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An AT&T Inc. cellular antenna stands in San Francisco. Photo: David Paul Morris / Getty

Some startups are trying to turn existing technologies into products that could reduce consumers' reliance on major internet service providers for broadband access, the WSJ reports.

Why it matters: Earlier this month, the FCC repealed net neutrality rules that required internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, Charter and Comcast to treat all internet access equally. Without those rules, the telecom companies may be able to speed up some traffic from companies willing to pay extra to reach consumers faster. In many areas, consumers have few choices of broadband providers.

Here's what a few startups are doing to increase competition for the big internet service providers:

  • VPN: AnchorFree provides a service called Hotspot shield to hide their location from broadband providers. "In theory, that would make it harder for telecom companies such as AT&T Inc. or Verizon Communications Inc. to slow down a site or completely block users from viewing it," per the WSJ.
  • Mesh network: Startup goTenna makes a small antenna that can connect with devices such as phones, laptops and other antennas several miles away over radio frequencies. That allows the user to pull together connectivity from many different nodes to establish a web connection. In Portugal, startup Veniam installed sensors on vehicles to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots to create a mesh network to which city residents can connect.

But, but, but: Some of these projects need the cooperation of local officials and are not proven to be viable alternatives to a fixed or wireless broadband subscription. Also, incumbent internet service providers say they don't have plans to block or prioritize web traffic, even without the FCC's rules.

Go deeper

Rising rates may hammer the stock market

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

Stocks are much more vulnerable to interest rate swings than they used to be.

Why it matters: A sharp rise in rates in early 2022 is the key reason the stock market is off to an ugly start. And with the Federal Reserve making noise about trying to keep inflation in check, rates could go higher.

Ina Fried, author of Login
45 mins ago - Technology

Microsoft's Activision Blizzard deal complicates Big Tech regulation

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Microsoft's surprise $68 billion deal to buy Activision Blizzard is adding a fresh twist to the heated debate over which tech companies have monopolies that need to be reined in.

The big picture: The deal could force a question the company has happily ducked for a decade: whether its size and power make it just as deserving of regulatory scrutiny as its Big Tech rivals.

Biden to announce plan to distribute 400 million masks for free

Photo: Ken Cedeno/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Biden administration will announce Wednesday that 400 million non-surgical N95 masks will be made available to the public for free at thousands of "convenient locations" across the U.S.

Why it matters: This is the largest deployment of personal protective equipment in U.S. history, according to a White House official. The masks are slated to be available at numerous local pharmacies.