The Switchboard: Netflix surpasses HBO in paid subscribers

October 22, 2013

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Netflix reports over 30 million U.S. customers. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings revealed in a third-quarter earnings call on Monday that the video streaming company now boasts some 31 million U.S.-based subscribers, and 9 million based overseas. That's enough to put it atop HBO's customer base, which stands at roughly 29 million. The news raises the stakes for cable companies to strike a deal with the streaming-video giant, so that consumers can watch Netflix on their set-top boxes — but as I argue, an agreement would also pave the way for a more closed Internet.

HHS brings in Verizon to help HealthCare.gov. The government has asked Verizon to help resolve the connectivity problems surrounding HealthCare.gov, its beleaguered Web portal for the federal health-care law. Citing an unnamed source, USA Today reports the Department of Health and Human Services has opted to bypass its traditional contractors and go straight to "civilian companies." "The odds that the problem will be fixed are '50-50', said Clark Kelso, California's chief information officer under governors Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. 'They've got a short window here to try to fix things,' Kelso said. 'Simply throwing a lot of new programmers at something like this does not guarantee success.'"

In case you don't realize how fast Apple's iPad business has gone down the tubes… Sales of Apple's iPad have been slowing in recent months as competitors begin cranking out better options, according to Business Insider. What's the problem? The iPad is too expensive — a problem that could easily be fixed by lowering the price and drawing on the company's huge cash pile. But such a step might be outside Apple's comfort zone. Apple's iPad event Tuesday, by the way, will be streamed live here.

Google's new map of global cyberattacks is nifty, but is it also self-serving? Google has unveiled a new map that tracks DDoS attacks in real time — part of an effort to combat online censorship by repressive regimes. But as Slate's Will Oremus points out, DDoS attacks are sometimes deployed by political dissidents themselves, putting the map a bit at odds with Google's stated purpose. "But it's also not hard to see how one of the world's largest and most profitable Internet companies might have a vested interest in lumping all disruptions of smooth Internet service together as 'attacks on free speech,' as Google Ideas director Jared Cohen does in a blog post introducing the tool."

Amnesty International: U.S. may have committed drone-related war crimes. The human rights watchdog, in a new report, suggests the civilian toll surrounding the White House's program of targeted drone strikes may amount to war crimes. According to Mashable, the lack of a clear legal regime on drones means Amnesty International "cannot outright accuse the U.S." of violating anything. "Amnesty says it fears that the United States is using the lawlessness of Northern Waziristan — a section of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan and is rife with Taliban and al-Qaeda members — to avoid the consequences of what could be war crimes or extrajudicial killings."

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post.
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Brian Fung | October 21, 2013