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Early Lessons From New Zealand's 'Three Strikes' Punishments | Techdirt

Early Lessons From New Zealand's 'Three Strikes' Punishments | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

New Zealand has the unhappy distinction of being in the vanguard of using the "three strikes" approach of punishment for people accused of sharing unauthorized copies online. As in France and the UK, this was brought in without any preparatory research to ascertain its effectiveness, and without any real thought about the practical implications. That makes a post by Susan Chalmers on the blog of InternetNZ, a "non-profit open membership organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the Internet in New Zealand", particularly valuable.

 

It's entitled "Early Lessons from the Copyright Tribunal", and looks at the first two cases that have come before the New Zealand body responsible for implementing the three strikes law (recently, a third one has been added.)

 

It's full of fascinating details, and is well-worth reading for the insights it gives into the realities of the three-strike approach in New Zealand. Take the following, for example:

 

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Jim Rockford Warned Us About Google And Facebook Back In 1978 | Charlie Jane Anders | io9.com

Jim Rockford Warned Us About Google And Facebook Back In 1978 | Charlie Jane Anders | io9.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Why didn't we listen? The fourth season of The Rockford Files, arguably the greatest television show of all time, features a "futuristic" storyline about a terrible threat.


What if a private corporation used computers to gather personal information on hundreds of millions of Americans? Could we trust them with that data?

I know, it's hard to imagine such a thing ever happening — a private company, collecting private and personal data on ordinary Americans and other people around the world. It sounds far-fetched, right?


But Jim Rockford, the toughest and most incorruptible P.I. ever to live in a trailer with his dad, teams up with a younger detective to investigate the suspicious death of an old friend, a private detective named Tooley, in the episode "The House on Willis Avenue." (This episode is written by the show's co-creator, Stephen J. Cannell, who also gave us The Greatest American Hero.)

And what Rockford finds in his investigation is baffling — a mysterious set of real estate developments, with lots of suspiciously huge air-conditioning units attached. What's going on?


Turns out that a corporate scumbag, amusingly played by Jackie Cooper, is creating a secret computer system to spy on ordinary Americans and sell the info — or ruin your reputation — for profit. It should be illegal for corporations to spy on ordinary Americans, Rockford protests.

It all leads up to this solemn cue card at the very end of the episode:


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Cops worry Waze speed trap warnings will be used by police killers | Ms. Smith | NetworkWorld.com

Cops worry Waze speed trap warnings will be used by police killers | Ms. Smith | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

According to Waze: "Traffic is more than just red lines on the map. Get alerted before you approach police, accidents, road hazards or traffic jams, all shared by other drivers in real-time. It's like a personal heads-up from a few million of your friends on the road."

Cops, however, are not worked up about Waze because users can warn other drivers about police speed traps, but also because the app allegedly "could put officers' lives in danger from would-be police killers who can find where their targets are parked."

If you click on the cop icon, it might say hidden police trap, visible police trap, or just police trap. The app’s tagline of "outsmarting traffic, together," might be viewed by cops as "outsmarting speed traps, together."


Of course police-reporting isn't the only thing marked by Waze’s 50 million users. The free service offers real-time traffic reports and allows users to report issues such as wrecks, potholes, weather hazards, traffic jams, road closures, construction zones and even traffic cameras.


On the social side, you can choose your mood, map chat or use the "share my drive" functionality to "let others follow your drive and ETA."


Varying reports claim that Google acquired Waze in 2013 for $966 million, but the price tag might have been as high as a reported $1.3 billion.


"Police stalker" is what Bedford County, Virginia, Sheriff Mike Brown dubbed the app since he claims it endangers law enforcement. Brown, chairman of the National Sheriffs Association technology committee, said:


"The police community needs to coordinate an effort to have the owner, Google, act like the responsible corporate citizen they have always been and remove this feature from the application even before any litigation or statutory action."


Brown's not alone with that feeling, according to the Associated Press. At the 2015 National Sheriffs' Association Winter Conference, California reserve deputy sheriff Sergio Kopelev said it's "only a matter of time" before Waze is used as a stalking app to track down cops. Incidentally, he was unaware of the Waze app "until mid-December when he saw his wife using it."


