Whaa? Now there's a second bright light on dwarf planet Ceres - CNET

Whaa? Now there's a second bright light on dwarf planet Ceres

The latest images from NASA's Dawn spacecraft reveal a second mysterious bright spot on the surface of Ceres. Perhaps it's a giant Ceresian welcome sign?

Night lights on a dwarf planet? NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA

Could dwarf planet Ceres be watching us watching it? As NASA's Dawn spacecraft approaches the largest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, it seems to be lighting up. Not long after images of Ceres revealed a strange reflective spot, another dimmer one came into view in the latest NASA images, giving the appearance of a spooky pair of eyes peering back at Dawn.

So what's going on here? Metallic mineral deposits? The local ice skating rink on an improbably shiny frozen lake in the bottom of a huge crater? A giant Ceresian mirror or solar farm?

The answer is...we have no idea.

"Ceres' bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin. This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations," said UCLA's Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, in a statement Wednesday.

As Dawn gets closer, the images sent back of Ceres become more clear and, frankly, more weird. The above image with the two bright spots was taken from about 29,000 miles from the surface of the dwarf planet. Dawn will continue its approach until March 6, when it will enter orbit around Ceres to get better views for a period of 16 months.

In the coming months, those strange bright spots should come more into focus, as should the underlying nature of Ceres, which many believe may be hiding more freshwater than we have here on Earth.

Stay tuned, space geeks...


Discuss Whaa? Now there's a second bright light on dwarf planet Ceres

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Better resolution of the spots should be revealed to NASA in days (not months), as the probe is supposed to begin its orbit of Ceres on Mar. 6, only five days from now.  I'd like to see an update here by then.

Reflection? Really? Look at where the sunlight is hitting the planet. Whatever is reflecting the light would have to be sitting at a near 45 degree angle at the bottom of that crater to shine the light so brightly back at the probe the way it is. Plus, if u look closely, the shadow from the rim of the crater is still covering 3/4 of the crater and the first "relection" entirely.

It is just wonderful that we can reach out to such distant places and not much more the 100 years ago we were almost blind when it came to anything off earth.  I will add a bit of levity here.  ( I hope its not Doctor Evil pointing a laser canon at us operated by Mini Me )

I will bet it is an electrical discharge machining the center of the crater. That is why it now has a companion, the charge is spreading. Should be interesting to see this happening at an orbital angle. The effect might be ground level spark erosion or perhaps it is elevated to a degree. Good chance it will swamp the orbital camera's pixels because of it's brightness. It is electrical. We might also see dust and debris lifted off the surface - that would be interesting too. If this turns out to be the case - then remember this post and go to ThunderboltsProject channel on YouTube. We live in an electrified universe - it may be time to acknowledge it.

Water has been proven prevalent in the outer reaches of our solar system. There will probably be 10,000 different theories and opinions about this phenom\enon

what alien in their right mind would be there.It looks like the moon

@wildwolf93402 @wildwolf93402  Ceres and Vesta are high in water ice and metallic minerals. Vesta has what looks like vast mining tracks leading to a structure that has many rectangular structures circling it. These photos can be seen on the NASA website along with the explanation "there is no know geological process that could have created these structures, and their origin is unknown."

Everybody is saying 'reflection' but, I'm a professional special effects artist and that explanation is completely insufficient and I just don't buy it. In my estimation this is either a camera anomaly (which I really hope it's not) or this is something brand new we have never seen before and will be the scientific discovery of the year. (at least)

For the few of you who keep suggesting it's a volcano... forget it, that's no volcano either. Volcanoes are not that bright and they produce smoke and steam an other ejected matter that would be plainly obvious. No sir, this is really something else.

Don't let your imaginations run amok,it's just light reflecting off ice

@wildwolf93402 Not saying it isn't but by their own words they don't know what it is. And YOU DO ? And we're supposed to believe that's the only piece(s) of ice in the whole place? Does any place else reflect ice like that? I haven't seen it. All I'm saying is if they don't know they shouldn't speculate.

@wildwolf93402 My imagination runs amuck when I see lights emitting from the shadows of this planet. If it were in direct sunlight the probability of reflection would be high but it is not.  You can see the sun is shining from the left and the lights are almost out of the suns light. 

