The US needs learn from Australia how to regulate Google

Google Sundar Pichai Joe Biden
Google has backed the President-elect’s immigration plans

  • The Australian government has shown that people want big, bold action against the tech companies.
  • With the stroke of a pen, the Biden administration can bring competition to the search engine market.
  • Opening up Google’s web index is how the United States can catch up in the international race to regulate Google.
  • Zack Maril is the founder of the Knuckleheads’ Club, an organization dedicated to opening up Google’s web index.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It was unthinkable even just a few months ago, but Google and Facebook have decisively lost their fight with the Australian government over its proposed News Media Bargaining Code. The Australian government is getting exactly what it wanted, and this won’t be lost on governments and regulators around the world.

People want their governments to go after tech companies, and this is most clear in America. The backlash against the tech companies over the past five years has washed away the last of the aura of invincibility they once so deftly wore.

Right now, the Biden Administration has an opportunity to give the people what they want. They have the chance to take the lead in the international race to regulate Google and jump leagues ahead of every other government. Just out of sight politically, there’s a hidden heart to Google, something that sits at the center of everything they do, something which classical economics demands be regulated without delay.

A different kind of index fund

The key to understanding and regulating Google is that Google has an immense advantage when it comes to “web crawling.” Web crawling is where Google’s strength flows from and the more you look into it, the more it clarifies the dynamics of the entire tech industry.

Web crawling is the industrial process where search engine operators go out and collect all the information about all the websites on the internet that they can. When you search for something on Google, Google isn’t going out and visiting every website looking for your query, they are looking in their saved cache of copies of all the websites they collected information from while crawling the web.

In order to quickly provide the answers to your search queries, search engine operators like Google and Bing have hundreds of thousands of computers engaging in web crawling day and night. These web crawling computers are browsing the internet and saving a copy of everything they can find. When you search for something on a search engine, the search engine looks in that saved index of all the websites the computers found while they crawled the web.

The better this index, the better the quality of search results that a search engine can provide. A search engine can only provide you links to web pages that it knows about and the more web pages a search engine knows about – and the sooner it knows about them – the more competitive advantage that search engine has over all the other search engines.

Google gets this advantage because it costs websites money when they are crawled by search engines. Naturally, website operators only want to be crawled by search engines that will send them lots of traffic and many website operators will limit who is allowed to crawl their websites to only the major search engines like Google, Bing, and a handful of others.

Website operators have to pay for web servers to serve the extra traffic from the crawlers. It’s an open secret within the industry that some of the major websites spend millions of dollars a year to pay for servers to serve traffic for just Google’s crawlers alone. This makes economic sense because Google will send them enough traffic that they can monetize, thus more than making up for the cost of being crawled.

But other search engines, especially new entrants to the search engine market, are locked out by this dynamic. Without access to many of the most important websites in the world, the quality of the search results that the search engine can provide suffers. Without the ability to provide high quality search results, the search engine has little hope of attracting many users. And without a large number of users, many website operators will limit that search engine’s access to their websites or block them entirely by default. This dynamic is a big reason why it is so hard to compete with Google.

How to fix Google’s monopoly

I’ve been researching this dynamic for over two years now and the evidence keeps piling up that the government needs to step in and open up Google’s index of the web.The New York Times recently published an article detailing how this dynamic plays out, with many search engine operators going on the record that they struggle to compete with Google because of the limits website operators put in place as well as the high costs associated with doing the crawling.

Over the past several decades, the economics of web crawling have become clear enough that we can call it out for what it is: web crawling is a natural monopoly. What this means is that it’s overall more economically efficient to have one firm engaging in web crawling than to have multiple firms all redoing the same amount of work to try and recreate that same index Google has already assembled. All we need to do is apply the well understood principles of regulating natural monopolies that we have been developing for over a century now.

The Biden Administration can jump start a new age in the digital era by ending Google’s unnatural hold on this natural monopoly and opening up Google’s web index to its competitors. With the stroke of a pen, the government can unleash innovations that have been held back for decades just because executives at Google didn’t think it would earn Google enough profits.

What we need now, and what the American people want, is leadership in the fight to take back control of our lives from tech companies. Web crawling is the most under-regulated but major aspect of the technology industry and regulating web crawling is the opportunity just waiting for the Biden administration to seize on.

To start, the administration could direct the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to look into whether Google ever acted anti-competitively in regards to its or another search engine’s web index. Next up, the Biden administration could study and publish a plan for opening up Google’s web index to its competitors. To tie it all together, the Biden administration could work with Congress to pass whatever laws might be needed to give them the tools they need to open up Google’s web index.

