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What!? You Think Broadband Magically Delivers Economic Development Small Businesses? | Broadband Communities Summit 2013

Last week at Broadband Communities Magazine’s Broadband Summit,  Craig Settles of Gigabit Nation moderated a panel discussion on how to help small businesses maximize highspeed networks once you launch them. Topics discussed include:

* The role of small business in the community broadband equation

* Using the needs assessment process to make small businesses more effective and profitable

* Why it’s not enough to just provide small businesses with access

* Knowing how local government can help, and when it needs to streamline rules

 

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Latest In Cable Astroturfing: If You Squint, Twist, Spin And Mislead With Apples To Oranges Comparisons, US Broadband Is Great! | Mike Masnick | Techdirt.com

Latest In Cable Astroturfing: If You Squint, Twist, Spin And Mislead With Apples To Oranges Comparisons, US Broadband Is Great! |  Mike Masnick | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

For the past few months, I'd been pitched a few times from people (often somehow, if in murky ways, connected to the broadband industry) arguing that all those stories about how the US is far behind in broadband is untrue if you just looked at certain states.


The basic argument is that since the US is so large, it's not fair to compare it to, say, South Korea. Instead, they claim, if you just look at a few states in the US, those states compare quite well to this country or that country. Of course, to make a total fruit basket out of mixed metaphors, this is pretty blatant cherry picking apples to compare to oranges.


We haven't written any of those stories, but apparently someone went and created a misleading infographic to try to make the point on a site called "the Connectivist."


However, as Chris Morran brilliantly dissects over at Consumerist, the whole argument is bogus:


The only way to do a true apples to apples comparison would be to look at the data for areas with similar conditions, including population size and area, which the Connectivist doesn’t do.

The site simply glosses over the fact that while broadband in the U.S. is improving, it’s still not a world leader in deploying high-speed Internet access to its citizens.

Even though nearly three-quarters of the U.S. has access to what the FCC currently defines as “broadband,” meaning at least 4Mbps downstream, that’s still not a high enough percentage to get it into the top 10 globally. In fact, that percentage barely puts the U.S. in the 40 of all nations.

Likewise, only 39% of Americans have access to 10 Mbps service, which is what many people now consider the minimum acceptable standard for broadband. That ranks higher, putting the U.S. within the top 15 worldwide, but still pales in comparison to world leaders like Sweden (56%), the Netherlands (52%), and Romania (50%).


Morran notes, sarcastically, that the Connectivist seems to ignore all of this... and then suggests a reason why:


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CO: LPC Residential Gig Service in Longmont Has A New Name; Available November 3rd | community broadband networks

CO: LPC Residential Gig Service in Longmont Has A New Name; Available November 3rd | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Big changes are happening in Longmont as the LPC builds out its network expansion. In addition to new services and new pricing, LPC for residents has a new name - NextLight. At a recent city council meeting, LPC announced that a number of residents in south central Longmont will be able to enroll for NextLight services as soon as November 3rd.

Homeowners who sign up within the first three months that service is available in their area, will get 1 Gbps symmetrical service for about $50 per month or half the regular residential price. Those customers, considered Charter Members, will keep the introductory price as long as they keep their service and will take that rate to their new home while also reserving that rate for the home they leave. The Times Call reports:


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Secretive funding fuels ongoing net neutrality astroturfing controversy | Grant Gross | NetworkWorld.com

Secretive funding fuels ongoing net neutrality astroturfing controversy | Grant Gross | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The contentious debate about net neutrality in the U.S. has sparked controversy over a lack of funding transparency for advocacy groups and think tanks, which critics say subverts the political process.

News stories from a handful of publications in recent months have accused some think tanks and advocacy groups of "astroturfing" -- quietly shilling for large broadband carriers. In a handful of cases, those criticisms appear to have some merit, although the term is so overused by people looking to discredit political opponents that it has nearly lost its original meaning.

Critics of astroturfing -- defined as hiding the sponsors of a message or group as a way to make it appear to have grassroots support -- say it twists political debate by making some positions appear to be more popular with the public than they really may be.