Why the quote "Ceres revealed a strange reflective spot" when nobody knows what it is? Couldn't it be self illuminating from something just as easily as reflecting something? Does anybody expect NASA or anybody else tied to this to tell us the truth about what it is? Wouldn't be surprised if the camera "breaks" as it gets closer. Couldn't they point Hubble at it?

@fldinosaur  Of course they'll tell us the truth about this, especially if it is "self-illuminating," which of course is extremely unlikely. First, because they have no reason not to, and second, because evidence of "self-illumination" and all that implies would guarantee them more or less unlimited funding forever.

My guess is a frozen material, most likely water. It's tremendously unlikely to have such a large metallic area with such a smooth surface that the light is reflect back in the same direction across the whole surface.  It's also unlikely for frozen methane or CO2 to be so reflective.

I'm sure someone will seriously suggest they are alien spacecraft. 

Of course they aren't. 

Deep down, I sincerely hope not.

But wouldn't it be cool if it were? Maybe some ancient rover from a long gone civilization?

Don't but into the fear mongering put forth from Hawking and the like. Fear of being conquered by an advanced alien race is illogical. Interstellar distances are so great that if an alien can simply reach us, they already possess an essentially unlimited supply of energy and resources, meaning there is nothing we, or our planet, could offer that would be worth the hassle of whatever feeble fight we'd be capable of.

And I don't buy that we'd be the equivalent of ants, whom they'd step on without a single thought. We've harnessed the atom, we've achieved modest space travel, we can communicate in the universal language of math. If they have their resource needs met, and they're still traveling the universe, it would likely be for pure curiosity.

So yea, its not an alien craft, but deep down, I really want it to be.

Can't wait till they find life somewhere else in the solar system.
It would be absolutely rad if they find a super intelligent race of humanoids living in Ceres underwater and they are just powering up some cities in the surface. After we get in contact they offer us help to make our planet more liveable in exchange of living here with us and establish their own cities within Earth

Something Fishy going on here...  WHY should it take MONTHS for the Dawn spacecraft, to fly measly 29.000 miles??? And can a piece of rock, only 590 mi in diameter, really have internal pressure high enough, to create active volcanoes on the surface?!!!? Just a Thought :/

It's not taking months to fly 29000 miles, its coming in at a very high rate of speed and needs to slow down through a series of elliptical orbits before it can settle into lower orbit, which will be 29000 miles closer than it is now. That's what will take months. Can't just travel in straight lines in arbitrary directions in space... At least we can't.

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For Samsung, Galaxy S6 needs to hit with a big bang

Samsung, battling to hold on to its lead in the smartphone market, needs to win back consumers from Apple with its next big thing. But will the new Galaxy S6 be big enough?

Samsung will soon introduce the Galaxy S6, which follows the release of the Note 4 (pictured here) last fall. Sarah Tew/CNET

Samsung, set to debut new models of its top-of-the-line smartphone, needs to offer a design that convinces people to do something they didn't do the last time the Galaxy was updated: buy them.

After leading the smartphone market for the past four years, Samsung has seen its profit slide as customers have defected to rival Xiaomi in China, Micromax in India and Apple nearly everywhere else. In the global smartphone market, Samsung tied with Apple as the No. 1 vendor in the fourth quarter of 2014 -- a competitor it had crushed not too long ago.

With the new Galaxy S6, set to debut on Sunday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Samsung is expected to deliver two versions of the smartphone that incorporate sleeker materials, like metal, versus its previous plastic designs. And at least one model is believed to sport a curved display that wraps around the sides of the device. The South Korean electronics maker may also unveil a mobile payments service that rivals the Apple Pay service introduced last year along with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Overall, the smartphones are expected to be a drastic upgrade from its current Galaxy S5, which was snubbed by reviewers -- and consumers -- for being too similar to the S4. For Samsung to reclaim its position, or at least stop its freefall, it needs to offer something different. And even more than that, Samsung has to prove it's listening to what consumers want -- sleeker designs, less bloatware and software features people actually use.