Opening up Google’s web index is still just out of sight politically, but not for long if I have anything to say about it. Through my founding of the Knuckleheads’ Club – an organization dedicated to advancing regulation of Google’s web crawling advantageI was able to work with Congress to get this issue highlighted in the Big Tech antitrust report published last year. I’ve been in contact with governments across the world since then and have been excited at the progress already being made on this front. Australia has shown that you can win by going big and me and my colleagues are excited to see who will go after Google next.

Opening up Google’s web index is about the closest thing to a silver bullet that I’ve ever come across in politics. Opening up Google’s web index is how the Biden Administration can cement American’s position as a leader in technological innovation. This would be a bold and highly effective move that would have immense positive economic impact for decades to come.

Opening up Google’s web index is how the United States can catch up in the international race to regulate Google.

Zack Maril is the founder of the Knuckleheads’ Club, an organization dedicated to opening up Google’s web index and bringing back the open web. He is an expert in understanding and regulating Google, with his work having been featured in The New York Times and cited by Congress. He lives and works in Washington DC.

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What is an Ethernet cable? Here’s how to connect to the internet without Wi-Fi and get a speedier connection

ethernet cable being plugged into internet router
Ethernet cables, which connect your devices directly to your internet router, can speed up your connection.

  • An Ethernet cable lets you physically connect your computer to the internet.
  • Ethernet connections are almost always faster than Wi-Fi connections, and are usually more stable.
  • You’ll need to connect one end of the Ethernet cable to your router, and the other to your computer.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

The majority of users access the internet using wireless devices, like phones or laptops. These devices connect to the internet using Wi-Fi, wireless signals that broadcast throughout your house.

But if you’ve been using the internet for a while – or you have a desktop computer that you don’t use Wi-Fi for – you’ll probably be using an Ethernet cable instead. Ethernet cables are wires that physically connect your computer to a router or modem.

Ethernet cables can seem clunky or restricting, but they can substantially improve the speed and stability of your internet.

Here’s what you need to know about Ethernet cables, how they work, and what makes them a handy alternative to Wi-Fi.

An Ethernet cable ‘hardwires’ your computer to an internet connection

An Ethernet cable, sometimes referred to as a network cable, is a cord that runs from a router, modem, or network switch to your computer, giving your device access to the local area network (LAN) – in other words, giving it internet access.

 

The benefit of hardwiring your internet connection is that it’s faster and more consistent. Without walls or other objects blocking your Wi-Fi signals, you don’t have to worry about sudden drops in internet speed.

Gaming with an Ethernet cable means less lag and faster loading times for multiplayer games. And every major game console can connect with an Ethernet port – although to connect a Nintendo Switch, you’ll need an adapter.

1_ _What_is_an_ethernet_cable
Ethernet cables come in sizes as long or short as you’d need.

Just be careful not to unplug your cable while you’re using it, as doing so will disconnect you from the internet instantly. Luckily, Ethernet cables are made to snap snugly into place, so it’s hard to pull them out accidentally.

Ethernet cables come in a range of lengths and colors, but both sides of the cord are the same, regardless of the brand of cable or device you’re hardwiring.

Amazon ethernet cable
Ethernet cables are double-sided.

Ethernet accessories can help you connect any device

Although newer, slender models of laptops don’t tend to have Ethernet ports, you can still utilize an Ethernet cable with a USB or USB-C adapter.

6 _What_is_an_ethernet_cable
Ethernet adapters can convert to USB, seen here, or USB-C.

Another common accessory to pair with an Ethernet cable is a network switch. This add-on lets you convert an Ethernet connection into multiple ones, allowing you to, for instance, hardwire both your Xbox and Chromecast to the internet at the same time.

4_ _What_is_an_ethernet_cable
A network switch, which connects to the router via Ethernet, allows multiple devices to be hardwired to the internet at once.

How to tell if someone is stealing your Wi-Fi and how to stop themWhat is mesh Wi-Fi? Here’s what you need to know about the system that extends your Wi-Fi network‘What is a good internet speed?’: The internet speeds you should aim for, based on how you use the internetHow to boost your internet speed at home in 8 ways, and make sure you’re not being overcharged for low speeds

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Is Ethernet faster than Wi-Fi? Yes, and a hardwired connection offers other benefits as well

couple unpacking hooking up internet ethernet cable
Though they can be less convenient, Ethernet cables are typically much faster than Wi-Fi.

  • Ethernet is typically faster than a Wi-Fi connection, and it offers other advantages as well. 
  • A hardwired Ethernet cable connection is more secure and stable than Wi-Fi.
  • You can test your computer’s speeds on Wi-Fi versus an Ethernet connection easily.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

The advent of Wi-Fi was a great thing. It has granted easier internet access in harder-to-reach areas, made connecting new devices a breeze – and not to mention, reduced the amount of cables on our floors.

However, if you’re looking for the fastest and most consistent connection possible, you should still stick with an Ethernet cable. It’s less convenient, but boasts all sorts of advantages.

