Thursday, September 24
GigaOm points to a new call for comments from the FCC:
The Federal Communications Commission has opened a separate request for comments on the use and allocation of spectrum to go more in-depth on issues raised as part of its National Broadband Plan. The agency will seek comments through Oct. 23, “on the sufficiency of current spectrum allocations in spectrum bands, including but not limited to the prime spectrum bands below 3.7 GHz.”
With demand for spectrum skyrocketing due to the spread of mobile broadband, the new call for comments make sense. The FCC’s full request is available here (PDF).
Online gaming is big — and getting bigger all the time. And now a new startup is hoping to make a splash in the lucrative gaming market by doing away with pesky discs and taking everything online. Reports Ars Technica:
MIT is playing host to Technology Review’s EmTech conference, which focuses on up-and-coming companies and the new technology they’re bringing to market. Steve Perlman, the founder and CEO of the OnLive gaming service, was given the chance to demonstrate his company’s cloud gaming service, and took some time to explain the technology backing it. OnLive is gaming’s answer to cloud computing: the applications run on hardware in a server farm, while users only need low-end hardware (including OnLive’s own mini-console) and broadband Internet to connect in and play.
While the service certainly has the potential to revolutionize the gaming industry, streaming games over broadband isn’t without it pitfalls — namely, pipes capacious enough to make the experience smooth and, well, playable.
Wednesday, September 23
Geoff Daily at App Rising has an interesting post on how the FCC should be re-imagined in the wake of new technologies:
The FCC has spent decades building up these stove-piped regulations that apply certain rules to certain technologies.
And yet the core challenge the FCC faces in this day and age is the fact that these communications technologies are now merging. The distinctions between phone and TV providers has already disappeared, and increasingly the technologies themselves are combining into new forms that don’t really exist in any one silo.
The FCC is operating in a world now that’s completely different from that of the 20th century. But so far it has not adapted to this new paradigm other than to open up a catchall category of “information services” that has fewer regulations and therefore is the category every service provider wants to fall under. The problem with this is that means the regulations that were in other silos to protect the public’s interests are now becoming marginalized.
According to Daily, the FCC is currently in the midst of an undertaking that can re-define how it operates. The national broadband plan, he believes, provides…
...the perfect opportunity for the FCC to stick a stake in the ground and claim ownership over this issue. Over making sure that plenty of high quality, reliable, and affordable bandwidth is available to all Americans. To get everyone online consuming bandwidth. And to encourage the incorporation of using bandwidth to improve all facets of society.
The whole post is definitely worth checking out.
Day two of Grid Week brought more heavy hitters, including Undersecretary of Energy Dr. Kristina Johnson, Matthew C. Rogers of the U.S. Department of Energy, and Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra.
Noting that attendance to Grid Week has skyrocketed in recent years, Undersecretary Johnson told attendees that America’s goal of an 83% reduction in emissions will only be attainable through the investment in smart grids, which can serve as an integrator for a mix of carbon and renewable power, and that a single watt of energy saved translates to two less watts that needs to be generated.
Regarding stimulus funding, Rogers of the U.S. Department of Energy talked about how the $4.5 billion earmarked for smart grids is only a down-payment, and that over-subscription for stimulus grants shows that there is a huge interest and need for funding. He also said many projects receiving funding will help demonstrate the real benefits of smart grid technology.
On the business side, Tom Casey, CEO of Current Group — which is focusing on grid infrastructure development — talked about how 85% of the benefits from applying smart grids comes from actually applying the grids themselves. And Tendril CEO Adrian Tuck spoke to the challenge of getting customers involved in energy management. Part of surmounting that challenge, he said, is to find ways to make the implementation and adoption of smart grid technologies non-disruptive. He also noted that in the future people will buy appliances that naturally communicate with the grid, and that using smart grid technology to give users more information about their usage can help spur adoption of smarter, and more environmentally friendly, technology.
That last idea was echoed by Andrew Roeher of Capgemini, who stated that “green” doesn’t just happen. Green is a choice, and that the benefits of smart grids can help users make that choice.
Stay tuned for more from Grid Week throughout the week.
