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Ohio’s Gigabit City – Columbus Getting It Done | Gigabit Nation on BlogTalk Radio

Ohio’s Gigabit City – Columbus Getting It Done | Gigabit Nation on BlogTalk Radio | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Ironically, the nation’s excitement over muni wireless networks in 2006 set Columbus well ahead of most cities on the path to highspeed fiber networks. Columbus not only brings Ohio on line with meeting the FCC’s Gigabit City Challenge of at least one citywide gig network per state, it beat over 400 cities worldwide to become one of Intelligent Community Forums 7 Intelligent Communities.


Gary Cavin, Director & CIO of the citys Dept. of Technology, explains how the city initially built a fiber network to drive wireless everywhere, and later transitioned fiber to center stage of their broadband efforts. Columbus is expanding that drive via partnerships with neighboring communities.


The city qualified for its ICF award by demonstrating its ability to develop infrastructure and programs that enabled constituents and businesses to be active participants in the broadband economy. The Director presents several valuable lessons here for everyone involved with broadband projects.

 

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The Second Job You Don’t Know You Have | Craig Lambert | POLITICO.com

The Second Job You Don’t Know You Have | Craig Lambert | POLITICO.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Technology has knocked the bottom rung out of the employment ladder, which has sent youth unemployment around the globe skyrocketing and presented us with a serious economic dilemma. While many have focused on the poor state of our educational system or the “jobless” recovery, another, overlooked factor behind this trend is the phenomenon of “shadow work.”


I define shadow work as all the unpaid jobs we do on behalf of businesses and organizations: We are pumping our own gas, scanning our own groceries, booking our travel and busing our tables at Starbucks. Shadow work is a new concept, so as yet, no one has compiled economic data on how many jobs we, the consumers, have taken over from (erstwhile) employees.


Yet it is surely a force shrinking the job market, and the unemployment it creates is structural. Thanks in part to this new phenomenon, widespread joblessness could become entrenched in the social landscape.

Consider what you now do yourself: You can bank on your cell phone, check yourself out at CVS or the grocery store without ever speaking to an employee, book your own flights and print your boarding pass at the airport without ever talking to a ticket agent—and that’s just in the last few years. Imagine what’s coming next.

In the modern economy, there is no bigger issue than jobs and the cost of maintaining a staff. For the vast majority of businesses, schools and nonprofits, personnel is the largest budget item. This includes, of course, both salaries and benefits. (The latter were once called “fringe benefits,” though the term “fringe” disappeared when the category outgrew anything resembling a fringe.)


Hiring, training and supervising employees augment the cost of personnel, and another outlay kicks in when workers retire—pensions, annuities and, for some employers, the gigantic healthcare costs that pile up from retirement until the end of life, which has become a lengthy period as life spans stretch into the 80s and 90s.

In recent years, salaries in real dollars have either remained static or dropped for most of the labor force. But the galloping cost of benefits—one rule of thumb pegs them at 40 percent of salary—has put steady pressure on employers. Health care expenses, in particular, have driven up this line item. In the United States, health care has become an enormous, seemingly uncontrollable sector, swelling relentlessly and growing far faster than the rest of the economy—much as cancer grows, without relationship to neighboring cells.

Short of a seismic change like universal single-payer health insurance with price controls on drugs and procedures, the upward pressure on employee benefits will continue. The upshot is a strong incentive to replace full-time employees with part-time, outsourced, overseas or contract workers, who receive no benefits. Better yet, simply lay people off—or hand off jobs to customers as shadow work.


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Hundreds of tech companies line up to oppose TPP trade agreement | Sam Thielman | The Guardian

Hundreds of tech companies line up to oppose TPP trade agreement | Sam Thielman | The Guardian | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

More than 250 tech companies have signed a letter demanding greater transparency from Congress and decrying the broad regulatory language in leaked parts of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade bill.

The TPP would create an environment hostile to journalists and whistleblowers, said policy directors for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Fight for the Future, co-authors of the letter. “TPP’s trade secrets provisions could make it a crime for people to reveal corporate wrongdoing ‘through a computer system’,” says the letter. “The language is dangerously vague, and enables signatory countries to enact rules that would ban reporting on timely, critical issues affecting the public.”