Ethernet is almost always faster than Wi-Fi

If you want a fast connection, you should consider connecting as many of your devices as possible to Ethernet. This is because Ethernet is nearly always faster than a Wi-Fi connection from the same router.

It’s true that radio waves are incredibly fast. But an Ethernet cable lets your devices send and receive data almost instantaneously. This is especially true if you have a fiber-optic connection.

This also means that it doesn’t matter how close or far you are from your router. As long as your Ethernet cable reaches, you’ll see little to no loss in speed.

You can compare Wi-Fi and Ethernet speeds by running a quick speed test using both connections. You’ll almost certainly find the Ethernet connection to be faster.

speed tes
According to testmy.net, internet download speed is almost doubled on this device when using an Ethernet cable, at 310.2 Mbps, compared to 164 Mbps without.

Our own quick test showed an Ethernet download speed almost double that of Wi-Fi.

Ethernet is more stable than a Wi-Fi signal

To use an analogy, an Ethernet cable is to Wi-Fi what a landline is to a cell phone. Rather than transmitting the signal wirelessly, an Ethernet cable carries your data via a cable electronically.

ethernet cable connected to laptop internet
Some laptops have an Ethernet port built in, while others – especially Macs – require a special adapter.

In short, this means that the data is less likely to get lost or degrade along the way. You also don’t have to worry about the signal being blocked or slowed down by nearby electronics or barriers.

Unless your Ethernet cable physically breaks, there’s not much that can disrupt it, short of a power outage. 

Ethernet connections are likely more secure than Wi-Fi

Although a clever Wi-Fi network name like “FBI Surveillance Van” might dissuade some neighbors from trying to hack your network, you’re still more secure with an Ethernet connection.

Any Wi-Fi password can be hacked with enough effort, and since Wi-Fi signals pass through the open air, they can be intercepted. But to gain access to an Ethernet connection, you need to have the cable and the router. There’s no way to hack into Ethernet without a physical connection.

‘Why isn’t my internet working?’: How to identify why you can’t connect to the internet and troubleshoot accordinglyHow to boost your internet speed at home in 8 ways, and make sure you’re not being overcharged for low speeds‘What is a good internet speed?’: The internet speeds you should aim for, based on how you use the internetWhat is mesh Wi-Fi? Here’s what you need to know about the system that extends your Wi-Fi network

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What Elon Musk’s 42,000 Starlink satellites could do for – and to – planet Earth

  • Over the next few decades, Elon Musk is hoping to send 42,000 satellites to space.
  • He is hoping those satellites bring high-speed internet to every corner of the world— from the rainforest to Antarctica.
  • But experts worry that the number of satellites could have a major impact on our planet.
  • Their bright reflections are already blocking the views of astronomers looking for deadly asteroids. If enough of them become disabled, which is already happening, they could also block off space travel for decades.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

You’re looking at 60 satellites hurtling into the sky. And over the next few decades, Elon Musk is hoping to send 42,000 of these satellites to space, 15 times the number of operational satellites in orbit today. It’s part of Starlink, the expansive constellation from Musk and SpaceX that hopes to bring the world low-latency high-speed internet, promising no more buffering and nearly instantaneous internet in every corner of the world. But experts worry it may come at a hefty cost for space exploration.

Nearly half of the world’s population does not have access to the internet, because most internet options require an extensive track of costly underground cables, leaving many rural locations offline. And while satellite internet can reach those areas…

Dave Mosher: Traditional satellite internet is provided by a bus-sized spacecraft that is launched 22,236 miles into space in orbit around Earth.

Narrator: That distance means the satellite can reach places that cables can’t. But since that one satellite is meant to service a lot of people, its data capability is limited, which then limits connection speeds. And that signal has to travel a long way, creating a lot of lag. This is where Elon Musk and SpaceX come in.

Mosher: Starlink is a globe-encircling network of internet-beaming satellites that is trying to get you online no matter where you are in the world.

Narrator: And there’s a rather persuading element for SpaceX as well.

Mosher: Elon Musk has said he’s just trying to grab a small percentage of a trillion-dollar-a-year telecommunications industry around the world. If SpaceX can pull this off, the company could net about $30 to $50 billion a year.

Narrator: Musk and SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell say that much money could single-handedly fund the development of Starlink, Starship, and SpaceX’s Mars-launch infrastructure. As of early October, SpaceX has launched more than 700 satellites into orbit, with a plan to release a total of 12,000 over the next five years, half of them by the end of 2024. And Musk wants to add another 30,000 to that, coming to a total of 42,000 satellites circling Earth. All of these satellites will also be much closer, anywhere from 200 to 400 miles above the planet in low-Earth orbit.

