Internet companies are dropping broadband data caps in an attempt to keep people connected through the coronavirus pandemic.
A deal struck between the government and internet companies will see them give users unlimited data allowance on their current services and offer new rates on mobile and landline packages.
The measures come as many people are being forced to work and study from home in an attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus, and vulnerable people rely on their internet connections for shopping and communications through the lockdown.
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They are among a range of immediately effective measures which have been signed up to by major internet service and mobile providers including BT/EE, Openreach, Virgin Media, Sky, TalkTalk, O2, Vodafone, Three, Hyperoptic, Gigaclear, and KCOM.
The companies have pledged that anyone who is struggling to pay their bill due to the pandemic will be treated fairly and appropriately supported, the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Department said.
The firms have also agreed to offer some new, generous mobile and landline packages to ensure people are connected and the most vulnerable continue to be supported.
These could put users in line for packages featuring data boosts at low prices and free calls from their landline or mobile.
Vulnerable customers or those who are self-isolating, who are faced with priority repairs to fixed broadband and landlines which cannot be carried out, should be given alternative methods of communication wherever possible, the companies said.
Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “It’s fantastic to see mobile and broadband providers pulling together to do their bit for the national effort by helping customers, particularly the most vulnerable, who may be struggling with bills at this difficult time.
“It is essential that people stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. This package helps people to stay connected whilst they stay home.”
Watchdog Ofcom’s chief executive Melanie Dawes said: “We recognise providers are dealing with unprecedented challenges at the moment.
“So we welcome them stepping up to protect vulnerable customers, at a time when keeping in touch with our friends and families has never been more important.”
Executives from the firms said there has never been a more important period for people to stay connected, adding that during the current uncertainty nobody should have to worry about how to keep in touch with friends and loved ones.
Their companies would work tirelessly to keep the country connected, they said.
Marc Allera, chief executive of BT’s Consumer division, said: “During this national and global crisis, our priorities are the safety of our colleagues and ensuring that our customers, particularly those that are vulnerable, stay connected.”
Openreach chief executive Clive Selley said: “Thankfully a large amount of the work we do – including fixing faults, adding capacity and building faster, more reliable full fibre networks – can be completed outside, so you’ll still see Openreach engineers working to maintain service across the UK.”
The UK’s coronavirus lockdown has about doubled the UK’s internet usage for the duration of the day, according to Virgin Media.
End users are both receiving and sending significantly much more data throughout the daytime than common, the community says.
The amplified targeted traffic will come as quite a few folks are operating or studying from home in an try to end the unfold of coronavirus.
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But the firm claims that the improved targeted traffic is even now less than the community has to offer with in the evenings, and that it carries on to cope with the added desire.
The world-wide-web company explained downstream broadband targeted traffic – web written content acquired by end users on their products – was up 90% on Monday, the initial day of college closures, compared with two months ago.
Upstream visitors – data sent by people when making use of programmes such as video clip phone calls – is also up all through the working day, far more than doubling in the latest weeks, Virgin Media said.
Web service suppliers have said their networks are sturdy sufficient to tackle the boosts in targeted visitors for the duration of the Covid-19 lockdown nonetheless, some online video clip solutions, including Netflix and YouTube, have begun restricting video clip stream bitrates in an endeavor to simplicity any network pressure.
Jeanie York, Virgin Media’s chief technology and information officer, mentioned the increase is even now below the targeted traffic levels the agency encounters in its traditional evening peak.
“Our network is constructed to face up to this day-to-day evening peak, and proper now is easily accommodating this daytime increase.”
Ms York explained the maximize in upstream website traffic is joined to additional men and women doing the job from home, and the mounting craze of video conferencing during social distancing.
“This has mostly been triggered by additional and much more folks functioning from household and sending information and information again to company networks,” she said.
“This targeted visitors is raising all through the working day and continuing into the night, with peak upstream site visitors up all over 25% on the preceding 7 days, exhibiting people today are operating later on or joining conference phone calls with mates and household.