Among the signatories are activist, sci-fi author and Guardian tech columnist Cory Doctorow. “Democracies make their laws in public, not in smoke-filled rooms,” Doctorow wrote. “If TPP’s backers truly believed that they were doing the people’s work, they’d have invited the people into the room. The fact that they went to extreme, unprecedented measures to stop anyone from finding out what was going on – even going so far as to threaten Congress with jail if they spoke about it – tells you that this is something being done *to* Americans, not *for* Americans.”

Also on the list were prominent members of the open source community, including David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the popular Ruby on Rails web development framework, image hosting company Imgur and domain name manager Namecheap.

There was a notable absence from the letter of big, international tech companies like Apple, Google and Facebook. Apple and AT&T are part of the president’s International Trade Advisory Committee (which advises the Oval Office on matters relating to industry) and their representatives have presumably been able to read sections of the bill that would apply to their industry.

The letter’s signatories also criticized the fast-track bill – known as the Trade Promotion Authority – which is being discussed in Congress this week. If passed, the TPA would give Obama a yes or no vote on the trade pact without the ability for legislators to amend it. The fast-track bill needs to be passed to even give the TPP a shot at approval.


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AZ: Comcast opens facility in Tucson to improve customer service | Eric Jay Toll | Phoenix Business Journal

AZ: Comcast opens facility in Tucson to improve customer service | Eric Jay Toll | Phoenix Business Journal | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Comcast Corp. is locating a new customer service center in Tucson in an effort to improve its less-than-sterling customer service reputation.

The country's largest cable and Internet service provider today announced a $10 million capital investment to build a 100,000-square-foot customer service center in Tucson.

The new facility will employ 1,125 workers and serve as a training center for a new breed of customer service representatives.
Sandra Watson (c), president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, answers a question about the quality jobs tax credit. In background, left, Gov. Doug Ducey, and Mike Eastman (r), senior director Comcast Tucson.

Comcast, which has a presence in Tucson but not in Phoenix, has a history of customer service horror stories over the years, including a recent one in which a customer recorded a phone call with a service rep who refused to cancel the customer's cable subscription.

“We’re embarking on a major initiative to offer our customers the best customer experience possible,” Ray Child, senior director of public relations for Comcast said in a phone interview after the news conference. “Our plan is to train the very best employees that we can so that we create a better experience for our customers.”

What Comcast seems to be saying is that the best way to resolve its customer service crisis is to train a large number of employees from the ground up. The Tucson facility, which Child says will be “state of the art,” incorporates both employee amenities, such as a cafe and workout facility, with a training center and an entirely redesigned new technology service center.


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Senate Fails To Pass Both USA Freedom And PATRIOT Act Extension, Setting Up Possible Expiration Of Section 215 | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

Senate Fails To Pass Both USA Freedom And PATRIOT Act Extension, Setting Up Possible Expiration Of Section 215 | Mike Masnick | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Well, well. Here's a quick (rare) Saturday post just to get folks up to speed on what happened late last night. After going back and forth for a while, the Senate voted on... and failed to approve both a version of the USA Freedom Act and a short "clean extension" of the clauses of the PATRIOT Act that were set to expire -- mainly Section 215 which some (falsely) believe enables the NSA to collect bulk metadata from telcos (and potentially others).


What this means is that it is much more likely that Section 215 expires entirely. The Senate has since left town, though it plans to come back next Sunday, May 31st to see if it can hammer out some sort of agreement. Though, beware of false compromises, such as those being pushed by Senate Intelligence Committee (and big time NSA supporter), Richard Burr. His "hastily introduced" bill pretends to try to "bridge the gap" but in actuality is much worse than basically anything else on the table.

Oftentimes when things like this happen, it's all political theater -- with Senators appearing to "take stands" on key issues to please constituents. This time, however, there does seem to be genuine confusion as to where this is all going to end up. Next week ought to be fairly interesting...