Mosher: This reduces the connection delay that is found with traditional internet satellite.

Narrator: Once in orbit, these Starlink satellites will be constantly on the move, which is why so many are necessary.

Mosher: The problem is you have to have many satellites orbiting to make up for the fact that you can’t stay in one spot above the Earth. Because you need several satellites overhead at any one time to cover many users.

Narrator: Every satellite will connect with several others via laser beams, creating something like the network’s backbone. And to actually bring this internet into your home, you’ll need to get a pizza-sized antenna. This phased-array antenna can aim its beam at whatever satellite is overhead, which will maintain an internet signal in your home. But this scheme isn’t without problems. Starlink satellites are bright. They reflect the sunlight and shine it back towards Earth, so they end up looking like bright moving stars. As cool as it may look, that comes with problems.

Mosher: Starlink satellites are most visible in the night sky right before dawn and right after dusk, which is the exact time that astronomers are hunting for near-Earth objects or asteroids, objects that could hit Earth and possibly harm us.

Narrator: And as more satellites go up, so does the likelihood that they’ll interfere with astronomers’ views. Mosher: If Starlink continues to be a problem for these type of sky surveys, we may not have as much notice as we want to detect a near-Earth object and thwart it and prevent it from hitting Earth.

Narrator: Beyond detecting deadly asteroids, the wall of satellites could also obstruct the search for new planets or even black holes.

Mosher: SpaceX realized it had to do something, and it did. It created what’s called a DarkSat, which is a satellite that has all of its shiny parts coated in a very black, dark material.

Narrator: It also tried adding visors to shield those shiny parts from the ground. But unless the satellites are cloaked like a spaceship in “Star Trek,” technology that does not exist, none of this will fully solve the problem. And even if it did, there is a much bigger issue at hand.

Mosher: There’s a concern about space debris, because when you have so many satellites in the closest, tightest, densest orbits around Earth, there’s a higher chance that those satellites could collide with each other or with other satellites.

Narrator: Those crashes would create clouds of debris that can orbit the Earth for years, decades, or even centuries.

Mosher: And that debris can then disable or cause other satellites to crash into each other, creating even more debris, and this problem spirals out of control in an effect called the Kessler syndrome. And if we reach that, then essentially space is too unsafe to access.

Narrator: To be clear, the risk of a runaway Kessler syndrome is very low.

Mosher: But the potential impacts of that are so high that scientists are working very hard to control such an event from ever happening.

Narrator: SpaceX has said its satellites can automatically move out of the way to avoid collisions. But dozens of SpaceX satellites are already disabled and can’t move at all, posing a potential threat. And those concerned with SpaceX’s plans are lobbying the FCC to rein in the company and more strictly regulate low-Earth orbit. And that could make it more expensive and harder to deploy the planned 42,000 satellites. But it doesn’t stop at Starlink.

Amazon’s Kuiper project, OneWeb, China’s Hongyan, and other projects are looking to challenge SpaceX by launching their own global networks of hundreds or thousands of satellites. If they all got their way with little to no regulation, we could end up with 100,000 satellites encasing our planet within the next 10 years, dramatically increasing the risk of blocking off space for everyone.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in October 2020. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The FCC just approved a $50 a month subsidy for low-income households to get high-speed internet, plus a $100 discount on a computer. Here’s who’s eligible.

Adjusting computer volume
A woman enjoying music while working in the office.

  • The FCC has approved a $3.2 billion federal initiative to give people better internet.
  • Eligible households can get broadband subsidies of up to $50 a month.
  • Households that receive a Federal Pell Grant or get free school lunches are among those eligible.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

A $3.2 billion federal initiative to subsidize high-speed internet for low-income households during the pandemic has just been approved, and applications could open within two months.

The program will offer eligible households discounts of up to $50 a month for broadband service, and up to $75 a month if the household is on Tribal lands, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said.

The program will also provide a one-time discount of up to $100 on a computer or tablet for eligible households.

The program is the biggest one yet to help households nationwide afford broadband service, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said Thursday, after it voted unanimously to formally adopt the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.

Jessica Rosenworcel, the FCC’s acting chairwoman, said she expects the program to be open to eligible households within 60 days.

To be eligible, at least one member of the household must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Qualify for the FCC’s Lifeline program, including those that are on Medicaid or accept SNAP benefits.
  • Receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch or breakfast program.
  • Have lost jobs and seen their income reduced in the last year.
  • Have received a Federal Pell Grant.
  • Meet the eligibility criteria for a participating broadband providers’ existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

The initiative forms part of the $7 billion in aid Congress approved in December to help lower-income Americans get internet access.

“It will help those sitting in cars in parking lots just to catch a Wi-Fi signal to go online for work,” Rosenworcel said. “It will help those lingering outside the library with a laptop just to get a wireless signal for remote learning. It will help those who worry about choosing between paying a broadband bill and paying rent or buying groceries.”

