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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
While satellite pay-TV services are in an apparent death spiral, modern satellite-powered broadband services are raising big investments and a lot of high expectations, Axios' Kim Hart, Sara Fischer and Miriam Kramer report.
Why it matters: Access to broadband is essential in today's economy, but roughly half of the globe's population still lacks reliable access to it. Companies well-positioned to build and deploy satellites see an opening to provide that service to a world hungry for fast connections.
What's happening: Historically, satellite communications services have been seen as a last-resort option for people in remote areas or, in pay-TV's case, for consumers who wanted a lot of channels.
What's new: As the pay-TV market dwindles, a new crop of satellites are being launched to beam down broadband services to wider swaths of populations on Earth.
The catch: Launching satellites is an expensive proposition, and the market is getting crowded — as is space itself. It's unlikely all the companies will succeed in signing up enough subscribers to cover those expenses, let alone make a profit. Consolidation is all but inevitable, analysts say.
Between the lines: The satellite industry is undergoing a sea change.
How it works: There are different technologies involved. While satellite TV companies rely on expensive satellites in high orbits, the satellites designed by Amazon, SpaceX and others are expected to be small and in relatively low orbits.
In theory, the designs of these constellations should allow the companies to provide high-speed broadband globally and give them flexibility in design and coverage.
The FCC is already issuing licenses for these new constellations.
Author Todd Parr reading one of his interactive books using Portal's Story Time feature. Photo: Todd Parr
We've had a chance to spend the last week or so playing around with the new Facebook Portal, the photo frame-shaped version of the company's video chat device.
The good: Video chat is the heart and soul of Portal, and Facebook has expanded last year's version with the addition of WhatsApp, as well as new AR effects and more content in Story Time — which is sort of like karaoke for kids stories. Over the weekend, we convinced one of the Story Time book authors, Todd Parr, to read "Otto Goes to the Beach."
The bad: At the end of the day, buying a Portal still means trusting Facebook with a camera and microphone in your home.
The fine print: The Portal comes in 2 versions, a $179 10-inch one (what we tested) and a $129 8-inch Portal Mini. A TV set-top version has also been announced and ships next month for $149.
The bottom line: I'm still mixed on allowing the big tech firms deeper access into my home, but Portal's combination of photos and video chat is a powerful argument.
Two new papers by MIT researchers found that current machine learning models aren't yet up to the task of distinguishing false news reports, Axios' Joe Uchill reports.
The big picture: After different researchers showed that computers can convincingly generate made-up news stories without much human oversight, some experts hoped that the same machine-learning-based systems could be trained to detect such stories.
But MIT doctoral student Tal Schuster's studies show that, while machines are great at detecting machine-generated text, they can't identify whether stories are true or false.
Details: Many automated fact-checking systems are trained using a database of true statements called Fact Extraction and Verification (FEVER).
The bottom line: The second study showed that machine-learning systems do a good job detecting stories that were machine-written, but not at separating the true ones from the false ones.
Yes, but: While you can generate bogus news stories more efficiently using automated text, not all stories created by automated processes are untrue.
Go deeper: Joe has more here.
Illustration: Vox Media
There are all kinds of rules when it comes to hacking into various computer systems, but not so much when people hack their own bodies.
So what rules should apply?
That's the question raised in the first episode of Reset, a new Vox podcast hosted by former Vice News Tonight correspondent Arielle Duhaime-Ross. Duhaime-Ross talks to bio-researcher Josiah Zayner, who has edited his own DNA and did a full body microbiome transplant in an effort to treat his intestinal illness.
"He was frustrated with the medical care he had received and he was taking matters into his own hands," Duhaime-Ross said. The episode also looks at efforts to create a code of conduct and legislation for biohacking.
The bigger picture: The debut of Reset is part of a broader expansion of Vox's podcast efforts, as Sara Fischer outlines in a separate piece.
Duhaime-Ross plans to tackle a range of issues in the thrice-weekly podcast, including climate change, artificial intelligence and facial recognition, all while bringing a critical eye.
As important as the topics, Duhaime-Ross said, is making sure more voices are being added to the conversation.
It turns out that painting zebra stripes on cows makes them less susceptible to biting flies.