Groups that hide their funding open themselves up to accusations of astroturfing and questions about credibility. An IDG News Service investigation has found a mixed record of funding transparency at prominent think tanks and advocacy groups involved in the net neutrality debate.

Our investigation found that major groups opposing U.S. Federal Communications Commission reclassification and regulation of broadband as a public utility tend to be less transparent about their funding than the other side. Still, some big-name advocates of strong net neutrality rules also have limited transparency mechanisms in place.

Strong regulations are needed to prevent large players from harming competition by throttling bandwidth of smaller service providers and competitors, proponents of net neutrality rules say. Opponents of strong regulation say it would dampen investment and business' ability to compete as they see fit.

It's important for groups trying to influence U.S. policy to be up front about who they are speaking for, said Jennifer Lappin, U.S. outreach and advocacy director for Transparify, a transparency advocacy group funded by Open Society Foundations, a foundation started by liberal philanthropist George Soros.

Think tanks and advocacy groups "play a very prominent role in both policy formation and public policy debates," she said by email. "Think tanks need funding to operate and undertake research, and there is nothing wrong with accepting money from a variety of private and/or public sources to do so. However, hidden funding can create the appearance -- or the actuality of -- hidden agendas."

The top four funding transparency scores in IDG News Service's rating of 14 groups went to groups advocating for strong net neutrality rules, while a handful of pro-neutrality groups received mid-level grades or lower. Meanwhile, no major group opposing strong net neutrality regulations earned better than a mid-level grade.


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Expert View: If the Internet is Working Well, Don’t Add New Regulations | Gerald Faulhaber & Dave Faber | MIT Technology Review

Expert View: If the Internet is Working Well, Don’t Add New Regulations |  Gerald Faulhaber & Dave Faber | MIT Technology Review | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Demands for network neutrality have reached fever pitch in Washington, D.C., as many voices stress the need for the Federal Communications Commission to save our open Internet. They claim that broadband Internet service providers can block data flow from selected websites, charging content providers for delivering content to customers and establishing paid “fast lanes” for some and slow lanes for everyone else (see “The Right Way to Fix the Internet”). Is the Internet suddenly in great danger?

The term “network neutrality” was coined by a legal scholar in 2002, harking back to the seminal paper “End-to-End Arguments in System Design,” which called for network operators to be “dumb pipes” carrying the bits they are given with no changes whatsoever. After decades of pledging “hands off the Internet,” the FCC took up the network neutrality challenge and issued its first order in 2010. Although only two violations had been documented, the FCC went ahead with “prophylactic” regulations. This order was struck down by the D.C. Circuit Court on jurisdictional grounds, and the FCC is going back for a second round, leading to the current brouhaha.


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Beyond Neutrality - Enabling a World of Connected Things | Bob Frankston | Frankston.com

Beyond Neutrality - Enabling a World of Connected Things | Bob Frankston | Frankston.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

This article is based on the talk I gave at a joint meeting of the IEEE CE, Communications and Computer Societies and the ACM. It is based on my Connectivity Policy essay as well as the column I wrote for the IEEE/CE Magazine.

The growing interest in the “Internet of Things” is forcing us to think beyond the web to a much larger world of connected devices. We can tolerate the many barriers to connectivity because we expect that someone can provide the necessary credentials to log in to the providers’ services and to adjust Wi-Fi access keys whenever the access point changes or simply to click “agree” at a hotspot.


This doesn’t work for “things” which can’t recognize a sign-on or “agree screen”. This may not be obvious at first because it’s easy to demonstrate an automated house if you set “things” up just right and don’t change anything but the illusion quickly disappears after the cameras are turned off and real people try to live in the home. Many of the wearables on the market stop working as soon as you walk away from your phone or change phones.


The Internet represents a fundamental shift from thinking about services inside a network to services created outside the network by users with their intelligent (AKA programmable) devices. By using the intelligence in our devices we are able to create solutions that do not depend on a provider.


VoIP works by taking advantage of opportunities and as the capacity of the Internet grows (thanks to applications like the web) high quality voice with video become more likely. In the talk I cite an IEEE article on VoLTE (Voice over LTE) which depends on every carrier in the path doing the right thing – very old paradigm.