During the pandemic, many jobs, schools, and healthcare services have moved online – widening the digital divide. This is especially problematic in rural areas, which are more likely to both have limited broadband access and be located further from amenities.

The pandemic has led to what’s been dubbed the “homework gap,” where students without reliable home internet have struggled to keep up with remote learning.

An FCC member since 2012, Rosenworcel has pushed for the commission to use its authority and resources to expand internet access. She was appointed the commission’s acting chairwoman in January. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

What is a DNS server? How Domain Name System servers connect you to the internet

woman relaxing at home surfing the web on laptop
A DNS server helps your web browser connect to websites.

  • A DNS server – short for Domain Name System server – converts web addresses into IP addresses. 
  • Without a DNS server, you won’t be able to connect to any websites.
  • If you’re having issues with your default DNS server, you can change it.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

A Domain Name System (DNS) server is a fundamental part of the backbone of the internet – without it, it would be impossible to use a web browser to find websites.

You can think of the DNS server as a phone book. When you ask your computer to load a website, the DNS server matches the website’s name with the right IP address. This lets your computer find and load it properly.

How does a DNS server work?

When you enter a URL, what you’re really doing is asking your computer to find and connect to another IP address. To do this, it uses a set of related servers, all of which form the DNS server:

  • The DNS recursive resolver
  • The root nameservers
  • The TLD nameservers
  • The authoritative nameservers

Here’s how it works.

All this happens in a matter of seconds – if your internet is very fast, or you’ve visited the website recently (see below for more information), it can happen in milliseconds.

Caching can avoid calling the DNS server

If you’re visiting a new website, your browser will go through the entire process outlined above. But if it did this for every single website, things could get slow – that’s why websites you’ve visited recently are stored in your web browser’s cache.

When you try to load a website, the DNS server will first check your cache to see if the IP address is already saved there. If it is, it’ll retrieve the IP address directly from the cache, which saves time. 

What is a cache 2
Every browser has a cache, which stores files and images.

Each entry in the cache has a time limit associated with it, referred to as the TTL (time-to-live). The TTL for any IP address is generally about 48 hours, and once that passes, the IP address will disappear from your cache. This means that the DNS server will have to go through the whole recursive search process again.

Changing your DNS server

As a general rule, your web browser uses a standard, public DNS server, usually configured and maintained by your internet service provider.

Some advanced users manually change their DNS server, though. This can boost your internet speed and protect your privacy.

Changing your DNS can be done via your computer’s “Network” menu, in the Settings app. If you’re looking for a new DNS, you can try the Google Public DNS or any number of other custom DNS servers.

Google Public DNS
Google operates its own DNS server, which you can connect your computer to for free.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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SpaceX says its Starlink satellite internet, still in beta, now has more than 10,000 users worldwide

Elon Musk
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

  • SpaceX said in a public filing Thursday that Starlink has more than 10,000 users in the US and abroad.
  • Elon Musk’s aerospace company launched the Starlink public beta in October.
  • In the filing, SpaceX requested that it be made eligible for federal cash to expand Starlink.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service has amassed more than 10,000 users across the world, just four months after entering beta, Elon Musk’s aerospace company said in a filing Thursday.

SpaceX said in a petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that “over 10,000 users in the United States and abroad are using the service today.”

In the petition, SpaceX asked the FCC to be designated an “Eligible Telecommunications Carrier” (ETC), making it eligible for federal cash, including the money from the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunities Fund (RDOF) that it won in December. 

The RDOF is a $20.4 billion effort to spread high-speed internet across America, particularly to rural regions.

Read more: SpaceX is finalizing a massive new funding round. Here’s why investors are clamoring for one of the world’s most valuable startups.

The FCC in December awarded SpaceX nearly $900 million to expand Starlink in the US as part of the first phase of the RDOF.

But SpaceX didn’t immediately get the money. It must clear more hurdles and provide more detail on its plans – the ETC is part of this.

SpaceX said the ETC would help it quickly expand its service to new areas, specifically Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

The petition noted that the space firm won access to those areas under the RDOF.

SpaceX’s award under the RDOF has annoyed small internet service providers, who said on Thursday that the company, as well as other large firms, used “unproven” technology and called on the FCC to “aggressively” vet winning applications.

The Starlink public beta test, called “Better Than Nothing Beta,” now operates in the northern US, Canada, and parts of Europe. UK regulators approved Starlink in January and Insider spoke to one of the first British users to receive the Starlink kit.

Speeds vary from 50 Mbps to 150 Mbps, SpaceX said in an email to subscribers when the beta launched. Access costs $99 a month, plus $499 upfront for a kit with a tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal to connect to the satellites.