"This new device is absolutely critical in terms of getting momentum going again, turning things around and proving Samsung has still got it and can deliver a killer device," said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research.

Samsung's rise

Even before Samsung launched its popular Galaxy S3 in early 2012, the company was already riding high in the mobile phone market. The Galaxy S2, released the year before, helped Samsung take the crown from Nokia as the world's biggest cellphone vendor in the first quarter of 2012.

With the Galaxy S3, its market share skyrocketed. The device was available at all US carriers at the same time -- something very rare at the time. Rather than rely on wireless providers to promote its products in return for exclusive agreements, Samsung persuaded the major carriers to sell the S3 even though they knew rivals would get the phone as well.

It didn't show the carriers the device in advance but shared its marketing plans, helping the carriers feel like they were part of the S3 rollout while Samsung shouldered most of the burden for pushing its device. Ultimately, having the same smartphone at all carriers at once helped Samsung create a focused marketing campaign around a single product -- yes, the way Apple does -- and it's a model now emulated by HTC and LG.

While the Galaxy S4 in 2013 looked similar to its predecessor, it sported more bells and whistles, including a TV control app and a built-in translation tool. There was also software that tracks users' eye movement to control the device, such as pausing a video when the user looks away from the screen. Samsung is believed to have sold about 40 million units of the device in the first six months on the market, a slightly slower pace than Galaxy S3 sales.

At the same time, Samsung pioneered so-called phablets -- large-screen devices serving as phone-tablet hybrids. Though 2011's 5.3-inch Galaxy Note, was initially mocked for an almost comically large display, the bigger-screen phone appealed to consumers, especially in Asian markets. There was a begrudging acceptance of the Note 2 in the market in 2012 and eager anticipation for the Note 3 in 2013 and the Note 4 last year. The Note led to similar big-screen devices from rival handset vendors including HTC and LG. Even Apple, after dismissing phablets, followed suit last September with the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

Samsung's Galaxy S3 became one of the company's best selling phones of all time. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Note line appealed to buyers in many markets, but the Galaxy S remained Samsung's most important device. Anticipation for the Galaxy S5 was high heading into the launch a year ago, but the device didn't live up to the hype -- or at least sales didn't.

Samsung doesn't disclose device shipments, but reports have said Samsung sold about 40 percent fewer of the Galaxy S5 than the Galaxy S4 in their first few months of availability. And research firm Strategy Analytics estimates Samsung's smartphone market share fell to 25 percent in 2014 from 32 percent the previous year. In the fourth quarter, Samsung's slide and Apple's gain resulted in the two companies sharing the No. 1 spot for the first time since late 2011, with each holding a 20 percent share of the market after selling 74.5 million phones.

"Right now [Samsung is] consistently on a downward trend, and that's not healthy," Current Analysis analyst Avi Greengart said. "This is extremely important."

Samsung's struggles

Samsung made a tactical error when it decided not to change the design of its flagship Galaxy S phone much over the past three generations. The Galaxy S5 looks nearly identical to 2013's Galaxy S4 and 2012's Galaxy S3. Consumers shopping for a phone opted for an older, cheaper model instead of buying the newest and most expensive Samsung smartphone.

The result: Samsung is hurting. The company has posted five consecutive year-over-year declines in quarterly operating profit. In the fourth quarter, the IT and mobile communications division (which includes smartphones) recorded a 64 percent drop in operating profit from the year-earlier period, to 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion). Only 37 percent of Samsung's operating profits came from its IT and mobile communications business in the December quarter, compared with two-thirds a year earlier.

Apple and the iPhone pose the biggest threats, with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus on their way to being two of the best-selling smartphones of all time. And last quarter, they helped Apple deliver the highest quarterly profit of any company -- ever. The tally: $18.04 billion for its fiscal first quarter ended in December.


Apple's success comes as Samsung faces stronger competition in emerging markets. Smartphone makers Xiaomi, Micromax and Huawei introduced devices with high-end features at low prices. In comparison, Samsung's strategy has been to to dump older smartphones on the market at low prices. But consumers in emerging markets didn't want old, inferior technology -- especially when Xiaomi and others were offering more compelling devices at the same price.