This is why it is important to understand what I call the three stages of digital. With telegraphy we could carry messages over any distance but the introduction of analog telephony made distance difficult and required a different infrastructure for each kind of content.


In the second stage communication technology addressed this issue by encoding the analog signal digitally. As with any new technology it emulated the old technology and its business model. More subtly, it kept the assumption that speech was maintained within channels and could be measured in bits. We assumed that communications in the sense of “speech” and communications as a technology were the same.


Today we are in the third generation of digital in which we use intelligent devices to create our own solutions without depending on providers. We are no longer emulating the old phone networks.


Yet the assumptions of analog telephony are still implicit in today’s polices even as the intelligence is in our devices rather than in the network and speech is no longer confined to channels. Communications technology and communications as speech are no longer the same.


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Ello makes a bold promise for an ad-free social network, but omits key details | John Jeff Roberts | GigaOM Tech News

Ello makes a bold promise for an ad-free social network, but omits key details | John Jeff Roberts | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Ello, a would-be Facebook rival, scored a big marketing coup on Thursday with its announcement that it is now a “public benefit corporation” whose charter forbids it from selling user data or paid advertising. For now, though, the pledge means little from a legal standpoint.

In case you’re unfamiliar, Ello and its promise of a non-intrusive social network became the flavor of the week in tech circles last month. On Thursday the company announced a $5.5 million funding round and, more significantly, a new corporate structure.

That structure means the duties of Ello’s directors will now extend beyond shareholders to also take account of a “public benefit” set out its in charter. While other feel-good companies like Etsy and Warby Parker have also embraced a public benefit mission, they did so through a certificate process — similar to the one used for “Fair Trade” — that is symbolically important but does not have legal implications.


Ello, though, went further and recast itself a bona-fide “Public Benefit Corporation,” a form of corporation that became available under Delaware state law in 2013, and one that few other companies have so far embraced. The halo effect for Ello was immediate, and produced headlines that it was under a “legally binding” duty to never sell ads.


For now, though, Ello’s leaders and lawyers are being cagey about just what its new charter says, and how its anti-ad pledges will get enforced.


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The Internet of Things Will Change Your Company, Not Just Your Products | Joey Fitts | Harvard Biz Review

The Internet of Things Will Change Your Company, Not Just Your Products | Joey Fitts | Harvard Biz Review | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

I have had a front row seat as companies have struggled to enter the emerging world of the Internet of Things — first, 10 years ago as a vice president at Ambient Devices, an MIT Media Lab spinoff that was a pioneer in commercializing IoT devices, and then as a consultant.

One of the biggest obstacles is that traditional functional departments often can’t meet the needs of IoT business models and have to evolve. Here are some of the challenges that I’ve observed:


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Half of AT&T's Customers Are Paying $100 for 10GB Data; Unlimited Customers Still Throttled After 3-5GB | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Half of AT&T's Customers Are Paying $100 for 10GB Data; Unlimited Customers Still Throttled After 3-5GB | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

More than half of AT&T’s wireless customers are paying at least $100 a month for 10GB or more of wireless data on AT&T’s Mobile Share Plans at the same time AT&T continues to throttle its legacy unlimited data customers who use more than 3GB of data on its 3G network or 5GB of data on its 4G LTE network.

AT&T claimed in 2012 it implemented its “fair usage policy” for unlimited customers to assure all could receive reasonable service during peak usage times when cell towers become congested.

AT&T also blames “a serious wireless spectrum crunch” for the speed throttling, implying access to more spectrum could help ease the problem. But there is a much faster way to overcome AT&T’s “spectrum crunch:” agree to pay them more money by ditching that $30 unlimited plan for a tiered plan.

John Stephens, AT&T’s chief financial officer, told investors Wednesday that nothing boosts revenue more than pushing customers into usage-cappped data plans that customers are regularly forced to upgrade.

“On the ARPU (average revenue per user/customer) story, I think the biggest issue with the improvement is people buying the bigger [data] buckets and buying – upping plans,” said Stephens. “We had over 50% of the customer base at the 10GB or bigger plans.”

Stephens added that AT&T benefited from customers upgrading to 4G LTE devices that are handled more efficiently by AT&T’s mobile data network.

