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Tech tremors: 5 bumps to brace for in the year ahead

Paul Venezia | Jan. 4, 2016
If you thought 2015 was full of tossing and turning, wait until 2016 hits

After a tumultuous 2015 in tech, 2016 promises to be much the same. The past year opened with wrangling over Net neutrality, and it closed with wrangling overencryption backdoors. There were some highs: The FCC voted to protect the Internet from the big ISPs, and the would-be disaster of a Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger was averted.

And there were many lows: the massive Office of Personnel Management data breach, the Ashley Madison hackLenovo and Dell putting users at risk, the slippery return of CISA and unfettered government surveillance....

It was a year of triumphs and tumbles. Don't expect 2016 to be any less contentious and eventful. Here are five things we might expect to see in the next 12 months.

Tech tremor No. 1: As big ISPs ramp up their bullying, more pockets of responsible Internet service will appear

In the wake of the FCC's strict Net neutrality regulations in 2015, the big ISPs seem hell bent on proving to the world that they are irresponsible monopolies. They will double down on the shenanigans in 2016, possibly in an attempt to squeeze every last cent out of their captive customer base before the inevitable happens and they are either forced to compete for customers, or they become regulated utilities. Expect more news about data caps, poor customer service, predatory rate changes, mythic service offerings, and the rest of the panoply of borderline-legal games they have become synonymous with.

On the flip side, expect to hear more about community Internet service providersdelivering high bandwidth for reasonable prices. Expect more states and communities to overturn egregious laws that prevent municipal broadband projects from moving forward. Expect Google Fiber to continue to expand.

Tech tremor No. 2: We'll finally reach the tipping point for broadcast content

Though Netflix and others have been streaming content for many years, 2016 might be the year when streaming finally becomes the leading delivery method, not broadcast services. A few signs point in this direction, such as the preponderance of ads for streaming devices such as the AppleTV, Google Chromecast, and the Amazon Fire TV. These streaming devices blow the doors off anything built into a "smart" TV, and they are available for $99 or less. Thus, this Christmas season could very well produce a large surge in the use of streaming services.

Couple that with increased attention from major entertainment sources  -- such asthe NFL streaming games over the Internet (officially) for the first time, and Major League Baseball planning to stream games in 15 markets -- and the reasons to pay exorbitant rates for broadcast television with endless commercial breaks, lackluster content, vast wastelands of channels you never watch, and crappy DVR services is eroding fast. Even the cable companies are acknowledging that the days of reaping huge profits for delivering spoon-fed content are coming to an end. It can't happen soon enough.


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