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At Davos, Technology CEOs Discuss the Digital Economy | Don Tapscott Blog | HuffPost.com

At Davos, Technology CEOs Discuss the Digital Economy | Don Tapscott Blog | HuffPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Davos: One of the most anticipated discussions at this year's meeting was the plenary session on The Digital Economy. Given that I wrote the book that coined that term 20 years ago, I attended with great interest.

On the panel were Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Unfortunately, the group didn't really explore the state of the digital economy, but rather centered on all the great things technology is doing around the world. The discussion started on this bright note when the moderator asked whether each panelist was optimistic or pessimistic about the impact of technology on society. To this group the question was a rhetorical one, and predictably all panelists expressed great enthusiasm for what has been accomplished and the great strides the future holds in store.

They said that digital technologies used in areas from education to farming to healthcare have transformed communities and raised living standards around the world. As broadband capacity is rolled out to the four corners of the world, standards of living will increase even more.


During the session I frequently felt that that neither the optimistic statements of hope or anecdotes of those whose lives have improved adequately dealt with the challenge of the digital economy. I was tempted to quote Bill Clinton: "It's the economy, stupid."


The Digital Economy has become THE Economy. Yes, technology has created many wonders, but if we look at the macro level, the scorecard on economic results of technology are so far troublesome. Technology has unquestionably been at the heart of some negative developments including massive structural unemployment; growing social inequality where the benefits and wealth generated by technology have been asymmetrical; a fracturing of public discourse; and the loss of privacy and the rise of a surveillance society to name a few.


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Link between NSA and Regin cyberespionage malware becomes clearer | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com

Link between NSA and Regin cyberespionage malware becomes clearer | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Keylogging malware that may have been used by the NSA shares signficant portions of code with a component of Regin, a sophisticated platform that has been used to spy on businesses, government institutions and private individuals for years.

The keylogger program, likely part of an attack framework used by the U.S. National Security Agency and its intelligence partners, is dubbed QWERTY and was among the files that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked to journalists. It was released by German news magazine Der Spiegel on Jan. 17 along with a larger collection of secret documents about the malware capabilities of the NSA and the other Five Eyes partners—the intelligence agencies of the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“We’ve obtained a copy of the malicious files published by Der Spiegel and when we analyzed them, they immediately reminded us of Regin,” malware researchers from antivirus firm Kaspersky Lab said Tuesday in a blog post. “Looking at the code closely, we conclude that the ‘QWERTY’ malware is identical in functionality to the Regin 50251 plugin.”

Moreover, the Kaspersky researchers found that both QWERTY and the 50251 plug-in depend on a different module of the Regin platform identified as 50225 which handles kernel-mode hooking. This component allows the malware to run in the highest privileged area of the operating system—the kernel.

This is strong proof that QWERTY can only operate as part of the Regin platform, the Kaspersky researchers said. “Considering the extreme complexity of the Regin platform and little chance that it can be duplicated by somebody without having access to its source code, we conclude the QWERTY malware developers and the Regin developers are the same or working together.”

Der Spiegel reported that QWERTY is likely a plug-in of a unified malware framework codenamed WARRIORPRIDE that is used by all Five Eye partners. This is based on references in the code to a dependency called WzowskiLib or CNELib.


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Get ready for the 24-hour laptop: Battery life hits new highs | Agam Shah | NetworkWorld

Get ready for the 24-hour laptop: Battery life hits new highs | Agam Shah | NetworkWorld | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Tired of carting around that power cord? Have patience, the 24-hour laptop is almost here.

A handful of new systems are promising more than 15 hours’ battery life on a single charge, or 20 hours with an optional second battery installed. The days of plugging in on the road are almost over, at least for short business trips.

On Monday, for instance, Panasonic introduced its newest Toughbook 31, which can run for up to 18 hours depending on the use case, or 27 hours with an optional second battery installed. The laptop, which has a tough briefcase-type exterior so it can withstand a fall, will go on sale next month starting at US$3,699.

The Toughbook beats out two other recently introduced laptops for battery life—though it’s also a lot heavier. Dell claims 15 hours for its XPS 13, or 22 hours with a second battery. And the two batteries in Lenovo’s ThinkPad X250 can power it along for up to 20 hours. The latter two were both were announced at this month’s CES.


