Technology Now The business and culture of our digital lives
Nevada Legislature OKs bill authorizing services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar

With only days left in its session, the Nevada Legislature passed a bill authorizing on-demand transportation companies like Uber and Lyft to operate in the Silver State.

The same bill also approves a 3% excise tax on fares, which will also apply to taxis and limousines. The bill now goes to Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is expected to sign the measure Wednesday.

The bill is effective on passage, but companies like Uber and Lyft will first have to apply for permits with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission before they can begin operating. If Sandoval signs the bill, services like UberX could be back on Nevada’s roads as soon as July 1.

Uber’s entrance to Nevada got off to a bumpy start when the Nevada Transportation Authority obtained a preliminary injunction against the company a month after it began operations in October. Local regulators accused the San Francisco company of operating illegally because it didn’t have any permits the state required of commercial transportation services.

In...

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FCC moves to crack down on unwanted robocalls

Regulators want to make it easier for consumers to stop unwanted robocalls and spam text messages, which have led to a flood of complaints to federal agencies.

The head of the Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday proposed a series of rulings that would clarify rights for consumers under a 1991 law designed to protect their privacy and give phone companies the green light to offer call-blocking technologies.

The agency said the plan, which would close loopholes and strengthen consumer protections, would build off the 2003 Do Not Call Registry.

Under the proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, consumers would no longer have to go great lengths to revoke consent to receive automatically generated calls or text messages, such as submitting a request in writing.

Consumers would have the right to revoke their consent "in any reasonable way at any time," including just telling the caller to stop.

The new rules would also prevent a consumer with a new phone number from being subjected...

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Snapchat's Evan Spiegel: 'We need to IPO'

Evan Spiegel, the notoriously secretive and prickly chief executive of Snapchat, has revealed one juicy tidbit: The Venice startup wants to go public, and plans are underway for an IPO.

The 24-year-old made the admission Tuesday evening during an onstage conversation with Re/code founders Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at their Code conference in Rancho Palos Verdes.

Mossberg: Does it matter to you, that there be an exit for your business?

Spiegel: That really matters. We need to IPO. We have a plan to do that. Obiovusly I can't give you too much color there. But --

Swisher: How about a little? Plan to IPO by -- ?

Spiegel: Again, can't give you color there.

Swisher: What does an IPO look like for you? Do you have revenues?

Spiegel: An IPO looks like a lot of things, but most importantly it looks like just another dot in the growth of our business. We don't view that as, like, the end, really. That's just the beginning.

Swisher: Do you ever imagine entertaining another acquisition offer?...

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Google launches program to help people with disabilities

Google has launched a program to help people living with disabilities.

The company is putting $20 million in Google.org grants behind nonprofits that use emerging technologies to increase independence for people living with disabilities.

And it wants your help: Google is issuing an open call to identify new areas of opportunity.

"The Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities will seek out nonprofits and help them find new solutions to some serious 'what ifs' for the disabled community," the company said. "We will choose the best of these ideas and help them to scale by investing in their vision, by rallying our people and by mobilizing our resources."

The Mountain View company said it was kicking things off by supporting two organizations:

It is giving a $600,000 grant to the the Enable community, which connects people who need prosthetics with volunteers who use 3-D printers to design, print, assemble and fit them for free.

It is also giving a $500,000 grant to World Wide Hearing, which will...

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New insurance product will fill a gap for UberX, Lyft and Sidecar drivers

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones on Wednesday announced the approval of an insurance product from Farmers Insurance that could finally fill a gap in insurance coverage for drivers with companies such as UberX, Lyft and Sidecar.

The new product covers “Period One,” which begins when a driver turns on the on-demand transportation application and is awaiting a match from a transport network company (TNC).

Under the Public Utilities Commission’s original rules drafted in 2013, such companies were only required to insure their drivers when they were en route to pick up a passenger (Period Two), and when they were transporting a passenger (Period 3). There were no rules covering Period One, which left drivers and members of the public vulnerable.

Farmers Insurance’s latest product aims to give drivers the ability to cover themselves during Period One, at least until the commission’s new rules requiring TNC drivers to have coverage for that period come into effect July 1, after which...

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Tech news site Re/code acquired by Vox Media

Fast-growing digital media company Vox Media has acquired tech blog Re/code.

Vox, which also owns news sites the Verge, Polygon and Eater, made the announcement Tuesday. It said Re/code, founded by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, would continue to publish at Recode.net and across other platforms; Re/code is also known for its Code conferences, which bring together some of the top names in Silicon Valley for multi-day events.

"We have found a home for Re/code at a rapidly growing digital media company whose culture of quality journalism meshes closely with our own," Mossberg said in a statement. "This is by far the best fit for the future of Re/code and the Code conferences."

Swisher added that the combination would "give us access to the new tools and talent we need and want to make Re/code stronger and better."

Re/code was previously owned by Revere Digital. A purchase price was not disclosed.

Vox said that Re/code would benefit from its infrastructure and resources across production,...

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