So far, the company has launched more than 1,000 working satellites into orbit via its reusable Falcon 9 rocket. The most recent launch was on Thursday, when the Falcon 9 delivered 60 Starlink satellites into orbit. 

The goal is to build a high-speed internet service which stretches across the world. SpaceX wants to launch up to 42,000 satellites by mid-2027.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The first Starlink user in the UK tells Insider what it’s like going from zero broadband to zippy internet speeds in rural England

elon musk starlink internet 2x1
Elon Musk’s Starlink internet service has arrived in the UK.

  • The first person in the UK to reportedly receive the Starlink kit told Insider how he set it up.
  • Philip Hall said his download speed jumped from 0.5 megabits per second to 85 Mbps with Starlink.
  • The router’s range doesn’t stretch that far, but Hall said what Musk has done is “transformational.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The UK is the latest country to approve Elon Musk’s Starlink internet as the billionaire reaches closer to his goal of covering Earth with up to 42,000 satellites to create a superfast global broadband service.

Northern US, southern Canada and now parts of Europe are taking part in Starlink’s “Better Than Nothing Beta” test, which costs $99 a month, plus $499 for a kit with a tripod, a WiFi router, and a terminal to connect to the Starlink satellites.

In the UK, this translates to £439 for the kit and £89 subscription fee for 150 megabits per second (Mbps). But this is expensive considering some national providers offer speeds of up to 516 Mbps for £79 per month

Philip Hall, in rural Devon, south-west England, told Insider he was one of the first people in the UK to receive the Starlink kit and test out its internet connection.

Hall has barely any internet connection where he lives, making running a business and contacting the family extremely challenging.

Despite the connection dropping out from time to time and the limited range of the signal, he said Starlink was “a hope and a prayer.”

Here’s how he set up Elon Musk’s internet service in his own home.

Read more: The space industry will grow by over $1 trillion in the next decade, Bank of America says. Here are the 14 stocks best positioned to benefit from the boom.

Philip Hall and his partner live in Brithem Bottom, a rural village located in Devon, south-west England. Before Starlink, they were getting 0.5 Mbps download speed and had no reception. Even the government initiative to provide internet fell through. Hall said he felt “powerless.”

spacex starlink user terminal phased array consumer satellite internet dish ufo on a stick roof website bi 00003
A photo of SpaceX’s user terminal, or satellite dish, installed on a roof. Company founder Elon Musk has called such devices “UFOs on a stick.” They’re designed to connect to the internet via a fleet of orbiting Starlink satellites.

“Without broadband, you’ve got your arms behind your back,” said Hall, who runs an IT business from home. He said his partner has only been able to access a Microsoft Teams call when every internet device in the house is switched off.

teen checking wifi internet connection

Hall said he subscribed to the “Better Than Nothing Beta” test in early 2019. It was “quite challenging” to enrol in because it was designed for American citizens with zip codes, but he managed his way through.

starlink satellite internet beta sign up website screenshot june 2020
A screenshot of SpaceX’s Starlink beta signup.

He received an email on December 22nd asking if he’d like to place his order and pay £439 for the kit and £89 for the monthly subscription. He said the price included VAT, indicating it possibly came from a UK office.

spacex starlink user terminal phased array consumer satellite internet dish ufo on a stick roof website bi 00001
A photo of SpaceX’s user terminal, or satellite dish, installed on a roof. Company founder Elon Musk has called such devices “UFOs on a stick,” and they’re designed to connect to the internet via a fleet of orbiting Starlink satellites.

The confirmation email came through on December 27th and it arrived on New Years Eve. Hall said he “very excitedly” posted a picture of the kit on the Starlink Reddit community but didn’t open the box until the next day because he was with his family.

The Starlink kit arrived to Hall's house on New Year's Eve

Within an hour of opening it on New Year’s Day, Hall ran a Zoom quiz for his grandchildren. “It was wonderful,” he said.

Starlink set up and ready to connect

Hall is now seeing average download speeds between 85 and 90 Mbps. “It is absolutely transformational,” he said. The connection has dropped out a couple of times but he said it’s not a problem for people living in rural communities.

Starlink speed test

After unpacking it from the box, Hall installed the Starlink app on his smartphone. He plugged in the terminal, which positions itself so it’s facing the sky and then tilts to align with the satellites. “It’s like an appliance,” Hall said. “You literally just plug it in and follow an app.”

Starlink kit in the box

But the Starlink price is a fall back for some UK users. Starlink costs £89 a month for 100-150 Mbps, while some national providers offer download speeds of up to 516 Mbps for just £79 per month. Hall said he understands that fibre is cheaper, but where he lives, he can’t get fibre so Starlink is the only alternative.

