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MA: A thirst for broadband | Berkshire Eagle Online

Imagine a future time when, after years of snowless winters and dry summers, Western Massachusetts faces a water supply crisis. Open a faucet and water just trickles out. New "broadwater" technology is available which could transport huge volumes of water to the region through "fiber-aqua" pipes. But companies building broadwater systems are not serving rural areas because they don't see any profits to be made there. So the commonwealth of Massachusetts creates the Massachusetts Broadwater Institute (MBI) to build a network of pipes in unserved towns.

 

Excitement grows as crews lay pipes along major roadways. But as the MBI project nears completion, anticipation turns to frustration when people realize that the pipes will serve community facilities like town halls, schools and fire stations, but not homes and businesses. Pipes may pass directly in front of your home, but you can't connect to them. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.

 

Today in Western Massachusetts the crisis is not the flow of water but the flow of information. Many people can only get Internet connections which are just a trickle compared to the high-speed Internet service offered elsewhere by cable and phone companies. But they do not serve many rural areas because they don't see any profits to be made there. To bring service to people in those areas, the Patrick administration created the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. Using state and federal funds, MBI is building a fiber-optic network in 123 Western and Central Massachusetts towns, known as MassBroadband123.

 

Excitement is growing as crews string fiber-optic cables along major roadways. A segment of MB123 will go live next month in south Berkshire County, with a completion date this summer for the entire network. It will serve Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) such as town halls, schools, libraries, and public health and safety facilities. A worthwhile endeavor, but anticipation is turning to frustration as people realize that their homes and businesses will still not be served after the network is built. Fiber "pipes" may pass directly in front of your home, but you won't be able to connect to them.

 

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The Boston Globe Will No Longer Let John Sununu Shill For Telecom Companies Under The Pretense Of Objectivity | Karl Bode | Techdirt

The Boston Globe Will No Longer Let John Sununu Shill For Telecom Companies Under The Pretense Of Objectivity | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Like so many industries, the telecom industry employs a literal army of paid "consultants," fauxcademics, fake consumer advocates, ex-politicians and other talking heads to parrot industry policy under the pretense of objective analysis. Usually this sockpuppet army is used to build a sound wall of illusory support for shitty policy.


This practice has worked for decades, in large part, because very rarely can newspapers or websites be bothered to disclose the fact that these individuals are paid to spew total and absolute nonsense by anybody interested in hiring their services via a third party (usually a law firm or lobbying group).

Case in point: the Boston Globe apparently has declared that it will no longer allow former New Hampshire Senator John Sununu to proudly shill for telecom companies within the publication's hallowed halls.


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No, The FCC Is Not (Intentionally) Trying To Kill Third-Party Wi-Fi Router Firmware | Karl Bode | Techdirt

No, The FCC Is Not (Intentionally) Trying To Kill Third-Party Wi-Fi Router Firmware | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

For a few months now a rumor has been circulating that the FCC is intentionally planning to ban third-party custom router firmware. Wi-Fi hobbyists (and people who just like a little more control over devices they own) have long used custom, open source firmware like DD-WRT or Open-WRT to bring some additional functionality to their devices, with the added bonus of replacing clunky router GUIs. Custom firmware is also handy in an age when companies like to force firmware upgrades that either eliminate useful functionality, or add cloud-features and phone-home mechanisms a user may not be comfortable with.

But at last July's BattleMesh 8 event, Wi-Fi enthusiasts noticed the clunky wording of an FCC NPRM (notice of proposed rulemaking) discussing the FCC's plan to modify the rules governing RF devices. The NPRM in question (pdf), like all NPRMs, is basically the FCC's way of fielding questions about potential rule changes. It's important to understand no rules have actually been passed yet before committing gadget-nerd seppuku.


