Updated Oct. 5, 2017 at 1:33 p.m.

Tech wrap: Netflix ups prices; solar fastest growing power source; Verizon media exec quits; self-driving car bill advances

Published: 2017-10-05 13:33:00
Updated: 2017-10-05 13:33:28

Bulldog Bulldog

Today's Bulldog wrapup of the latest technology news:

  • Watching Netflix' 'Stranger Things' likely to cost you more
  • Report: Solar is fastest growing power source
  • Verizon's top media executive Marni Walden is leaving
  • Senate bill to clear obstacles to self-driving cars advances

The details:

  • Watching Netflix' 'Stranger Things' likely to cost you more

Netflix is raising the price for its most popular U.S. video streaming plan by 10 percent— a move aimed at bringing in more money to outbid HBO, Amazon and other rivals for addictive shows such as "Stranger Things."

The change announced Thursday affects most of Netflix's 53 million U.S. subscribers.

Netflix will now charge $11 per month instead of $10 for a plan that includes HD and allows people to simultaneously watch programs on two different internet-connected devices.

The price for another plan that includes ultra-high definition, or 4K, video, is going up by 17 percent, to $14 from $12 a month. A plan that limits subscribers to one screen at a time without high-definition will remain at $8 a month.

The increase will be the first in two years for Netflix, although it won't seem that way for millions of subscribers. That's because Netflix temporarily froze its rates for long-time subscribers the last two times it raised its prices, delaying the most recent increases until the second half of last year for them.

Netflix isn't giving anyone a break this time around. It will start emailing notifications about the new prices to affected subscribers Oct. 19, giving them 30 days to accept the higher rates, switch to a cheaper plan or cancel the service.

  • Report: Solar is fastest growing power source

A report shows that solar energy was the fastest-growing source of power last year, accounting for almost two-thirds of net new capacity globally.

The International Energy Agency said Wednesday that the rise was due to a boom in photovoltaic panel installations, particularly in China, thanks to a drop in costs and greater support from governments.

It is the first time that solar energy growth surpasses any other fuel as a source of power. Coal in particular had continued to grow in recent years despite global targets to reduce carbon emissions.

The IEA said solar panels capacity grew 50 percent last year, with China accounting for almost half the expansion. The country has become a leader in renewable energy production, with the United States the second-largest market.

  • Verizon's top media executive Marni Walden is leaving

Marni Walden, the executive in charge of Verizon's media business, is leaving the company.

Verizon spokesman Bob Varettoni says she is leaving to pursue other opportunities and her departure has nothing to do with Tuesday's announcement of a bigger hack at Yahoo .

Verizon acquired Yahoo in June and combined it with a 2015 acquisition, AOL, into a content and ad business called Oath . The country's largest carrier is looking for new revenue sources as the wireless industry slows.

Walden will become a "strategic adviser" to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam after the end of the year and leave the company entirely in February. Tim Armstrong, the former Google executive who had run Oath under Walden, will now report directly to Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam. Walden will not be replaced.

  • Senate bill to clear obstacles to self-driving cars advances

Legislation that could help usher in a new era of self-driving cars advanced in Congress on Wednesday after the bill's sponsors agreed to compromises to address some concerns of safety advocates.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved the bill by a voice vote, a sign of broad, bipartisan support. It would allow automakers to apply for exemptions to current federal auto safety standards in order to sell up to 15,000 self-driving cars and light trucks per manufacturer in the first year after passage. Up to 40,000 per manufacturer could be sold in the second year, and 80,000 each year thereafter.

Action by the full Senate is still needed and differences with a similar bill passed by the House would have to be worked out before the measure could become law.

The bill initially would have allowed manufacturers to sell up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles a year, but that number was reduced in last-minute negotiations. In another change, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would evaluate the safety performance of the vehicles before increasing the number of vehicles manufacturers can sell.

Supporters of the bill, which was sought by the auto industry, say it would be a boon to safety since an estimated 94 percent of crashes involve human error. They say it would also help the disabled.

The bill "is primarily about saving lives," but it will also increase U.S. international competitiveness and create jobs, said Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan.

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