Increased usage and upgraded data plans delivered a 20% increase in data billings over the last quarter.


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T-Mobile: AT&T Gouges Us With Data Roaming Rates 150% Higher Than Average | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

T-Mobile: AT&T Gouges Us With Data Roaming Rates 150% Higher Than Average | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

T-Mobile has asked the Federal Communications Commission to investigate AT&T’s “artificially high roaming rates” charged when its customers travel outside of T-Mobile’s home service area.

T-Mobile is heavily reliant on AT&T for roaming service outside of major cities and the country’s smallest national wireless carrier complains AT&T is using their market power to put it at a major disadvantage, which could force new limits on roaming access in some areas.

T-Mobile provided examples of the damage already done by AT&T’s roaming rates:

“Limitless Mobile has severely restricted its customers’ access to AT&T’s network ‘for the sole reason that AT&T’s data roaming rates are too high and by continuing roaming access, Limitless could not maintain a commercially competitive retail wireless data offering to the general public,’” T-Mobile told the FCC.

The Rural Wireless Association noted that competing carriers “cannot sustain the provision of data roaming services if [they] must provide that service at a loss.”


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Community Broadband Media Roundup - October 17 | community broadband networks

Community Broadband Media Roundup - October 17 | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

This week, cities took the stage and made some very important moves to restore their local authority.


From cities resisting big media mergers, to those choosing to join the new Next Century Cities initiative, it is a good time to be a part of municipal government efforts.


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Call to Action: Support Stronger Rules for Mobile 911 | community broadband networks

Call to Action: Support Stronger Rules for Mobile 911 | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

An increasing number of Americans are abandoning their landlines for the convenience and economy of mobile devices. Unfortunately, doing so also makes it more difficult to locate the caller in an emergency. In order to correct the problem, the FCC has proposed a stronger set of rules that will increase location accuracy for 911 calls.

As can be expected, 911 Dispatchers and First Responders support the proposed rules. Public Knowledge recently wrote about the changes that could save an additional 10,000 lives per year.

Currently, wireless companies are not required to use specific cell tower information to lead emergency medical personnel to an apartment or the floor from which a call originates. They need only to supply specific information if the call is made from outdoors. As more and more people depend on mobile devices, both indoors and out of doors, our rules need updating.

Public Knowledge has posted a call to action to support stronger rules and ensure more successful rescues:


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Judge: The Supreme Court Has Said Aereo Must Die, So Go Die | Mike Masnick | Techdirt.com

Judge: The Supreme Court Has Said Aereo Must Die, So Go Die | Mike Masnick | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

This isn't a huge surprise, given Judge Alison Nathan's recent comments during the Aereo hearing, but Judge Nathan has now basically granted the networks what they want -- a pretty broad injunction (pdf) against Aereo.

Judge Nathan doesn't buy the "okay, the Supreme Court said we looked like a duck, so now we'll pay like a duck" argument.

To begin with, Aereo's argument suffers from the fallacy that simply because an entity performs copyrighted works in a way similar to cable systems it must then be deemed a cable system for all other purposes of the Copyright Act. The Supreme Court's opinion in Aereo III avoided any such holding.

[....]

the Supreme Court in Aereo III did not imply, much less hold, that simply because an entity performs publicly in much the same way as a CA TV system, it is necessarily a cable system entitled to a § 111 compulsory license.... Stated simply, while all cable systems may perform publicly, not all entities that perform publicly are necessarily cable systems, and nothing in the Supreme Court's opinion indicates otherwise.

The court also makes quick work of Aereo's DMCA defense, noting that Aereo never even bothered to make a complete showing for how it could possibly be eligible for the DMCA's safe harbors. The judge doesn't fully grant the networks' request, but comes pretty close.


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Fiber Networks & The New Digital Divide | Pablo Valerio | Network Computing

Fiber Networks & The New Digital Divide | Pablo Valerio | Network Computing | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Three months ago, my wife and I moved to a new apartment in Barcelona. A week after our telephone line and DSL service were installed, our ISP offered us fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) service without additional cost. We didn't think twice and are now enjoying a very high-speed connection, high-definition Skype calls, music and video that stream smoothly, and the ability to have several devices connected simultaneously without any service degradation.