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Salisbury, NC Offers 10 Gigabit Speeds to All Residents | Karl Bode | DSL Reports

Salisbury, NC Offers 10 Gigabit Speeds to All Residents | Karl Bode | DSL Reports | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Sure, most people can barely put a 100 Mbps connection to full use, but wouldn't it be nice to have ten gigabits per second? The town of Salisbury, North Carolina certainly thinks so, and has announced that it's the first municipal broadband provider in the nation to offer all homes and businesses in its territory access to ten gigabit speeds.

Dubbed "Fibrant," we've discussed for years how the five-year network build was, like all muni-efforts, born out of frustration with offerings from local incumbents like Time Warner Cable.

The company says it's now offering 10 gigabit speeds for around $400 a month. Fibrant already offers gigabit speeds for $105 a month.


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For future wearables, the network could be you | Stephen Lawson | NetworkWorld.com

For future wearables, the network could be you | Stephen Lawson | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

People who wear networked gadgets all over their bodies may someday become networks themselves.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, have found a way for wearables to communicate through a person's body instead of the air around it. Their work could lead to devices that last longer on smaller batteries and don't give away secrets as easily as today's systems do.

The proliferation of smartphones, smart watches, health monitoring devices and other gear carried close to the body has led to so-called personal area networks (PAN) that link the gadgets together and provide a path to the Internet through one that has a Wi-Fi or cell radio. Today, those PANs use short-range over-the-air systems like Bluetooth.


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Verizon Expands its NFL Mobile Play | Jeff Baumgartner | Multichannel.com

Verizon Expands its NFL Mobile Play | Jeff Baumgartner | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Expanding on its NFL mobile exclusive, Verizon Wireless announced that all current and legacy price plans will include live streaming of Sunday local NFL games as well as Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football matchups. That also includes mobile streaming access to NFL Network.

Verizon said there’s no extra monthly charge for the NFL element and that the app is free to download, though cellular network data usage applies.

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Fiber-optic Community Broadband Service in the Washington State Wilderness | Tom Ernste | community broadband networks

Fiber-optic Community Broadband Service in the Washington State Wilderness | Tom Ernste | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Spokane Business Journal recently wrote about the community broadband system in Pend Oreille County, a long a favored destination for all seasons outdoor recreation. Beginning in 2013, the Pend Oreille County Public Utility District (PUD) began providing residents and tourists with high-speed fiber to the premises broadband via a 573-miles fiber network. The network was made possible by a $27 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant.

Private companies commonly say that such rural areas are not densely populated enough to justify investing in high-speed broadband infrastructure, leaving many rural communities on the disadvantaged side of the digital divide. High-speed community broadband systems like the one in Pend Oreille County cancel out this potential problem as they allow tourists, residents, and businesses alike to be closely connected with nature while staying connected for business demands. Indeed, as the website for Pend Oreille County’s Economic Development Council makes clear, the community broadband service is at the core of the county’s ambitious plans to attract people and businesses to the area.


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Rob McDowell: Federal Spectrum Auction Bill Teed Up | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable

Rob McDowell: Federal Spectrum Auction Bill Teed Up | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Former FCC commissioner Rob McDowell says to look for senior members of the Commerce Committees in both Houses of Congress to introduce legislation, perhaps by the end of this month, on freeing up government spectrum for auction.

That came in a conference call with reporters Wednesday and based on Hill sources he said he had talked to.

McDowell is currently a partner at Wiley Rein, which has a number of wireless clients, but he pushed for freeing up more government spectrum as a commissioner as well.

He said that helping "put the wind in the sales" of a government spectrum bill was the recent AWS-3 auction, which raked in an "eye-popping" almost $45 billion.


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Sharks! Skateboarders! Trees! Here's What Discovery Learned From Filming in VR. | Eric Johnson | Ra/Code.net

Sharks! Skateboarders! Trees! Here's What Discovery Learned From Filming in VR. | Eric Johnson | Ra/Code.net | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

It may not have a figurative “ocean of puppies” like MTV, but Discovery Communications is starting to experiment with virtual reality — in a literal ocean of sharks, among other places.