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FCC: Broadcasters Are Important Emergency Communications Tool | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable

FCC: Broadcasters Are Important Emergency Communications Tool | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

As what is being hailed as a historic blizzard hits the Northeast, the FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) posted an advisory on the FCC's home page with tips for communicating during severe weather emergencies, including pointing out the value of free, over-the-air TV.

"Broadcasters are an important source of news during emergencies," says the advisory, "so consider keeping a battery-operated, solar-powered, or hand-crank-operated radio or digital portable television for use during power outages."

"Make sure you have charged or fresh batteries if needed," it adds, and even suggests broadcast and broadband can team up in emergencies. "Some hand-cranked radios can also be used to charge cell phones," it points out.

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Republicans Tee Up Cybersecurity Questions | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable

Republicans Tee Up Cybersecurity Questions | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Republican staffers have signaled the questions their members are pondering for a Jan. 27 hearing on cybersecurity in the House Energy & Commerce Committee, including what constitutes "overnotification" about breaches.

President Obama has made cybersecurity one of three key communications issues for his last two years —online privacy and broadband deployment are the other two— but it is also on the new Congress' to-do list.

Citing a laundry list of attacks in the past year that included the Sony had and Cox Communications, the Majority staff memo pointed to a "patchwork" of 47 state laws dealing with breach notification and another dozen on data security. "This patchwork of state laws creates confusion for consumers looking for consistency and predictability in breach notices as well as compliance issues for businesses in the midst of securing their systems after a breach," the memo said.

The questions being teed up on the Republican side include:


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Verizon: Title II Reclassification Radical, Risky | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

Verizon: Title II Reclassification Radical, Risky | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

With the days dwindling until the FCC's planned Feb. 26 vote on new net-neutrality regulations, Verizon was pulling out all the rhetorical stops on Monday (Jan. 26) as it argued against Title II reclassification of Internet access.

"[A]ny attempt to 'reclassify' broadband Internet access service as a Title II telecommunications service would be a radical and risky change to our nation’s long-standing, bipartisan communications policy," Verizon said in a filing with the FCC.

It was Verizon's challenge to the FCC's Sec. 706-based Open Internet order back in 2010 that lead to a court rejecting most of those rules, and the FCC's subsequent effort to restore them under new legal justification. Verizon was saying Monday that everybody is now on the same page about Sec. 706.

"All the major broadband Internet access providers and their trade associations agree that the Commission can use its Section 706 authority to prohibit harmful 'paid prioritization' arrangements, blocking and other such practices," the company said.

Defenders of Title II reclassification have said the FCC will forbear (not apply) most of those common-carrier regs, but Verizon said forbearance "is no panacea for the ills of Title II reclassification" and that it believes Title II fans have an ulterior motive.


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FCC Has Collect Call for Phone Companies | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

FCC Has Collect Call for Phone Companies | John Eggerton |  Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Phone companies were on the hook for millions of dollars Monday as the Federal Communications Commission signaled Verizon had agreed to pay $5 million to settle an agency inquiry into the telco's alleged failure to investigate rural call completion issues, and that the agency is fining Advanced Tel Inc. almost $1.6 million for failing to pay Universal Service Fund fees.

“All phone companies are required to participate in universal access programs so that consumers everywhere have access to critical telecommunications services,” said Travis LeBlanc, Enforcement Bureau chief, of the Advanced Tel fine. “Service providers who flagrantly avoid these responsibilities damage these programs and the public interest, and we demonstrate today that we will hold them accountable.”

Of the Verizon settlement, LeBlanc said: “All Americans, no matter where they are located, have a right to make and receive phone calls. Phone companies are on notice that the FCC will hold them accountable for failures to investigate and ensure that calls go through to the rural heartland of the country.”

LeBlanc has made it clear that under his watch the Enforcement Bureau would be an active arm of the FCC.


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Is Google Spreading Its Tentacles to Wireless? | Mike Farrell | Multichannel.com

Is Google Spreading Its Tentacles to Wireless? | Mike Farrell | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Google continues to cast its net further and wider afield, this time by forging a wireless partnership with mobile carriers Sprint and T-Mobile U.S. that could allow it to offer its own direct-to-consumer service.

