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Six Revealing Quotes From Obama's New FCC Nominee, Tom Wheeler | NextGov.com

Six Revealing Quotes From Obama's New FCC Nominee, Tom Wheeler | NextGov.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

President Obama is said to be preparing to nominate Tom Wheeler to chair the Federal Communications Commission. According to The Wall Street Journal's Danny Yadron, the nod could come by as early as tomorrow afternoon. Wheeler's a noted venture capitalist and a top former lobbyist for both the wireless industry and the cable companies, making him a very well-connected pick. Incidentally, Wheeler was also an Obama bundler, contributing over $245,000 to the president's reelection campaign.

 

Wheeler now faces confirmation by the Senate, but that's perhaps the last place to turn for insight into what the candidate really thinks on tech policy. A far more interesting set of opinions can be found on Wheeler's blog, which he's kept since May 2007. I've pulled together some of the best clips below:

 

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Washington senator introduces state-wide legislation for Uber, Lyft | Taylor Soper | GeekWire

Washington senator introduces state-wide legislation for Uber, Lyft  | Taylor Soper | GeekWire | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Following states like California and Colorado, Sen. Cyrus Habib (D-Kirkland) today introduced legislation that would allow on-demand transit companies like Uber and Lyft to operate legally in Washington.

SB 5550 would require transportation network companies (TNCs) to provide adequate insurance, conduct driver background checks, supply data to the state, and pay for annual permits.

Currently, TNCs operating around Washington abide by laws on a city-by-city basis. For example, in July the Seattle City Council enacted its own legislation for the TNCs after they had previously operated without regulation in the city.
Cyrus Habib.Cyrus Habib.

Habib told GeekWire that if enacted, the state-wide legislation would supersede anything that city governments have established. That being said, he noted how his proposal includes consumer protection requirements from the TNCs that are just as strong, if not more so, than what cities have already enacted.

Habib said his team has been working for the past six months on the bill, and met with various stakeholders from insurance companies, law firms, driver representatives, and officials from cities and counties across Washington.

“This industry is in transition, and innovative new companies have deployed technology to reduce costs and improve quality for consumers,” Habib said in a statement. “We as lawmakers should do our part to create policy that marries innovation and consumer protections. This legislation will provide protections for passengers and drivers so these new transportation options can serve the public safely and fairly.”


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Cory Booker’s introducing a bill to help cities build their own, public Internet services | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

Cory Booker’s introducing a bill to help cities build their own, public Internet services | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Sen. Cory Booker is leaping into the political fight over whether to let cities build and operate their own Internet service.

On Thursday, the New Jersey Democrat will introduce a bill that would help local towns set up public alternatives to big Internet providers such as Comcast or Verizon. It would amend the nation's signature telecom law — the Communications Act — to make it illegal for states to prohibit municipal broadband through new regulations or state legislation.

Booker said more cities should aspire to be like Chattanooga, Tenn., which offers public broadband plans at speeds of 1 gigabit per second for $70 a month. But many are held back, he said, by "industry that wants to maintain monopolies in many ways."

Allowing cities to invest in high-speed fiber optic networks would stimulate economic development and access to education, Booker added.

"That's what created the Internet in the first place, is government-led investment in certain areas," he said.

Booker's bill, the Community Broadband Act, seeks to counter other attempts by the GOP to strip away federal regulators' authority to promote city-run broadband. Republicans and other critics of municipal broadband say such projects are often subject to cost overruns at the public's expense.

Defenders of municipal broadband argue that it can be an effective solution where competition among Internet providers is lacking. Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, said last year that only a quarter of the country has a choice in buying high-speed broadband — the rest live under an effective monopoly or duopoly.


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House and Senate Hold Hearings on GOP Fake Net Neutrality Alternative Supported by Telecom Lobby | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

House and Senate Hold Hearings on GOP Fake Net Neutrality Alternative Supported by Telecom Lobby | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The House and Senate today held back-to-back hearings on the issue of adopting a Republican alternative to the president’s idea of Net Neutrality.

After the president directly addressed his support of strong Net Neutrality protections, FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler indicated he intended to act on the issue next month. Now many Republican legislators have changed their original view that Net Neutrality was “a solution in search of a problem” into a high priority agenda item demanding immediate attention, hoping to cut off Wheeler’s regulatory solution with new legislation.