The cable network released a mobile app this week that features VR videos spun off from some of its top shows, such as “Mythbusters,” “Gold Rush” and “Survivorman.” These 360-degree videos can be viewed just by moving the phone around, but the app — made by VR video platform Littlstar — also features a Google Cardboard mode that splits the video in two, making it possible for Android and iOS users with a Cardboard or similar headset to watch the videos in VR.

The videos are also available on YouTube, on the Web and in one of the Samsung Gear VR’s dedicated video apps, Milk VR.


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Microsoft, Google, Amazon, others, aim for royalty-free video codecs | Peter Bright | Ars Technica

Microsoft, Google, Amazon, others, aim for royalty-free video codecs | Peter Bright | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, Cisco, Intel, Netflix, and Amazon today launched a new consortium, the Alliance for Open Media. The group plans to develop next-generation media formats—including audio and still images, but with video as the top priority—and deliver them as royalty-free open source, suitable for both commercial and noncommercial content.

It's better than H.264, but it's going to cost more than H.264, too.
The issue of patent licenses and royalties continues to plague the video industry. While H.264/AVC video had relatively cheap licensing, it looks as if its successor, H.265/HEVC, is going to be considerably more expensive. Organizations that derive significant income from patent royalties and IP licensing weren't happy with the low-cost model used for H.264, and so are pushing back. This is a great threat to open source and non-commercial streaming, which has no obvious way to pay the royalties. The HEVC royalty structure would even threaten the viability of commercial streamers such as Netflix.

The Alliance for Open Media would put an end to this problem.


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Union claims Verizon making inadequate investment in its copper phone lines | Bob Fernandez | Philly.com

Union claims Verizon making inadequate investment in its copper phone lines | Bob Fernandez | Philly.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Communications Workers of America (CWA) officials claim that Verizon has failed to fund the upkeep of its copper phone lines that still serve 8 million customers and called Wednesday for Pennsylvania regulators to investigate.

The CWA also sent letters to regulators in Delaware and Virginia seeking investigations. The union is expected to eventually send one to New Jersey regulators.

The union criticism comes as Verizon and the CWA are locked in thorny contract negotiations that include issues related to Verizon's commitment to its hybrid network of copper and high-speed fiber-optic lines, or FiOS.

The CWA would like Verizon to wire its entire multistate area for FiOS, a capital investment that would support CWA jobs.

But Verizon has said it will soon halt its FiOS expansion, leaving many areas with only copper lines. Without proper investment, the service quality in those copper-line areas will deterioriate for customers and could force them into a wireless service, the CWA said.


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Stephanie Santoso: White House maker advocate. Information Science PhD student. | Erin Carson | Tech Republic

Stephanie Santoso: White House maker advocate. Information Science PhD student. | Erin Carson | Tech Republic | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A funny thing happened to Stephanie Santoso. The now-researcher at the Tech and Innovation Division of the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy was working in advertising. She was in account management, handling IBM Software, and she had this revelation: She was more interested in learning about her client's tech products than she was in her day job.

The idea crossed her mind that if she ever went back to school, she'd want to do something in tech.

Of course, a few things happened first. These days, she's involved in the maker movement at the White House, but before she got into making tech, she found herself making baked goods.


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The Cable Industry Is Fighting Tooth And Nail To Prevent Cable Set Top Box Competition | Karl Bode | Techdirt

The Cable Industry Is Fighting Tooth And Nail To Prevent Cable Set Top Box Competition | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

For years now regulators have tried fruitlessly to bring a little more competition to the cable set top box market. While CableCARD was supposed to be a revolution on this front, regulatory enforcement was messy and inconsistent, and to protect set top box rental revenues and overall market control, cable companies rarely advertised the technology and made installations frequently nightmarish and expensive. When lackluster CableCARD stats then emerged annually, the cable industry just shrugged and apathetically declared that gosh -- nobody really wanted choice anyway.

Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal recently collected data from ten cable companies and found that things haven't really improved when it comes to set top box competition. Their data found that 99% of cable customers still rent a cable box, and pay $231 in fees annually for hardware that's usually not even worth a single year's payments. As a result, the cable industry generates $19.5 billion per year in rental fees, and has every incentive to keep things as they are.

Last fall, Congress passed the Satellite Television Extension Act Reauthorization (STELAR), which effectively killed the CableCARD and the FCC's sloppy attempt to crack open the set top market.


However, STELAR's passage included the creation of the the Downloadable Security Technology Advisory Committee (DSTAC), tasked with advising the FCC on how to move forward on a CableCARD replacement that actually works.


That's no small feat given the cable industry desperately wants to maintain the status quo, and the copyright brigades want hardware to be as locked and crippled as possible.


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CWA Calls for Regulators to Investigate Verizon's Refusal to Invest in Landline Upkeep | CWA-Union.org

CWA Calls for Regulators to Investigate Verizon's Refusal to Invest in Landline Upkeep | CWA-Union.org | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Communications Workers of America (CWA) today announced it is filing letters with telephone regulators in six states and Washington, DC calling on them to open investigations into the deterioration of Verizon’s copper landline networks. In July, Verizon admitted in a letter to the FCC that it had only spent $200 million over the last seven years to maintain its copper landline network in eleven states and the District of Columbia. (*)

The $200 million investment is less than one percent of the amount phone and DSL customers pay Verizon for service, which means the average customer is financing wireless and fiber expansion, rather than the upkeep of the network they rely on.(*)

In light of the new evidence presented by CWA to regulators, scores of legislators across the region joined the call for renewed investigation into Verizon's abandonment of the copper network.


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CO: Rio Blanco County Has Big Plans for Open Access Network | community broadband networks

CO: Rio Blanco County Has Big Plans for Open Access Network | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In Rio Blanco County, you’re almost more likely to find a dinosaur fossil than a human being. This rural county in northwestern Colorado has about two people for every square mile, but its sparse population is not stopping it from advancing an ambitious open-access broadband initiative.

More than a year into the rollout of the network plan, Rio Blanco County (RBC) has already succeeded in soliciting $2 million in matched funds from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), contracted a network operator, and secured easements (land-use rights) from the county’s two largest municipalities to begin construction on the FTTx network. The bulk of the funding will come for the County budgeting for the infrastructure.

The network will initially touch every block and ultimately be expanded to deliver a fiber connection to each premise in the two towns.

Rio Blanco’s network will be a four-tier open access arrangement. The county will own the infrastructure - from the data center to the optical network terminal (ONT) within the home and everything in between. A private company, Colorado.Fiber.Community, will operate the network. And a combination of independent middle-mile Internet service providers and last-mile value-added resalers will offer services directly to residents.


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The Phone Company and the Feds — a Buddy Movie from Hell | Susan Crawford | Backchannel | Medium.com

The Phone Company and the Feds - a Buddy Movie from Hell - Backchannel - Medium

This month’s news that AT&T has evidenced “extreme willingness to help” the NSA collect, filter, analyze, and disseminate billions of communications by Americans wasn’t particularly surprising. After all, the giant phone company has been tightly involved with America’s national security operations for decades.

The obvious next question: Who will get to boss whom around? I offer three data points that may help us find an answer.

The first involves antitrust, and the strange resolution of the executive branch’s balancing of two different government interests involving the phone company.


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Workers risk business data with gambling apps on their phones | Lucian Constantin | ComputerWorld.com

Workers risk business data with gambling apps on their phones | Lucian Constantin | ComputerWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

If you work for a large, global company, chances are some of your peers have installed gambling apps on the mobile devices they use for work, and that's bad news for IT security.

