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How can health tech get beyond early adopters to reduce care disparities among the masses? | GigaOM Tech News

How can health tech get beyond early adopters to reduce care disparities among the masses? | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

If you keep company with early adopter tech types, it might seem commonplace to book doctors’ appointments online or track activity with any of several new wearable sensors. But while digital health is gaining ground, it still has a ways to go before its most innovative applications hit mass adoption. And as bleeding edge individuals and companies embrace new ways of receiving and delivering healthcare, it’s critical to consider how new health technology can reach people in all communities – not just the country’s elite pockets.

 

That point was driven home yesterday during a Social Media Week panel I moderated on How Behavior and Patients Can Fix Health Care.  I was chatting with three health tech entrepreneurs, Dr. Jay Parkinson, co-founder of Sherpaa; Unity Stoakes, co-founder of Startup Health; and Derek Flanzraich, founder of Greatist, about how they and their organizations are changing health care, when one of the audience members commented that the conversation felt too “self-referential” and asked how to close the behavior gap in health technology. (You can see the whole discussion here.)

 

It was an entirely fair question – and one that I hope all health technologists ask themselves regularly. While technology, especially mobile devices, is more ubiquitous than ever, there are still disparities in broadband access, availability of digital tools and information about new services. The Pew Internet & American Life Project, for example, reports that Latinos (55 percent) and African-Americans (58 percent) are less likely than Whites (75 percent) to have a home Internet connection. Not surprisingly, Pew also says that those with more education and higher incomes are also more likely to go online for health care information – 78 percent of those who earn more than $75,000 vs. 45 percent of those who earn less than $30,000.

 

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How the battle for the future of the Web is shaped by economics | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

How the battle for the future of the Web is shaped by economics | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

One is that we need some basic rules to make sure the Web remains open and free so that companies that depend on the Internet can grow. The other is that strict rules will discourage Internet providers from making the investments that will enhance the network for everybody.


Whichever narrative wins out will go a long way toward determining what your online experience will look like in the years to come. Although the Federal Communications Commission approved a historic set of net neutrality regulations in February, Internet providers are trying to overturn those rules in court. And if they can convince judges that the rules will cause irreparable damage to their business, the Internet providers will get a major leg up on the FCC.


To bolster that case, some economists are turning to historical data about what the industry spent on infrastructure over the last couple decades. The result is a game of correlation, with one side trying to prove that regulation had little effect on investment and the other side trying to prove that it did.

If you boil it down, it's a disagreement over the Internet's basic origin story. And both sides are essentially accusing each other of historical revisionism.

To understand why, let's dive into some of the data.


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CA: County sheriff has used stingray over 300 times with no warrant | Cyrus Farivar | Ars Technica

CA: County sheriff has used stingray over 300 times with no warrant | Cyrus Farivar | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The sheriff in San Bernardino County—east of Los Angeles County—has deployed a stingray hundreds of times without a warrant, and under questionable judicial authority.

In response to a public records request, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) sent Ars, among other outlets, a rare example of a template for a "pen register and trap and trace order" application. (In the letter, county lawyers claimed this was a warrant application template, when it clearly is not.) The SBSD is the law enforcement agency for the entire county, the 12th-most populous county in the United States, and the fifth-most populous in California.

Stingrays, or cell-site simulators, can be used to determine location by spoofing a cell tower, but they can also be used to intercept calls and text messages. Once deployed, the devices intercept data from a target phone as well as information from other phones within the vicinity. For years, federal and local law enforcement have tried to keep their existence a secret while simultaneously upgrading their capabilities. Over the last year, as the devices have become scrutinized, new information about the secretive devices has been revealed.

This template application, surprisingly, cites no legal authority on which to base its activities. The SBSD did not respond to Ars’ request for comment.

"This is astonishing because it suggests the absence of legal authorization (because if there were clear legal authorization you can bet the government would be citing it)," Fred Cate, a law professor at Indiana University, told Ars by e-mail.