“Our network has enough ability to take care of this increased desire.”
Video clip conferencing applications and apps, these kinds of as Skype, Zoom and Houseparty, have acquired new waves of attractiveness as workers use them to continue to be in contact with colleagues even though aside, and people and friendship teams all attempt to keep in touch.
The internet supplier also mentioned it is presently looking at some familiar styles regardless of the altering conditions.
“Upstream traffic is dipping slightly at lunchtime as remote personnel end for lunch and yet again at 5.30pm when folks log off for the day,” Ms York reported.
“We’re also seeing evidence of people today remaining at property and social distancing, with community demand from customers up at the weekend. Upload facts spiked on Mothering Sunday as numerous households held online video calls with beloved ones.”
According to its figures, traffic also sharply dropped 10% on Monday evening as people place down their devices to listen to Primary Minister Boris Johnson converse – exactly where the current degree of lockdown was declared.
The range and length of landline calls have also greater in the last 7 days, the corporation stated.
On the other hand, Virgin Media said the present traffic increases has “however not pushed up need to the ranges noticed throughout recent pc match releases or when multiple Premier League video games ended up streamed simultaneously”.
“Inspite of increased info use on our community, we’re not at capability and are continuing to provide our clients with the ultrafast and dependable providers they count on,” Ms York mentioned.
With millions of people across the country staying at home amid the UK coronavirus lockdown, broadband and mobile networks have found themselves under increased demand.
From remote working to home schooling, the number of households attempting to access the internet at the same time is causing connections to perform at slower speeds.
But, there are things people can do to ensure everyone in the home gets the bandwidth they need, whether it is for video streaming or virtual calls.
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On Wednesday, media regulator Ofcom published a list of seven ways people can reduce the strain on internet providers as part of its “Stay Connected” campaign, which has been launched alongside BT, Sky, O2 and Virgin Media.
“Families across the country are going online together this week, often juggling work and keeping children busy at the same time,” Melanie Dawes, the chief executive of Ofcom, said.
“So we’re encouraging people to read our advice on getting the most from their broadband, home phones and mobiles.”
Here are seven ways you can improve your internet speed during self-isolation.
Use your landline or wifi calls if you can
Ofcom reports that because more people are making calls using their mobile network during the day, people might find they get a more reliable connection using a landline.
If you do need to use your mobile, it suggests using your settings to turn on “wifi calling”.
“Some smartphones and mobile packages allow your phone to make calls over your broadband network, which often provides the best sound quality and also helps reduce demand on the mobile network,” Ofcom says.
Alternatively, voice calls can also be made over the internet using apps like Facetime, Skype or WhatsApp.
Move your router clear of other devices
Another way to help boost your internet speed is to make sure your router is as far away as possible from other devices including cordless phones, baby monitors, halogen lamps, dimmer switches, stereos and computer speakers and televisions.
Ofcom adds that microwaves can also reduce wifi signals, so try not to use them when you’re making video calls, watching HD videos or doing something important online.
Lower the demands on your connection
The more devices attached to your wifi, the lower the speed you get,Ofcom says.
Devices like tablets and smartphones typically work in the background, so Ofcom suggests switching wifi reception off on these devices when you’re not using them.
“You might also want to manage your family’s online activity, so that different people aren’t carrying out data-heavy tasks (like HD streaming, gaming or video calls) all at the same time,” it adds.
It is also a good idea to download any video content in advance, instead of streaming it.
Try wired rather than wireless
For the best broadband speeds, Ofcom recommends using an Ethernet cable to connect your computer directly to your router rather than using wifi.
An Ethernet cable is a computer networking cable which should give you a faster, more reliable connection and can be purchased from as little as £3.
Plug your router directly into your main phone socket
Where possible, Ofcom suggests not using a telephone extension lead, as these can cause interference which could lower your speed. If you have to use an extension lead, use a new, high-quality cable with the shortest possible length.
