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This Week in Tech News: Big Shoes to Fill

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This week in tech, NBC gives streaming fans something to think about, Cadillac releases news about its first electric vehicle and we discuss the digital divide of internet access.

NBC enters the streaming service battlefield

NBCUniversal has officially joined the pool of streaming service providers alongside the likes of Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu. The Comcast-owned American-English television network revealed its plans for a no-cost streaming service to paid TV subscribers, releasing in 2020. According to CNBC, it is expected to feature 1,500 hours of the network’s television shows, hundreds of hours of NBCUniversal’s films and will also include the support of advertisements, spread amongst each hour of viewing.

Aiming to fall somewhere in between the services provided by Netflix, which has no ad breaks intertwined with its long-form content, and Hulu, whose lowest tier platform costs less than Netflix but content is interrupted with regular ad breaks, NBC plans to combine the long-form aspect of streaming with ad-supported content, according to CNBC. NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke has claimed that NBC expects to make $5 per user, per month from advertisements on the streaming service.

Apple, AT&T, and Disney are also set to launch streaming services this year, according to CNBC. Dish-owed streaming service Sling TV released a free aspect to its customers last year, that allowed those with Roku devices to browse and watch free shows and movies without subscribing to the platform, according to TechCrunch. These are but a few examples of the rising competition in a day in the life of a streaming service.

Competing with streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon doesn’t fetter NBC, however, as they expect high user numbers to be reported, thanks to the millions of people who already subscribe to their regular television service. Another point in NBC’s corner is that Netflix is raising the price on their most popular plan—it’s the biggest price increase since the company launched twelve years ago—a 13%-18% increase, according to TechCrunch. This could likely result in a decrease in licensing of content to Netflix from providers like Disney and NBC, who will have their own streaming services to focus on.

Cadillac crossover to reinvent the (electric) wheel

In other news of jumping on the bandwagon, GM-acquired luxury automobile brand Cadillac revealed the production of their first electric vehicle earlier this week, which will be a full-size crossover SUV. The decision was made in hopes of competing with major electric car manufacturer Tesla, along with the plethora of other companies who have transitioned their focus to electric cars. The images of the vehicle were released during a debut party for the 2020 Cadillac XT6. Although GM’s Chevrolet has already built and released electric models, it’s back to the drawing board for Cadillac, as GM intend to start from scratch and incorporate a fresh battery construction that will dub Cadillac as the first automaker to use this approach.

The electric vehicles are expected to be produced in all-wheel drive, as well as front- and rear-, and will be adjustable based on requirements of the vehicle and preferences of the customer. Cadillac has also revealed that they plan to introduce a new vehicle model every six months through the next two years, according to TechCrunch.

The Internet: Who Needs It vs. Who Has It

Many resolutions and goals around this time of year relate to giving back to communities in need, and one American man is showing the rest of us the ultimate example of compassion and service. The BBC has reported on Marlin Jenkins, a native of Yonkers, New York, who has taken on the benevolent task of bridging the “digital divide”—the gap between those with internet access and those without.

As a previously homeless citizen of the Bronx, Jenkins’ goal is to assist the 40% of households, in the same neighborhood he once suffered in, with obtaining internet access. This digital divide creates an even larger hill that struggling, low-income communities must climb, in addition to already existing challenges.

Jenkins shares an experience he had which awoke this passion; 8 years ago he overheard a conversation between a young student and her mother while passing by a Bronx library- the girl was upset about not being able to finish her homework due to the library being closed for the evening and the lack of internet access in her home. The result of the experience was Neture, a start-up that Jenkins began in 2015  which offers low-income Bronx residents access to online education, healthcare and finance sites, at no cost. "People say, why don't you create a food platform, or something else tech-driven. But if you can't connect to the internet, it doesn't matter what else you can do," Mr. Jenkins said to the BBC.

The falsely postulated view that access to the internet is available to anyone has dangerously isolated the truth—that those who most require the assistance and ease the internet provides are often the ones who have the least amount of access to it.

Country-specific studies in Africa have established a strong connection between poverty reduction and access to the internet. Additionally, studies suggest a direct link between an increase in broadband penetration and an increase in the economic output of a country. Some figures that help put this  into perspective—in developed countries, 85.3% of households have web access at home, however,  in the 47 poorest countries across the globe, this number drops to 17.8%, according to the BBC.

Technology is one of the most powerful tools in countless areas of today’s society, from highly complex work like AI, to providing simple everyday resources like searching for your nearest local bank branch. It is the duty of those on the privileged level of this divide to keep those on the less-fortunate side in mind.


Featured image credit: Jens Kreuter via Unsplash

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