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Amtrak’s Spectrum Gap | David Sirota | Truthdig.com

Amtrak’s Spectrum Gap | David Sirota | Truthdig.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In the public eye, the disaster on the rails last week in Philadelphia was not only tragic but also shocking. As a crowded Amtrak train approached a bend in the track, it was barreling along at more than 100 miles an hour—twice the mandated speed for that section. The resulting derailment killed eight people, highlighting grave deficiencies in Amtrak’s safety system.

But while Amtrak officials may have been devastated, they could not have been surprised: The accident confirmed clear vulnerabilities in the safety system, shortcomings that the rail company’s internal watchdog had been warning about for more than two years.

In a December 2012 report, Amtrak’s inspector general wrote that “formidable” and “significant challenges” were delaying deployment of a safety system known as Positive Train Control, which identifies cars that are traveling at excessive speeds and automatically slows their progress. Four years earlier, Congress had required that Amtrak and other American rail companies add the technology to their operations, but only a fraction of the rail systems were by then covered. Had the PTC technology been in place in Philadelphia, federal regulators say, the derailment might well have been prevented.

The inspector general’s 2012 report zeroed in on one missing element that was crucial to the broader deployment of the safety system: Amtrak had for years failed to acquire adequate rights to broadcast communications signals through the public airwaves. Without these so-called spectrum rights, Amtrak’s trains could not communicate with the electronic brains of the safety system, preventing its use along key stretches of track. This lack of spectrum had become the “most serious challenge” in the railroad’s efforts to deploy the safety equipment more broadly, Amtrak’s watchdog warned.

The failure to more quickly address this challenge seems like a story that the political world can oversimplify into a standard tale of cut-and-dry blame, featuring singular villains. But in this saga, many factors appear to have contributed to the disaster.


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MN: Blandin Foundation sends Sherburne funds for broadband outreach | Mitch LeClair | Sherburn County Times

MN: Blandin Foundation sends Sherburne funds for broadband outreach | Mitch LeClair | Sherburn County Times | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A $15,000 grant is helping community members and government officials in Sherburne County continue their push for expanded broadband.

This week, the Blandin Foundation announced the grant to a subcommittee of the county's broadband coalition. Along with others around the state, the awards total more than $320,000.

In the fall, the foundation named Sherburne County one of its Blandin Broadband Communities.

Jolene Foss, community development director in Princeton, said the grant and a $5,000 in-kind donation by coalition members will help "educate and stimulate interest in broadband and the benefits thereof."

Not all areas of Sherburne County have adequate broadband coverage, she said.

Foss said the goal of the coalition is to "provide affordable and reliable high-speed Internet to all residents and businesses" in the area.

"My children are in the St. Cloud school district, so they have iPads already," she said, citing the importance of high-speed access in homes.


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Verizon XLTE network reaches 400 markets; LTE in Rural America milestone achieved | TeleGeography.com

Verizon Wireless has announced that its ‘XLTE’ network – which aggregates 700MHz 4G spectrum with 1700MHz/2100MHz advanced wireless services (AWS) frequencies – is now live in 400 markets.


The cellco achieved the milestone after rolling out the enhanced technology in six new markets, namely Madisonville and Owensboro (both Kentucky), Marshalltown (Iowa), Meridian (Mississippi), Martinsville (Virginia) and Traverse City (Michigan). The XLTE network went live in May 2014, boasting coverage of 250 cities at launch.

In other news, Verizon has detailed the progress of its ‘LTE in Rural America’ programme – five years after the initiative launched. A press statement reads: ‘The LRA programme, introduced in May 2010, now covers about 2.6 million people in areas totalling more than 100,000 square miles, from rugged stretches of Alaska to rustic areas of Kentucky and myriad sparsely-populated areas in thirteen other states. Currently, 21 rural wireless carriers participate in the programme.’


The scheme sees Verizon lease pockets of its 700MHz spectrum to rural carriers so that they can roll out LTE networks of their own, over which Verizon has roaming rights.