Similarly, tangled and coiled cables can also affect speeds, as can interference from your phone line, so try plugging “microfilters” into every phone socket in your home.
“They look like little white boxes and split the phone and broadband signals so that they don’t affect each other,” Ofcom says.
Test the speed on your broadband line
Ofcom also recommends running a speed test using its official mobile and broadband checker.
The tests should be carried out over a few days and at different times of day.
You can download Ofcom’s checker as a smartphone app (search Ofcom in Apple’s app store or Google Play) or use it through your internet browser.
Get advice from your broadband provider
If your connection still isn’t working as well as it should, Ofcom recommends looking for more information on your broadband provider’s website.
If you need to, you can also contact them for help over the phone. However, people should be aware that, because of the coronavirus, some companies are running with a reduced number of staff who can help with your queries.
The world wide web is experiencing some stress. We have been warned of our impending doom, but we are not ready to give up yet. There are many proactive steps you can take to help your internet run more smoothly and securely. You will be happy you did!
This blog post will talk about what misinformation is, how it affects us as individuals and as a society, why we should care about fighting against it, and some ways that we can do so.
AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson has mentioned that the company is seeing “some indicators of stress” as a result of containment steps taken to combat the coronavirus. He also said that it was too early to tell if this would lead to any significant problems for customers, but he did say there were no indications so far that this had affected customer service or internet speeds.
In order to help with these issues, AT&T has been working on contingency plans and have increased their staffing levels in order to provide better service during this time. They are also monitoring traffic closely and will be able to adjust accordingly when necessary. This includes adjusting pricing structures for data usage based on demand from customers who need more bandwidth than others.
• What I am referring to are the servers that store and distribute data around the globe – or so we thought!
o It turns out these important computer systems might be in trouble as more people use the internet every day.
o With all this worry circling around the web – there’s one company who’s on it (no pun intended).
• You guessed it: Optimizely!
o They’re leading the charge for new, faster ways of connecting people to vital information by using state-of-the art technology – which makes them our go-to source for better bandwidth and less data congestion.
If you want your internet connection back up and running at full speed, contact AT&T today!
The internet can be a wonderful place. It has the ability to connect people and provide them with endless amounts of information, which can be life changing. However, it’s not always that simple for everyone – many have fallen victim to misinformation online in one way or another. We’re here to help you stay informed about the latest news and updates on topics related to your industry by providing accurate content from credible sources. If there are any areas where we could improve our blog posts, please let us know!
Amazon Prime Video and YouTube will reduce the quality of streaming on their platforms in Europe in order to help internet infrastructure cope with a surge in traffic resulting from the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The move follows a similar announcement from Netflix following a request from European Union commissioner Thierry Breton for streaming services to lower the resolution of their content to prevent internet gridlock.
“We are making a commitment to temporarily switch all traffic in the EU to standard definition by default,” YouTube said in a statement.
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A spokesperson for Prime Video said the platform was working with local authorities and internet service providers “to help mitigate any network congestion”.
Increased strain on the internet will likely increase over the coming weeks. From Friday, schools across the UK will close for the majority of students, leaving millions more at home using video streaming and online gaming platforms.
Concerns about widespread outages and critical services going down prompted BT to offer assurances that its broadband network would be able to cope with the added demand.
“The UK is one of the world’s most advanced digital economies, so we overbuild our networks to compensate for our love of high-definition streaming content, video gaming and other bandwidth-hungry applications,” Howard Watson, BT’s chief technology officer, wrote in a blog post on Friday.
“The Covid-19 outbreak is causing changes to the way our networks are being used. We’re monitoring those changes carefully to make sure we can respond rapidly if needed. However, the UK’s communications infrastructure is well within its capacity limits and has significant headroom for growth in demand.”
Other industry experts have warned that the measures may not be enough to prevent more outages, with GlobalData director Emma Mohr-McClune calling on other major bandwidth consumers to take similar action.