Reports that the company was considering a wireless offering sent Google’s stock up 3.2% ($16.35 each) on Jan. 22 to $534.39 per share. While Google hasn’t officially announced plans for a wireless service, published reports citing people familiar with the matter said it would likely involve a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreement with Sprint and T-Mobile, whereby Google would use the carriers’ networks to offer a wireless service. The reports speculate it could be offered at first in select markets, perhaps as an adjunct to Google’s ultra-high-speed Internet service Google Fiber.

Google spokeswoman Lauren Barriere said it is the company’s policy not to comment on rumor and speculation.

Whatever the outcome, a wireless offering from Google would be another example of the search giant sticking its thumb in the eye of yet another industry.


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Researchers show a machine learning network for connected devices | Stacey Higginbotham | GigaOM Tech News

Researchers show a machine learning network for connected devices | Stacey Higginbotham | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Researchers at Ohio State University have developed a method for building a machine learning algorithm from data gathered from a variety of connected devices. There are two cool things about their model worth noting. The first is that the model is distributed and second, it can keep data private.

The researchers call their model Crowd-ML and the idea is pretty basic. Each device runs a version of a necessary app, much like one might run a version of SETI@home or other distributed computing application, and grabs samples of data to send to a central server. The server can tell when enough of the right data has been gathered to “teach” the computer and only grabs the data it needs, ensuring a relative amount of privacy.

The model uses a variant of stochastic (sub)gradient descent instead of batch processing, to grab data for machine learning, which is what makes the Crowd-ML effort different. Stochastic gradient descent is the basis for a lot of machine learning and deep learning efforts. It uses knowledge gleaned from previous computations to inform the next computations, making it iterative, as opposed to something processed all at once.

The paper goes on to describe how one can tweak the Crowd-ML model to ensure more or less privacy and process information faster or in greater amounts. It tries to achieve the happy medium between protecting privacy and gathering the right amount of data to generate a decent sample size to train the machine learning algorithm.


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Cable Pushes to Exclude Netflix From Net Neutrality Protections | Advertising Age

Cable Pushes to Exclude Netflix From Net Neutrality Protections | Advertising Age | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Internet service providers led by Comcast are pushing to protect from federal regulations their ability to demand fees from high-volume data users such as Netflix.

Netflix, the world's largest subscription video streaming service, and middlemen such as Level 3 Communications and Cogent Communications Holdings have asked regulators to prevent internet providers from charging for connections.

The issue is one of many the Federal Communications Commission will resolve in a vote set for Feb. 26 on rules to ensure all internet traffic is treated equally, a policy called net neutrality. The FCC also will decide whether to include mobile service under the rules, a step Chairman Tom Wheeler has indicated he favors.

Mr. Wheeler already said paid "fast lanes" would be prohibited under the rules he will propose. He hasn't said publicly if traffic exchanges are to be included.

"For the last two decades all of this has been done by contractual arrangements, all throughout the internet," Steven Morris, a lawyer with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association trade group, said in an interview. "We have lots of concerns about this, which is why we're encouraging the commission not to" include connection agreements in its net neutrality rules.

Republican lawmakers today called for Mr. Wheeler to release his proposal for public review as he gives the draft to fellow commissioners Feb. 5. FCC orders traditionally aren't published until the agency votes to adopt them.


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Ad-Supported TV Tops Online Video | Wayne Friedman | Media Post

Ad-Supported TV Tops Online Video | Wayne Friedman | Media Post | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Recent research shows that traditional TV still dominates overall video media -- in usage and program investment. Of the total average monthly time spent in October by users, 80% -- 139 hours and 45 minutes -- goes to advertising-supported TV brands, according to the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau.

Facebook is next, at 17 hours and 32 minutes (17:32); YouTube, 6:24; and for four other portals, a total of 11:51. This data comes from Nielsen Npower Live plus seven days of time-shifting for October 2014, persons 2+ and comScore.


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Community Broadband Media Roundup - January 23 | community broadband networks

Community Broadband Media Roundup - January 23 | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

We continue to see reverberations from President Obama's speaking out in favor of municipal networks. The presidential nod sparked state lawmakers to propose bills, news organizations to write editorials, and to give communities a better sense of how they can take action locally.