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Apple Wants Local TV in Its Web TV Service, Which Could Lead to Delays | Peter Kafka & Dawn Chmielewski | Re/Code.net

Apple Wants Local TV in Its Web TV Service, Which Could Lead to Delays | Peter Kafka & Dawn Chmielewski | Re/Code.net | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

If Apple launches a TV service, it won’t be the first company to offer TV subscriptions over the Web. But it wants to offer at least one thing rivals don’t have: Widespread access to live programming from local TV stations.

Industry executives familiar with Apple’s plans say the company wants to provide customers in cities around the U.S. with programming from their local broadcast stations. That would distinguish Apple’s planned offering from those already available from Sony and Dish’s Sling, which to date have only offered local programming in a handful of cities, or none at all.

Apple’s ambitions have complicated its negotiations with the broadcast TV networks, because most broadcasters don’t own all their local stations, and have an affiliate, or franchise system.

Clearing the rights to show local programs and commercials takes some time — ABC, for instance, spent two years getting the rights to show live programming via its Watch ABC app, and its livestreams remain limited to viewers in eight cities. Also, some executives say that providing digital feeds of the programming from dozens of affiliates will also require the broadcasters to build new streaming infrastructure.

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Can Mozilla Halt Firefox’s Slide and Break Up the Mobile Internet Duopoly? | George Anders | MIT Technology Review

Can Mozilla Halt Firefox’s Slide and Break Up the Mobile Internet Duopoly? | George Anders | MIT Technology Review | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In Silicon Valley, most pioneers pursue big ideas and giant personal fortunes with equal zeal. Then there’s Mozilla, an innovation dynamo that refuses to get rich.

More than 500 million people worldwide use Mozilla products. The company’s Firefox Internet browser is the top choice in countries ranging from Germany to Indonesia. But the company has no venture capital backing, no stock options, no publicly traded shares. It hardly ever patents its breakthroughs. Instead, Mozilla has a business model that’s as open and sprawling as the World Wide Web itself, where everything is free and in the public domain.

For a long time, it seemed as if Mozilla’s idealistic engineers understood the future better than anyone. By building the Firefox browser with open-source software, Mozilla made it easy for all kinds of people to cook up improvements that the whole world could use. Independent developers in dozens of countries pitched in, creating add-ons that speeded up downloads, blocked unwanted ads, and performed other useful services. Firefox rapidly became the browser in which state-of-the-art development took place–on shoestring budgets.

Suddenly, though, the Internet looks nightmarish to Mozilla. Most of the world now gets online on mobile devices, and about 96 percent of smartphones run on either the Apple iOS or Google Android operating systems. Both of these are tightly controlled worlds. Buy an iPhone, and you’ll almost certainly end up using Apple’s Web browser, Apple’s maps, and Apple’s speech recognition software. You will select your applications from an Apple-curated app store. Buy an Android phone, and you will be steered into a parallel world run by Team Google. The public-spirited, ad hoc approaches that defined Mozilla’s success in the Internet browser wars have now been marginalized. Developers don’t stay up late working on open-source platforms anymore; instead, they sweat over the details needed to win a spot in Apple’s and Google’s digital stores. Rival operating systems offered by BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows have largely fallen by the wayside as well.


Many of the principles we associate with the Web–openness, decentralization and the ability of anyone to publish without asking permission from others–are at risk,” declared a lengthy blog post written in November 2014 by Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, the nonprofit vehicle that serves as the company’s ultimate owner.


No matter that users and software developers seem to be thriving in this more structured new milieu, with nearly one billion Apple iOS and Google Android smartphones being sold each year. From Baker’s perspective, “frankly, this direction for the Internet sucks.”


Baker’s antidote: Firefox OS, a totally different operating system for smartphones, built on the same collegial, open-source principles that make the Firefox browser such a success. Mozilla has entered this battle with financial resources less than one-hundredth those of Apple and Google. And the organization is even shorter on time: the incumbents have enjoyed nearly a decade’s head start in some crucial markets. Is it too late for a radical attempt to crack the mobile duopoly?