Online video game platforms have already seen huge spikes in users in recent weeks – a trend that is expected to continue as the crisis progresses. Desktop gaming client Steam broke its all-time record for the highest number of concurrent users over the weekend, seeing over 20 million gamers use the platform at one time.
“Netflix and [YouTube owner] Alphabet have demonstrated superb industry leadership with this compromise and gesture, but online gaming service providers must now follow suit,” she said.
“Although video streaming represents the lion’s share of residential internet traffic in Europe, interactive online gaming is a substantially greater threat in network overload terms. Any mass market spike in activity will have significant consequences for vital government and market functions in Covid-19 lockdown mode.”
Netflix has agreed to reduce the quality of its streaming service in order to help internet infrastructure cope with the increased traffic caused by the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The online streaming platform has seen a significant increase in demand in recent days, after containment measures forced people to stay at home and self-isolate to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.
Netflix said the reduction in picture quality will only affect users in Europe, though it is not yet clear whether this includes the UK. The Independent has reached out to Netflix for clarification.
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The move follows a call from European Union commissioner Thierry Breton for streaming services to lower the resolution of their content to help ease the strain on overloaded networks.
“To secure internet access for all, let’s switch to standard definition when HD is not necessary,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
Following a phone call between Mr Breton and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, the streaming giant agreed to a reduction in streaming quality that will lower data consumption by 25 per cent.
“Following the discussion between Commissioner Thierry Breton and Reed Hastings, and given the extraordinary challenges raised by the coronavirus, Netflix has decided to begin reducing bitrates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” Netflix said.
Reducing bitrates reduces data consumption but can result in videos appearing less clear and more pixelated.
Commissioner Breton responded by saying the “prompt action” would “preserve the smooth functioning of the internet during the Covid-19 crisis”.
The recent surge in internet traffic has caused significant issues for phone networks and internet providers in the UK.
EE, O2, Three and Vodafone all suffered mass outages earlier this week, with customers complaining that they were unable to get online.
Virgin Media and TalkTalk have also seen an increased rise in internet use, which will likely increase in the coming days.
Schools across England will close indefinitely from Friday as containment measures become more strict. The closures. will likely result in a further rise in demand for Netflix and other streaming services.
The story of Tim Berners-Lee is a fascinating one. He invented the World Wide Web and changed the world with it. He’s not just an inventor, though; he also has a passion for making sure everyone in the world has access to information, education, and opportunity online.
This blog post will discuss how you can get involved in his latest project: Disrupting Digital Inequality.
The inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, has warned that the online harassment of women and girls is threatening global progress towards gender equality. Berners-Lee, who created the web in 1989, said he was “seriously concerned” about the long-term impact of online gendered abuse.
“I am seriously concerned that online harms facing women and girls — especially those of colour, from LGBTQ+ communities and other minority groups — threaten that progress,” he wrote in an open letter to mark the 31 anniversary of the web.
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”This should concern us all. And at times like now, when coronavirus is closing offices and schools, the web becomes the only way we can continue to work, teach our children and get vital health information to keep ourselves safe.”
He warned that the problems weren’t just digital but that harassment, sexual abuse and online threats were forcing women out of jobs, causing girls to skip school, damaging relationships and silencing female opinions.
He concluded that “the web is not working for women and girls” and urged governments and companies to do more to combat the growing problem.
He said without tackling misogyny online these aims could not be achieved and said that gender equality now needed to be embedded, by design, into products and services rather than creating them entrenched with existing bias.
“A world where so many women and girls would be deprived of such basics is completely unacceptable,” he said.
According to a survey by the Web Foundation, set up by Berners-Lee, more than half of young women have experienced violence online.
This includes sexual harassment, threatening messages and having private images shared without consent. And 84 per cent believe the problem is getting worse. A study in 2017 found nearly half of girls aged 11 to 18 have suffered harassment or abuse on social media.
