The Switchboard: Google may be giving free WiFi to fiber cities


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Published every weekday, the Switchboard highlights five tech policy stories you need to read.

Don't forget to join us later today for the launch of  Switchback, a weekly livechat where you'll be able to ask questions, give feedback and get to know the writers. Join Brian Fung, Andrea Peterson and Hayley Tsukayama to talk about the latest stories in gadgets, tech policy and nerd culture from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. Eastern, every Friday. Submit questions ahead of the chat here.

Google said to be providing WiFi to fiber cities: Google may offer all fiber cities the option of getting WiFi networks as well, according to a report from IDG News Service based on leaked documents from within the company. The plans have been disclosed in a document "circulating to 34 cities that are the next candidates to receive Google Fiber in 2015," the report said, though the company has yet to provide detailed plans on what the networks might look like.

Netflix strikes cable deal to appear as channel: Netflix has struck a deal with cable companies RCN, Grande Communications and Atlantic Broadband to appear as a channel on certain set-top boxes, The Washington Post's Brian Fung reports. Those with cable-provided TiVo boxes, a cable subscription and a Netflix subscription will  see the channel -- already available on retail TiVo units -- show up starting Monday. The deal doesn't include any provisions for Netflix content to be treated any differently, such as getting an dedicated Internet fast lane for its content.

Meanwhile, the public fight between Netflix and Comcast intensified, after Netflix accused Comcast of "double-dipping" and charging consumers and content providers for access to each other.  In its latest blog post, Comcast said Netflix is gravely misrepresenting the situation, and that Netflix has no one but itself to blame for degraded service.

Tesla gets support for direct sales model from FTC: Electric car-maker Tesla got the backing of top Federal Trade Commission officials Thursday in its battle to bypass laws that prevent the company from selling its vehicles directly to consumers, rather than through dealerships. In a blog post on the agency's official Web site, officials from the Office of Public Planning came down heavily in Tesla's favor, saying that those laws are bad policy and that it hopes "lawmakers will recognize efforts by auto dealers and others to bar new sources of competition for what they are—expressions of a lack of confidence in the competitive process that can only make consumers worse off."

In a response posted by the San Francisco Chronicle, the National Association of Automobile Dealers Association responded by saying, "buying a car isn’t like buying a pair of shoes online"  and that states are well within their rights to standardize sales of cars, which are complicated and potentially dangerous products.

Justice Department says cellphone "kill switch" could hurt investigations: The Department of Justice has filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the push to install a "kill switch" in every smartphone could have grave consequences for criminal investigations. As Wired reported,  while state and local law enforcement officials have broadly supported building the ability to lock or remotely wipe smartphones as a theft deterrent, the DOJ said in its brief that this capability gives criminals an easy way to delete evidence.

“This Court should not deprive officers of an investigative tool that is increasingly important for preserving evidence of serious crimes based on purely imaginary fears that police officers will invoke their authority to review drug dealers’ ‘reading history,’ … ‘appointments with marital counselors,’ or armed robbers’ ‘apps to help smokers quit,’”  writes DOJ attorney Donald Verrilli Jr.

Tech giants invest in open source projects, post-Heartbleed: In the wake of the Heartbleed security bug, The Linux Foundation is launching a project to support and maintain critical open-source projects. As our own Andrea Peterson reported, Amazon, Cisco, Dell, Facebook, Fujitsu, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NetApp, Rackspace, Qualcomm and VMWare have each committed to contribute $100,000 to the project annually for the next three years.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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Brian Fung | April 25