That came in the form of a proposed new bill to define the principles of Net Neutrality from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.).

“By turning the FCC away from a heavy-handed and messy approach to regulating the Internet, this draft protects both consumers who rely on Internet services and innovators who create jobs,” Thune wrote in a statement.

Both hearings were stacked against reclassification of broadband under Title II to assure strong Net Neutrality principles, including three witnesses formerly with the FCC that have moved into industry advocacy jobs.


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FL: Tampa Innovation Alliance Aims to Redevelop USF Area | Mark Schrieiner | USF.edu

FL: Tampa Innovation Alliance Aims to Redevelop USF Area | Mark Schrieiner | USF.edu | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The 15,000 acre area surrounding the University of South Florida's (USF)Tampa campus has been called "the University Area", "University West," and, derisively, "Suitcase City," due to the number of transients.

But no matter what you call the region, which is bounded by Interstate 275 to the west, I-75 to the East, Busch Boulevard to the south and Bearss Avenue to the north, it's home to thousands of residents, hundreds of businesses, and a few dozen of Tampa’s most recognizable organizations and sites.

To the members of the Tampa Innovation Alliance, however, it's is an untapped gold mine of potential.

"The purpose (of the Alliance) is to make this location recognized around the world as the destination for innovation, creative activity, business enterprise," said Alliance Executive Director Mark Sharpe. "It’s to make this place a place you want to live, work and play."


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Obama Wants You to Have Cheap, Fast Internet, But Many Cities Aren’t Allowed to Provide It | Leticia Miranda | ProPublica

Obama Wants You to Have Cheap, Fast Internet, But Many Cities Aren’t Allowed to Provide It | Leticia Miranda | ProPublica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

On Tuesday evening during the State of the Union address, President Obama pledged "to protect a free and open Internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks." Obama is calling on the Federal Communications Commission to challenge a wave of state laws blocking the construction of municipal broadband networks, which are high-speed Internet services run by local communities.

Here's what you need to know about the president's proposal and what it might mean for consumers.


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Could This New FreedomPop Wi-Fi Service Be an Alternative to Wireless Bills? | Ryan Knutson & Thomas Gryta | WSJ.com

Could This New FreedomPop Wi-Fi Service Be an Alternative to Wireless Bills? | Ryan Knutson & Thomas Gryta | WSJ.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Wi-Fi would be a lot more usable if there weren’t so many passwords.

FreedomPop, a Los Angeles based company that began offering free mobile service in 2013, is taking aim at the problem with a new service that will give customers access to nearly 9 million hotspots for $5 a month. When subscribers encounter a participating hotspot, their device will log in automatically without having to accept terms and conditions in a browser or enter a password.

The company’s aim is to create a cheap, passable alternative to expensive cellphone service plans. Of course, passable is in the eye of the beholder.

Wi-Fi hotspots aren’t nearly as ubiquitous as the signals showered from cellular towers, and callers who start a call in one hot spot would lose it if they were to walk out of range. Wi-Fi can also become congested in the same way a cell tower can when many people try to connect at once.

Stephen Stokols, FreedomPop’s CEO and founder, isn’t pitching the plan as a replacement for Verizon. Still, he thinks it could work for as many as 30 million of the 75 million Americans using prepaid service, many of whom can’t always afford the $40 or so their monthly plans typically cost.

“We actually think this could become a pretty big alternative, especially in prepaid,” Mr. Stokols said. “They’re able to save 40 bucks a month and still have connections most of the time.”

FreedomPop stitched together the hotspots by signing deals with companies that build them in public places. Mr. Stokols wouldn’t name the companies involved, but firms like Comcast Corp have been building millions of them, and there are tens of thousands available in places like Starbucks and McDonald’s. Mr. Stokols expects the number covered by his plan to swell beyond 20 million later this year.

Subscribers will be able to download an app that shows them locations of nearby hotspots. It also provides users a phone number and allows unlimited calls and texts over Wi-Fi. The app will be available only on phones using Google’s Android operating system at first. Mr. Stokols said he hopes to launch an iPhone app soon.


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Overcoming State Barriers to Public Broadband | Craig Settles | GovTech.com

Overcoming State Barriers to Public Broadband | Craig Settles | GovTech.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

If you’re a local official wanting to boost your economy, transform how constituents’ kids learn, harness the power of telemedicine and digital-driven health care and run a more efficient government, broadband is your engine for success. And thanks to the Obama Broadband Doctrine unveiled in Cedar Falls, Iowa, last week, the stage is set for you to act.