A study has found that the average company has more than one such gambling application in some employee devices, putting corporate data stored on those devices at risk.


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FCC Approves Good-Faith Retrans Review Item | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

FCC Approves Good-Faith Retrans Review Item | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The FCC has voted, unanimously according to a source there, to issue its rulemaking proposal revisiting its definition of good faith retransmission consent negotiations.

The item is in response to a congressional directive and looks at what should be included in a totality of circumstances test that goes beyond the per se violations already enumerated—although commenters are hoping the FCC will update/clarify some of those as well.

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Our view: Feds can do more to expand broadband | Editorial Board | Duluth News Tribune

Our view: Feds can do more to expand broadband | Editorial Board | Duluth News Tribune | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Driving from Ely to Duluth this week, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar suddenly lost cell service. How fitting that in addition to a book signing and other commitments and appointments, she was scheduled to chat with the News Tribune editorial board about the pressing need to expand high-speed broadband Internet service deeper into rural Minnesota.

Far beyond the convenience of a senator or anyone else being able to make a phone call, reliable broadband is becoming an increasingly critical need for farmers, rural business owners and others attempting to operate and compete globally. More and more, too, health care is going high-tech, and broadband is needed to deliver quality care to areas outside of large cities.

“This is the rural electrification issue of our time. And it’s the perfect time to move on it. We’re no longer governing from crisis,” Klobuchar, D-Minn., told editorial board members. “It’s no longer just about access. It’s how fast it is. Can you compete?”


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New FCC Rules Could Ban WiFi Router Firmware Modification | Slashdot

New FCC Rules Could Ban WiFi Router Firmware Modification | Slashdot | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

An anonymous reader writes:


Hackaday reports that the FCC is introducing new rules which ban firmware modifications for the radio systems in WiFi routers and other wireless devices operating in the 5 GHz range. The vast majority of routers are manufactured as System on Chip devices, with the radio module and CPU integrated in a single package. The new rules have the potential to effectively ban the installation of proven Open Source firmware on any WiFi router.

ThinkPenguin, the EFF, FSF, Software Freedom Law Center, Software Freedom Conservancy, OpenWRT, LibreCMC, Qualcomm, and others have created the SaveWiFi campaign, providing instructions on how to submit a formal complaint to the FCC regarding this proposed rule. The comment period is closing on September 8, 2015. Leave a comment for the FCC.


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Economics Has Math Problem | Noah Smith | BloombergView.com

Economics Has Math Problem | Noah Smith | BloombergView.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A lot of people complain about the math in economics. Economists tend to quietly dismiss such complaints as the sour-grapes protests of literary types who lack the talent or training to hack their way through systems of equations. But it isn't just the mathematically illiterate who grouse. New York University economist Paul Romer -- hardly a lightweight when it comes to equations -- recently complained about how economists use math as a tool of rhetoric instead of a tool to understand the world.

Personally, I think that what’s odd about econ isn’t that it uses lots of math -- it’s the way it uses math. In most applied math disciplines -- computational biology, fluid dynamics, quantitative finance -- mathematical theories are always tied to the evidence. If a theory hasn’t been tested, it’s treated as pure conjecture.

Not so in econ. Traditionally, economists have put the facts in a subordinate role and theory in the driver’s seat. Plausible-sounding theories are believed to be true unless proven false, while empirical facts are often dismissed if they don’t make sense in the context of leading theories. This isn’t a problem with math -- it was just as true back when economics theories were written out in long literary volumes. Econ developed as a form of philosophy and then added math later, becoming basically a form of mathematical philosophy.

In other words, econ is now a rogue branch of applied math. Developed without access to good data, it evolved different scientific values and conventions. But this is changing fast, as information technology and the computer revolution have furnished economists with mountains of data. As a result, empirical analysis is coming to dominate econ.