As Claire Cain Miller with the New York Times wrote in her article for “The Upshot”:

“The goal is not to replace the big companies with small, locally run Internet providers. It is to give people more than one or two options for buying Internet – and spur everyone, including the incumbents, to offer more competitive service and pricing.”

Jeff Ward-Bailey reported on Obama’s interest in tech issues in the State of the Union, specifically the laws limiting local deployment of networks.

“Obama has said that he wants to end these laws, and the White House’s new broadband plan includes a program, BroadbandUSA, that will encourage communities to deploy their own high-speed networks. BroadbandUSA will offer guidance on planning, financing, and building municipal broadband networks, and even includes funding for “in-person technical assistance to communities.”

The always-worth-reading Harold Feld explained the significance of President Obama's short mention of Internet access in his address:


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DEA cameras tracking hundreds of millions of car journeys across the US | Martyn Williams | NetworkWorld.com

DEA cameras tracking hundreds of millions of car journeys across the US | Martyn Williams | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program to keep tabs on cars close to the U.S.-Mexican border has been gradually expanded nationwide and is regularly used by other law enforcement agencies in their hunt for suspects.

The extent of the system, which is said to contain hundreds of millions of records on motorists and their journeys, was disclosed in documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a Freedom of Information Act request. Much of the information disclosed to the ACLU was undated, making it difficult to understand the growth of the network, which is different from the cameras used to collect traffic tolls on expressways.

One of the undated documents said more than 100 cameras had been deployed in at least California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and New Jersey. The cameras snap each vehicle that passes, recording its license plate, the direction of travel and the time. Some cameras also snap a picture of the driver and passengers.

It was set up in 2008 and was opened to other law enforcement agencies in May 2009. Two years after it was launched, the system helped the DEA seize 98 kilograms of cocaine, 8,336 kilograms of marijuana and collect US$866,380. Its use was also expanded to the hunt for cars being driven by suspects in child abductions, rapes and other crimes.

But it’s unclear if there is any court oversight of the network. The ACLU said that any federal, state or local law enforcement agent that had been vetted by the DEA could conduct queries on the database.


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Why We Need More Lunchpail Liberals And Fewer Limousine Liberals | Joel Kotkin | The Daily Beast

Why We Need More Lunchpail Liberals And Fewer Limousine Liberals | Joel Kotkin | The Daily Beast | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Blue state tech and clean energy economies sound nice, but they don’t do much for manufacturing, construction, or farming, and the real losers are middle-class Americans.

The blue team may have lost the political battle last year, but with the rapid fall of oil and commodity prices, they have temporarily gained the upper hand economically.


Simultaneously, conditions have become more problematical for those interior states, notably Texas and North Dakota, that have benefited from the fossil fuel energy boom. And if the Obama administration gets its way, they are about to get tougher.

This can be seen in a series of actions, including new regulations from the EPA and the likely veto by the president of the Keystone pipeline, that will further slow the one sector of the economy that has been generating high-paid, blue collar employment. At the same time, housing continues to suffer, as incomes for the vast majority of the middle class have failed to recover from the 2008 crash.

Manufacturing, which had been gaining strength, also now faces its own challenges, in large part due to the soaring U.S. dollar, which makes exports more expensive. Amidst weakening demand in the rest of the world, many internationally-oriented firms such as United Technologies and IBM forecast slower sales.


Low prices for oil and other commodities also threatens the resurgence of mainstream manufacturers such as Caterpillar, for whom the energy and metals boom has produced a surge in demand for their products.

Left largely unscathed, for now, have been the other, less tangible sectors of the economy, notably information technology, including media, and the financial sector, as well as health services.


In sharp contrast to manufacturing, energy, and home-building, all of these sectors except health care are clustered in the high-cost, blue state economies along the West Coast and the Northeast.


As long as the Fed continues to keep interest rates very low, and maintains its bond-buying binge, these largely ephemeral industries seem poised to appear ever more ascendant.


No surprise then that one predictably Obama-friendly writer called the current economy “awesome” despite weak income growth and high levels of disengagement by the working class in the economy.


If Wall Street and Silicon Valley are booming, what else can be wrong?