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A photo illustration of a satellite-tracking app showing one of SpaceX’s Starlink internet-beaming spacecraft on a map of Earth.

Without Musk’s internet, Hall said that it was “like a chocolate teapot in terms of watching a video.” Starlink has allowed Hall to stream TV series on Netflix and other services including Chromecast.

senior woman watching tv at home

But like many other Starlink Reddit users, Hall said the range of the router doesn’t stretch that far and the signal can be weak. “When we went to the other side of the house, we weren’t picking it up.”

Starlink UK visible
A Starlink satellite moves across the night sky over Saltburn on April 20, 2020 in Saltburn By The Sea, England. Owned by billionaire CEO Elon Musk, SpaceX aims to create a constellation of 12,000 satellites in the Earth’s orbit to improve internet service across the globe.

For people living in rural areas, such as Hall and even indigenous communities in Canada, Starlink can be transformational. “Elon Musk has transformed the whole thing. It’s a very exciting time,” Hall said.

Elon Musk
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What is web scraping? Here’s what you need to know about the process of collecting automated data from websites, and its uses

software developer analyzing data on laptop tablet desktop
Web scraping, the process of extracting data en masse from websites, has a variety of practical uses.

  • Web scraping is the process of using automated software, like bots, to extract structured data from websites. 
  • There are many applications for web scraping, including monitoring product retail prices, lead generation, and analyzing sentiment about products and companies on social media. 
  • Here’s a brief overview of web scraping, its applications, and how it works. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Web scraping is the name given to the process of extracting structured data from third-party websites. In other words, it’s a way to capture specific information from one or more websites without also copying unwanted or unrelated information. It’s a common practice that has a lot of potential applications and a murky legal profile. 

What to know about web scraping

Web scraping is usually an automated process, but it doesn’t have to be; data can be scraped from websites manually, by humans, though that’s slow and inefficient. More commonly, scraping is performed by software designed specifically for this application, generally in two main components. A crawler is a program that browses the internet and indexes the content of interest, and it passes this information onto the scraper.

The scraper is designed to locate the relevant structured information using markers called data locators. These locators indicate the presence of the data, which the scraper then extracts and stores offline in a spreadsheet or database for processing or analysis.

One simple example of web scraping: Consider a website that aggregates pricing information for retail products so shoppers can see which retailers have the best prices. A scraper can be programmed to index the product pages at every major retailer, with the scraper then visiting each page and using data locators to zero in just on the price field and ignore all the other data on the page – product description, reviews, and so on. The scraper can be run daily to update the webpage with the latest pricing information from around the web. 

How web scraping is used

Because there is an enormous variety of data online, there is a wide variety of applications for web scraping. Here are some of the most common uses:

  • Price intelligence: Like the example above, many web scrapers are designed to monitor prices from retail sites. Retailers might use this to monitor prices at competitor sites, or the data might be used for competitive analysis, monitoring trends, or as a service to other users.
  • Real estate: Similarly, web scrapers commonly target real estate sites to monitor rental and sale prices, appraise property values in a given region, and conduct market analysis.
  • Lead generation: Marketers commonly use web scraping to generate leads by scraping structured data from websites like LinkedIn.
  • Sentiment analysis: Brands even use web scraping to understand how their products and services are being talked about online. Companies can collect data that mentions their name from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. 

The legality of web scraping

There’s no easy answer to the question of web scraping’s legality. This technology has had a number of legal challenges dating back to 2000, when online auction site eBay filed an injunction (which was granted by the court) against a site called Bidder’s Edge for scraping its auction data

In the years since, there have been a number of additional challenges to web scraping, but in 2017 LinkedIn lost a suit against a business that was scraping its content. With some precedent in the courts both for and against web scraping, it’s currently a common practice across the internet. 

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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10 ways to troubleshoot and fix any Wi-Fi problems you’re encountering

teen checking wifi internet connection
If your Wi-Fi isn’t working, follow these troubleshooting tips before calling your service provider.

  • When you encounter Wi-Fi problems, you can try troubleshooting your network or devices, check with your internet service provider, and more.
  • Start by eliminating obvious problems and making sure you know whether it’s related to the Wi-Fi network, internet connection, one device or all devices. 
  • Here are 10 ways to troubleshoot and solve Wi-Fi problems.  
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

It can be hard to imagine or remember the days before Wi-Fi, when you had to run Ethernet cables throughout the house to connect computers to the internet and carry files around on CDs and portable hard drives (affectionately known as “sneakernet”). 

These days, we take Wi-Fi for granted – right up until it stops working and brings our modern connected household to a complete stop. 

How to fix Wi-Fi problems

Here are 10 ways to troubleshoot and solve common Wi-Fi problems. 

Basic check: Is the Wi-Fi router running?