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New Browser Extension Decides How Trustworthy You Are | Jason Tanz | WIRED

New Browser Extension Decides How Trustworthy You Are | Jason Tanz | WIRED | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Three years ago, in a TEDGlobal talk, sharing-economy guru Rachel Botsman shared her vision of a “reputation dashboard”—a kind of credit report that tracks your online behavior across services like Airbnb, TaskRabbit, and Dogvacay and compiles it into a portable measurement of your trustworthiness. Amassing that data, Botsman proposed, would make reputation into a kind of currency. “In the 21st century,” she predicted, “new trust networks, and the reputation capital they generate, will reinvent the way we think about wealth, markets, power and personal identity, in ways we can’t yet even imagine.”

It’s a compelling vision, but so far it hasn’t been realized. That’s because, as I noted last year, the companies that have amassed the most reputation data aren’t eager to share it. “We’re in an early and competitive stage,” Monroe Labouisse, Airbnb’s director of customer service, told me at the time. “That asset—the trust, the data, the reputations that people are building—is hugely valuable. So I’m not sure why a company would give that up.”

A new company is trying to do an end-run around that intransigence by scraping publicly available information from various sharing-economy services and compiling it into a trust score between 0 and 100. Called Karma, it works as a browser extension—any time you pull up a supported site (which currently includes Airbnb, Craigslist, Dogvacay, Ebay, Etsy, RelayRides, and Vayable) a pop-up window will ask if you want to link your account to your Karma score. That score is calculated by looking at the reviews you’ve received—both the quantitative ratings (the number of stars, for instance) as well as a textual analysis of written comments.


Different services are weighted differently; intimate interactions like those powered by Airbnb and Dogvacay are deemed more relevant than relatively anonymous eBay sales, and more recent reviews also are weighted more heavily. The more services you link, the higher your potential score. (Of course, if you’ve misbehaved on one service, your score could fall—but then, you would probably choose not to link it in the first place.) When you peruse a supported service, you’ll see every user’s Karma score superimposed over their listings. It’s a little bit like the sharing-economy’s answer to Klout, that notorious Q rating for social media.


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Patent shows Apple's interesting mobile Wi-Fi hotspot idea | Colin Neagle | NetworkWorld.com

Patent shows Apple's interesting mobile Wi-Fi hotspot idea | Colin Neagle | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent application today that suggests the company has explored a new kind of mobile hotspot technology that is easier to set up, provides a more reliable connection, and has a longer battery life.

The patent application, first reported by Apple Insider, is for a small, cylindrical Wi-Fi hotspot device consisting of two pieces: one containing the networking hardware, the other a battery pack. Screw the two pieces together and you have a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.

The description of the technology in the application points out that some of the available options for mobile hotspots – i.e. separate devices like a laptop – are not very convenient to carry everywhere the user would like to connect to Wi-Fi, like when jogging or hiking. The application also mentioned security concerns with connecting to public Wi-Fi hotspots, a concern anyone who has spent any time working in a coffee shop has shared. This portable, private Wi-Fi network could solve that issue.


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FCC Reform Bill Passes in Contentious Markup | John Eggerton | Multichannel

FCC Reform Bill Passes in Contentious Markup | John Eggerton | Multichannel | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A divided and sometimes contentious House Communications Subcommittee has approved all seven Federal Communications Commission process-reform bills.

That came in a markup Wednesday (May 20) that featured some sparks between the chairman and ranking member, a passionate attack on the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision on political campaign financing, and Democratic amendments defeated along party-line votes.

The summary of the markup is that all of the bills were favorably reported to the full committee, including all legislation proposed by both Democrats and Republicans.

But the story was far more complicated and contentious.


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Wave Raises $130M for Fiber Build | Mike Farrell | Multichannel.com

Wave Raises $130M for Fiber Build | Mike Farrell | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Wave Broadband, the Kirkland, Wash.-based broadband and pay TV provider, raised about $130 million in debt to help fund and aggressive buildout of its fiber optic communications network and aimed at bringing higher-speed connectivity to business customers.

The $130 million in bond debt – led by Deutsche Bank and supported by Wells Fargo, SunTrust and RBC Daniels – will allow the company to add about 1,500 route fiber miles to its gigabit Ethernet fiber network this year. Wave’s current network has about 5,000 route fiber miles.