The president made clear where he and his administration stand on the importance of broadband to our country’s – and your community’s – future. He also trained a bright spotlight on a collective barrier to broadband deployment posed by 21 states that have varying levels of restrictions on publicly owned Internet networks.

Those of you in states with an anti-public network law, it’s incumbent upon you to fully understand these laws as the first step to navigate, mitigate or eliminate the impact of these laws on your ability to advance broadband in your community. Community leaders in states without such laws also need to understand these laws so you are prepared to fight any attempt by legislators to pass such laws.

It is important to keep several things in mind. First, get a good lawyer. Incumbent telecom providers and their lobbyists crafted some of the most benign-sounding laws, particularly those written early on, purposely using vague wording to make it easy to sue communities that tried to build a network. Second, at the time many of these laws were written (2003 – 2006), incumbents considered a referendum requirement the kiss of death for muni networks because incumbents knew they could bury a ballot measure campaign in money to ensure its defeat. Third, the average constituent’s lack of interest in broadband and the average legislator’s complete lack of knowledge of technology were the laws’ greatest strength.

As you review the laws of your state, consider how much has changed since the law was written, even those passed in 2012. Constituents know more about the technology and about the impact of superfast broadband on a community. Local leaders are more likely to be technology-savvy. State legislators from rural communities are genuinely more fearful than a few years back about local economies tanking. In my next article, I'll explore options for dealing with these laws, but for now, try to understand these laws in the context of when they were written and where we are now. In states that don’t have restrictions currently, how likely can laws such as these pass given your current constituents and local leaders?


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Net Neutrality, Munibroadband, and the SOTU Shout Out | Harold Feld | Public Knowledge

Net Neutrality, Munibroadband, and the SOTU Shout Out | Harold Feld | Public Knowledge | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

For all us telecom geeks out there, the big deal was the President’s rather brief shout out on network neutrality and municipal broadband (munibroadband). You can see the full text of the speech here. The key paragraph was almost literally a blink and you miss it:

“I intend to protect a free and open internet, extend its reach to every classroom, and every community, and help folks build the fastest networks, so that the next generation of digital innovators and entrepreneurs have the platform to keep reshaping our world.”

Still, as we sometimes say, less is more. That little paragraph actually packs some good punch in Washington speak, as I explain below.

Back when the White House was pushing the spectrum bill, I wrote this piece on the general value of a State of the Union (SOTU) shout out. The function here is a little different. Also, unlike a lot of other portions of the President’s speech that he spent more time describing, you need to read this paragraph as a somewhat compressed signal. Here’s how I read it.

On these issues, the President is not asking for legislation. Just the opposite. The FCC is set to reclassify broadband as a Title II service in February and adopt strong net neutrality rules. The FCC is also reported to be ready to take the first step in preempting the local bans on munibroadband by granting the petitions from Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC. Nor does the President need to take time in his speech to sell the concept to the American people or explain it to folks. The net neutrality issue is, according to PEW, fairly well understood as tech issues go (about 60% of respondents got the answer right in a survey, which is sadly an awesome score on a public policy issue — especially in tech) and there is no way to explain it in a SOTU speech for those who don’t get it yet. Finally, the President has already been extremely outspoken on the issue.

Similarly, while the President would welcome Congressional legislation to reform the Universal Service Fund (USF) and generally make more money available for broadband investment (as lumped in with other infrastructure investment), the President has authority to do some stuff with the Rural Utility Service program at Department of Agriculture, and the FCC has already moved the E-Rate expansion and continues to work on USF reform.

So if the President wasn’t selling it, what was the point?


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Netflix CEO: 25 Mbps Should Be New ‘Baseline’ | Jeff Baumgartner | Multichannel

Netflix CEO: 25 Mbps Should Be New ‘Baseline’ | Jeff Baumgartner | Multichannel | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Count Netflix CEO Reed Hastings among the fans of an FCC proposal to bump the definition of broadband from 4 Mbps downstream to 25 Mbps down.

Speaking Tuesday during an interview to discuss Netflix’s fourth quarter results (you can watch the whole thing here), Hastings said he “absolutely” agrees with the proposal, which will face a vote at the FCC’s meeting on Thursday, Jan. 29.

