FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program Debuts to Reduce Internet Costs

The program offers discounts on monthly internet service fees to low-income Americans.

The FCC has officially launched the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), which offers discounts on monthly internet service fees to low-income Americans, as part of its efforts to make broadband internet more accessible.

The commission says the ACP is “the $14.2 billion successor program to the Emergency Broadband …

Cheugiest tech moments of 2021

Technology has come a long way in 2021. There’s widespread mRNA vaccines! An asteroid-deflecting space mission! A very powerful laptop with a very controversial notch! But it’s unfortunately easier to think about the cringiest moments of the year than it is to remember times when we marveled at indoor farming robots

So hop aboard the choo-choo-cheugy train. We promise, this isn’t just a list of things Elon Musk tweeted in 2021.

Facebook is so Meta

The biggest and most eye-wateringly silly rebrand of the year is uncontested: Facebook, one of the most recognizable names in the world, changed its name to Meta in order to distract from unflaggingly awful decisions and the irreparable harm it has caused countless people focus on the “metaverse,” something no one asked for and certainly no one wanted Facebook of all companies to take the lead on.

Block this out

Meta’s not the only rebrand that went teeth-grindingly meta this year. Readers, we present… Block, FKA Square, originally a small business champion known for square-shaped card swiping dongles (quant!). Now, it’s taking a bite out of blockchain for its new name and identity, although apparently Block is not just about that. The company says it’s also a reference to block parties, building code, obstacles to overcome, “and of course, tungsten cubes.” (click for more cringe) Well, not so fast, Jack! H&R Block is already suing Block for trademark infringement, with the name, a block in its logo, and a green color scheme that all come a little too close to home, since H&R Block, best known for tax filing prep, also happens to sell accounting services to SMBs, mobile banking to consumers and other fintech services just like Square’s… I mean, Block’s. Hard to guess which blockhead will back down first/move to settle here.

Saturday Night Musk

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., arrives at the Axel Springer Award ceremony in Berlin, Germany, on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020. Tesla Inc. will be added to the S&P 500 Index in one shot on Dec. 21, a move that will ripple through the entire market as money managers adjust their portfolios to make room for shares of the $538 billion company. Photographer: Liesa Johannssen-Koppitz/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Image Credits: Bloomberg (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

Mr. Musk perhaps said it best when he played a doctor in the Gen Z Hospital skit: “You all might want to sit down, what I have to say might be a little cringe.” Elon may have hoodwinked a substantial part of the population of global fanboys hoping to get rich on his coattails, but at the end of the day this couldn’t hold any water on Saturday Night Live. He’s not an actor, and he’s not that funny, so even with the wattage of being one of the world’s richest men and a major celeb on social media, his SNL hosting was… a smug, wooden, boring, awkward dud. You’re left wondering how/why he was anointed to be in the limelight in the first place (but then again, I wonder that about him most of the time).

How do you do, fellow NFT owners

The gold rush over NFTs caused some otherwise smart people to attempt to implement them in regrettable ways. Numerous companies announced NFT-adjacent projects, like using them to tokenize fanfic, in-game items, Discord things(?), and so on. After failing to read the internet in general’s skepticism of this interesting but at present highly dubious tech, the companies backpedaled madly, sometimes within hours of announcements or rumors. Literally anyone would have said it was a bad idea, try asking next time!

Bezos thanks everyone for their money, which he shot into space

Image Credits: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

The relentless self-congratulatory fanfare around Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic’s first “real” trips to space was extremely tiring. While there was some relief in Branson’s company getting grounded for shady maneuvers, and in Bezos eliciting scorn for his tamales and his giant hat, the chef’s-kiss moment was the latter’s tone-deaf thanks offered to the world that financed his ego trip by shopping at his ethically bankrupt mega-corporation. “I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer, because you guys paid for all this.” I’m sure he meant every word, which is why it’s so bad. (Also pity the poor cowboy hat, which Bezos has definitely also ruined for me.)

Blue Origin whining postpones the next Moon landing

After losing big time on the Human Landing System contract to arch-rival SpaceX, Blue Origin sued NASA, alleging impropriety. Its claims were dismissed in a highly embarrassing manner (NASA basically pantsed the company in front of the entire industry) but the necessary rigmarole resulted in the planned 2024 crewed lunar landing being pushed out to 2025. To be fair, we all suspected this would be the case anyway, but Blue presented itself as a perfect scapegoat. The blunder may have permanently tainted relations with NASA, which isn’t great when they’re pretty much Blue Origin’s only source of real money… other than “every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer,” of course.