Dr. Christina Johnson of the U.S. Department of Energy Industry
Tuesday, September 22
Yesterday, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the commission would be moving forward with controversial “net neutrality” rules. This led to cheers from groups long supporting the rules. Josh Silver, executive director of the group Free Press — which has long fought for new rules governing the Internet — had this to say:
“We applaud Chairman Genachowski, Commissioner Copps and Commissioner Clyburn for taking a strong stand to promote competition and consumer choice. We look forward to working with the FCC to developing permanent rules that keep the Internet open and free for everyone forever.”
But not everyone thinks the FCC’s push is a good thing. Providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast have expressed concerns that the new rules — especially in regards to wireless — will hamper investment. And this concern is seconded by an editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal, which worries that net neutrality will actually be counterproductive to the Obama administration’s efforts to expand broadband access:
The reality is that the Obama Administration wants the government to replace Internet operators as the Web’s traffic cop. President Obama has been a long-time proponent of “net neutrality,” which would prevent the use of price to address the increasing popularity of video streaming and other bandwidth-intensive activities that cause Web bottlenecks. But Mr. Obama has also complained about the pace of broadband deployment. If the Administration wants telecom firms to keep expanding their high-speed networks, net neutrality rules are the wrong way forward.
The new policy is a big political victory for Google and other Web content providers whose business model depends on free-loading off the huge capital investments in broadband made by others. Telecom has been one of the bright spots during this recession. Phone companies like Verizon and AT&T have spent tens of billions of dollars on broadband pipe in the past two years. To pick one example: AT&T’s capital investments in the U.S. totaled some $18 billion in 2008, the highest of any company. By threatening to limit what telecom companies can charge and to whom, net neutrality rules will discourage such investment.
This week, various experts and organizations are meeting in Washington D.C. for Grid Week in order to discuss the present and future of smart electric grids.
Among yesterday’s speakers was Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu, who spoke to the effects of the Recovery Act on clean energy. Calling the Act a “downpayment” on a clean energy economy, Chu nonetheless warned that although the Recovery Act will double America’s non-hydroelectric renewable energy, we are still falling behind in the green energy race. Chu also emphasized that America can’t wait for price signals to change consumer behavior when it comes to consuming electricty, and that the government needs to make it easier for consumers to use less.
Also speaking was Bjorn Stigson of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, who noted that within 40 years at least 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Because of this, world governments must build energy and communications infrastructure that can meet the demands of an increasingly dense and urban population.
Included in yesterday’s proceedings was a “Smart Grid Bootcamp,” which laid out just what makes smart grids smart. And that begins with using broadband. Between energy sources and distribution points, there must be a communication core that controls, protects, and monitors the systems. This communication also reaches to devices such as smart meters, which will better connect homes to energy providers and allow households to monitor peak consumption times and adjust consumption based on the current rates of utility companies.
We’ll have more from Grid Week as it continues.
Monday, September 21
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski announced today that the commission will be moving to create net neutrality rules governing Internet service. Mr. Genachowski also announced a new FCC website tracking the effort called OpenInternet.gov.
Sunday, September 20
Approximately 136 million people in the U.S. watched online videos in July, a 14% increase from the year-earlier period, according to Nielsen Co.
Sam Schechner, “Cable Firm, Partners to Test TV on the Web,” Wall Street Journal. August 27, 2009.
More facts about online videos.
Friday, September 18
Check this out. The BBC has put together a handy map showing the growth of broadband worldwide from 1999 (a mere four million subscribers) to 2009 (over 400 million).
Blogband.gov is reporting that on September 29, the FCC will receive a four-hour progress report on the national broadband plan:
What do all those facts tell us about the status quo? What do the facts say about the distance between where we are and where we want to be? Who’s been in our shoes before and what can we learn from their experiences? What hurdles do we face, and how can we remove or navigate around them? What existing advantages can we benefit from, and how can we maximize them? What can we create or suggest that is new to improve broadband deployment, adoption, and usage, in light of national purposes, as envisioned by the Recovery Act? We’ll take a stab at these and other questions during the meeting.