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Comcast has a plan to go after the cord-cutters | Tali Arbel | AP.org

Comcast has a plan to go after the cord-cutters | Tali Arbel | AP.org | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Comcast, which became a TV powerhouse by signing up Generation Xers, baby boomers, and their parents, is now fighting for millennial eyeballs.

The TV giant is investing in online media outlets like BuzzFeed and Vox that attract young viewers. It is setting up a TV-streaming service for millennials who don't watch a boob tube. And it's developing a YouTube-like video app and website.


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Verizon Said to Start Pared-Down Video Service in Coming Days | Scott Moritz | Bloomberg.com

Verizon Communications Inc. will make its Internet-based mobile video service widely available in the coming days, offering free shows aimed at young viewers, at least initially, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The Go90 service -- until now in testing stage -- will feature content only from a handful of media partners including AOL, DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.’s Awesomeness TV, Vice Media Inc. and Viacom Inc., according to the person, who asked not to be named since the information isn’t yet public.

The service, which will show ads, is a pared-down version of what the carrier envisioned earlier this year.


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Microsoft Retrofitting Windows 7, 8.1 With Windows 10's Privacy-Invading 'Features' | Karl Bode | Techdirt

Microsoft Retrofitting Windows 7, 8.1 With Windows 10's Privacy-Invading 'Features' | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Last week we noted that while Windows 10 has generally seen good reviews in terms of spit and polish, there's growing concern that the OS is too nosy for its own good, and that the opt-out functionality in the OS doesn't really work. Even when you've disabled a number of the nosier features (like Windows 10's new digital assistant, Cortana), the OS ceaselessly and annoyingly opens an array of encrypted channels back to the Redmond mother ship that aren't entirely under the user's control.

Now some of the information being transmitted is purportedly harmless, and some of the problems appear to be overblown (like Windows 10 being banned from some BitTorrent trackers for fear of it reporting user piracy activity), but an operating system you can't fully control is still undeniably stupid and annoying. And it's a curious choice for a company intent on moving beyond the fractured Windows adoption of yesteryear and encouraging the lion's share of Windows users to hop on to a new platform.

Making matters worse, Microsoft now seems intent on retro-fitting its older operating systems (specifically Windows 7 and Windows 8.1) with many of the annoying, chatty aspects of Windows 10.


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ID: Rexburg business leaders working to get advanced technology education program up and running | Chris Nestman | LocalNews8

ID: Rexburg business leaders working to get advanced technology education program up and running | Chris Nestman | LocalNews8 | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

High tech manufacturing is a booming business across eastern Idaho as well as across the country. Yet for all the job openings, many employers in these tech based manufacturing fields can't find enough workers.

"We see a lot of demand, a lot of openings in advanced manufacturing specifically, but not a lot of workforce going into that," said Scott Johnson, the Director of Economic Development for Rexburg.

That's why the Madison County Economic Partnership is looking to use a $25 thousand grant, as well as over $300 thousand worth of money and services, to create a new training program in Rexburg.


"Ultimately we would like to have a place where people could come in, and where they could learn about STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math based programs) through casual learning. Some projects based learning courses that cover all of the STEM areas," said Brandon Moffat of the Department of Labor.


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FCC Approves Charter-TWC Protective Orders | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable

FCC Approves Charter-TWC Protective Orders | John Eggerton | Broadcasting & Cable | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The FCC has approved the protective orders and associated framework for treating sensitive information in the Charter-Time Warner Cable deal.

That means the FCC can start the shot clock on the merger review and open a comment window.

The three Democrats had already voted to approve, but the item could not be official until the other two votes were in or the time to vote had run out. The Republicans had issues with how the FCC had addressed protection of sensitive info more generally as part of a court remand of its protective orders in the AT&T-DirecTV and Comcast-TWC deal reviews.

The votes are now all in, with commissioner Ajit Pai dissenting in part and approving in part and commissioner Michael O'Rielly dissenting.

The order won't released immediately until the FCC incorporates the dissents.


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