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If you want to navigate data’s deep waters, you need a dashboard | Carla Cook | GigaOM Tech News

If you want to navigate data’s deep waters, you need a dashboard | Carla Cook | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In countless movies that depict our future digital lives, larger-than-life dashboards loom, delivering whatever information you seek at the touch of a screen. Every data point is visually compelling, easily digestible, and able to convert into myriad formats. Microsoft took a stab at such a future years ago with Surface, a product that seems to have evolved into PixelSense but hasn’t seen much traction since. So, much like flying cars, where are the touchscreens encompassing entire walls?

A startup called Dive, the latest entrant in the data visualization space, is taking a stab at this vision. The company launched at CES, with the aim of equipping Fortune 500 companies with interactive dashboards surfacing insights and trends in visually compelling graphics.

Intending to “change the way media is purchased,” according to Deb Hall, founder and CEO, Dive consolidates data sources for brands and turns them into eye-catching marketing intelligence that is “accessible, fun, and entertaining.” It’s all real-time and meant to help marketers not only digest trend data but turn it into actionable content marketing about their industry and competitors.


This area is something that Buzzfeed Director of Data Science Ky Harlin might have a few things to say about at Structure Data in March in an interview with Gigaom founder Om Malik.


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The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Sink the Middle Class | Truth-Out.org

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Sink the Middle Class | Truth-Out.org | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Six years into his presidency, President Obama is now taking heat from a surprising place: congressional Democrats, who are lining up against his plan to force the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) through Congress without any debate whatsoever.

If approved, the TPP, or as I like to call it, the Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement - SHAFTA - would create a whole new set of rules regulating the economies of 12 countries on four different continents bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately, because the TPP is being negotiated almost entirely in secret, we don't know a lot about it.

What we do know about it, though, comes almost entirely from leaks, and those leaks paint a pretty scary picture.

Thanks to groups like WikiLeaks, we now know the TPP would give big pharmaceutical companies virtual monopoly patent power, let corporations sue countries in international courts over regulations that those corporations don't like, and gut environmental and financial rules.

Given facts like this, you'd think that President Obama would want Congress to actually take the time and debate whether or not the TPP is a good idea for the US public.

But that's apparently not the case.


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Congress: You can’t fool the public on net neutrality | Evan Greer Blog | The Hill

There’s this quote from Abraham Lincoln:

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.”

It popped into my head last week, when the House and Senate held a two-ring circus on the subject of net neutrality.

Net neutrality is a basic underlying assumption that’s been around since the beginning of the Internet. It says that all websites, apps, facebook protests, memes, blogs, and lolcats are created equal. It’s what gives all of us a voice, and prevents the companies that connect us to the Web from deciding what we can see and do once we get there.

My colleagues at Fight for the Future and I, alongside our more than 1.2 million members, have spent the better part of the last year doing everything in our power to prevent the U.S. government from throwing this principle in the trash. And it’s not just because we love lolcats. We’ve seen how the Internet gives ordinary people new kinds of power, and changes the rules of what is possible for the future of democracy.

The story of the fight for net neutrality is a story of the impossible turned into the inevitable. Just a year ago, the prospects looked pretty bleak. Verizon had just successfully sued to strike down the existing net neutrality rules -- which were pretty weak anyhow -- and the chairman of the FCC was (still is) a former cable company lobbyist. So no one was placing bets that the new rules would be better than the ones that were struck down.

But then the Internet rose up. 40,000 websites protested during the Internet Slowdown protest. Millions of people commented to the FCC. Net neutrality went viral. Protesters blockaded Chairman Tom Wheeler’s driveway, twerked on the FCC’s doorstep, rallied on the White House lawn, and unfurled banners in FCC meetings.

So when members of Congress who take some of the most money in campaign contributions from from "Big Cable" companies held cynical hearings that were transparently designed to undermine the public will on net neutrality, it didn’t take much to get our members angry. We just told them the hearings were happening, and put a livestream on our website BattleForTheNet.com alongside a tool that let people call their reps with one click.

We added a feature where, after a person talks to 10 members of Congress, they get connected to a Fight for the Future staff member, so we could personally thank them, typically in an awkward but inspiring fashion. It seemed like a great idea when we started.