While any speed bump would be welcome by any OTT video service, Hastings said the slow shift toward 4K streaming and other bandwidth-intensive services offer good reasons for the boost.

Noting that one 4K stream from Netflix requires about 15 Mbps, he said consumers will also need additional headroom for things like video conferencing and home monitoring apps. “So, 25-megs is kind of baseline for the next five years as opposed to the past five years,” he said.

Netflix launched a small 4K library last year that is in the process of expanding, with support for prettier High Dynamic Range streaming already in the works.

Access to Netflix’s 4K library also drives a higher price, as it’s only offered through the company’s top-line $12 per month plan. Even though 4K has not hit the mainstream, the approach provides “incremental revenue without making any changes ourselves…by just letting the tide come to us,” Hastings said.


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Law enforcement is getting new surveillance tools. But they don’t always want to talk about them. | Andrea Peterson | WashPost.com

Law enforcement is getting new surveillance tools. But they don’t always want to talk about them. | Andrea Peterson | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

At least 50 U.S. law enforcement agencies are using hand-held radar to "see" the inside of houses, USA Today reports. The radar guns are just the latest in a long line of tech tools being quietly deployed across the country with little public scrutiny, raising questions about how the Fourth Amendment applies in the digital era.

The radar uses radio waves to detect even slight movements inside a house. The version used by the U.S. Marshalls Service -- L-3 Communication's Range-R -- is a handheld device with a range of up to 50 feet, according to the company's promotional materials.

The Range-R features a display screen that shows if it has detected movement on the other side of a wall and how far away that movement was, although it doesn't render pictures of what's actually going on inside a house or room. However, USA Today notes that more sophisticated models are on the market, including devices that can be mounted on drones and those that can reveal three-dimensional displays of where people are inside buildings.

Law enforcement agencies started purchasing the devices more than two years ago, according to federal contracts uncovered by USA Today. But their use was largely kept quiet until a December federal appeals court opinion revealed that officers had used one before entering a house to arrest someone wanted for parole violations. Officers had an arrest warrant but not a warrant to search the home, alarming even the judges.


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Yes, we’re still using dumb passwords. But not nearly as much as before. | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

Yes, we’re still using dumb passwords. But not nearly as much as before. | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Another year, another study shouting about how we're all using lazy passwords like "123456" and "abc123." Protip: Don't use these passwords. They're easy to break and even easier to guess. But while it may seem as though the Internet never learns — an impression that's only bolstered by the past year's high-profile hackings and data breaches — there's a more important takeaway: It turns out we are getting better at not using lame passwords.

This year's list of weak passwords looks much like last year's, and the year before that. "Qwerty" and "password" still figure prominently, according to SplashData. Others include strings of sequential numbers of varying length. Look at those silly people! you say. They're asking to be hacked.

All that makes for good headlines, and you can never be too forceful about telling folks how to protect themselves on the Internet. (Here are some extra tips.) But it's not as though bad password hygiene will single handedly bring down the republic. The top 25 weakest passwords accounted for only 2.2 percent of leaked passwords in 2014, according to SplashData.


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FBI and IRS warn of pervasive, maddening business, consumer scams | Michael Cooney | NetworkWorld.com

FBI and IRS warn of pervasive, maddening business, consumer scams | Michael Cooney | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The FBI and IRS separately this week warned of a couple timeworn but highly effective scams that continue to grow and strip businesses and consumers of cash.

First, the FBI is again warning businesses to be aware of a growing scam that tricks them into paying invoices from established partners that look legitimate but in fact are fraudulent.

The FBI says the fraud is a tweak of the “man-in-the-middle” scam and usually involves chief technology officers, chief financial officers, or comptrollers, receiving an e-mail via their business accounts purportedly from a vendor requesting a wire transfer to a designated bank account, the FBI said.

The FBI even changed the name of the scam now calling it the Business E-mail Compromise (BEC) of the “business angle” of this scam and to avoid confusion with another unrelated scam.

The fraudulent wire transfer payments associated with BEC are sent to foreign banks and may be transferred several times but are quickly dispersed. Asian banks, located in China and Hong Kong, are the most commonly reported ending destination for these fraudulent transfers.

