Wednesday, April 15
The Washington Business Journal has an article today on IIA, a national broadband plan, and deploying broadband to “under-served” and “unserved” areas. IIA co-chairman Bruce Mehlman was interviewed for the piece:
The Internet Innovation Alliance’s co-chairman Bruce Mehlman, who served as assistant secretary of commerce for technology policy from 2001 to 2003, says his group is hoping that as many worthy groups and projects are submitted for funding as possible to get the best results.
“At the end of the day this is about economic recovery and job creation,” he said. But when it comes to the forthcoming national broadband plan, finding sustainable solutions also will be key. To do so, Mehlman said the agencies need to “tap local knowledge and expertise… [and] avoid connecting today those who will need subsidies to stay connected.” Broadband stimulus funds should be spent in the best interest of tax payers, Mehlman added. “These funds aren’t intended to keep [private companies’] balance sheets healthy, but their knowledge ought to be considered… don’t discourage investment by those who will maintain these networks.”
Check out the full story.
Raw Story reports that a cybersecurity bill proposed in the Senate contains language that would allow the federal government to shut down the Internet during a crisis:
The bill’s draft states that “the president may order a cybersecurity emergency and order the limitation or shutdown of Internet traffic” and would give the government ongoing access to “all relevant data concerning (critical infrastructure) networks without regard to any provision of law, regulation, rule, or policy restricting such access.”
Authored by Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 seeks to create a Cybersecurity Czar to centralize power now held by the Pentagon, National Security Agency, Department of Commerce and the Department of Homeland Security.
Proponents of the bill say the provision is necessary to for the protection of America. Critics, however, are worried the bill reaches too far:
Organizations like the Center for Democracy and Technology fear if passed in its current form, the proposal leaves too much discretion of just what defines critical infrastructure. The bill would also impose mandates for designated private networks and systems, including standardized security software, testing, licensing and certification of cyber-security professionals.
“I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t include communications systems, which are certainly critical infrastructure,” CDT General Counsel Greg Nojeim told eWEEK. “The president would decide not only what is critical infrastructure but also what is an emergency.”
Adds Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Essentially, the Act would federalize critical infrastructure security. Since many systems (banks, telecommunications, energy)are in the hands of the private sector, the bill would create a major shift of power away from users and companies to the federal government.”
Monday, April 13
Two interesting (and fairly wonky) articles covering broadband stimulus, underserved vs. unserved, and national broadband plans worth checking out. First up, Ars Technica:
As the National Telecommunications Information Agency allocates a big share of the stimulus dinero through its Broadband Technological Opportunities Program, it must consult with the FCC on how to define three terms and two concepts key to the Recovery Act. The terms are “broadband,” which is supposed to flow to “unserved” and “underserved” areas. The concepts are “the non-discrimination obligations that will be contractual conditions of BTOP grants” and “the network interconnection obligations that will be contractual conditions of BTOP grants.”
The Commission is also charged with advising the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service about these same questions. That’s the agency to which the FCC’s Jonathan Adelstein will soon relocate.
The feedback has been flowing in since the FCC released this proceeding in late March, but perhaps the most interesting and unexpected input has been the counsel offered by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and some of the big telcos. NCTA’s attorney told the Commission that it should define “non-discrimination” as “adherence to the principles contained in the FCC’s August 2005 Broadband Policy Statement” (more often called the agency’s Internet Policy Statement).
The second article comes from the video game site Gamasutra, kicking off a planned series of articles on a national broadband strategy:
For the games industry, the national debate on broadband is an opportunity. The industry drives a lot of broadband adoption today and can do so in the future as well. When the FCC asks how to define “broadband” for purposes of its plan, the industry should have a lot to say.
I am encouraged by the fact that the FCC, for the first time I’ve seen, is seriously asking whether it should be more nuanced in its definition of “broadband.” It asks, for example, whether latency should be included along with bandwidth as the measurement of broadband. This could go a long way toward solving one of the persistent problems facing online games – inequality of play due to differences in broadband capabilities.
Alternatively, the FCC asks whether to define broadband in terms of the ability to perform certain acts within a certain amount of time. Traditionally, this has been stated as the ability to download a movie within x minutes, but what implications would follow if broadband were defined as the ability to conduct real-time voice and video collaboration among large groups of simultaneous users? That would offer a boon to MMOGs, but also to online poker, video conferencing, distance learning and a whole host of other applications.
Last week, Time Warner cable announced it was expanding its broadband capping program, wherein subscribers pay based on their Internet usage. The plan quickly drew the ire of not just Internet users, but politicians—most notably, U.S. Rep. Eric Massa of New York.