Having some type of fiber or high-speed cable connectivity is normal for many of us, but in most developing countries of the world and many areas of Europe, the US, and other developed countries, access to "super-fast" broadband networks is still a dream.

This is creating another "digital divide." Not having the virtually unlimited bandwidth of all-fiber networks means that, for these populations, many activities are simply not possible. For example, broadband provided over all-fiber networks brings education, healthcare, and other social goods into the home through immersive, innovative applications and services that are impossible without it.

Recently, both the US Federal Communications Commission and Ofcom (the British telecom regulator) have been trying to raise the minimum speed that can be offered as "broadband" in order to meet the current demand for speed that today's applications require. In the US, ISPs can sell 4 Mbit/s as broadband, while Ofcon defines anything over 2 Mbit/s as broadband and over 25 Mbit/s as super-fast broadband.

Verizon and AT&T are fighting the FCC's proposed 10 Mbit/s broadband minimum speed, claiming that most customers don't need such fast connections. But the reality is quite different. Most broadband users have several devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, smart TVs). The bandwidth delivered by DSL -- or even cable -- is not enough for heavy users.


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Cities in Kentucky and Massachusetts Want a Say In Comcast/Time Warner Cable Merger | community broadband networks

Cities in Kentucky and Massachusetts Want a Say In Comcast/Time Warner Cable Merger | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

As the feds continue to evaluate the wisdom of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger, local communities in several states are attempting to throw a wrench in the federal approval machine.

In Worcester, Massachusetts, the City Council recently refused to approve the transfer of the city's cable television license to Comcast. In order to sweet-talk the federal agencies concerned the merger may create too much market concentration, Comcast has worked out a deal with Charter Communications to transfer customers in certain geographic areas. Charter is the current incumbent in Worcester.

According to a Telegam & Gazette article, the City Council does not need to approve the transfer for it to take affect. Nevertheless, the City Council voted 8-3 on October 14 to urge City Manager, Edward M. Augustus Jr., not to approve the transfer of the license. If Augustus makes no determination, the transfer will automatically be approved.

The city can only examine the transfer based on four criteria including company management, technical experience, legal experience, and financial capabilities. Management and poor customer service are the sticking points for Worcester:

District 5 Councilor Gary Rosen said the City Council should not welcome Comcast to Worcester because of its "deplorable and substandard" customer service across the country.

"It's a terrible company," he said. "In my opinion, they should not be welcome in this city. Comcast is a wolf in wolf's clothing; it's that bad. They are awful, no doubt about it. Maybe we can't stop it, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't speak out."

A similar scenario is playing out in Lexington, Kentucky. The community is the second largest city served by Time Warner Cable in the state. They are concerned existing customer service problems will worsen if Comcast becomes their provider.


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In win for broadcasters, court shuts down Aereo’s live TV feature | Cyrus Farivar | Ars Technica

In win for broadcasters, court shuts down Aereo’s live TV feature | Cyrus Farivar | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A New York federal judge has sided with a group of major broadcasters—including Twentieth Century Fox and the Public Broadcasting System—and shut down TV-over-the-Internet startup Aereo’s "Watch Now" system.


"The Supreme Court has concluded that Aereo performs publicly when it retransmits Plaintiffs' content live over the Internet and thus infringes Plaintiffs' copyrighted works," Judge Alison Nathan wrote in her 17-page opinion and order on Thursday.


"In light of this conclusion, Aereo cannot claim harm from its inability to continue infringing Plaintiffs' copyrights. In addition, in light of the fact that Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on the merits rather than just sufficiently serious questions going to the merits, they need no longer show that the balance of hardships tips decidedly in their favor."


As Ars reported in June 2014, the tenacious firm was badly damaged after it lost before the Supreme Court case on a 6-3 vote. The Supreme Court said Aereo's strategy of using tiny antennas to push over-the-air TV though the Internet looked too much like a cable company to avoid paying copyright royalties.


But Aereo didn't give up, and ran with that ruling, arguing it should be allowed to pay the same retransmission rate that cable companies pay by law, which is around one percent of revenue. That strategy has already failed once, when a company called Ivi tried it a few years back. The Copyright Office has refused to license Aereo as a cable company until a court rules otherwise.