The planned expansion includes entry to new markets, increased capacity and redundancy in existing markets, as well as infrastructure development to support additional future growth.


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TPP Moves Forward In Senate With Fast Track; On To The House | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

TPP Moves Forward In Senate With Fast Track; On To The House | Mike Masnick | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

As was widely expected after last week's vote, the Senate has now voted in favor of fast track for trade agreements (officially "Trade Promotion Authority") after Republican Senators convinced enough of their Democratic counterparts to give up their Constitutional authority in regulating international commerce (yes, you read that right: Republicans who keep complaining about the President taking too much power and not obeying the Constitution, just voted explicitly to give up Constitutional authority to the President of the other party, while most Democrats declined to do so).

Also as expected, all attempts to add amendments to the TPP -- including Elizabeth Warrens' plan to strip corporate sovereignty ISDS provisions -- failed. Any of the amendments almost certainly would have sunk the fast track bill in the House, so they were all basically poison pills designed to kill fast track. Still, it's disappointing that Congress is favoring corporate sovereignty, when it's pretty clear that it's a provision that is going to come back and bite us badly.

Either way, the fight will now move on to the House, where it's not yet clear if there are enough votes. But, don't be surprised to see a full court press to convince another dozen or so Democrats to join with Republicans in coughing up Congress' Constitutional authority over international trade.


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FCC Signals It's No Longer Going To Nap On Broadband Privacy Issues | Karl Bode | Techdirt

FCC Signals It's No Longer Going To Nap On Broadband Privacy Issues | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The FCC this week informed broadband ISPs that the agency is no longer going to be napping at the wheel when it comes to broadband-related privacy enforcement. In a new enforcement advisory posted to the FCC website (pdf), the FCC said that with ISPs now classified as common carriers under the new Title II based net neutrality rules, the FCC's going to be taking a long hard look at improving broadband privacy protections. While the actual rulemaking process is still being worked on, the FCC will be leaning on Section 222 of the Communications Act, historically used to protect Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) on phone networks.

ISPs have already started complaining the FCC's imposing draconian, ancient regulations on the modern Internet, and such rules will saddle them with all manner of new costs. Of course it should be noted that most of these privacy protections are fundamental common sense -- and in some cases things most ISPs are already doing. They range from from requiring that ISPs keep private consumer data encrypted when being stored on servers, to not sharing consumer data with third parties without the explicit consent of consumers. The FCC shockingly found that absent such protections, things don't work out well for consumers:


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USDA Announces Funding Opportunity for Distance Learning and Telemedicine Projects | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2015 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting applications for its Distance Learning and Telemedicine (DLT) grant program, which provides increased access to education, training and health care resources in rural areas.

“This program provides people who live and work in rural areas with better access to a variety of educational and health care services,” Vilsack said. “For example, because of the DLT program, students in rural areas can take advanced placement classes, residents can have access to specialized medical services not typically available, and many other benefits for rural communities.”

USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, a Rural Development agency is making $19 million available for fiscal year 2015. The Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program finances telecommunications equipment, computer networks and advanced technologies for use by students, teachers, medical professionals and rural residents. Minimum grant amounts are $50,000; maximum amounts are $500,000 for fiscal year 2015.

Since 2009, USDA has provided more than $182 million to expand access to learning at nearly 4,700 rural educational facilities and to improve delivery of medical care at more than 2,500 rural health facilities.

Details of the DLT funding are on Page 29602 of the May 22 Federal Register. The application deadline is July 6, 2015.


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Senator McConnell's NSA gambit fails | Jordain Carney & Julian Hattem | The Hill

Senator McConnell's NSA gambit fails | Jordain Carney & Julian Hattem | The Hill | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Republican leader pledged to keep senators in Washington through the weekend to finish work on expiring provisions of the Patriot Act, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) called his bluff.

Instead, when the smoke cleared in the early hours of Saturday morning, the 2016 presidential contender was the one with bragging rights.

The battle between the two Kentucky Republicans spilled over on the Senate floor, with Paul using procedural tactics to force the chamber into an early Saturday vote. He then used his leverage to kill off McConnell’s repeated attempts to reauthorize the expiring National Security Agency (NSA) programs — first for two months, then for eight days, then for five, then three, then two.