A poll more than 1,000 girls and boys in the UK found 48 per cent of female respondents had experienced some form of harassment or abuse on social media, such as receiving upsetting messages, having images shared without their consent or feeling harassed through regular contact.
And across both men and women, almost one in four people in the UK have experienced some sort of cyberbullying, according to research released by YouGov.
Those aged 18 to 24 are the most likely to be cyberbullied, with 55 per cent of respondents in this age bracket saying they had experienced some sort of bullying online, followed by 25- to 34-year-olds (33 per cent).
Internet safety is a big deal for parents. If you have kids, you know how important it is to keep them safe online and out of harm’s way. But with so many sites, apps, and devices available to children these days, it can be hard to figure out which ones are safe! This blog post will give you the top ten safest websites for kids so that your child can enjoy exploring the internet without any worries. So go ahead and click through our list below!
Far more than a 3rd of kids say they come across it a lot easier to be on their own on line than offline, in accordance to a new survey. Thirty-8 for every cent claimed they see the internet as a harmless area to investigate and improve, increasing to 54 per cent for youthful people with disabilities.
A lot of expressed problems about the conduct of other buyers and the have to have to develop more accounts to protect them selves, having said that.
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Virtually half (47 for every cent) of eight to 17-calendar year-olds surveyed stated that they feel it is vital to “fit in” on-line, although 61 per cent consider the online puts pressure on individuals to appear best.
The examine, which coincides with Safer Internet Working day – an once-a-year observance which aims to elevate awareness of rising on line concerns – saw 2,001 younger people today polled by the British isles Safer World-wide-web Centre.
On line platforms face developing tension to guard vulnerable men and women on the internet.
The All Occasion Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health has reported that even though social media has the prospective to positively effect younger people’s lives, detrimental results consist of isolating young people suffering from psychological ill overall health, exposing them to on-line bullying and influencing self-esteem and human body impression.
This is significantly acute for women and young females.
A Younger Persons’ Constitution is to be offered to pretty much 40 MPs and federal government officers in Westminster on Tuesday.
It consists of a record of requests from youthful men and women about making the net a a lot more inclusive area, these types of as rising on the net security and marketplace accountability.
One in seven of the youthful people polled explained it was simple for people to be abusive online, primary 62 per cent to be cautious about what they share.
Even with this, just about fifty percent (49 for every cent) imagine the world-wide-web contributes to their identity and helps them come to feel a lot less by itself.
Will Gardner, director of the British isles Safer Online Centre, reported whilst the internet holds quite a few optimistic experiences for children, it was vital to admit “the pressures, worries and limits” it can bring.
“It is so significant for all of us – grownups, businesses, and federal government – to assist younger persons to harness the world-wide-web for superior and make it a location in which all people is free of charge to be on their own,” he reported.
For decades, sex education in the classroom could be pretty cringeworthy. For some adolescents, it meant a pitch for abstinence; others watched their teachers put condoms on bananas and attempt sketches of fallopian tubes that looked more like modern art.
The video is the work of Dr Danielle Jones, a gynaecologist in College Station, Texas, and so far has racked up over 11 million views. Comments range from effusive (“this slaps”) to eye-rolling (“thanks for the advice mom” and “ma’am, I’m 14 years old”).
“My TikTok presence is like if you had a friend who just happens to be an OB-GYN [obstetrician-gynaecologist],” Jones says. “It’s a good way to give information to people who need it and meet them where they are.”
Jones is one of many medical professionals working their way through the rapidly expanding territory of TikTok, the Chinese-owned short-form video app, to counter medical misinformation to a surging audience. The app has been downloaded 1.5 billion times as of November, according to SensorTower, with a mostly youthful audience; 40 per cent of its users are aged between 16 and 24.
Although medical professionals have long taken to social media to share healthy messages or promote their work, TikTok poses a new set of challenges, even for the internet-adept. Popular posts on the app tend to be short, musical and humorous, complicating the task of physicians hoping to share nuanced lessons on health issues like vaping, coronavirus, nutrition and things you shouldn’t dip in soy sauce. And some physicians who are using the platform to spread credible information have found themselves the targets of harassment.