It’s not out of the question for the plug to have been accidentally pulled or the cat to have stepped on the power button. Make sure the Wi-Fi router’s lights are on. 

Is the issue related to one device or all devices?

Fixing computer problems like Wi-Fi connection issues often comes down to the process of elimination. That’s why technical support technicians often start by asking silly and obvious questions like “is the computer plugged in?” Once you know the Wi-Fi is running, check to see if the problem happens on just one device or on all of them. If you can’t connect on your laptop, for example, check your phone to see if you can see Wi-Fi signal strength bars.  

How_to_fix_Wi Fi_problems 1
Can’t connect to Wi-Fi with your computer? Make sure you have a solid connection on your phone – or vice-versa.

Send a ping to Google

One other easy thing you can check for: is the connection problem related to your Wi-Fi network or to your internet service provider’s internet signal? Your Wi-Fi network might be fine, for example, but the ISP’s internet may be out. To find out, run a ping test using a computer. 

1. On your PC, click the Start button search box and type “CMD,” then press Enter. 

2. In the Command Prompt window, type “ping Google.com.”

3. Wait for the result. 

How_to_fix_Wi Fi_problems 2
If you can see a ping from Google, your internet is working and the problem is with your Wi-Fi network.

If you see an error message, you might not have a working internet connection; continue troubleshooting in the next section. If you see a reply from Google, then you have a working internet connection and the problem lies elsewhere. 

You can also log into your account for your internet service provider to check if there’s an outage in your area. With many providers, a banner will appear at the top of your account page notifying you of an outage, or you can search for an outage map on the site.

Troubleshooting no service at all

This is unfortunately one of the more common problems people run into – the internet simply doesn’t work at all. If none of the devices or computers on your Wi-Fi network can connect, reset both the internet router and Wi-Fi (this might be one device or two different ones). Unplug them, wait two minutes, and plug them back in. If your Wi-Fi doesn’t start working again, the problem might be with your internet service provider – call customer service and let them troubleshoot. 

Resolving slow or spotty internet in certain rooms

If your Wi-Fi drops out in certain parts of the house on a regular basis, the problem is almost certainly a “dead zone” caused by a router that can’t reach everywhere. If possible, move the router to a more central location in the house. Alternatively, you can add a Wi-Fi extender to increase the range of your router. 

Troubleshooting slow or spotty internet at certain times of day

If your connection problem isn’t related to where you are in the house but is an intermittent problem at certain times of the day, the issue is likely related to a lack of bandwidth; too many devices are connected to the Wi-Fi network and using too much data. If three people are streaming Netflix on different devices at the same time, for example, there’s your culprit. If possible, connect devices with an Ethernet cable so they aren’t using Wi-Fi, or better yet, take one or more bandwidth hogs offline entirely. 

Is your connection slow because of the Wi-Fi network or the ISP?

If you have a connection that’s noticeably slow, it can also be helpful to figure out if your poor performance is being caused by a slow internet connection provided by your ISP or if the Wi-Fi network in your home is not working properly. You can do this by running an internet speed test. Run the test at speedtest.net in any browser (on a computer or mobile device). If the internet speed seems normal (at least 10Mbps, for example) the issue is related to your Wi-Fi network, not the internet. Read our detailed guide on how to check the strength of your Wi-Fi for more information.

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Run a speed test to make sure your internet is working properly.

How to resolve issues with your router

It can be challenging to know exactly what is causing a problem with your Wi-Fi connection, and the router itself has some settings and configurations that might be “breaking” your Wi-Fi network. If possible, check on and update your router’s firmware. Most modern routers work with a simple mobile app you can use to check on the firmware and install any available updates. This can resolve issues with your connection reliability and speed. In addition, you can probably use the app to change the channels your router is using to broadcast on its various bands. If your connection is slow or intermittent, changing the channels might significantly improve your Wi-Fi service. For more information, read our article on how to boost your internet connection.

What to do if one device has trouble connecting

Make sure the device’s software is up to date. And if your router is a dual-band or tri-band device, try connecting to one of the other Wi-Fi bands. There are any number of reasons why a laptop might connect more easily to one of the 5GHz radios rather than the other, for example. 

What to do if your game console can’t connect to Wi-Fi

Occasionally, consoles like the Xbox and PS4 can run into trouble connecting to Wi-Fi. Consoles can be affected by the same kind of glitches that affect PCs and mobile devices, but they generally only need to go to one internet location, so troubleshooting can be easier. Open a site like Downdetector in a web browser on your computer or a mobile device and use it to see if the Playstation Network or Xbox Live is down. If so, just wait for the site to come back up. Otherwise, reboot both the router and the console and move them closer together, if possible. 

How_to_fix_Wi Fi_problems 5
Downdetector will reveal if the problem with your console’s Wi-Fi connection is actually at the server.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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