Weekend news round-up: the sharing economy’s ‘precariat’ and Verizon’s copper cop-out

18 Aug 2014

Copper wire image via Flegere/Shutterstock

In our round-up of the weekend’s top tech news, we look at stories on those employed by the growing sharing economy in the US and Verizon’s copper customers, among others.

The precarious position of workers in the sharing economy

In The New York Times this past weekend, Natasha Singer explored the burgeoning sharing economy, focusing on those trying to earn a living wage from one-off jobs. Though tech start-ups such as Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit and Airbnb have attracted many unemployed people in the US, these ad-hoc workers have no recourse if the service they sign up to changes its business model or rates, creating a new class of labour dubbed the ‘precariat’ by labour economist Guy Standing.

“Piecemeal labor is hardly a new phenomenon. But as expedited by technology and packaged as apps, it has taken on a shinier veneer under new rubrics: the sharing economy, the peer economy, the collaborative economy, the gig economy,” writes Singer.

Verizon accused of forcing copper customers onto fibre

Over on Ars Technica, Jon Brodkin looks into allegations that US telecommunications provider Verizon is purposefully allowing its copper networks to deteriorate in order to force customers onto its fibre lines instead. However, some customers would prefer to stick with copper as its ability to conduct electricity means areas that suffer power outages can maintain phone lines for days or even weeks.

“Verizon cut investment in its wireline business – it had 80,600 wireline employees as of June 30, 2014, down from 84,700 in 2013, 88,600 in 2012, and 93,200 in 2011. Verizon also reduced capital expenditures from $2.95 billion in the six months ending June 30, 2013 to $2.73 billion in the six months ending June 30, 2014,” Brodkin reports.

Amazon’s indie approach to original content

In another feature from The New York Times, Emily Steel examines Amazon’s refreshed approach to its original content being produced for its Prime video subscription service, as it tries to compete with services such as Netflix and Hulu, as well as traditional broadcast TV.

“Rather than retreat, Amazon is pressing its video bet and conscientiously adding more artistic nuance to its science of programming. The company recently named Judith McGrath, the former chief executive of MTV Networks, to its board and announced plans to invest $100 million into original content in the third quarter of 2014,” writes Steel.

Internet Explorer team does Reddit AMA

Before the weekend hit, Internet Explorer team members participated in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit, revealing that Android or iOS versions are not part of Microsoft’s current roadmap for its web browser.

A report from ZDNet rounded up the employees’ key answers: “Right now, we’re focused on building a great mobile browser for Windows Phone and have made some great progress lately. So, no current plans for Android/iOS. We are committed to improving our own engine. We love the fact that the web was built on multiple competing (yet interoperable) platforms and believe that this is how it is going to move forward into the future!”

Copper wire image via Flegere/Shutterstock

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.