Dr Rose Marie Leslie, a family medicine resident physician at the University of Minnesota Medical School, says TikTok provides an enormous platform for medical public service announcements.
“It has this incredible viewership potential that goes beyond just your own following,” she says.
Leslie’s TikToks on vaping-associated lung diseases drew over 3 million views, and posts on the flu and HPV vaccines also reached broad audiences beyond her hospital.
Striking a chord on TikTok, Leslie says, means tailoring medical messaging to the app’s often goofy form. In one post, she advised viewers to burn calories by practising a viral TikTok dance. She takes her cues from teen users, who often use the app to offer irreverent, even slapstick commentary on public health conversations. She notes one trend in which young TikTokers brainstormed creative ways to destroy your e-cigarette, like running it over with a car.
TikTok’s executives have welcomed the platform’s uses for medical professionals. “It’s been inspiring to see doctors and nurses take to TikTok in their scrubs to demystify the medical profession,” said Gregory Justice, TikTok’s head of content programming.
Jones, the gynaecologist, says she hopes the platform can help young people develop trust in medical practitioners and view them as more accessible. “Back in the old days, there was a town doctor and everyone knew where he lived, and you traded milk and eggs for healthcare,” Jones says. “You had trust in your doctor because you trusted them as a person first.” TikTok, she says, can help to humanise doctors – she’s seen that some of her own patients feel more comfortable with her because they have seen her playful social media posts.
But some doctors are also encountering responses to their videos that they did not expect.
Earlier this month, Dr Nicole Baldwin, a paediatrician in Cincinnati, Ohio, posted a TikTok listing the diseases that are preventable with vaccines and countering the notion that vaccines cause autism.
Her accounts on TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and Yelp were flooded with threatening comments, including one that labelled her “Public Enemy #1” and another that read, “Dead doctors don’t lie.”
A team of volunteers that is helping Baldwin monitor her social media has banned more than 5,200 users from her Facebook in recent weeks.
Baldwin says she started out feeling enthusiastic about the opportunity TikTok provides to educate adolescents, but her experience with harassment gave her some pause.
“There’s a fine line physicians are walking between trying to get a message out that will appeal to this younger generation without being inappropriate or unprofessional,” Baldwin says. “Because of the short content and musical aspect of TikTok, what adolescents are latching on to is not the professional persona we typically put out there.”
A spate of recent TikToks have further stirred questions about the potential for the app’s abuse. One recent TikTok post featured a medical professional speculating – as she lip-synced to the Rex Orange County lyric “how could I ignore you?” – that her patient’s chest pain could have been caused by cocaine. Another showed an emergency room doctor mocking patients who sought treatment in the ER rather than from a primary care physician – like going to A&E instead of a GP.
Sarah Mojarad, a lecturer who teaches a course on social media for scientists at the University of Southern California, says she has seen physicians either “bashing their patients” on the app or “whitecoat marketing”, a term that refers to the use of medical prestige to market inappropriate products like unauthorised supplements.
The youth of TikTok’s audience also raises the stakes when medical professionals misuse the platform.
“With a young audience, it’s really important to make sure that the content getting out is professional and accurate,” Mojarad says. “People may think some of it is medical humour, but it impacts care.”
TikTok’s community guidelines state that the platform does not permit “misinformation that may cause harm to an individual’s health, such as misleading information about medical treatments”. The company expanded its rules of conduct last month, as its user base has grown.
Some physicians worry that TikTok’s brief, playful clips can blur the line between general education and patient-specific medical advice.
Dr Austin Chiang, a gastroenterologist and chief medical social media officer at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, says he has been asked about specific symptoms on TikTok and has to refer users to established medical sources or directly to their doctors.
Dr Christian Assad, a cardiologist in McAllen, Texas, says he sometimes scripts his TikToks, given the potential for confusion when he compresses a 60-minute talk on low-carbohydrate dieting into a 60-second musical clip.
