, September 29
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has announced that his space exploration plans now include not just Mars but also the moon. Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia, Musk revealed the company’s planned next-generation rocket will make it possible to build a moon base — and the name he picked is just his latest homage to beloved science fiction, in this case, the British cult classic Space: 1999… [Read More]
13. Without Net Neutrality, Is It Time To Build Your Own Internet?
By Eileen Guo, December 22
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission went ahead with its deeply unpopular plan to end net neutrality protections, giving internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast unprecedented control of our experience online. But what if you and your community could become your own internet service provider? Instead of depending on monopolistic corporations, internet users can take back the net by building their own community-supported internet networks. Mesh networks can help…. [Read More]*
12. SpaceX Must Pay $4 Million for Thousands of Underpaid Employees
By Neel V. Patel, May 11
Elon Musk is infamous for claiming to work up to 100 hours a week — and certainly, with everything he’s up to, it’s not totally unrealistic to believe that might be true. But it’s certainly unreasonable to expect employees to operate the same way — and it looks like Musk is paying for it now. On Wednesday, SpaceX finally closed up a settlement for a class action lawsuit in which thousands of employees alleged the Hawthorne, California-based company did not properly compensate them… [Read More]
11. Here’s How Much One of Tesla’s Amazing Solar Roofs Actually Costs
By Jack Crosbie, August 5
The Tesla Solar Roof is here, and if company CEO Elon Musk has his way, there will be one on most houses within 15 years. But despite its energy efficiency and dazzling looks, clean power doesn’t come cheap — and Tesla’s listed price is a little hazy on some of the details. So how much will it actually cost? Tesla offers one figure for the cost of its proprietary solar roof: $21.85 per square foot, on average. Musk has said the tiles will cost “less than a normal roof.” The problem is Tesla’s messaging and advertising for the roof all factor into 30 years of energy savings from going solar. That makes sense, given three decades is the typical lifetime for a roof, but those aren’t savings a buyer will see on day one, or even day 1,000. And the initial cost is steep… [Read More]
10. Tesla Model 3 Spotted in New Photos, and It Looks Incredible
By Mike Brown, January 12
The hotly-anticipated Tesla Model 3 made an appearance in prototype form last week, as investors gathered at a Gigafactory event where the company confirmed it has started mass production of battery cells. The photos confirm what everyone was hoping: despite being a budget-range car, the Model 3 is going to be stunning when it hits the roads… *[Read More]
9. Here’s Elon Musk’s Plan to Power the U.S. on Solar Energy
By Nick Lucchesi, July 16
Tesla CEO Elon Musk — whose company makes electric cars and has a new solar roof panel division — told more than 30 state governors at the National Governors Association meeting in July exactly how much land is needed to power the entire country on solar energy… *[Read More]
8. Tesla Thieves Just Did Something Almost Unheard of to a Model S
By Jack Crosbie, June 1
On Wednesday, German Police officers stopped a suspicious truck on its way to the Lithuanian border to see what was inside. When they opened the back doors, they found a sight of unspeakable, and relatively unprecedented horror — a hacked apart pile of Tesla Model S parts, including an entire battery pack, on their way to the black market… [Read More]
7. Netflix Leaving Battle for Net Neutrality Shows Why We Need It
By Monica Hunter-Hart, May 31
At Recode’s Code Conference on Wednesday, Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings seemed to put the final nail in the coffin of his company’s support for net neutrality, which is threatened by the Republican-dominated Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) deregulation proposal. Netflix’s withdrawal from the fight for a free internet — of which it used to be a stalwart participant — is disappointing but not surprising, and it’s a reminder of why we need net neutrality: to protect the powerless, not the powerful… [Read More]
6. This iPhone 8 Rendering Makes the iPhone 7 Plus Look Ancient
By Mike Brown, May 31
Apple’s iPhone 8 is set to revolutionize the company’s smartphone line, 10 years after its introduction. A new rendering shows how current rumors of a device with a larger screen, advanced facial recognition features and a hidden fingerprint scanner are building up to an incredible device that looks set to revitalize Apple’s most important product line. On Tuesday, prolific Apple leaker Benjamin Geskin shared some new renderings with iDropNews of how the iPhone 8 will look when compared to the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The result is a device that makes Apple’s current lineup look decidedly ancient, one that ditches the ugly bezels of its predecessors in favor of a sleek, modern design reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S8… [Read More]
And, on a not exactly unrelated note…
5. The iPhone 8’s Display Makes the iPhone 7 Look Like an Antique
By Mike Brown, August 22
Apple’s iPhone 8 is shaping up to be an impressive device. A new report published Tuesday claims the company’s upcoming device, expected to launch this fall, will introduce a front-facing “SmartCamera,” a 3D facial recognition system, and an infrared sensor to enable the face scanner to work in the dark. Previous rumors have revealed that Apple wants to pack a 5.8-inch OLED display into a phone the same size as the 4.7-inch iPhone 7, and leaked images of the two side-by-side show just how all this tech makes a stark difference… [Read More]
4. The iPhone 8 Will Be Thicker, But It’s for a Very Good Reason
By Mike Brown, June 8
Apple’s next iPhone could signal the start of a new trend. Measurements for the iPhone 8, leaked Wednesday, show a thicker device than its predecessor. It would be a dramatic move from a company famed for its obsession with thinness, but it could lead to more battery capacity… [Read More]
3. World Subway Map Shows What a Hyperloop-Powered Future May Look Like
By Mike Brown, January 16
The vacuum-sealed hyperloop train system came one step closer to reality last week, when a company working on bringing the transit system to life announced the next step in a global competition. Los Angeles-based Hyperloop One has selected 35 teams as finalists in its global challenge, who will now present regional proposals at three different showcases starting next month… [Read More]
2. Elon Musk’s First Tesla Solar Roof Is Here, and It Looks Amazing
By Mike Brown, August 3
Elon Musk’s house runs on solar. The Tesla CEO made the announcement during Wednesday’s second quarter 2017 earnings call, where he revealed that both himself and Jeffrey B. Straubel, the company’s chief technology officer, have installed solar roof tiles on their houses… [Read More]
1. The Tesla Solar Roof Finally Has a Price
By Dyani Sabin, May 10
On Wednesday, Tesla opened up orders for its long-anticipated solar roof. On average, the Tesla solar roof price $21.85 per square foot, which is less than the cost of a normal roof, even without the energy savings