"Samsung continues to face intense competition from Apple at the higher end of the smartphone market, from Huawei in the middle tiers,and from Xiaomi and others at the entry level," said Neil Mawston, an analyst with Strategy Analytics.

Because Samsung's hardware features like bigger screens and NFC technology, which allows users to share data or pay for items by tapping their phones, are no longer unique, the company has looked to software to help it stand out. But it hasn't offered features users covet. The Galaxy S4 included apps that were considered gimmicks, and Samsung minimized or killed off many of the items with the Galaxy S5. This year's model is expected to go a step further, with Samsung preloading less bloatware -- the name given to the software features -- on its devices. Instead, buyers will be able to choose whether to download Samsung's apps or not.

And Samsung plans to be more thoughtful with the software and services it includes on its devices. That likely will include a mobile payments service. In mid-February, the company acquired LoopPay, a startup whose technology turns existing card magnetic strip readers into contactless payment receivers. That makes it easy for retailers to accept mobile payments without changing their existing point-of-sale terminals, and the LoopPay setup "has the potential to work" in about 90 percent of existing POS terminals, according to Samsung.

By comparison, Apple Pay requires POS terminals to be equipped with NFC (near field communications) chip technology, which allows information to be shared when two devices are held close together. Retailers have to upgrade their systems to take advantage of Apple Pay, Google Wallet and other NFC-based systems.

Samsung expects device sales to improve as it introduces new devices with slimmer designs and flexible displays that allow the screen to wrap around the side of the device. It also expects the expansion of faster 4G LTE wireless networks across the globe and increased interest in emerging markets to help boost sales and profit, Jin-Young Park, vice president of Samsung's mobile business, said during the company's earnings report last month. "We are preparing differentiated and innovative products with specialized features," he said.

And that sets the stage for the Galaxy S6, which like all of Samsung's other phones in the line is powered by Google's Android mobile operating system software. Strategy Analytics' Mawston estimates Samsung will sell more Galaxy S6 units than Galaxy S5 devices in the first year on the market -- about 10 percent more, to be precise.

It all comes down to how well the devices look and how well they work with new apps and features, like the anticipated mobile payments service. If the Galaxy S6 doesn't excite consumers, Samsung risks becoming the next BlackBerry, a once-dominant and innovative phone maker now struggling to survive. That's a fate no one envies.

Corrected iPhone 6 Plus's screen size at 11:45 a.m. PT.


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Need a new smartphone? You'll find it at Mobile World Congress

Mobile World Congress starts next week in Barcelona. The largest wireless party on the planet, MWC is famous for showcasing new smartphones and wearables that you'll actually be able to buy.

Mobile Wold Congress takes place at Barceloan's Fira Gran Via conference center Stephen Shankland/CNET

In the yearly calendar of technology trade shows, Mobile World Congress stands out for two very important reasons. Firstly, it focuses entirely on mobile and wireless gadgets (which it makes it very cool already), and, secondly, it showcases new products that are far closer to reality than the pie-in-the-sky concepts on show at CES. In other words, most of the gadgets that make their debut at the show will go on sale sometime this year.

CNET's full coverage of Mobile World Congress

Now in its permanent home of Barcelona, Spain, Mobile World Congress has grown far beyond its smartphone roots to include pretty much anything that doesn't need a wire. That includes tablets, appliances and the quickly growing world of wearable tech. What's more, almost every big player in tech (sans Apple, of course) is there. So, naturally, a full CNET team from four countries (and writing in two languages) is currently winging their way to Barcelona to cover the show inside and out.

The big events

Though the show floor doesn't officially open until Monday, March 2, there's plenty going on this weekend to follow. Sunday in particular will be a long day packed to the gills with press conferences and meetings. We'll be covering two events with live blogs and plenty of photos and video. Here's what you need to know:

The HTC One M9 should have a sturdy metal skin like the One M8 (pictured).

Sunday, March 1, 4:00 p.m. in Barcelona (calculate to your timezone)

HTC should use this occasion to roll out the next version of its HTC One series. Rumored to be the HTC One M9, the device should have a metal body (naturally) and HTC's BoomSound speakers. For a full (presumed) preview, check out our HTC One M9 rumor roundup. Besides that phone, the company may spill more devices, but we'll have to wait and see what happens on Sunday. Catch it all on our HTC live blog hosted by Roger Cheng and Andy Hoyle.