By nightfall, our page had connected more than 17,000 phone calls to Congress, with some tiny fraction of those coming through to my personal cell. Turns out a tiny fraction of 17,000 is still a lot.

It was supremely time consuming, and at times wildly disruptive to my work day, but the constant stream of phone calls that I got that day gave me more hope for the future of the Internet than I’ve ever had before.


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Verizon Shows Just How Competitive The Wireless Industry Really Is By Simply Refusing To Compete On Price | Karl Bode | Techdirt

Verizon Shows Just How Competitive The Wireless Industry Really Is By Simply Refusing To Compete On Price | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

You'll recall that the CTIA recently argued that the wireless industry doesn't need to be governed by net neutrality rules (or any rules, really) because it's a sector that's just so gosh-darned competitive.


And while it's true T-Mobile has been shaking things up of late (thanks in part to regulators blocking the AT&T acquisition), the market's big four players continue to make it clear that once you dig past a number of largely cosmetic promotions, the sector still isn't really all that competitive.


That's especially true when it comes to seriously competing on price, something all four major carriers repeatedly make clear they intend to avoid at any cost.

Case in point is T-Mobile's latest effort to offer rollover data, or letting users store unused bits and bytes at the end of the month for future use.


I already noted how AT&T's competitive response to this was to offer a rollover service of its own that's largely a joke; rolled over data allotments only having a shelf life of one month, and that data being unusable until you finish your normal data allotment.


Yet that's better than Verizon Wireless, which responded to the growing trend toward rollover data by refusing to participate entirely:


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Cuban youth build secret computer network despite Wi-Fi ban | Michael Weissenstein | The Associated Press

Cuban youth build secret computer network despite Wi-Fi ban | Michael Weissenstein | The Associated Press | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Cut off from the Internet, young Cubans have quietly linked thousands of computers into a hidden network that stretches miles across Havana, letting them chat with friends, play games and download hit movies in a mini-replica of the online world that most can't access.

Home Internet connections are banned for all but a handful of Cubans, and the government charges nearly a quarter of a month's salary for an hour online in government-run hotels and Internet centers. As a result, most people on the island live offline, complaining about their lack of access to information and contact with friends and family abroad.

A small minority have covertly engineered a partial solution by pooling funds to create a private network of more than 9,000 computers with small, inexpensive but powerful hidden Wi-Fi antennas and Ethernet cables strung over streets and rooftops spanning the entire city. Disconnected from the real Internet, the network is limited, local and built with equipment commercially available around the world, with no help from any outside government, organizers say.

Hundreds are online at any moment pretending to be orcs or U.S. soldiers in multiplayer online games such as "World of Warcraft" or "Call of Duty." They trade jokes and photos in chat rooms and organize real-world events like house parties or trips to the beach.

"We really need Internet because there's so much information online, but at least this satisfies you a little bit because you feel like, `I'm connected with a bunch of people, talking to them, sharing files," said Rafael Antonio Broche Moreno, a 22-year-old electrical engineer who helped build the network known as SNet, short for streetnet.


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State Officials Push Back Hard on Pre-emption | John Eggerton | Multichannel

State Officials Push Back Hard on Pre-emption | John Eggerton | Multichannel | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Groups representing state legislatures -- including some state legislators themselves -- joined with ones made up of state regulatory commissioners and governors Monday to talk with reporters about the threat of the Federal Communications Commission pre-empting state municipal broadband laws.

That threat has come from both the FCC and the White House.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has signaled he plans to vote Feb. 26 on petitions from two municipalities -- Chattanooga, Tenn., and Wilson, N.C. -- seeking federal pre-emption of state laws circumscribing municipal broadband laws. He is widely believed to have the votes to grant those petitions.

Wheeler and President Obama have said they see the laws as efforts backed by incumbent IPSs to prevent competition. The associations that got together Monday to express their collective will to push back against preeemption talked about the need to protect the sovereignty of state laws over the municipalities that are political subdivisions of the states, and legislators from South Carolina and Utah said the laws were meant to prohibit cross-subsidization of broadband and to ensure taxpayers weren't on the hook for muni broadband systems that failed, to the tune of many millions of dollars.