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Verizon will lease more fiber to densify wireless network | Sue Marek | Fierce Telecom

Verizon will lease more fiber to densify wireless network | Sue Marek | Fierce Telecom | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Verizon Communications plans to use a combination of fiber, distributed antenna systems and small cells to densify its wireless network instead of relying solely on spectrum to meet consumers' growing demand for capacity.

Speaking Tuesday at the J.P. Morgan Global Technology, Media and Telecom conference, Fran Shammo, Verizon's EVP and CFO, told investors that while Verizon's spectrum position is strong, the company plans to lease more fiber and buy more hardware like DAS and small cells to meet growing capacity demands rather than buy more spectrum.

Shammo noted that the company leases fiber from other companies today and plans to lease more. "We lease a lot of fiber today and there's a lot of competition in the fiber world. We don't own a lot of fiber and we don't need too," he said, noting that there are lots of alternatives for achieving more capacity in the wireless network that don't include buying more spectrum. "We don't need to own and build and control everything," he said.

Shammo added that the company is focused on densifying its wireless network first in the top 50 markets, with particular emphasis on the top 10 markets.


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The internet is running out of room – but we can save it | Jacob Aron | New Scientist

The internet is running out of room – but we can save it | Jacob Aron | New Scientist | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Are we running out of internet? It might sound like an odd question, but researchers met at the Royal Society in London this week to discuss a coming internet "capacity crunch", and what we might do about it.

The meeting sparked headlines warning of a "full" internet and the potential need for data rationing, but the reality is more nuanced. The crunch is real, caused by fast growth of online media consumption through the likes of Netflix and Youtube, but physics and engineering can help us escape it. The internet just needs a few tweaks.

Fear of a capacity crunch stems from a hard physical truth – there is a limit to the amount of information you can cram down any communications channel, fibre-optic cable or copper wire. Discovered in 1940 by Claude Shannon, this limit depends on the channel's bandwidth – the number of frequencies it can transmit – and its signal-to-noise ratio (SNR).

The information capacity of optical fibres – the light-carrying pipes that form the backbone of the internet – can be increased simply by increasing the power of the light beamed through them. This boosts the signal that encodes, say, a Netflix show so that it dominates over the inherent noise of the fibre, making it easier to read at the other end.

Researchers have spent decades finding ways to amplify signals, increasing the capacity of fibre already in the ground and keeping up with the growth of internet traffic.

But that trick has hit a dead end. If you up the power beyond a certain point, the fibre becomes saturated with light and the signal is degraded. This limit means fibres as we currently use them are nearing their full capacity. "You can't get an infinite amount of capacity in a fibre," Andrew Ellis at Aston University in Birmingham, UK, who organised the meeting, told New Scientist.

René-Jean Essiambre of French communications firm Alcatel-Lucent presented research suggesting the limit is around 100 terabits per second, or 250 Blu-ray discs-worth. The internet's fibre systems could reach this in the next five years, he warned.


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NSA is getting ready to shut down bulk surveillance programs in response to failed Senate vote | Dante D'Orazio | The Verge

After a late Senate vote after midnight on Friday, the NSA is starting to take moves to shut down its bulk surveillance programs. With the legal foundation of those programs, the Patriot Act, set to expire at the end of the month, lawmakers have been working to agree on which parts of the mass surveillance systems should stay and which should go. The Senate failed to pass a replacement bill, the USA Freedom Act, and another measure proposed by Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) to extend the program as-is also did not pass.

In response to the news, officials said that the NSA would have to start taking action to prepare to shut down its bulk surveillance programs, like those that controversially collect "metadata" on millions of phone calls. According to The Los Angeles Times, an official now says that "that process has begun." If Congress can't agree to either limit or renew the Patriot Act, the NSA will have to end its programs that rely on the broad language of that bill, which was originally passed in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks.