Samsung Unpacked
Sunday, March 1, 6:30 p.m. in Barcelona (calculate to your timezone)

A Samsung Unpacked event can mean only one thing: a new Galaxy phone. Samsung hasn't confirmed anything, of course, but a Galaxy S6 device in Barcelona would come right on schedule (the Galaxy S5 debuted at the 2014 Mobile World Congress). And according to the latest gossip, we may see a second device based on the Galaxy Note Edge. Check our Galaxy S6 rumor roundup for everything (we think) we know so far. To see what Samsung spills, follow along in our Samsung Unpacked live blog hosted by Roger Cheng and Jessica Dolcourt.

The new Moto E

And everything else

Rest assured, there will be much more to Mobile World Congress. LG got a jump start on the show by revealing two smartwatches, the LG Urbane and the LG Urbane LTE, and four phones, the Magna, Spirit, Leon and Joy. We'll get our hands on them once we arrive in Barcelona so stay tuned for more. We also might see new devices from big players like Lenovo, Alcatel, Acer, Huawei, and ZTE. Sony already pushed out one announcement, the Xperia E4G, but the company should have more up its sleeve. Meanwhile, Motorola decided to send us the new Moto E even before we left for Barcelona.

Whatever happens will bring you all the news as soon as it comes complete with gorgeous photos and hands-on videos. Our Mobile World Congress package will have everything, so go ahead and bookmark that link now. See you Sunday!



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Virtual reality is taking over the video game industry

An annual event in San Francisco has often been where game developers come together to discuss design. Now it's one of the biggest showcases of the latest VR tech.

Sony's Project Morpheus VR headset is slated to shine again at this year's Game Developers Conference. The company is planning to hold a nearly four-hour press conference dedicated to the technology on Tuesday. Josh Miller/CNET

Just one year ago, the idea of virtual reality -- or simulated 3D worlds we view through special goggles strapped to our face -- seemed like an outlandish concept. Today, it's starting to come into its own.

At the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this week, game makers, developers and some of the tech industry's largest companies will be in attendance to discuss their latest hardware and software designed to transport players to virtual environments.

What makes this year different? Hollywood has used the idea in its movies for decades. Even the technology industry has created prototypes to show from time to time. Now, we're finally expecting to see high-profile VR devices move closer to consumer products. GDC marks the one of the biggest meetups when we will likely get a glimpse of the devices that will eventually land in people's living rooms.

At last year's show, Sony unveiled its first virtual reality device for video games. Until then, virtual reality looked like a niche, a sideshow to the $77 billion dollar industry. With Sony's device, code-named Morpheus, virtual reality became a star of the show.

Shortly after, Facebook bought industry posterchild Oculus VR for $2.3 billion. That acquisition signaled to tech companies everywhere that VR wasn't going to lose its sheen after sucking up millions of dollars in investment, as it did in the early '90s before fading back into science fiction.

"Because Facebook is behind it, I think people will keep plugging away unit they get it right," said Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

A whirlwind of activity has followed. Mobile giant Samsung has introduced $250 VR goggles that cradle its Galaxy-brand of smartphones, and Google has parlayed a strange cardboard DIY headset project into VR partnerships with LG and toymaker Mattel. Even Microsoft has some skin in the game, albeit with a so-called augmented reality headset called the HoloLens, which was unveiled in January and can overlay 3D images onto everyday scenes.

The applications for VR, too, have expanded beyond games and into film, sports, education and health care. "It's naive to think this will be games only," Pachter said.

Oculus' latest Rift prototype, dubbed Crescent Bay, may be the final headset design before the Facebook-owned company brings its product to market. Nick Statt/CNET

Not only will GDC feature the usual players, namely Facebook's Oculus with its prototype Rift headset, but we'll also see the game industry's lesser known names entering the fray for the first time. Valve, known best for its Half-Life sci-fi games and Steam online store, is set to show off a headset of its own, called SteamVR. PC maker Razer will also have something to show, a device called the OSVR headset, designed to let any developer put together 3D programs and use them freely.

