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Google is using light beam tech to connect rural India to the internet

Google is preparing to use light beams to bring rural areas of the planet online after it announced to a planned rollout in India. The firm is working with a telecom operator in Indian state Andhra Pradesh, home to over 50 million people, to use Free Space Optical Communications (FSOC), a technology that uses beams of light to deliver high-speed, high-capacity connectivity over long distances . Now partner AP State FiberNet will introduce 2,000 FSOC links starting from January to add additional support to its network backbone in the state. The Google project is aimed at “critical gaps to major access points, like cell-towers and WiFi hotspots, that support thousands of people,” Google said. The initiative ties into a government initiative to connect 12 million households to the internet by...

Go-Jek buys three startups to advance its mobile payment business

Go-Jek, the company leading Uber and Grab in Southeast Asia’s largest market, has bagged a hattrick of deals to advance its mobile payment strategy. Indonesia-based Go-Jek revealed it has acquired offline payment firm Kartuku, payment gateway Midtrans and payment and lending network Mapan for undisclosed sums. The company started out in 2015 offering a ride-hailing service for motorbike taxis, a medium of transport popular for getting around capital city Jakarta’s traffic-clogged streets, but it has since expanded to four-wheeled transportation, on-demand services and payments. Go-Jek claims 900,000 drivers and 15 million weekly active users. Outside of ride-sharing, it said its business covers 125,000 merchants with over 100 million transactions processed on its platform per month. Togeth...

The difference between good and bad Facebooking

“Social media” is a clumsy term that entangles enriching social interaction with mindless media consumption. It’s a double-edged sword whose sides aren’t properly distinguished. Taken as a whole, we can’t decide if it “brings the world closer together” like Facebook’s new mission statement says, or leaves us depressed and isolated. It does both, but our opportunity and the tech giants’ responsibility is to shift usage toward “time well spent.” Thankfully, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg seems ready to embrace that responsibility. “Time spent is not a goal by itself. We want the time people spend on Facebook to encourage meaningful social interactions,” he said on its most recent earnings call. It’s not just a Facebook issue. Notification-spamming mobile app developers, video platforms like ...

With just one day left in open enrollment, companies turn to Stride Health for help

The compressed timelines of this year’s open enrollment period for government-mandated healthcare have left some companies in the lurch, and as the final hours to enroll tick by, they’ve turned to the startup company Stride Health for help. Stride manages a number of different tax and healthcare-related information for customers, including Uber, Etsy, Postmates, TaskRabbit, Instacart, DoorDash, Care.com and Homebase. Now a clutch of other gig economy companies, like Fiverr, Dribbble, Bonsai, HoneyBook, Samaschool and Wonolo have signed up for the service — and the motivating factor is healthcare, according to chief executive Noah Lang. “The government is spending less this year to promote the importance of having health insurance, so these companies have taken it upon themselves to make su...

Ex-Zynga execs raise $15 million for their new gaming studio, Manticore Games

In the eight years since Frederic Descamps and Jordan Maynard launched their last gaming startup, the industry they helped shape with A Bit Lucky now brings in more than $100 billion in revenues globally. Games like League of Legends and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds have brought about a resurgence in gaming on personal computers. Indeed, user-generated content from inside the gaming community has produced a string of wildly popular hits, including League of Legends, Defense of the Ancients 2, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Rocket League. Those trends are exactly what the two game developers are hoping to harness with their new, stealthy gaming studio, Manticore Games. With a new $15 million round led by Benchmark, the company is hard at work on an undisclosed game that will use the sam...

What telecoms and tech companies are saying about the FCC’s net neutrality decision

The FCC just voted to eliminate the net neutrality rules established by 2015’s Open Internet Order. The blowback has been predictably sudden from many prominent internet companies that are decrying the commission’s decision. Just as pronounced, however, has been the support from prominent telecoms which expressed enthusiasm for the FCC’s vote today’s. Here’s what has been said so far. We’re still waiting to hear from others and we’ll update this list as we do.