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) has received BEC complaint data from victims in every U.S. state and 45 countries. From 10/01/2013 to 12/01/2014, the following statistics are reported:


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Jamaica gets US help in islandwide Internet coverage | Jamaica Observer

Jamaica gets US help in islandwide Internet coverage |  Jamaica Observer | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Government of Jamaica is receiving support from the United States to increase access to the Internet in rural parishes and implement sustainable energy initiatives in the country.

The support comes through two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) signed on Wednesday (January 21) at the PCJ auditorium in Kingston.

The first MoU seeks to make use of unused television (TV) band spectrum, otherwise called TV white spaces (TVWS), to improve the information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure.

TVWS are vacant frequencies in between regular broadcast TV channels, and these will be used to provide wireless data connectivity to remote communities.

A six-month pilot project will be used to accommodate Internet bandwidth connectivity and adoption among stakeholders.

The second MoU outlines a programme of technical collaboration on the implementation of clean energy activities in the island.

Under the agreement, the Government of Jamaica will provide the necessary access to data, personnel and information to facilitate the project, while the US Government will provide technical assistance, training and support to Jamaica and energy sector entities, in the completion of the work.

According to minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Phillip Paulwell, the two MoUs are critical to the sustainable development and growth of the country.


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Most Municipal Networks Built in Conservative Cities | community broadband networks

Most Municipal Networks Built in Conservative Cities | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

We've been curious about voting patterns from communities that have built their own networks so we took our community broadband networks map and analyzed some election data. A substantial majority of communities that have built their own networks vote Republican.

We decided to stick with the citywide networks, where a community has taken the greatest risk in building a citywide FTTH or cable network. This gave us more than 100 communities to analyze. We looked at the Presidential elections from 2008 and 2012 as well as the House election from 2012. This was to guard against any anomalies from a single election or type of election.


Some 3 out of 4 communities have voted Republican in recent elections, a trend that has become more pronounced across these elections. And as elections in non-presidential years tend to skew more conservative, we would expect the results to show an even greater trend toward voting for Republicans.


With President Obama speaking out in support of community networks, it will be interesting to see how Republicans in the Senate and House react. Some Republicans have taken strong stances to limit local authority in favor of states interfering in local matters like how to ensure businesses have high quality Internet access.


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WI: Cap Times Weighs In on Mayoral Race, Muni Broadband, and Free Internet: We Need It! | community broadband networks

WI: Cap Times Weighs In on Mayoral Race, Muni Broadband, and Free Internet: We Need It! | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Madison Cap Times recently ran an editorial focusing on the surprising nature of mayoral races. We were also surprised - pleasantly so - to read the intention of the editorial board (emphasis ours):

The Capital Times will add its proposals to the mix, with a special focus on using emerging technologies to promote high-wage job creation and economic development. In particular, we'll advocate for the establishment of a municipal broadband system that can provide free high-speed Internet access to all Madisonians.
...

Madison is a great city that does plenty of things right. But it faces major challenges, some of its own making, some imposed by reactionary state government, some dictated by our complex times. A mayoral race is the pivot point at which to discuss those challenges and the proper responses to them.

The Cap Times editorial reminds us that local decision making about connectivity is rooted in our choice of local leaders. We encourage Madison voters and all other communities facing the ballot to press candidates to address the issue of fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. If your community doesn't have it, ask your candidates what they intend to do about it.

Madison's mayor Soglin has been a leader on this issue via the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where he wrote and worked to adopt a resolution that called for restoring local decision-making authority to local governments.


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Los Angeles Times Supports Local Authority | community broadband networks

Los Angeles Times Supports Local Authority | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

President Obama's recent appearance in Cedar Falls infused adrenaline into the debate about local authority for telecommunications decisions. As a result, some of the media outlets from large cities are now coming out in support of local authority. The Editorial Board of the LA Times published an opinion on January 21st supporting the notion of restoring local authority in states where laws prevent community decision making.

The Times recognizes that rural areas will benefit most from reversing these restrictions, that the restrictions need to be removed for us to compete globally, and that there are numerous municipal networks that are up to the challenge of improving connectivity. The LA Times also recognizes the value of public-private partnerships in New York and in other places where local government has forged productive relationships with the private sector.

Editors at the LA Times boil it down to one tenet:

Regardless, the decision about whether a local agency should get into the broadband business should be left to the people who bear the risk — local officials and the people who elect them.


