GigaOm looks at a promotion by online retail giant Amazon for small and cheap digital camcorders and wonders whether an explosion in their popularity will lead to headaches for Internet Service Providers. Since footage from the camcorders is meant to be downloaded to computers and shared with others—over email, through social networking sites, etc.—the more popular (and cheaper) they get, the more data could potentially be traveling through the “tubes.”
What’s interesting about this is that it casts a light on a major challenge both for ISPs and America’s digital infrastructure. Expanding and beefing up networks is expensive and time consuming, and while digital camcorders won’t likely grind the web to a halt, they are just one of the many ways data-intensive video is now making its way online. Because of this, investment in capacity should not only be made, but heavily encouraged. Otherwise, we risk the Internet backbone not being able to keep up with innovation.
A new report from online security firm McAfee finds that actress Jessica Biel ranks number one when it comes to online searches that can harm users. Reports Ars Technica:
According to McAfee, fans searching for downloads, wallpapers, screensavers, photos, and videos of Biel have a one-in-five chance of ending up at a site that hosts spyware, malware, viruses, adware, spam, or phishing scams. “Jessica Biel screensavers” in particular were very dangerous—almost half of the downloads coming from those sites were malicious.
One of today’s FCC National Broadband Plan workshops, “Smart Grid, Broadband and Climate Change,” examined how broadband has the ability to greatly help the environment. As noted during the workshop, America will not meet its goal of a 13% to 22% reduction in carbon emissions unless broadband adoption is increased. In fact, connecting the estimated 10 million U.S. homes that don’t have broadband access — along with the 40 million people who currently have access but haven’t adopted broadband—could significantly cut carbon emissions.
On the transportation side, Sheryl Wilkerson, President of Willow LLC, spoke about the need for intelligent transportation, including providing useful data to and from vehicles, bringing intelligent applications to cleaner vehicles in order to spur demand, and bringing agencies like the FCC and the Department of Transportation together with telecommunications companies and vehicle manufacturers to deploy new vehicle technologies.
Regarding businesses, Matt Bauer, President of BetterWorld Telecom pointed out that if America were to make a major investment in telecommuting and meeting technology, we could reduce our carbon footprint by 50%. Right now, just 3% of U.S. workers telecommute the majority of their time. The good news is the technology for telecommuting and remote meeting is already available.
Outside of major metropolitan areas, opportunities are also available for using broadband to cut carbon emissions. But as Maura O’Neill, Senior Advisor for Energy and Climate, and Chief of Staff to the Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics noted, people in rural areas don’t just need to have access to broadband, they also need to know about the many benefits of using it — such as using high-speed Internet to give farmers tools to calculate the carbon in their soil.
Smart grids also play a major role (both in rural areas and cities), as they can provide greater energy efficiency. For example: Skip Laitner, Economic Director for the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy talked about the semi-conductor broadband efficiency scenario, which could allow the U.S. to use as much as 27% less electricity by 2037 — even with the expected high increase in demand.
More reports from the broadband workshops as they roll on. And speaking of broadband and the environment, IIA Co-Chairman Bruce Mehlman will be taking part in the 32nd World Energy Engineering Congress on Thursday, November 5 in Washington D.C. His session will be “Plug in to Power Down: Opportunities to Reduce the Carbon Footprint Through Telecommunications-Based Solutions. More information on the event can be found on the WEEC’s website.
Craig Moffett, Senior Analyst of Sanford Bernstein (and an IIA Broadband Ambassador), discusses the long-term economic advantages of building wireline networks over wireless network. Moffett addresses the advantages of both systems for different applications and different user bases.
Information Week reports on innovative online efforts by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat the H1N1 virus (also known as “Swine Flu”):
Central to the campaign is putting information on other Web sites, rather than requiring people to come to CDC.gov for information, said Janice Nall, director of the CDC’s e-health marketing division. “We’re trying to reach people where they are, not necessarily expecting them to come to us,” she said. “All of our distribution is on channels that people are already using.”
To get the word out—and most importantly, keep hysteria to a minimum—the agency plans on using everything from YouTube, Twitter, e-mail, and even texting to keep citizens informed. It’s an ambitious and extremely smart plan, and the CDC should be commended.
An editorial in today’s New York Times warns that as the Obama administration pushes for a more open government online, the privacy of citizens must always be at the forefront:
In recent years, the government has monitored some Americans’ library use and illegally eavesdropped on telephone calls and e-mail. Privacy groups are concerned that the new rules could pave the way for third parties to collect large amounts of data through government sites — for example, if an agency site posted a YouTube video carrying its own cookies.
The Office of Management and Budget is developing the new rules. Officials say they recognize that people must be told that their use of Web sites is being tracked — and be given a chance to opt out. More is needed. The government should commit to displaying such notices prominently on all Web pages — and to making it easy for users to choose not to be tracked.
The Internet can certainly inspire people to be more engaged with their government, but only if they feel secure while they’re doing it.
While the FCC works to bring high-speed Internet access every corner of America, the U.S. health care industry is about to receive a major overhaul. From the Washington Post:
The Obama administration unveiled $1.2 billion in federal grants for electronic health records systems on Thursday, the first wave of funding under a health-care reform plan to create vast records-sharing networks aimed at cutting costs and improving care in the coming decade.
It’s estimated that making medical records digital could save over $77 billion each year.
Last week, IIA Broadband Ambassador Craig Settles participated in one of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan workshops, where he spoke about low adoption and the benefits of increased broadband use. All in all, Settles found the workshop to be a positive experience. But as he notes on his blog, simply talking about a plan isn’t enough. Writes Settles:
Our national broadband policy could put us on track to transform millions of lives and businesses in hundreds of communities. Or it could be great mental gymnastics that many look back on one day and wistfully ponder what could have been. I lean toward the former with a couple of cautions.
One suggestion Settles has is for the workshops to not be limited to the traditional players, but rather, be open for the people a national broadband plan is meant to help—and the FCC may have to go to them:
The value of the workshops to date will be doubled or tripled if the FCC brings the people with the pain into the needs analysis process. But you have to go to them. As I said last week in my FierceBroadband column, go into formerly un- and underserved rural and urban areas that now have effective community-driven broadband networks. See firsthand what technologies they’re using, how these technologies were selected, what were the challenges to implementing the technology, what are the challenges to keeping everything operational and current.
Settles is right. As the FCC continues its workshop program — and especially with regional workshops having been planned for the coming months — hearing from those without broadband access is going to be very important if a national broadband plan is going to work.
If only 10 percent more of the workforce regularly teleworked - roughly a doubling of today’s percentage - greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced each year by an additional 42.4 million tons of carbon dioxide, as well as 2.6 million tons of other pollutants.
Rintels, Jonathan. “An Action Plan for America: Using Technology and Innovation to Address our Nation’s Critical Challenges.” The Benton Foundation. 2008.
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