Apple launches its podcast analytics service into beta

At WWDC this year, Apple announced it would soon offer its own podcast analytics service for show creators who publish on Apple Podcasts. Today, that service has launched into beta, offering podcasters the ability to track unique devices and playback metrics for their podcasts, including when listeners drop off in the middle of a show. This sort of client-side data is something podcasters have wanted for a long time. But Apple had shown little interest over the years in offering analytics – despite the increasing popularity of podcasts. That changed with the arrival of iOS 11, however. Apple redesigned its Podcasts app, and added new consumer-facing features like support for trailers, as well as those focused on newer podcast content trends, like support for serialized show type and season...

Y Combinator is zeroing in on bigger, breakaway companies with a new growth-stage program

Y Combinator famously funds a lot of companies, but there’s always more it could be doing, said its president, Sam Altman, in an interview with TechCrunch this fall. “I do think startups are a super important vehicle to make things happen in the world today and I think we are nowhere near the limit of how many we can help.” Altman had added that YC is “always slightly broken, because we’re always trying to grow; we’re always trying to do new things.” And while he didn’t offer specifics on what new things YC might try,  today, the outfit is taking the wraps off one of those initiatives: a new growth-stage program designed to help both YC companies and non-YC companies figure out how to scale. The idea is partly to address what YC companies have described to its leadership as a thinning of i...

Uber investor Shervin Pishevar resigns from Sherpa Capital

Hyperloop One co-founder and early Uber investor Shervin Pishevar has announced his resignation from Sherpa Capital, the venture capital firm he co-founded, following sexual misconduct allegations. “I have decided on my own accord to end my association with Sherpa Capital, effective immediately,” Pishevar tweeted, as part of a lengthy statement. I have only admiration and affection for the people of Sherpa Capital, including my co-founder Scott Stanford. I’m proud of the work we’ve done to advance great ideas and support great founders since co-founding Sherpa Capital five years ago. Unfortunately, it is no surprise that the untruthful attacks by those seeking to harm me and my family, including those willing to go so far as fabricating police reports, have continued unabated even after I ...

A timeline of the FCC’s quest to destroy net neutrality

The actual creators of the modern internet tell the FCC it is wrong Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf, Whitfield Diffie, Martin Hellman, Brewster Kahle, Steve Wozniak, Susan Landau and others, people who literally led the creation of the internet, the web, encryption, hyperlinks, and all that good stuff tell the FCC that it’s both wrong and misguided. “We are the pioneers and technologists who created and now operate the Internet,” they write. “The FCC’s rushed and technically incorrect proposed Order to abolish net neutrality protections without any replacement is an imminent threat to the Internet we worked so hard to create. It should be stopped.” Perhaps they’re just “desperate” too.

Edge Mobile Payments buys what’s left of Plastc in hopes that there’s still life left in smart cards

The death of Plastc back in April looked to many like the final nail in the smart card coffin. After all, the news came only a few months after the space’s other big player, Coin, called it quits. Of course, the loss of Coin wasn’t totally in vain — the company was ultimately purchased by Fitbit, which ultimately incorporated its mobile payment tech into the Ionic smartwatch. Now Plastc is getting a second lease on life of sorts. The company, or rather, what’s left of it, has just been acquired by Edge, a Santa Cruz-based mobile payment startup. The company was founded back in February by Peter Garrett, a tech veteran who owns a bunch of flash drive patents. Garrett and team believe the old smart card space still has some life left in it, mostly because smartphone payment hasn’t quite take...

Apple Maps gets indoor mapping for more than 30 airports

As of this morning, Apple Maps has expanded to include indoor layouts of 30 airports across the globe. The company has primarily hit American cities thus far, covering what looks to be most of the big cities across the contiguous U.S. There are some key international airports, as well, including Hong Kong International, Amsterdam, Geneva, two in London and Berlin and a handful of Canadian locations. It’s a big roll out, all in one fell swoop, that appears to have taken quite some time in the making. Each location requires close cooperation with airlines and the airports themselves, along with in-person surveyors. People have been recording the data in-person — sort of a human stand-in for those street mapping cars that Apple and Google deploy to get a lay of the land. If an airport is incl...