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Bill to Establish Broadband Grant Program in Montana State Legislature | community broadband networks

Bill to Establish Broadband Grant Program in Montana State Legislature | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In Missoula and Bozeman, momentum is building for improved connectivity by way of community network infrastructure. As usual, funding a municipal network is always one of the main challenges, but the state appears uninterested in helping them. State Representative Kelly McCarthy recently dropped HB 14 into the hopper, a bill to create a broadband development fund primarily for private companies.

The bill authorizes $15 million in general obligation bonds for broadband infrastructure projects for middle-mile and last-mile connectivity in rural areas. Unfortunately, projects built and maintained by private entities have priority per the language of section 3(2)(b).

The state legislature would be wise to follow Minnesota's lead and establish a program that is available to all as in the Minnesota Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program. Private entities are eligible to apply along with public entities and nonprofits, but do not receive special consideration.

If anything, the long history of success from cooperatives and local government approaches in infrastructure is favorable to the history of consolidation and poor services that big monopolies have offered in rural areas.


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Maine Legislature All About That Broadband in 2015 | community broadband networks

Maine Legislature All About That Broadband in 2015 | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Maine continues to be a hot spot in the drive to improve connectivity as the 2015 state legislative session opens. According to the Bangor Daily News, 35 bills have been introduced that deal with broadband issues.

The story also notes that several lawmakers have introduced bills that propose funding from the state. House Republican Norman Higgins advocates broadband infrastructure in rural areas of the state:

“I think most people understand that in this day and age for us to be competitive, that’s one of the necessary tools,” Higgins said, noting he’s found bipartisan support on the issue. “The question, I think becomes: How do we do it? And who does it?”

He proposes allocating millions of dollars to expand the availability of grants to municipalities that want to build and own high-speed fiber-optic networks that would be open to companies that want to serve businesses and homes, similar to the model pursued by Rockport, South Portland, Orono and Old Town.

Momentum is growing outside the Senate and House Chambers as well. In December, Governor LePage asked the ConnectME Authority to consider redefining "underserved" for projects it considers funding. The Authority obliged, reported the Bangor Daily News:


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The GAO Studies Data Caps | Doug Dawson | POTs and PANs

The GAO Studies Data Caps | Doug Dawson | POTs and PANs | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The General Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report near the end of last year that said that broadband customers don’t want caps on their data. That’s not a surprising finding.


The report was generated in response to a request from Rep Ann Eshoo of California. So the GAO issued a survey and held focus groups looking into the issue. They also talked to the large ISPs and the wireless companies about their networks.

They concluded that there is no reason to have caps on landline bandwidth because networks generally do not experience congestion. The large ISPs used the congestion argument a number of years ago when they first experimented with data caps. But the large cable companies and telcos admit that congestion is no longer an issue.

The average customer understands this as well. You don’t have to think back many years to a time when your home Internet would bog down every night after dinner when most homes jumped onto the Internet. But there have been big changes in the industry that have gotten rid of that congestion.

Probably foremost has been the cost to connect to the Internet backbone. Just five years ago I had many small ISP clients who were paying as much as $15 per dedicated megabit for raw bandwidth from the Internet. That has dropped significantly and the price varies from less than a dollar to a few dollars depending upon the size and the remoteness of the ISP.

During this same time there has been an explosion in customers watching video and video is by far the predominant use today of an ISP network. Video customers won’t tolerate congestion without yelling loudly because if the bandwidth drops too much, video won’t work. When Internet browsing consisted mostly of looking at web pages customers were less critical when their bandwidth slowed down.

So ISPs today mostly over-engineer their networks and they generally try to provide a cushion of 20% or more bandwidth than what customers normally need. This has also become easier for ISPs because of the way they now pay for bandwidth. Ten years ago an ISP paid for the peak usage their network hit during the month. They paid for the whole month at the bandwidth demand they experienced during their busiest hour of the month (or perhaps an average of a couple of the busiest hours).


Slowing customers down during the busiest times under that pricing structure could save an ISP a lot of money. But now that bandwidth is cheap, ISPs routinely just buy data pipes that are larger than what they need to provide a bandwidth cushion. Because the ISP has already paid for the bandwidth to provide a cushion there is zero incremental cost for a customer to cross over some arbitrary bandwidth threshold. The ISP has paid for the bandwidth whether it’s used or not.

This is not to say that there is never congestion. Some rural networks, particularly those run by the largest companies are still poorly engineered and still have evening congestion. And there are always those extraordinary days when more people use the Internet than average, like when there is some big news event. But for the most part congestion is gone, and the ideas of data caps should have gone away with the end of congestion.