OnlyFans bans itself

We all know what OnlyFans is for, and it’s been great seeing a platform where sex workers, among others, can monetize themselves. Until that platform abruptly announced that the people who’d made it rich in the first place were henceforth banned. Bye, good luck! The backlash was so severe that the decision, unconvincingly blamed on prudish bankers, was reversed within a week. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you, people. (Unless the hand consents as part of a healthy fantasy.)

From the desk of Donald J. Trump

Trump’s tempestuous relationship with social media is perhaps too serious a matter to treat of here, but one aspect of it deserves a palm to the face, and that’s his short-lived “social” platform, From The Desk of Donald J. Trump. This barebones microblog appeared after his ouster from every major social media network, but it was so minimally functional and got so little traffic that it only lasted a month or so before being mothballed. No doubt so his media team could focus on borrowing Mastodon’s code for the follow-up, Truth Social. But even that was all just preliminary to the desperate-looking pitch deck and SPAC we would receive later in the year. As they say, if at first you fail badly, fail, fail again.

Senator Blumenthal asks Facebook rep to “commit to ending finsta”

Now known as the Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen leaked thousands of internal documents from her former employer, including some showing that Instagram is aware of its adverse effect on teenage girls. Soon after, Facebook Global Head of Security Antigone Davis was summoned to testify before the Senate about children’s internet safety.

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), a 75-year-old, was worried about young people using secret accounts that they hid from their parents.

“Will you commit to ending finsta?” he asked.

“Senator, let me explain. We don’t actually do finsta. What finsta refers to is young people setting up accounts where they may want to have more privacy,” Davis patiently replied.

Facebook’s leaked benefits enrollment video

It must be hard to work at Facebook – or, as it’s called now, Meta – on days when the company is getting loads of bad press for, you know, not doing enough to stop the January 6 insurrection. But it’s also probably hard to work at Facebook when you have to enroll in your benefits.

There’s some pretty awful stuff detailed in the files that Haugen leaked, but if you want to experience some lower-stakes incredulity at our Metaverse overlords, check out this video. I’m sure Facebook has good benefits – they’re a huge, trillion-dollar tech company, after all – but is the subsidized care even worth it when there’s choreographed dancing involved?

NFTs aren’t even good at gatekeeping

Bored Apes Yacht Club is like a fraternity for people who love Coinbase. Instead of paying dues to join an exclusive Greek society of bros, you can buy a 52 ETH (~$210,000 at time of publication) NFT of an ape to be part of a cool club. Yes, Jimmy Fallon, Steph Curry and Post Malone are Yacht Club members – just like how some B-list actor was in your college’s fraternity twenty years before you were born. But it’s not just about the ape – the value of the NFT is that you get access to fancy events and stuff. So, nightlife journalist Adlan Jackson concocted a clever plan to sneak into a Bored Apes party.

As it turned out, a friend’s boss owned an Ape and sent Jackson a screenshot of a QR code that could get them into the party. The bouncers were checking for some wristband from a previous event, though, not the literal NFT, so he was turned away despite his Ape possession. Later in the night, Jackson tried to get in again, and… they simply let him in. No wristband, no NFT, no nothing. So much for exclusivity! Luckily, Jackson was just in time to see The Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas ask on stage, “This is kind of about art, right? NFTs? I don’t know, what the hell. All I know is… a lot of dudes here tonight.”

Please make it stop

If NFTs are now blowing up in the speculation bubble that is financial social media (how does that not have a short name? FiSo?) they owe a lot to Gamestop, the memestock that could. The company could have headed into oblivion like so many other mediocre retailers crowded out by innovations in technology, consumer habits and changing tastes in entertainment. But instead, it was picked up and carried on the wings of a wave of hype that drove its price into the stratosphere, leading to so, so many questions about who gets to be the gatekeeper in the world of trading, who makes money, and who are the biggest losers. You hate to see people getting manipulated, but also understand why those who bought in hated to be treated like unempowered peons. No one gets covered in glory in this one. But amazing, there has yet to be a final chapter in this saga: the stock is lower compared to January’s stratospheric peak, but it’s not that far off.