McConnell and the Republican leadership team had appeared confident even into Friday evening that they could kill the House-passed USA Freedom Act. They had planned to force the Senate into accepting a “clean” reauthorization of the provisions — set to expire at the end of the month — at least for a short while.

But Paul and other opponents of the “clean” renewal held firm, forcing McConnell to kick the can and adjourn the Senate without a clear path forward on how to prevent a shutdown of the NSA programs.

Leaving the Capitol, Republicans seemed confused on what their leader’s next steps would be.


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You won’t believe what some federal agencies are paying for cell service | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

You won’t believe what some federal agencies are paying for cell service | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Government agencies: They're just like us!

Like us, they have to choose from the same handful of wireless carriers. Like us, they pay for voice, text and data. Like us, many of them pay steep prices for service.

These insights all come out of a nerdy if illuminating new report from the Government Accountability Office showing just what carriers charge our top civil servants for phone service. And you might be stunned by the huge variation in prices and plans. (For the data, see Table 4 on pages 25-26.)

At the low end, the Agriculture Department somehow gets away with paying $21 a month on a per-line basis for 200 voice minutes, 200 text messages and unlimited data. But the most expensive government plans — such as the one Health and Human Services offers to some of its employees — top out at over $121 per line per month. HHS's fanciest plan grants unlimited access to voice, text and data.

Or take the Interior Department. It pays $26.39 for 400 minutes, no texts and unlimited data. But it also buys a plan whose only difference seems to be the addition of text messages — and it costs 2.5 times more.


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Chile to introduce minimum connection speed rules | TeleGeography.com

Chilean telecoms regulator Subtel has confirmed that the Senate’s Committee on Transport and Telecommunications is in the final stages of revising a draft amendment to the Telecommunications Act that will establish a minimum speed for guaranteed access to the internet.


One committee member noted that the speeds provided by a company were not consistent with the plan, noting that a user might pay for an 80Mbps connection that could drop to as low as 2Mbps at certain times of the day.


The committee has proposed an innovative system of ongoing evaluation, where users will be able to check an internet service provider’s (ISP’s) level of compliance regarding advertised and received connection speeds.

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WSJ: FCC Chairman Wheeler Reaches Out To Cable Executives To Allay Deal Concerns | NASDAQ.com

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler allayed fears about the uncertainty related to the regulatory climate for future cable deals, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Thursday.

The move follows recent public statements from cable executives that expressed concerns on how much consolidation the government will actually allow after they nixed the planned mega-media merger between cable television giants Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable, Inc. It also saw the end of Comcast's side deal with its smaller rival Charter Communications, Inc.

Wheeler is said to have individually called Time Warner Cable CEO Rob Marcus and Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge, as well as other cable executives in recent days to clarify the FCC's stand.

In his conversations, Wheeler reportedly told the executives that any deal would be assessed on its own merits, without actually picking out any particular potential deal.

He clarified to them that just because the FCC's staff wasn't convinced that the Comcast deals were in the public interest, they should not assume the agency is against any and all future cable deals.


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Letter to keep advertising tax deduction circulated in House | Kathryn Bachman | Katy on the Hill

Letter to keep advertising tax deduction circulated in House | Kathryn Bachman | Katy on the Hill | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Nearly 60 lawmakers have signed on to a “dear colleague” letter to ensure that a broad tax reform package does not change the current tax deduction for advertising expenses.

The letter, which will be sent to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), is being circulated among House members by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y) and Kevin Yoder (R-Kans.) with a May 29 cut-off date.

Advertising has been treated as a deductible cost of doing business since 1913. Limiting the tax deductibility of advertising gathered some momentum in the last Congress as part of a broad tax reform package until a change in committee leadership halted its progress. The proposals in both chambers would have placed limits on the amount of advertising dollars that could be deducted in the year it was spent.

If similar proposals gather steam this year, it would be a radical change with serious consequences to the advertising and media business, the letter warns.