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Altice to Buy Suddenlink in $9.1B Deal | Ray Le Maistre | Light Reading

Altice to Buy Suddenlink in $9.1B Deal | Ray Le Maistre | Light Reading | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The gripping US cable operator M&A story revealed another unexpected plot twist Wednesday morning with the news that ambitious French communications giant Altice has agreed to buy a 70% stake in US cable operator Suddenlink in a deal that values the MSO at $9.1 billion.

To add to the intrigue, a Reuters report suggests that Altice has also held talks with Time Warner Cable Inc., which has been playing a lead role in the US cable market drama. (See Comcast Formally Ends Its Bid for TWC and Is TWC Sitting in Catbird Seat Now?)

In the meantime, Altice is aiming to close its takeover of Suddenlink Communications by the end of this year. It is buying a 70% stake from existing shareholders BC Partners, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Suddenlink management: BC Partners and CPP Investment Board will retain a 30% stake in the operator.

Altice says it is financing the deal with "$6.7 billion of new and existing debt at Suddenlink, a $500 million vendor loan note from BC Partners and CPP Investment Board and $1.2 billion of cash."

Altice shareholders like the deal, as the French company's stock leaped by 7.6% to €124.40 on the Amsterdam exchange in Wednesday morning trading.

Suddenlink, the seventh-largest cable operator in the US, has 1.5 million residential and 90,000 business customers in its key markets of Texas, West Virginia, Louisiana, Arkansas and Arizona. In 2014 it reported revenues of $2.3 billion and EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) of more than $900 million.

"With this acquisition, the Altice Group enters the large and attractive US cable market and takes a further step in diversifying and balancing its portfolio of high-quality businesses," said the French company in its official announcement of the deal.


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The Weird End of the NSA's Phone Dragnet | Conor Friedersdorf | The Atlantic

The Weird End of the NSA's Phone Dragnet | Conor Friedersdorf | The Atlantic | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate played host to a moment that took mass surveillance on the phone records of Americans from outrage to farce.

The NSA’s phone dragnet had already been declared illegal.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ruled that while the surveillance agency has long claimed to be acting in accordance with Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the text of that law in fact authorizes no such program. The Obama Administration has been executing a policy that the legislature never passed into being.

But the law that doesn’t even authorize the program is set to expire at the end of the month. And so the court reasoned that Congress could let it expire or vote to change it. For this reason, the court declined to issue an order shutting the program down.

President Obama didn’t shut the program down either. One might think the illegality of its ongoing operations would bother him, but he’s effectively punted to Congress too.

Days ago, the House of Representatives acted: they voted overwhelmingly, 338 to 88, “to end the National Security Agency's mass collection of phone records from millions of Americans with no ties to terrorism,” passing the USA Freedom Act, an effort “to rein in NSA surveillance while renewing key sections of the... Patriot Act.” The bill divided civil libertarians, some of whom thought it didn’t go far enough because the government could still access bulk data held by phone companies.

That brings us to the wee hours of Saturday morning. “After vigorous debate and intense last-minute pressure by Republican leaders, the Senate on Saturday rejected legislation that would end the federal government’s bulk collection of phone records,” The New York Times reports. “With the death of that measure — passed overwhelmingly in the House — senators then scrambled to hastily pass a short-term measure to keep the program from going dark when it expires June 1 but failed.”

The outcome is good for civil libertarians: the House is in recess; barring the unexpected, the phone dragnet will end June 1, when key provisions of the Patriot Act expire. And Senator Rand Paul seems to deserve extra credit for that outcome: “The measure failed in the Senate 57 to 42, with 12 Republicans voting for it, shortly after midnight because Mr. Paul, a candidate for the White House, dragged the procedure out as he promised to do in fund-raising tweets and emails.”

That happy outcome aside, there’s a farcical aspect to the process.


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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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Report: U.S. consumers swallowed 2.5 GB/month of cellular data in Q1 on average | Phil Goldstein | Fierce Wireless

Report: U.S. consumers swallowed 2.5 GB/month of cellular data in Q1 on average | Phil Goldstein | Fierce Wireless | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

U.S. consumers on average chewed through around 2.5 GB of cellular data per month in the first quarter, according to industry analyst Chetan Sharma, up from an average of 2 GB per month at the end of 2014.