Scores of other, smaller startups are in the mix as well, offering different approaches to virtual-world making or piggybacking off others' tech to create new applications.

As with last year, however, all eyes will be on Sony. The company is planning to hold a press conference to discuss the the future of its Morpheus headsets.

"They're probably going to show us something that's final," Pachter said, but added that the device may still not be released until next year.

VR's arrival as a mainstream market is not full-steam ahead. There are still issues to overcome before consumers will buy into the notion of strapping monitors against our eyeballs -- and some skeptics, like IDC analyst Lewis Ward, feel that VR could go the way of 3D television if it can't address rising concerns.

For instance, there aren't very many games out there able to showcase the power of VR as worth our money. What we have instead are often impressive, yet short and sweet, demos and proof-of-concepts.

"Nobody buys a piece of gaming hardware because they think it looks cool," Ward said. "Until there's a great experience to go along with it, the hardware simply opens the door." For Ward, cost is secondary to what gets us pulling out our wallets in the first place. "That's the chicken or the egg problem."

There's also concerns about how VR will affect our brains and our bodies. While there has not been a considerable amount of scientific study on the neurological and physical effects of long-term use, current systems in development have notably caused feelings of nausea and dizziness.

The US Army refuses to use gadgets like the Oculus Rift for those reasons in its combat simulation training, opting instead for high-end systems to prevent sickness. Even Electronic Arts, one of the world's biggest game developers, isn't sold yet on the idea.

"When you look at the expansiveness of our games or the speed of our sports games, the likelihood of motion sickness goes up dramatically," Blake Jorgensen, EA's chief financial officer, said in January. Of course, he noted, members of the VR community want EA to get involved, but because it's still early the company is keeping its eyes on the space and biding its time before making any commitments.

But that won't stop consumers from eyeing the space with suspicion, at least until we can all try one out for ourselves. It's that intrigue rooted in science fiction, Ward says, that is driving the VR market forward, not just business deals and potential product announcements.

"The idea of virtual realities have been around for a long, long time," Ward said. "You can call it something fundamental to the human condition that we like the idea of exploring alternate realities."


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7 things Net neutrality won't do

One day after the FCC adopted new Net neutrality rules, consumers are left scratching their heads about what it means for their Web-surfing experience. Has anything really changed?

James Martin/CNET

When it comes to the new Net neutrality rules adopted yesterday by the Federal Communications Commission, people think either that US regulators have liberated the Internet from the shackles of oppressive broadband providers or that they've turned the Internet, and the industry built around it, into an overregulated kludge.

Well, it's not either/or.

After months of intense debate, the FCC approved on Thursday rules that reinstate so-called Net neutrality regulation, which is intended to protect the openness of the Internet. The new rules replace regulation adopted by the FCC in 2010 and thrown out by a federal court last year. They're controversial because they're based on a regulatory framework that has been used to govern the old telephone network. For the first time since it was adopted in 1934, that old framework now lets the government regulate Internet or broadband service.

If you haven't been following along, Net neutrality is the idea that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally. That means your broadband provider, which controls your access to the Internet, can't block or slow down your ability to use services or applications or view websites. It also means your Internet service provider -- whether it's a cable company or telephone service -- can't create so-called "fast lanes" that force content companies like Netflix to pay an additional fee to deliver their content to customers faster.

There's no question this highly technical debate comes down to politics. On one side, we have Democrats like FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and President Barack Obama, consumer advocates and Internet companies large and small -- including Netflix, Google, Twitter and Etsy. These supporters say Net neutrality rules are needed to make sure your broadband provider can't exert control over where broadband customers go on the Internet -- or what they can see and when they can see it.

On the other side are Republicans, like Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), two of the five FCC commissioners and large broadband service providers including AT&T, Verizon and Comcast. They all say they're OK with the basic rules of openness. But they fear the US will sooner or later take a heavy-handed approach to applying utility-style regulation to services that for 20 years have been largely unregulated, including possibly charging fees that the companies claim will need to be passed on to consumers.

With all that noise, some consumers may be confused. I get it. It's not only difficult to understand what Net neutrality actually is, but it's also challenging to understand what the new rules will do -- and what they won't.