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Amtrak’s Lessons for Access to the Airwaves | Michael Calabrese & Patrick Lucey | NewAmerica.org

The precise cause of last week’s tragic Amtrak derailment, which killed eight people and shut down train service along the busy Northeast Corridor, remains a mystery. Whatever the cause, the crash revealed some fundamental gaps in Amtrak’s safety system – most notably the failure to deploy Positive Train Control (PTC) technology that would have automatically slowed or stopped the train once it exceeded the speed limit ahead of the curve where it jack-knifed off the rails. Although Congress mandated PTC technology seven years ago, Amtrak cited a lack of timely access to wireless spectrum (the public airwaves) for delays in implementing the safety system.

Spectrum refers to the wireless frequencies that power technologies ranging from FM radio and satellite communication to mobile phones and Wi-Fi routers. While increasingly critical to modern communications, spectrum—and the rules that govern access to spectrum in the U.S. — rarely makes headline news. But following the Amtrak derailment, people are suddenly conscious of the fact that the nation’s policies on access to the airwaves will impact almost everything in their lives.

So is Amtrak’s claim that spectrum access is a factor in this disaster legitimate? The answer is yes and no.

So is Amtrak’s claim that spectrum access is a factor in this disaster legitimate? The answer is yes and no. Amtrak asked for exclusive, and expensive, spectrum and this request—while puzzling—highlights deep structural problems with how our government has parceled out and regulated spectrum in the past.


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MN: Comcast announces 2-Gig access in the Twin Cities: Broadband begets broadband | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband

MN: Comcast announces 2-Gig access in the Twin Cities: Broadband begets broadband | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Just days after CenturyLink announces Gig access in the Twin Cities, Comcast announces 2-Gig service. Apparently broadband begets broadband. (US Internet was the first provider to announce 10 Gig access in the area.) There are some details that are unknown – like pricing. Although the Minneapolis Star Tribune has created a pricing table for high speed broadband in the Twin Cities…

So that’s good news in the Twin Cities – but I know most of the readers are in rural areas. So what does that mean for rural areas?

Well – there’s the rising tide raises all boats theory. Now that the TCs are getting faster connections, will that mean that the speeds will rise in rural areas too? Or will the digital divide widen? I’m afraid the gap may widen, which means more than “folks can do things faster” in the Cities. It’s a matter of being able to do things differently – like run a business!


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FCC Source: Both Walden’s, Eshoo’s DA Figures Are Correct | John Eggerton | Multichannel

FCC Source: Both Walden’s, Eshoo’s DA Figures Are Correct | John Eggerton | Multichannel | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

During a House Communications Subcommittee markup of Federal Communications Commission process reforms Wednesday (May 20) there was a bit of a flare-up between subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) over how many decisions the agency made on delegated authority (rather than votes by the commission).

Walden and Eshoo offered up very different numbers. Eshoo said there were 950,000 such decisions last year, while Walden said there were 1,845. Both said they had gotten them from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler — Eshoo from his testimony at a hearing, Walden from a copy of a Wheeler letter following up on a March letter to the committee following up on some questions.

According to an FCC source on background, they were both right, though during the hearing there was some confusion and heated words over the dueling figures.


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FCC Proposes Extending Emergency Alerts to Second Screens | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

FCC Proposes Extending Emergency Alerts to Second Screens | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed to make TV Everywhere emergency information "accessibile everywhere" as well.

At its May open meeting Thursday, the FCC voted unanimously (with some partial dissents from the Republicans) to require cable operators and other MPVDS to make emergency alert information accessible to the sight-impaired when their traditional programming lineups are accessed on second screens like tablets and phones.

Cable ops had been lobbying to confine that second-screen requirement to second screens in the home, but the FCC chose not to limit it. "The new rules apply when MVPDs permit consumers to access linear programming on tablets, smartphones, laptops, and similar devices over the MVPD’s network as part of their MVPD services," said an FCC spokesperson. "This more clearly delineates the services subject to the rule than a formulation that focuses on whether the services are provided “in the home.”

The tablet and smart phone emergency alert accessibility requirement does not extend to video that originates over-the-top, only to second-screen access to traditional cable service.


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