With DVD sales falling, Hollywood studios are looking to make up revenue. Enter YouTube, which the Wall Street Journal reports, is floating the idea to Hollywood of streaming movie rentals.
Given the sheer number of people who regularly visit YouTube, the new service could prove to be massively popular. The question is, would there be enough bandwidth available to handle a potential barrage of data-intensive content?
Ars Technica reports on an interesting theory being floated by former Clinton economic advisor Robert J. Shapiro and Federal Reserve economist Kevin A. Hassett: Can flexible pricing of broadband based on usage actually break the digital divide?
Shapiro/Hassett’s economic projections conclude that a “flat rate” pricing model gets the country 79.4% penetration for people under $30k by 2017, and 86.4% for people over $75,000 in the same year. But in a scenario in which “80 percent of the additional cost [is] allocated to the 20 percent of very high bandwidth users,” even lower income household broadband adoption will rise to 98.5 percent in 2017.
“To the extent that lower-income and middle-income consumers are required to pay a greater share of network upgrade costs, we should expect a substantial delay in achieving universal broadband access,” the study concludes. “Our simulations suggest that spreading the costs equally among all consumers—the minority who use large amounts of bandwidth and the majority who use very little—will significantly slow the rate of adoption at the lower end of the income scale and extend the life of the digital divide.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is already planning to use everything from Facebook, Twitter, and email to keep people informed about the possible spread of the H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) virus. Now, cnet reports, a new iPhone application aims to give people the power to track the spread on their own.
The free app has a scary name — “Outbreaks Near Me” — and is a joint project of Children’s Hospital Boston and the MIT Media Lab. Hypochondriacs are not encouraged to use it.
If you’ve been following the FCC’s national broadband plan workshops either in person or online, the commission would like to hear from you. Specifically, they’d like to know your thoughts on how the workshops have been going, and how they can improve in the future.
Via the indispensable Boing Boing comes this post from Science Fiction Observer about a recently unearthed Flash Gordon comic strip from 1937 that appears to show Ming the Merciless—villain to Flash, evil despot of the planet Mongo— using what appears to be a laptop computer.
Looks like Ming — or at least Flash Gordon cartoonist Alex Raymond — was ahead of his time.
A surprising new study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that those who have embraced email and social networking in order to be involved in local and federal government have pretty much the same profile as those who have traditionally done so. From the study (pdf):
Contrary to the hopes of some advocates, the internet is not changing the socio-economic character of civic engagement in America. Just as in offline civic life, the well-to-do and well-educated are more likely than those less well off to participate in online political activities such as emailing a government official, signing an online petition or making a political contribution.
The Internet offers much potential for citizens to become engaged with local and federal government. But while expanding broadband access to every corner of the country can certainly help spur interest, until people outside of the traditional demographic find a reason to become engaged—which is something candidates and government entities should definitely be exploring—the web’s full civic engagement potential will remain untapped.
If you owe back taxes, beware of what you post on a social networking site such as Facebook and MySpace. The IRS may just be watching. From the Wall Street Journal:
State revenue agents have begun nabbing scofflaws by mining information posted on social-networking Web sites, from relocation announcements to professional profiles to financial boasts.
In Minnesota, authorities were able to levy back taxes on the wages of a long-sought tax evader after he announced on MySpace that he would be returning to his home town to work as a real-estate broker and gave his employer’s name. The state collected several thousand dollars, the full amount due.
Meanwhile, agents in Nebraska collected $2,000 from a deejay after he advertised on his MySpace page that he would be working at a big public party.
The New York Times reports that while the Obama administration moves forward with efforts to construct a national broadband plan, privacy groups are gearing up for a push of their own. And so far, 10 major groups have joined up:
Among the things they’re asking for: No sensitive information (like health or financial information) should be used for behavioral tracking, no one under 18 should be behaviorally tracked, Web sites and ad networks shouldn’t be able to keep behavioral data for more than a day without getting an OK from the individual they’re tracking, and behavioral data can’t be used for discriminatory purposes.
As the online advertising industry continues to grow, privacy concerns are only going to grow along with it.
Here’s an innovative new way to increase viewership of television repeats: Using popular micro-blogging service Twitter to entice eyeballs. Via PC World:
Fox is juicing its repeats of the TV series Fringe with a new Twitter twist. The network will introduce this week “tweet-peats”—an on-screen scroll of Twitter messages from cast and producers that will appear during the episodes.
This has the potential to be insanely popular—not to mention a nice source of revenue for TV networks.
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