They also expressed concerns about setting a precedent of federal pre-emption, and where it could strike next.

The groups signaled that if the FCC goes ahead with pre-emption, the agency can expect a tough court fight. They seemed confident that court precedent was in their favor.


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Exclusive: politicians are supporting Comcast's merger with letters ghostwritten by Comcast | Spencer Woodman | The Verge

On August 21st, 2014, Mayor Jere Wood of Roswell, Georgia, sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission expressing emphatic support for Comcast’s controversial effort to merge with Time Warner Cable. Not only did the mayor’s letter express personal excitement for the gargantuan deal — which critics say will create a monopoly that will harm millions of consumers — but it also claimed that the entire town of Roswell adored Comcast. "When Comcast makes a promise to act, it is comforting to know that they will always follow through," Wood's letter explained. "This is the type of attitude that makes Roswell proud to be involved with such a company," the letter asserts, "our residents are happy with the services it has provided and continues to provide each day.”

Yet Wood’s letter made one key omission: Neither Wood nor anyone representing Roswell’s residents wrote his letter to the FCC. Instead, a vice president of external affairs at Comcast authored the missive word for word in Mayor Wood's voice. According to email correspondence obtained through a public records request, the Republican mayor’s office apparently added one sign-off sentence and his signature to the corporate PR document, then sent it to federal regulators on the official letterhead of Roswell, Georgia.


The letter was part of what Comcast called an "outpouring of thoughtful and positive comments" in support of the proposed mega-merger, which is now entering the final stages of federal review. Comcast asserted that the numerous letters sent by local officials expressing support for the merger displayed its broad grassroots backing. "We are especially gratified for the support of mayors and other local officials," Comcast boasted in an August 25th release, "underscoring the powerful benefits of this transaction for their cities, constituents, and customers."


Yet email records obtained by The Verge indicate that these letters are far from grassroots.


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Taking the risk to offer broadband should be a local call | The Editorial Board | LATimes.com

Taking the risk to offer broadband should be a local call | The Editorial Board | LATimes.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

When President Obama urged in his State of the Union address that broadband Internet service be made available to all Americans, it was the 21st century equivalent of calling for a chicken in every pot. So much commerce, information, education and entertainment has moved online that communities can't afford to be left without high-speed connections. Nevertheless, many Republicans oppose one of the means Obama has proposed for expanding broadband: preempting the roughly 20 state laws that make it hard, if not impossible, for local governments to offer Internet services. There may be good reasons a municipal utility or local agency shouldn't try its hand at broadband service, a market that's prohibitively expensive to enter. But that decision should be made by local officials, not state lawmakers.


According to the White House, 99% of Americans can obtain some version of broadband, whether through a phone line, a cable modem or a mobile network. But almost half of rural America has no access to connections that offer at least 25 mbps — the kind of capacity needed for data-heavy online businesses and multiple high-quality video streams. And although such connections are more widely available in cities and suburbs, they typically come from only one provider per community.


Just as advances in microchip speed and hard drive capacity have led to more powerful software programs, faster broadband networks lead to more data-intensive applications and services. But the shortage of broadband competitors and the high cost of building networks in the United States have slowed the spread of the kind of ultra-high-speed services such as the ones found in much of Asia and northern Europe. The most notable exceptions have been in the handful of cities where Google has built ultra-high-speed networks, prompting the local phone and cable operators to upgrade.


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CTIA Spins Network Neutrality For Super Bowl Audience | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

CTIA Spins Network Neutrality For Super Bowl Audience | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

CTIA: The Wireless Association has posted a YouTube video in advance of the Super Bowl arguing that the FCC can win the "big game" -- that being a free and open Internet -- by using Sec. 706 authority rather than Title II reclassification of Internet access service.

Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler is planning a Feb. 26 vote on new open-Internet rules that are widely believed to be based on some variant of the Title II common-carrier regulations.

The CTIA's video features a hand-drawn animation illustrating what the organization has said would be the right play, and how the courts, Congress and the FCC itself have previously stopped short of reclassification.

Driving home its points with rampant football analogies, the CTIA said the FCC has the ball in the net-neutrality debate, and on fourth down, it should kick the field goal of Sec. 706 rather than risk the "turnover or sack" of Title II.


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