"Doing its best to turn lemons into lemonade, Aereo now seeks to capitalize on the Supreme Court's comparison of it to a [cable] TV system to argue that it is in fact a cable system that should be entitled to a compulsory license under Section 111," Judge Nathan added. "This argument is unavailing for a number of reasons."


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Sprint Realizes Not Everyone Wants a $200 Cell Phone Bill: Announces $20, 1GB Family Data Plan | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Sprint Realizes Not Everyone Wants a $200 Cell Phone Bill: Announces $20, 1GB Family Data Plan | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

If your family budget cannot handle a $200 monthly cell phone bill from AT&T or Verizon and you can keep your data usage to around 1GB, Sprint has a deal for you.

On Wednesday, Sprint unveiled a low-end family data plan offering 1GB of data for $20 a month, an improvement over the 600MB data option Sprint used to offer. It’s also a better deal than the 500MB $20 buys you on Verizon’s network or the piddling 300MB AT&T delivers on its budget plan.

“This entry-level sharable data allowance reinforces Sprint’s commitment to offering customers the best value in wireless,” said Marcelo Claure, Sprint CEO. “We’re offering customers a choice – whether they need a small amount of data or are a high-end data user.”

Customers can build their own plan in three steps.


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The internet of things is in a bubble phase, says IBM internet of things exec | John Jeff Roberts | GigaOM Tech News

The internet of things is in a bubble phase, says IBM internet of things exec | John Jeff Roberts | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The idea of an internet-connected toaster is, for now, a stupid idea: the average person doesn’t care how many Pop Tarts they consume, and no one wants to rewire their entire home to make all their devices talk to each other.


That’s the perspective of Paul Brody, VP of internet of things at IBM, who offered up some refreshing skepticism about the much-hyped IOT while speaking at Gigaom’s Structure Connect event in San Francisco on Wednesday.


“[It's] a classic bubble phase,” said Brody, referring to a glut of half-baked business plans that are based on connecting an everyday device to the internet, and then selling the harvested data.


He added that it’s a waste of time for companies to start storing every piece of data they can get their hands on, and that some firms say they want to do this just because they hear that’s what everyone else is doing.

“Most of what we’re storing is useless, and the amount of money people will spend on it is zero,” Brody told Gigaom Research director Caroline McCrory.

He also cast doubt on the value, for now, of the connected home and the utility of product darlings like Nest. Brody remarked that, while he was among the first to wire his locks and his lights to the internet, his family finds the experience a nuisance.


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The Inside Story: He Criticized Comcast and the Cable Company Complained; Result=Termination | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

The Inside Story: He Criticized Comcast and the Cable Company Complained; Result=Termination | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A few weeks ago, Stop the Cap! reported on the story of Conal O’Rourke, a Comcast customer billed for equipment he didn’t order, service he didn’t receive, and collection agents he didn’t deserve. When O’Rourke dared to complain to senior Comcast management in the company’s Controller’s Office, the controller himself called a senior partner at his employer and days later O’Rourke was fired.

Now O’Rourke is taking his case to court, claiming he lost his job because Comcast forced his employer – PricewaterhouseCoopers – to weigh his benefit against a $30 million consulting contract Comcast has with the major accounting firm.

The complaint names names and gives plenty of new details about how Comcast ruthlessly deals with customers who dare to bother its top executives with petty little service problems like $1,800 in unjustified billing, credit score-ruining collection activity, and the impossibility of canceling service.

The fateful call to Comcast’s Controller’s Office occurred back in February, and consisted mostly of his complaint that in the almost one year that he had been a Comcast customer, he had not received a single bill in which the charges were correct.

When he mentioned the constant billing errors might be of interest to the independent Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, it was the first time in more than a year Comcast efficiently targeted O’Rourke’s complaint for its brand of resolution: retaliation.


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Verizon Wireless injects identifiers that link its users to Web requests | Robert Lemos | Ars Technica

Verizon Wireless injects identifiers that link its users to Web requests | Robert Lemos | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Cellular communications provider Verizon Wireless is adding cookie-like tokens to Web requests traveling over its network. These tokens are being used to build a detailed picture of users’ interests and to help clients tailor advertisements, according to researchers and Verizon’s own documentation.