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Anti-Muni Network Groups Respond to Obama’s Advocacy | Joan Engebretson | Telecompetitor

Anti-Muni Network Groups Respond to Obama’s Advocacy | Joan Engebretson | Telecompetitor | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

President Obama’s recent comments advocating municipal broadband networks have drawn a variety of rebuttals from groups such as the Phoenix Center, TechFreedom and Media Freedom.

The Phoenix Center sums up the core argument in a white paper critiquing FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s praise for the EPB gigabit network in Chattanooga: “The widespread use of government money to build networks to compete with networks [built] with private sector money over many decades deserves an exceedingly careful analysis and not just grandstanding by the President and the Chairman,” the report argues.

Perhaps the most vehement critique came from Media Freedom, which argued in a press release that “the bullies at the White House and the FCC will not stop until they have taken all of our lunch money.”

A more tempered critique came from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, which said government-run networks “may be appropriate in rare cases” but added that government policies should be directed at “overcoming barriers to adoption and extending the reach of broadband to places yet unserved.”


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GVTC expands FTTH service availability in Boerne, Texas | Sean Buckley | Fierce Telecom

GVTC expands FTTH service availability in Boerne, Texas | Sean Buckley | Fierce Telecom | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

GVTC has reached an agreement with Boerne, Texas, to expand the reach of its fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network to the remaining portion of the city it doesn't yet cover and extend to an additional 1,590 homes.

Today, GVTC's fiber network covers about two-thirds of Boerne and includes more than 2,900 homes and 500 businesses. By reaching this new agreement with the city, GVTC can expand its network throughout the city, pushing its planned expansion from 4,625 to more than 4,960 homes.

One of the key elements of the agreement GVTC gained was the rights to use Boerne's existing utility poles to extend fiber connections to the city's remaining homes it has not build out to yet. The city of Boerne and GVTC are paying $77,500 each to third-party contractors for a utility pole load analysis and pole change out. GVTC said it expects the Boerne fiber network build to cost it $1.8 million.

Set to be completed within the next 24 months, Boerne will take its spot as the top 5 percent of cities its size in the United States that has been completely wired for fiber-based broadband access. The telco said that Boerne customers will be able to retain their current copper-based service or get the new 1 Gbps fiber-based service.

Boerne is just one of several Texas cities where GVTC is delivering its 1 Gbps FTTH services.


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Study: Indiana a Regional Broadband Leader | Dan McGowan | Inside INdiana Business

Study: Indiana a Regional Broadband Leader | Dan McGowan | Inside INdiana Business | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Ball State University's Digital Policy Institute says Indiana is in position to remain a regional "broadband overachiever."


A new study released by the group suggests several steps the state can take to capitalize, including easing regulations, developing more uniform statewide policies and creating a rural broadband advisory center.


Senior Fellow Barry Umansky says commercial carriers have pumped nearly $5 billion into broadband infrastructure in recent years.


More Hoosier households than ever are on the verge of having broadband access to Internet, thanks to nearly $5 billion commercial carriers have pumped into infrastructure development over nine years and the easing of state regulations.

Those efforts, coupled with ongoing work to expand fiber optic cable reach, mean Indiana is swiftly becoming a regional standard-bearer in the ongoing push by state and federal officials to ensure those who live in rural and urban areas alike have reliable and dependable Internet access. Nearly 44 percent of Hoosier households are "passed by fiber" meaning the infrastructure required by a commercial provider is already in place. That number is more than four times greater than the next closest neighbor.

The information comes from research completed by the Digital Policy Institute, a group founded in 2004 at Ball State focusing on issues relevant to digital media. The findings are detailed in the group's "Indiana Rural Broadband Report 2015," released today.

"There has been such a high level of capital investment that the Hoosier State is now considered an overachiever in the area of broadband deployment," said Robert Yadon, director of the Digital Policy Institute. Yadon said outside capital investment, federally funded projects made possible through 2009's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and state tax incentives have fueled the growth. "This is unprecedented commitment and speaks to the powerful, technology-rich future Indiana is building," he said.

Despite the strong gains, work remains. The institute's report shows that, not surprisingly, there are still areas of the state that have severely restricted access.


