Wednesday, May 27
The BBC reports, Japan—once saddled with one of the slowest and most costly broadband networks in the world—has managed to dramatically turn things around:
Seeing the country fall behind dramatically in terms of fixed Internet use the government decided to act: the end result was a seriously fast fibre-based FTTH 1Gbps (gigabits per second) (fibre-to-the-home) network at one of the lowest price-per-megabits anywhere.
That means a film, for example, can be downloaded in the time it takes to make a cup of tea.
If it can be done there, it can be done here.
Federal stimulus is rarely speedy. Case in point: The $4.7 billion earmarked for broadband stimulus under the control of the NTIA. Reports GigaOm:
One of the federal agencies responsible for administering $4.7 billion in broadband stimulus grants has quietly delayed its plans to approve and distribute money under its program. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration late last week issued a statement noting that it will accept grant applications in September and aims to distribute its first grants in December. However, in a March meeting it had said it hoped to accept grants in April and May and start delivering the first round of funding in June.
The delay isn’t expected to be a major roadblock, but as GigaOm notes, it does show how using two government agencies to distribute funds can make for a pokey process.
While the U.S. struggles to craft a national broadband strategy—complete with $7 billion in federal funds waiting to be deployed—there are hints that the Obama administration may be considering a more radical idea, one based on recent plans in Australia. Reports NextGov:
A senior adviser to President Obama is touting the idea of spending tens of billions of dollars in public funds to build a nationwide, state-of-the-art broadband network featuring speeds 100 times faster than today’s technology.
While there has been no formal Obama administration commitment to such infrastructure investment, Susan Crawford, special assistant to the president for science, technology and innovation policy, has said she is “personally intrigued” by an ambitious plan by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
His plan proposes a public-private partnership that would invest up to $33 billion over eight years to build and operate a fiber-optic broadband network reaching 90 percent of homes and workplaces. Wireless and satellite technology would be used to reach the remaining 10 percent in the outback.
Whether such a plan would be feasible on U.S. soil is unknown. But as building out broadband access for all Americans picks up steam, expect more eyes to be on Australia’s model.
TechCrunch wonders if one of the most popular websites in the world was sold too late:
There are a handful of industry-changing Web 2.0 names including MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and LinkedIn. But unlike those other Web 2.0 behemoths who have the luxury of waiting out revenue challenges as their user base surges and the economy recovers, YouTube’s runaway success meant extremely high bandwidth costs and legal worries early on. It’s one of the only companies in that list that should have sold early while the momentum was high.
Evidence: Nearly three years after the acquisition, the mighty Google still hasn’t figured out exactly how to monetize all those eyeballs either. Industry estimates say YouTube spends half a billion or more a year in bandwidth costs. That’s not to say it was a bad acquisition, particularly considering Google’s stock currency was tantamount to monopoly money back then. But you have to wonder, if YouTube were alive today, how much more would it have been forced to raise and at what terms?
The web has led to a flood of free content. But from newspapers to video sites like YouTube, the question remains: How do you make money?
The Washington Post reports:
President Obama is expected to announce late this week that he will create a “cyber czar,” a senior White House official who will have broad authority to develop strategy to protect the nation’s government-run and private computer networks, according to people who have been briefed on the plan.
The adviser will have the most comprehensive mandate granted to such an official to date and will probably be a member of the National Security Council but will report to the national security adviser as well as the senior White House economic adviser, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are not final.
Good news, especially given recent attacks on U.S. government networks.
Tuesday, May 26
The largest barrier to broadband adoption is a lack of awareness about broadband’s benefits.
Among adults 65 or older, broadband adoption is only 25%. Sixty-three percent of this group says they do not need broadband and 45% do not own a computer.
Connected Nation. The Economic Impact of Stimulating Broadband Nationally. February 2008.
More facts about broadband adoption.
Friday, May 22
Today’s Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article on an ongoing effort to use Google Earth in order to explore and document North Korea. The project’s leader is a George Mason doctoral candidate named Curtis Melvin. Reports the Journal:
Mr. Melvin is at the center of a dozen or so citizen snoops who have spent the past two years filling in the blanks on the map of one of the world’s most secretive countries. Seeking clues in photos, news reports and eyewitness accounts, they affix labels to North Korean structures and landscapes captured by Google Earth, an online service that stitches satellite pictures into a virtual globe. The result is an annotated North Korea of rocket-launch sites, prison camps and elite palaces on white-sand beaches.
“It’s democratized intelligence,” says Mr. Melvin.
Check out the full article.
Recovery.org has updated its timeline for the federal broadband stimulus, and Geoff Daily at App-Rising isn’t entirely happy with the news:
Was hoping I wouldn’t have to say this, but I think so far the broadband stimulus is doing more harm than good.
There are two primary reasons for this.
The first is that from a policy perspective there’s a whole lot more discussion going on about how to distribute these limited BTOP dollars than there are conversations about how to craft a national broadband strategy. Given that we have less than a year to create and come to a consensus around that strategy, we can’t afford to have the stimulus distract us from pushing this larger dialog forward.
The second, and much bigger concern, is that as things currently stand the stimulus is doing more to slow down deployment than speed it up. I’ve now heard from multiple people of projects that could already be deploying but instead are waiting to see if they can leverage stimulus dollars to help fund their projects.
For a national broadband strategy to be successful, there needs to be a demand for high-speed Internet. And, as Broadband Census reports, spurring that demand may begin in the country’s libraries:
Speaking at a forum at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, Don Means, the co-founder and principal of Digital Village Associates, outlined his proposal to extend high-speed connectivity to all 16,500 libraries in the country.
Titled “Fiber to the Library: Next Generation Broadband for Next Generation Libraries,” the event was an upbeat assessment of the benefits of ensuring fiber-class connectivity to libraries.
Bringing fiber to the libraries, besides being the quickest, cheapest way to provide next generation broadband to next generation libraries, is also a good idea because it gives people experience with fiber-speed internet, Means said.
Via GigaOm, it seems Amazon Web Services—- the company’s popular “cloud” storage service—has turned to the United States Postal service due to painfully slow Internet pipes:
Werner Vogels, Amazon’s CTO, explains in a blog posting that it would take up to 13 days to sling a terabyte of data across a 10 Mbps network, which is pretty darn slow. So Amazon is offering customers the chance to store their data on an external device, ship it via post, and Amazon will load it into S3. I outlined this problem of needing fat pipes to transfer our increasing loads of data back in April, but was hoping that instead of using FedEx, we’d have faster networks. Interestingly, Vogels doesn’t think our networks will keep up with our data generation — a feeling common also in the supercomputing and cloud storage world.
If cloud computing is indeed the future…well, it seems the future is a ways away.