Ignoring the platform isn’t an option, especially given the prevalence of disinformation on the app, Chiang says. Two of his more popular posts have countered the use of essential oils to cure diseases and exposed the failings of the celery juice fad diet.
“If we’re not there to be a voice for evidence-based medicine, who’s going to do that for us?” Chiang says. “Anti-vaxxers are already using social media to their advantage. By putting doctors on social media, we’re able to be a source of more accurate information.”
Still, for doctors turned influencers, the TikTok learning curve can be steep. Dr Matthew Schulman, a plastic surgeon in New York, says the slightly older users of Instagram and Snapchat have been vital to his private practice, helping to drive roughly 80 per cent of consultations. He often streams live from the operating room. “Buttock augmentation is really popular on social media,” he says.
But TikTok has presented him with cause for additional concern. The virality upside is massive: a post he made earlier this month discussing celebrity clients drew over 6.8 million views. But as he has watched his 10-year-old daughter use the app, he realised that he must exercise more caution in producing content.
“The demographic of TikTok is very young, and as a plastic surgeon I don’t feel comfortable marketing my services to children,” Schulman says. Simultaneously, he knows the app is growing fast. “I don’t want to be caught playing catch-up. In two or three years the platform could change, and if I already have an established account, I’m ahead of the game.”
In the meantime, he says, he relies on top-notch TikTok editors – his kids.
Scientists have been working on a way to make the internet even more efficient and now they’ve finally done it. Cables are about to be obsolete because scientists have found that they can transmit data over light instead of electricity like we do with cables today. This new technology will allow for much greater speeds and capacities across the globe, making our lives even easier than before!
Data could be transmitted a thousand times faster than current internet cables after a major breakthrough, scientists have said. The new research uses terahertz quantum cascade lasers that could send data around the world at speeds unimaginable using current technology.
The lasers could be used to vastly speed up data communications, according to the researchers behind the study, which is published today in the journal Nature Communications.
The study saw researchers make a breakthrough in the control of terahertz quantum cascade lasers, which they say could be used to transmit data at a speed of 100 gigabits. Current – very fast – ethernet connections work at 100 megabits a second, a thousand times less quick.
The specific kind of lasers are different because they send out light in the terahertz range of the electromagnetic spectrum, which is largely used to analyse chemicals. But by turning them to use to send data, they could provide much faster connections for research facilities, hospitals, satellite communications or any other situations where very fast network connections are required.
To be used to send to data, the lasers need to be switched off about 100 billion times every second. That requires precise control, and engineers have so far been unable to do it.
Now researchers think they have found a way of controlling that very fast modulation, using sound and light.
“This is exciting research,” said John Cunningham, Professor of Nanoelectronics at Leeds. “At the moment, the system for modulating a quantum cascade laser is electrically driven – but that system has limitations.
“Ironically, the same electronics that delivers the modulation usually puts a brake on the speed of the modulation. The mechanism we are developing relies instead on acoustic waves.”
When an electron passes through the optical part of the laser, it travels through a host of “quantum wells” that throw out a pulse of light energy. An electron can emit a number of those photons, and that is controlled – using soundwaves to vibrate those quantum wells – in the new experiment.
“Essentially, what we did was use the acoustic wave to shake the intricate electronic states inside the quantum cascade laser,” said Tony Kent, Professor of Physics at Nottingham. “We could then see that its terahertz light output was being altered by the acoustic wave.”
The research is not perfect, and more control is still needed before the lasers could be used reliably to transmit data. But with further work they could lead to major breakthroughs in transmitting data.
“We did not reach a situation where we could stop and start the flow completely, but we were able to control the light output by a few percent, which is a great start,” said Professor Cunningham.
“We believe that with further refinement, we will be able to develop a new mechanism for complete control of the photon emissions from the laser, and perhaps even integrate structures generating sound with the terahertz laser, so that no external sound source is needed.”