The profiling, part of Verizon’s Precision Market Insights division, kicked off more than two years ago and expanded to cover all Verizon Wireless subscribers as part of the company’s Relevant Mobile Advertising service. It appends a per-device token known as the Unique Identifier Header (UIDH) to each Web request sent through its cellular network from a particular mobile device, allowing Verizon to link a website visitor to its own internal profiles. The service aims to allow client websites to target advertising at specific segments of the consumer market.

While the company started piloting the service two years ago, privacy experts only began warning of the issue this week, arguing that the service is essentially tracking users and that companies paid for a fundamental service that should not be using the data for secondary purposes.


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Michael Wolff on HBO, CBS Streaming: TV Is Disrupting the Internet | Hollywood Reporter

Michael Wolff on HBO, CBS Streaming: TV Is Disrupting the Internet | Hollywood Reporter | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The solipsism of the tech community sees the CBS and HBO migrations to stand-alone streaming services as a satisfying disruption of the TV business. But that's a striking inversion of what's actually happening: TV is disrupting the Internet.


A funny thing happened during the Internet's seemingly epochal displacement of mainstream media. While digital media was becoming overwhelmingly ad-supported — a mass-media model reminiscent of the three-network era — television gained a subscription revenue stream. Paid television — that is, cable subscriptions — became the most powerful growth driver in the media world, producing a new kind of high-value, culture-shaping programming.


Meanwhile, digital media, from Yahoo to BuzzFeed to the websites and apps of magazines and newspapers — and including even Google and Facebook — found itself overwhelmingly reliant on advertising income. Because of the glut of space, new automated ways of buying and reaching audiences in digital venues and persistent complaints about the caliber of digital attention, ad rates largely have continued to sink — meaning, in a terrible cycle, content must be cheaper and must grow broader in an ever-dumbed-down effort to reach a larger and larger audience, for which advertisers pay less and less. This downward trend now is moving almost every significant Internet platform and media site into the video business, with its higher ad rates and opportunities for user fees.


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Republican House Majority Leader McCarthy blasts 'Truthy' Twitter project | Mario Trujillo | The Hill

The furor in the House GOP over a university project studying Twitter trends is growing as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) added his name to the list of critics.

McCarthy on Thursday afternoon became the most high-profile Republican to come out against Indiana University's "Truthy" project, which is partly funded by a grant from the federal National Science Foundation (NSF).

"Government funding of this project is not only a waste during a time of budgetary constraints, it is also a danger to free society better suited for a George Orwell book than a country founded on the idea of liberty," he said.

The project is aimed at understanding how information spreads online. It samples real-time public tweets to identify and study trending topics, political and otherwise. An important area of interest for the project is "how social media can be abused."

Much of its early work explored the partisan differences in social media use and the spread of misinformation online, and has broadened since then,


McCarthy's blog post, “#killingfreespeech,” on his leadership website echoes concerns from others like Republican Federal Communications Commission member Ajit Pai and House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who said his panel is investigating the grant. 


"Most Americans would agree that the federal government should not encroach on free speech or play any role in determining what classifies as ‘social pollution’ and ‘political smears,’—other subjects Truthy wishes to monitor," McCarthy said. 


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CBS Launching New Over-the-Air Network: "Decades" Will Feature Classic TV Series from 50s-80s | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

CBS Launching New Over-the-Air Network: "Decades" Will Feature Classic TV Series from 50s-80s | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

MeTV is getting some quasi-competition starting in the second quarter of next year as CBS and Weigel Broadcasting launch “Decades,” a new over-the-air television network that CBS is calling “the ultimate TV time capsule.”


Weigel will handle affiliation agreements with non-CBS owned stations, most likely CBS affiliates owned by other companies. Weigel already programs MeTV, so the two networks will probably avoid direct duplication of each other, but the formats are expected to be similar.