Spotify Wrapped is cheugy

Yeah, yeah, we know that sharing your Spotify Wrapped round-up is basically just doing free PR for Spotify. But the copywriting on Wrapped read like it was penned by a forty-year-old communications staffer who asked his niece for some phrases that gen-Zers like.Spotify even hired an aura reader named Mystic Michaela to collaborate with them on generating audio auras. The result? Cheugy.

“There was one podcast that lived in your head, rent-free, all year long,” it said.

“You always understood the assignment.”

“While everyone else was trying to figure out what NFTs were, you had one song on repeat.”

“You deserve a playlist as long as your skincare routine.”

Elizabeth Holmes has stans

Former Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was on trial for criminal fraud for over four months this year. But on the first day of the trial, some fans – yes, fans – showed up dressed as Elizabeth Holmes. If you’re blonde, it’s a pretty easy costume – just wear a black turtleneck and some red lipstick, put your hair in a low ponytail, and there you go! You’re ready for the Halloween party!

But these cosplayers were legit, as far as the reporters who talked to them could tell. They really admired Elizabeth Holmes, despite the fact that she may or may not be guilty of serious criminal fraud charges running a company that actively jeopardized people’s health by giving them false blood test results. But to each their own.

Even LinkedIn wants to be like TikTok

Basically every social or entertainment platform is finding a way to wedge in a vertically-oriented short form video feed. It makes sense for direct TikTok competitors like Instagram or Snapchat to do this, even though it feels very inorganic and derivative. But toward the end of the year, even companies like Netflix, Spotify, Reddit, Twitter and Pinterest were trying it out. In 2022, Linkedin plans to join them.

The professional networking platform tried doing stories this year, but it wasn’t as successful as Instagram at integrating that Snapchat copy-cat feature.

Fleets fly away

Then again, Twitter didn’t do so hot with Fleets either. I guess you could have seen the writing on the wall with this one: Twitter basically sealed Fleets’ fate with its very name. Its own attempt to throw a hat into the short, ephemeral videos never quite struck a note with Twitter users, who mainly love the format precisely for what it does differently from the rest of social media: fast-paced, short punctuations of words and pictures that flutter down from each other with biting humor, searing criticism, perfectly-timed factoids and occasional glimpses of greatness, regardless of your follow numbers. Who really needs another Story format? Especially one launching so late in the day, with no great twist or even easy way to be used?

Instagram forgot to turn on teen safety features on the web

In July, Instagram tried to cover its metaphorical ass when it comes to user safety by rolling out some new features. One feature made it so that any new account from a user under 16 would default to private. But Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) put tech journalists to shame by unearthing a scoop that was right in front of our eyes for months. If a teen made an Instagram account on the web, it defaulted to public.

To be fair, who even uses Instagram for the web? Still, this felt like a pretty big oversight. Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri had to admit under oath that his team messed up. It was pretty cringe, but at the same time, it’s an alarming, lackadaisical error for a company that’s been repeatedly defending its commitment to teen safety in the Senate this fall.

The headline of this article

It was Devin’s idea. Amanda enthusiastically approved. Still cheugy.

BlackBerry OS Will Bid Adieu on Jan. 4

BlackBerry will officially stop supporting its legacy software in the new year.

People will finally have to let their precious BlackBerry products go in 2022. The company has reminded its users that it’s dropping support for its legacy software—including its eponymous operating system—early next year.

“As a reminder, the legacy services for BlackBerry 7.1 OS and earlier, BlackBerry 10 software, BlackBerry PlayBook OS …

When fundraising, New Zealand startup founders should play the ‘Kiwi card’

New Zealand, a country of 5 million people in the South Pacific, has witnessed a shifting tech startup landscape over the last couple of years. While some major global companies like Xero, Rocket Lab, LanzaTech and Seequent have shined a spotlight on New Zealand’s startup scene, the country historically hasn’t had access to much venture capital.

As a country with an economy that primarily exports agricultural products, the New Zealand startup world has usually relied on funding from a community of high-net-worth individuals and family offices who probably made their millions through real estate or farming.