To help cut through the static, I've addressed some of the most common misconceptions about these new Net neutrality rules.


1. They won't make your home broadband connection faster.

Internet consumers didn't wake up Friday morning to find that their Internet service has suddenly gotten faster as a result of the FCC's new rules. The truth is the regulations don't require broadband providers to increase network speeds. The rules don't even guarantee customers get the speeds their Internet service providers have promised them.

The way things work today is that if you're buying a cable, DSL or fiber broadband connection to use in your home, you subscribe to a certain speed of service. You can use all the data you want, but your access will top out at the speed you've subscribed to.

If you want to connect additional devices, you pay more for a faster connection. If you want to access bandwidth-intensive applications, like streaming videos from Netflix or YouTube, you go to the next tier of service, which might cost you an additional $10, $20 or $30 a month, depending on your broadband provider.

But there's nothing in the Net neutrality regulations that will make broadband providers deliver faster speeds to your home. In fact, broadband companies argue that with the additional regulatory requirements, they may actually slow investment in new and existing networks, which could mean networks won't get faster anytime soon and could get slower over time. At least, that's what they say. Time will tell if that's what they actually do in competitive markets where customers can switch at will between Internet service providers.

The bottom line: If you're subscribed to a 5-megabit-per-second broadband service, your connection won't suddenly turn into a 25Mbps connection because of these rules.

2. They won't eliminate your wireless data cap.

Thanks to the new rules, the FCC will for the first time regulate wireless networks the same way they treat wired connections. This means wireless customers now benefit from the same Net neutrality protections as people accessing the Internet from their home computer. But there's nothing in the regulation that forces wireless operators to abandon their data caps and return to the days of unlimited, all-you-can-eat mobile data plans.

In May protesters picketed in Washington, DC, urging the FCC to reclassify broadband as a Title II utility service. Kevin Huang/Fight for the Future

The bottom line: Wireless customers have to continue monitoring their data usage every month. If you want to use more devices on your connection or you want to stream videos all day long, you'll still have to pony up the additional cash each month to buy a bigger bucket of data.

3. They won't stop your wireless carrier from throttling your service when you've reached your data cap.

A key piece of the FCC's new regulation is the "no throttling" rule. This means broadband providers can't slow access to your favorite sites or applications. But it doesn't necessarily prevent a wireless broadband provider like AT&T or Verizon from slowing your entire connection to the Internet.

Companies like T-Mobile are still allowed to offer a data service that slows connections once customers consume a certain amount of data each month. And AT&T and Verizon are still allowed to slow wireless Internet connections for customers subscribed to their older unlimited data plans -- which they have been known to do when customers exceed a certain threshold of usage or when the wireless networks are congested.

The FCC has taken issue with some of these policies in the past. In Verizon's case, the agency last year opened an investigation into how Verizon applied its "throttling" policy only to users of its 4G services. Verizon conceded and changed its policy.

So why doesn't the FCC's "no throttling" rule apply in these cases? The rules the FCC adopted yesterday ban network operators from slowing down or blocking specific applications, content or services. If a service provider is slowing down all traffic on the network, it's not being discriminatory. Therefore, it's not violating the rule.

But the FCC may still take issue with some of these policies. And on a case-by-case basis, it could determine that certain throttling actions violate its new general-conduct rule, which forbids service providers from interfering with a consumer's "access to the Internet."

If wireless operators are slowing down consumers' wireless Internet connections for any reason, the FCC's updated transparency rule requires they disclose this policy and how they're implementing it.

The bottom line: Wireless operators will still be allowed to slow your mobile Internet connection in certain instances. But they'll have to tell you that they're doing it and why.

4. They won't create competition.

Most consumers will tell you what they really want is more choice in terms of where they get their broadband service. This is particularly true for home broadband services.

Unfortunately, the Net neutrality rules won't help add competitors to the market. In fact, the FCC voted at its previous meeting in January to change the standard speed of broadband from 4Mbps to 25Mbps. This means even fewer Americans have access to two or more services that offer what the FCC considers "true broadband." For most consumers, there's only one real broadband choice: cable.