"In the U.S., it took roughly 20 years to reach the 1 GB/user/month mark," Sharma wrote in a research report. "However, the second GB mark has been reached in less than four quarters. An entire year's worth of mobile data traffic in 2007 is now reached in less than 75 hours."

Sharma's figures are roughly in line with those from Cisco Systems. In its latest Visual Networking Index Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast report, which was released in February, Cisco found that in 2014, consumers in North America used on average 1.89 GB of mobile data per month in 2014. Cisco thinks that figure will surge ahead to a little more than 11 GB on average in 2019.

According to Sharma, data made up 62 percent of all wireless carrier service revenues in the U.S. in the first quarter, up from 60 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 and around 50 percent in the year-ago period.

Data usage is clearly increasing, both in the U.S. and other markets around the world, but more and more consumers are likely going to be offloading that traffic to Wi-Fi networks, according to a new report from Juniper Research.


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Fast Track Passes Senate But With Anti-Slavery Poison Pill | Laura Barron-Lopez, Ryan Grim & Zach Carter | Popular Resistance

Fast Track Passes Senate But With Anti-Slavery Poison Pill | Laura Barron-Lopez, Ryan Grim & Zach Carter | Popular Resistance | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

President Barack Obama’s trade agenda suffered a setback Friday evening during a series of last-minute maneuvers in the Senate. While the upper chamber eventually passed a bill that would help Obama streamline a trade pact with 11 Pacific nations, the final product threw a wrench into the president’s plans.

The Senate approved a bill to “fast-track” trade agreements negotiated by the president. The agreement will prevent Congress from amending or filibustering Obama’s controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. The TPP deal would have a hard time surviving without fast-track authority.

But a key crackdown on human trafficking survived the legislative jujitsu. The White House considers the provision a deal-breaker, as it would force one of the nations involved in the TPP talks — Malaysia — out of the agreement. An immigration-related amendment authored by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) never got a vote, making it far more difficult for Obama to win over skeptical tea party Republicans in the House.

The slavery provision’s survival means that the House will either need to amend the bill and send it back to the Senate, which would cause a delay and complicate the House debate, or pass a bill and go to conference with the Senate, also causing a delay. It also potentially could be fixed in separate legislation otherwise moving through Congress.

But time is not on the side of advocates of the trade agenda, as summer recess is approaching, followed by a heated presidential campaign season. “It leaves a substantial problem that no one’s sure how will be addressed,” said one senator. If fast-track is ultimately approved, 60 days would need to pass before the TPP could be voted on.


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Can White Space solutions solve the rural broadband challenge? | Telecoms.com

Can White Space solutions solve the rural broadband challenge? | Telecoms.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The use of White Spaces, portions of licensed radio spectrum that licensees do not use all of the time or in all geographical locations, for wireless broadband provides a tantalising opportunity to deliver cheap and ubiquitous broadband services. White Space advocates promise to bridge the digital divide efficiently and effectively by tapping into under-utilised spectrum, and introduce competition to mobile operators who have ‘failed’ to provide rural coverage or deliver reliable ubiquitous broadband services. Implemented well, with due consideration of potential future scenarios, there may be nothing to lose. However, make a mistake and it is possible that digital divide could be entrenched for another generation. The stakes and the implications are high.

The non-commercial White Space pilot schemes around the world have demonstrated that White Space technology works. The trials have managed to deliver reasonable broadband networks over small areas without creating unreasonable interference to adjacent services. But the trials are just that – trials – and don’t necessarily prove that White Space solutions will be commercially viable in the long term.