In March last year, the New Zealand government launched Elevate, an NZD $300 million fund of funds program that’s been providing millions to local VCs to invest into the startup community to fill the early-stage capital gap. At the same time, foreign investors have been flooding onto the scene, attracted to the small country that has a reputation for producing great companies. Founders and VCs in New Zealand are hopeful that the increase in funding from multiple sources is a signal that technology might just become the country’s next big industry.

That is, if the momentum that has led to more early-stage capital continues.

We spoke to two founders (Peter Beck of Rocket Lab and Cecilia Robinson of Au Pair Link, My Food Bag and Tend) as well as two investors (Phoebe Harrop, principal at Blackbird Ventures, and Robbie Paul, CEO of Icehouse Ventures) to nail down the top tips for New Zealand founders looking to put their mark on the markets. Here’s what we learned.

Think big and back yourself

New Zealanders typically tend to have an introspective view, failing to think big and globally from day one, Beck said. This is in part due to the fact that Kiwis grow up in a culture that suffers from “tall poppy syndrome,” a phenomenon where people who have achieved any measure of success are derided, cut down or sabotaged. As a result, not many people want to be a tall poppy.

Play the Kiwi card. New Zealand sits favorably on the minds of the international community. Icehouse Ventures CEO Robbie Paul

“If you’re going to build a company, it’s incredibly painful, it takes a lot of work,” Beck told TechCrunch. “Why would you waste your time building a little company? Let’s build a big company. So go after big problems.”

In order to psych yourself up to tackle those big problems, don’t be too humble. New Zealand consistently punches above its weight and produces world-class entrepreneurs and tech startups, Paul said.

“Back yourself and know you can win on a global stage,” Paul told TechCrunch. “While starting on a rock at the bottom of the world comes with challenges, there are plenty of advantages, too.”

Don’t get starry-eyed over a big check

“Remember that the least valuable thing an investor ever gives you is their money,” said Beck. “As you think about building your business, how and where you want to go, make sure you utilize investors to help you get there. People get starry-eyed by the check and don’t really sit back and go, ‘Well, is this person actually strategic to me or not?’”

When Beck was building Rocket Lab, he was highly selective about the investors he brought in, saying the differentiating factor between investors is not their capital, but rather who they can call. For example, Khosla Ventures participated in Rocket Lab’s Series A round, which Beck said opened the door to another big VC, Bessemer, to invest, in a Series B. DCVC led the Series C, but by the time Rocket Lab got around to its Series D, Bessemer was paving the way to Greenspring, which is a limited partner (LP) of Bessemer. Sovereign wealth funds, where the real big checks come from, participated in the company’s E round, and they were LPs of Greenspring.

“So as your company continues to grow, there are larger and larger pools of capital that you can then go and attract, and if all you’ve got is John from Pakuranga, John doesn’t have the phone number and credibility to sovereign wealth funds,” said Beck. “It’s all about setting up the company so that when you want to do a bigger round, you can go and tap that venture capitalist’s LPs and then it can tap that LP’s LPs and ultimately end up in sovereign wealth funds or others that can write a $100 million check no problems at all. It’s a smooth path there, and where it’s tricky is when there’s no path or the path is truncated, and the challenge with New Zealand is even though there are some better quality venture capital firms in New Zealand, where are their relationships with LPs?”

The COVID vaccine is a life raft. I’m not your life raft to get out of it.

It began with a seemingly innocuous text from a friend of the family. “Hi, Richard. I hope you’re well. I need to speak with you. Can I call you?” The last time we spoke was at my brother’s long-postponed “celebration of life,” which we were able to hold a year after his passing finally. Our

Read more…

The COVID vaccine is a life raft. I’m not your life raft to get out of it. originally appeared in KevinMD.com.

Let’s talk CES 2022 trends

I spent a chunk of yesterday morning rediscovering the big trends of CES 2012. It’s a strange experience, examining so much technology that feels — at once — extremely dated and very recent. With 10 years between you and an event, the macro trends really take shape. Some items are a clear part of a continuum that brings us to the present day. Even more often, however, these things prove to be a kind of evolutionary dead end.