Since the original outcry, Time Warner revised their plan to allow for unlimited usage—for a hefty price. But, as eWeek reports, the concession wasn’t enough for Rep. Massa, who is now mulling legislation to stop tiered pricing plans in the future:
If Time Warner thought that its hastily revised broadband cap plan to include an unlimited usage tier would appease U.S. Rep. Eric Massa, the cable broadband provider was wrong. Massa, who represents a New York district where Time Warner is planning to roll out its cap plan, said April 10 he is drafting legislation to prohibit unfair tiered price structures from Internet providers.
Massa responded sharply April 7 when Time Warner said it was introducing a tiered usage cap plan in a three-state trial pricing program. Massa called it “nothing more than a large corporation making a move to force customers into paying more money.” The next day, Time Warner said it would offer an unlimited usage tier.
It didn’t make Massa any happier.
“I am taking a leadership position on this issue because of all the phone calls, e-mails and faxes I’ve received from my district and all over the country,” Massa said in an April 10 statement. “Time Warner has announced an ill-conceived plan to charge residential and business broadband fees based on the amount of data they download. They have yet to explain how increased Internet usage increases their costs.”
Expect this sort of back and forth between Internet providers and users/legislators to get louder.
Multichannel News has an interview IIA co-chairman Larry Irving about the federal broadband grants program. From the interview:
MCN: What specific advice would you give to NTIA as they prepare to give out all this money?
Lyndon Johnson said about appointments in government that for every one you make 99 enemies and one ingrate. NTIA is going to be facing a similar scenario in terms of the grants. One of the things NTIA has to be very cognizant of is that for every grant they give, it’s “thanks very much for the money, now go away.”
If you really care about a national broadband strategy, there is going to need to be continued review, oversight and responsibility at NTIA, which has to file quarterly reports on every grant that goes out there.
It is important that grant recipients not looking to NTIA as a funding source, but as a partner. We can’t do all the things with federal dollars that need to be done in this country.
What we learn from the grants will be really helpful in terms of a going-forward strategy for NTIA, the FCC and RUS.
Check out the full interview.
Last July, Apple opened its mobile app store. And now, less than a year later, they’re already counting down to one billion—yes, billion—downloads.
In comparison, as the New York Times “Bits” blog reports, it took over two years for iTunes to mark its billionth song download.
Nearly half of high school graduates who had computers and Internet access at home went on to college. Among students who didn’t have computers and Internet access, the college enrollment rate fell to one in four.
“Bringing Broadband to the Urban Poor,” CIO Today, January 5, 2009.
More facts about broadband and education.
Friday, April 10
Yesterday, vandals in California chopped fiber-optic cables, essentially cutting off thousands of AT&T customers from not just their Internet service, but landline and cell phone services as well. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The sabotage essentially froze operations in parts of the three counties at hospitals, stores, banks and police and fire departments that rely on 911 calls, computerized medical records, ATMs and credit and debit cards.
The full extent of the havoc might not be known for days, emergency officials said as they finished repairing the damage late Thursday.
Whatever the final toll, one thing is certain: Whoever did this is in a world of trouble if he, she or they get caught.
To help initiate that “world of trouble,” AT&T is offering a $100,000 reward for information on the vandals. As for communicating with customers during the outage, the company embraced the latest rage in social networking. From CNet:
It seems that Twitter was one of the main ways that phone company AT&T has been communicating with customers and updating the public about the fiber cut that caused thousands of people in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area to go without broadband, phone, and wireless service for most of Thursday.
Janine Popick, CEO of VerticalResponse, whose company has been affected by the outage, said the only way she has stayed on top of the situation has been through Twitter.
“All of my real time updates have been coming from the AT&T Twitter feed,” she said.
Indeed, she isn’t alone. Nearly 2,400 people have been keeping tabs on the situation via AT&T’s Twitter feed.
Facing a major shortfall in its budget, Washington State is soliciting questions on the budget from state citizens. The project is being called Open for Questions:
Washington’s families and businesses are feeling the strain from the national recession. The economic slowdown has reduced revenues, and left Washington with a $9 billion budget short fall.
The Senate Democrats have introduced a balanced budget, and as the 2009 budget is finalized, every program is being considered for cuts.
Now we want to hear from you. Ask your questions here, and next week Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, will answer the questions that you the public vote to the top of the list.
The Obama administration has announced a major project to digitize all military records. From the Wall Street Journal:
The Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs will collaborate on building an electronic database of administrative and medical information for U.S. servicemen and women, President Barack Obama announced Thursday.
Mr. Obama said the electronic records will provide a “seamless system” to facilitate information sharing and cut red tape, ending the need for veterans to transfer military records to receive benefits.
This is good news—especially since the digital overhaul could also help guide the digitizing of medical records in the U.S. health care industry.