Whilst a number of ‘White Space’ concepts exist, the most likely solution to address rural broadband needs is one that operates in the TV White Spaces between 470MHz and 700MHz. There are a few policy assumptions that underpin the concept:


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Why Google, Apple Don't Want to Give Law Enforcement the Key to Your Data | Alyssa Newcomb | ABCNews.com

Why Google, Apple Don't Want to Give Law Enforcement the Key to Your Data | Alyssa Newcomb | ABCNews.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Google, Apple and Facebook are among the biggest names in technology that have signed an open letter to President Obama today asking him to reject back doors that could allow law enforcement to access encrypted data.

Posted online by New America's Open Technology Institute, the letter asks the government to stay out of encrypted data in computers and mobile devices -- or risk undermining information security. It was also signed by dozens of cyber security experts and trade groups.

At issue is whether the government should be pushing technology companies to implement so-called back doors to their operating systems, allowing law enforcement a way to bypass encryption and get information to track down terrorists and other criminals.

"We urge you to reject any proposal that U.S. companies deliberately weaken the security of their products. We request that the White House instead focus on developing policies that will promote rather than undermine the wide adoption of strong encryption technology," the letter said.

By giving the government the master key to decode encrypted data, the signatories said it could leave billions of people vulnerable to cyber criminals and deal a detrimental blow to information security.


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Certification: How The US Demands Even More Concessions After Trade Agreements Have Been Signed And Ratified | Glyn Moody | Techdirt

Certification: How The US Demands Even More Concessions After Trade Agreements Have Been Signed And Ratified | Glyn Moody | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The battle raging over the fast track bill is essentially one about control: who gets the final say over so-called trade agreements like TPP and TAFTA/TTIP. If the US President is not given trade promotion authority, it is possible that Congress will demand changes to the negotiated text; with fast track, it will be a simple up or down vote. That's also the situation in other countries participating in the negotiations: once the text is agreed upon, they can essentially accept it or reject it. However, a group of senior politicians in five of the TPP nations point out that after those votes, the US can still demand further concessions from its partners thanks to a process known as certification:

Senior parliamentarians from five countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement have signed an open letter urging their political leaders to protect their nations’ sovereignty from the United States' process of certification.

Here's how that works:


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WISPA Meets With Policymakers on Capitol Hill | Virtual-Strategy Magazine

WISPA Meets With Policymakers on Capitol Hill | Virtual-Strategy Magazine | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), a membership organization that promotes the development, advancement, and unity of the fixed wireless Internet service provider (WISP) industry, gathered in Washington, D.C. last week to discuss several policies affecting the fixed Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) industry.

Advocacy Week kicked-off with a Keynote Speech from Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee, who discussed his committee’s efforts to fund and oversee the USDA’s Rural Broadband Development Programs. WISPA delegates flooded Capitol Hill, visiting with Members and staff from at least from at least 13 states, as well as both the Senate Commerce Committee Majority and Minority Staffs.

During the meetings on Capitol Hill, WISPA discussed four distinct legislative priorities.


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How the cable industry became a monopoly | Richard Greenfield | Fortune.com

How the cable industry became a monopoly | Richard Greenfield | Fortune.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Relaxing on Mother’s Day earlier this month gave me time to think about the most important skill I learned from my mom: to always be a good listener. The cable industry, which now thinks of itself as the broadband industry (their annual convention was renamed the Internet and Television Expo), has not been a good listener.

In fact, the industry appears to be completely deaf to what has been coming out of Washington D.C. from regulators all the way up to President Obama himself.


While in late 2013, we did not believe Title II reclassification of broadband (how the FCC regulates other telecommunication services such as the telephone) was necessary to protect the Internet and foresaw no meaningful regulatory issues with Comcast buying Time Warner Cable, a tremendous amount has changed since then.


The dramatic shift in the political climate and consumer sentiment drove us in late 2014 to view Title II broadband reclassification as inevitable, convinced us that Comcast/TWC would be blocked in February 2015, and now leads us to believe Charter Communications will not be able to buy TWC, not to mention the possibility that the Department of Justice may look to break up Comcast.

The following excerpts, two from speeches made by President Obama addressing net neutrality and broadband competition, and the third from FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s recent address at the INTX 2015 convention, show how regulators now view broadband providers:


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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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