Even so, there’s a lot we can learn in the moment. CES is billed as a bellwether for the year to come. It also demonstrates how the tech world responds to largely global trends, in a one-stop shop. And let’s be real, there’s really one key global trend from the past couple of years that’s going to drive what happens at the show in every way imaginable.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve received some pushback on our coverage of big-name drop-outs from the in-person portion of the event. To some degree, I understand — or at least can empathize with — the criticism of focusing coverage on COVID-fueled exits, rather than the manufacturer news tied to the event. To that I say, simply, we’ll be covering that, too, only we’ll be doing it next week when it’s actually announced at the show (albeit remotely).

In the lead up to the show, however, we can identify/predict the industry trends that are best poised to define CES — and, perhaps by extension, 2022.

First, the elephant in the room.

CES drop-outs

As I write this the list of big-name tech companies that have announced they will be opting out of (or dramatically scaling back from) in-person events includes: GM, Google, Microsoft, AMD, OnePlus, MSI, Lenovo, Intel, T-Mobile, AT&T, Meta, Twitter, Amazon, Proctor & Gamble, Mercedes, BMW, Panasonic, IBM, TikTok and Pinterest. The media side includes TechCrunch, Engadget, The Verge, CNET, PCMag, Tom’s Guide, Tech Radar and more.

It’s not exactly a full list — but it’s surely a lot more than the CTA hoped for. There are, however, still some big names participating, including Samsung, Sony, LG and Qualcomm. Given the late stage at which many companies opted out, those who attend the show are due for a surreal experience, full of big-name, unstaffed booths.

CES dodged the shutdown bullet in 2020 by the skin of its teeth. 2021, meanwhile, felt like a referendum on whether a hardware event at this scale can go entirely virtual. Based on our own experiences of navigating the show online, the answer was decidedly a no. With the CTA planning a return to an in-person event for 2022, I will be interested to see whether the organization has dramatically improved the experience for those who won’t be in Vegas.

Connected fitness

The last few years have been huge for this category — for what should be obvious reasons. Mirror was acquired by Lulu Lemon, Peloton had a banner couple of years (in spite of numerous setbacks) and the funding flowed for a range of different home fitness suppliers. This was fueled by widespread gym closures, coupled with the general inactivity of those forced to stay at home.

There’s been some regression for companies as gyms have reopened in different parts of the country and world, but with the arrival of troubling variants like delta and omicron, many have remained committed to their home workout routines.

Bonus: Expect more startups trying new wearable form factors, including rings, after Oura proved out success on that side. Mindfulness and sleep will also be focuses, in addition to more traditional health tracking.


As someone who writes a lot about robots, it’s heartening to see them playing an increasingly important role at CES. That includes moving beyond sheer novelty and tried and true form factors like robot vacuums. My list includes exoskeletons, elder tech, agtech, prosthesis and — at the very top — disinfecting robots. There are going to be a TON of these, driven by an increased focus on surface-based disease transmission during the pandemic and the fact that it’s reasonably simple to mount UV-C light panels to an autonomous robot that can take laps around an office.

Bonus: With last-mile delivery robots taking off in a big way, expect to see a number of newer companies getting in on the act during the show.


Okay, so Velodyne has opted out of the in-person event, but between robotics, self-driving cars and drones (among others) the demand for lidar is massive. Expect to see a lot of new offers from companies at the show — both new and old.

Bonus: It’s going to be a big year for e-bikes, too. Mark my words.

Remote work

This one’s a bit nebulous, I confess, but the pandemic had a profound impact on the category. After years of decline, PC and tablet sales shot up, as people scrambled to build home offices. Even after nearly two years in isolation, there’s still a lot that needs improving with our home setups. If you started building solutions like webcams, lighting, conferencing devices and microphones at the beginning of the pandemic, CES 2022 would be a great place to debut them — for many reasons.

Bonus: For the (large number)th year in a row, smart home stuff will occupy a huge portion of mindshare for the show.

CES 2022 kicks off next week. We’ll be there (virtually), so stay tuned.

Read more about CES 2022 on TechCrunch

Surprise Billing Regulation is Going to Surprise A Lot of Providers

As we wrap up 2021 and prepare ourselves for 2022, it’s fun to look forward and think about what may surprise us in 2022.  In a really ironic way, I think one thing that is likely to surprise healthcare most in 2022 is the Surprise Billing regulations. I was recently in Philadelphia visiting with Edward […]