So what's the FCC doing to promote competition? The agency recognizes more competition is needed in the broadband market, and it's been hard at work crafting policy it says will help promote competition. During the same meeting at which the Net neutrality rules were adopted, the FCC also passed a measure that strikes down state laws limiting local communities from expanding municipally owned gigabit networks in two southern states. The idea is that local communities should be able to build their own high-speed broadband networks if they want to. And they shouldn't be prevented from doing so as the result of a state law passed because broadband providers in a particular state want to limit competition.

The agency is also in the midst of drafting rules for an upcoming wireless-spectrum auction, which it says will help broaden spectrum ownership and encourage competition in the mobile industry.

The bottom line: The FCC's Net neutrality rules do not regulate new competition into existence. Critics would even argue that the rules discourage competition, because of a regulatory framework that was built for the old telephone network. They call the regulation onerous and say it will prevent operators from investing in their networks, and beyond that could make it more expensive and difficult for new companies to build networks to compete against existing players.

5. They won't improve your Friday night Netflix viewing

The Internet is what's considered a best-effort network. This means that once data is chopped into packets of information for transmission across the network, all those packets have to jockey for access on that network. Think of the Internet as a highway. And the packets of data carrying the latest episode of "House of Cards" are the cars.

Emotions have run high over Net neutrality. Here, protesters interrupt a meeting of the FCC commissioners on December 11, 2014. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

These packets are traveling on the same highway as your neighbor's Google searches and Instagram uploads. If everyone is using the network or highway at the same time, your "House of Cards" packets could get stuck in a traffic jam. And the episode you're trying to stream will freeze and buffer.

There are two possible solutions to this problem: your broadband provider can build a bigger highway with more lanes to alleviate traffic jams during peak times, or it could create the equivalent of an HOV lane to let some traffic get priority access to move through the congestion more quickly.

The public and many Internet companies rejected this idea of creating so-called "fast lanes," arguing it would only intensify the congestion for the rest of the services using the other lanes on the Internet. The FCC's Wheeler said he heard these concerns during the open comment period on his original Net neutrality proposal. As a result, the new rules explicitly forbid broadband providers from offering priority service. This means your streaming video from Netflix will still travel on the same highway as your neighbor's Google content.

But at the same time, the rules also don't require broadband providers to build more lanes to accommodate more traffic.

What does this mean for you? During peak times of day, your broadband connection may still experience some congestion. What's more, because the Internet is a series of networks (or roads), the packets of video that make up your streaming episode of "House of Cards" could hit traffic jams anywhere along their journey. So your Netflix video could still be delayed due to a traffic jam, even if your local broadband network is congestion-free.

The new rules did extend the FCC's authority to help settle disputes between network operators that must interconnect with each other to deliver content, like streaming video. But there's nothing in the rules that requires broadband providers to add infrastructure to handle larger volumes of traffic.

The bottom line: Consumers are still likely to experience buffering and other hiccups when accessing delay-sensitive applications, like Netflix or Skype, during peak periods.

6. They won't stop the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger.

In addition to crafting new Net neutrality rules, the FCC has also considered the proposed merger between cable giants Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

Supporters of Net neutrality have pointed to this merger between the nation's two largest cable operators as a reason why Net neutrality rules are needed. They argue that as the industry consolidates and companies like Comcast become more powerful, it's necessary to have rules of the road in place to prevent big companies from using their market power to dictate which applications and services consumers can use on the Internet.

This argument may or may not be true. But the action the FCC took Thursday won't have any effect on whether the agency will approve the megamerger. In fact, most analysts believe the merger will be approved by both the FCC and the Justice Department.

The bottom line: The communications industry will keep consolidating.

7. What will change as a result of these new rules?

Nothing. That's the whole point. The Internet has always operated on this basic principle of openness, or Net neutrality. The decadelong debate over how to implement Net neutrality has really been a battle to make certain a level of openness is preserved. And the way to preserve it is by establishing rules of the road that let ISPs, consumers and innovators know what's allowed and what's not allowed on the Net.

This story is part of a CNET special report looking at the challenges of Net neutrality, and what rules -- if any -- are needed to fuel innovation and protect US consumers.


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