The agreement gives Weigel expanded access to CBS’ library of produced and acquired classic television shows including I Love Lucy, Star Trek, Cheers, Happy Days and other shows generally out of syndication. Decades will also feature some original programming, such as Decades Retrospectical, that will include clips from CBS News and Entertainment Ton

The new network will launch as a digital sub-channel on many CBS-owned local television stations:


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Time Warner Cable Unveils $26/Mo 6-Tuner, 1TB DVR in Los Angeles, New York Maxx Markets | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Time Warner Cable Unveils $26/Mo 6-Tuner, 1TB DVR in Los Angeles, New York Maxx Markets | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Time Warner Cable’s enhanced DVR is here, at an enhanced price starting at $26/month.

Time Warner customers have long waited for an upgraded DVR capable of storing and recording more shows, and the Arris DCX 3600 is the result.

Available soon in Los Angeles and New York (and later in other TWC Maxx-upgraded markets), the enhanced DVR includes six tuners and 1TB of storage, enough to keep around 150 hours of HD programming.

The DVR includes QAM/RF-capability and a DOCSIS 3 modem built into the box. Time Warner Cable has set the monthly price for the box at $15.99 for single room DVR service, $19.99 a month for whole-house DVR service. An additional equipment rental fee also applies: $10.25/mo for the box and remote control, $11.75/mo if you are subject to Time Warner’s “additional outlet service fee.” That means customers will pay up to $31.74 a month for the DVR alone. Customers who subscribe to a bundled service package will likely pay significantly lower rates for the enhanced DVR.

Time Warner arrives very late to the DVR competition wars. Its current boxes can usually record only up to two shows at once and storage space, usually enough for 80 hours, may require customers to clear out older shows to make room for new ones.

Time Warner’s competitors are still able to beat Time Warner’s new DVR:


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Three House Dems, three proposals for net neutrality. Here’s what they look like. | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

Three House Dems, three proposals for net neutrality. Here’s what they look like. | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Rep. Anna Eshoo is urging federal regulators to oversee Internet providers using Title II of the Communications Act — a move that would give the Federal Communications Commission more latitude to prevent the sort of traffic discrimination net neutrality advocates say would hurt the open Internet.

In a letter to the FCC this week, the California Democrat said the agency could selectively apply only those parts of the law that deal with reasonable rates and unjust discrimination — what are known as Sections 201 and 202. The rest of the law, she said, could be waived under a process known as "forbearance." (My colleague Nancy Scola has a good overview of what that means.)

"It is true that some of these laws do apply only to telephone services," said Eshoo, referring to Title II's historical role in regulating phone companies like AT&T. "But others are the source of timeless principles that can and do apply to all two-way telecom services, including broadband."

Eshoo's proposal tracks closely with one by her colleague, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.). In an earlier letter to the FCC, Lofgren also called for a mix of Title II and forbearance — while leaning on another part of the law that could help the FCC make a stronger case for forbearance. In striking down much of the FCC's original net neutrality rules this year, a federal court granted the agency a little more authority under what's called Section 706.

Section 706, found under Title I of the FCC's congressional charter, is how the agency could regulate broadband under new net neutrality rules. Some advocates have been pushing for the FCC to rely primarily on its Section 706 authority to draft the new regulations, but consumer groups argue that won't be enough.

A third proposal by another California Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman , also relies on Title II, but advances an alternative that waives the very provisions of the law that Eshoo's letter says are the most important — the language against "unjust discrimination." This may sound counterintuitive, but Waxman appears to agree with industry officials' arguments that the phrase "unjust discrimination" actually could still allow Internet fast lanes — if broadband providers can claim that the discrimination is a "just" and reasonable practice.


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Google's Search Changes Are Reportedly Destroying Top Pirate Sites | Mario Aguilar | Gizmodo

Google's Search Changes Are Reportedly Destroying Top Pirate Sites | Mario Aguilar | Gizmodo | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Last week Google announced that it would be rolling out changes to its search algorithm to significantly demote sites that receive a large number of valid copyright takedown requests. Now TorrentFreak reports that top sites have taken tremendous hits in traffic coming from Google.

TorrentFreak spoke to several torrent site operators who say that beginning this week their sites saw significant drops in traffic. According to the Isohunt.to team, "earlier this week all search traffic dropped in half."

That's significant, but the second half of the report is indicative of why these censorship policies don't actually do anything to make piracy any better.


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