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AT&T ushers in the cross-country call, 100 years ago | James Martin | CNET.com

AT&T ushers in the cross-country call, 100 years ago | James Martin | CNET.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

"Ahoy! Ahoy! Mr. Watson, are you there? Do you hear me?" So spoke Alexander Graham Bell to associate Thomas Watson, over a line stretching more than 3,400 miles, marking the first transcontinental telephone call.

"Yes, Mr. Bell, I hear you perfectly," Watson replied. "Do you hear me well?"

It was 100 years ago -- on January 25, 1915 -- that those words were the first to be spoken from coast to coast, a technological milestone that spurred a century of telecommunications innovation.

"The first transcontinental phone call was not only a breakthrough for AT&T, it was a key milestone in our nations's rich history of innovation," said Ken McNeely, president of AT&T California.

The four original phones used to make the call rarely come out of the AT&T archives for a public viewing. This past week, however, they were unveiled, and they will be on display at the California Historical Society in San Francisco as part of its "City Rising: San Francisco and the 1915 World Fair" exhibition at 678 Mission Street, which officially opens on February 22.

The completion of the transcontinental line in advance of the 1915 World's Fair was a significant engineering accomplishment. The stretch from Denver to San Francisco, in particular, was difficult to traverse and posed unique engineering challenges as the lines crossed the Rocky Mountains and vast undeveloped stretches of Nevada and Utah.


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CGMC outlines legislative agenda for Greater Minnesota Cities | Jeffrey Jackson | SouthernMinn.com

CGMC outlines legislative agenda for Greater Minnesota Cities | Jeffrey Jackson | SouthernMinn.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) officials say the Legislature needs to break down obstacles so rural areas can better share in the state’s economic growth.

“If lawmakers are truly committed to achieving long-term growth and stability in Greater Minnesota, they must make significant progress on removing some of the barriers to key economic growth,” Bradley Peterson, senior lobbyist for the CGMC, sad during a telephone news conference on Tuesday.

Key policies the CGMC wants to see fulfilled in the 2015 legislative session were outlined during the news conference.

The CGMC expects unprecedented attention toward rural Minnesota this session, with focus on Local Government Aid funding, broadband infrastructure, job training, workforce housing and transportation.

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert and former GOP Rep. Don Dorman joined Peterson to cite issues important to economic stability in Greater Minnesota.

The overlap of these innovative projects, Peterson said, would enable employers to train new workers in specialized jobs, provide housing for a growing workforce, and create broadband infrastructure to create a lasting workforce in Minnesota’s rural areas. Some issues, he said, are a higher priority.

“We’ve traveled around Greater Minnesota and the most frequent question we received was whether there would be more broadband funding,” Peterson said.

“Our communities and businesses need high-quality broadband to be competitive in today’s economy,” Seifert added. “It is essential for business growth that everyone in Greater Minnesota has the same access to fast, reliable broadband that has long been available in the metro area.”

Seifert said the broadband infrastructure fund created by the Legislature last year will help to bring high-speed Internet to areas of rural Minnesota, but that many areas still face significant connectivity problems.

“Following the announcement of the recipients of the broadband fund, there were people left on the cutting board,” said Seifert. “We really want to urge the Legislature of that unmet need in rural Minnesota.”

The 2014 session approved $20 million for broadband. This year $200 million is being discussed.


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The staggering challenges of the online grocery business | Sarah Halzack | WashPost.com

The staggering challenges of the online grocery business | Sarah Halzack | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The online grocery delivery business seems to get more crowded--and more competitive--by the minute. Tech giants Google and Amazon.com are offering it in some major cities, and so are upstarts such as Instacart, Postmates and FreshDirect. These newcomers are battling with more established businesses such as Peapod, which has been delivering groceries for more than 20 years, and services from companies such as Wal-Mart that allow customers to place orders online and pick them up at a nearby store.

It's a business that everyone seems to want in on, even though new data show it's awfully hard to do profitably.

In some ways, the enthusiasm makes makes sense: According to a report from IBIS World, a market research firm, online grocery sales grew at an annual rate of 14.1 percent over the last five years and they are expected to grow at a rate of 9.6 percent between 2014 and 2018.

But look more closely at the report, and you see the major challenges these companies will face as they try to make these fledgling businesses viable. IBIS World estimates that the online grocery business collectively brought in $10.9 billion in sales in 2014. Profit, it estimates, was just $927.1 million, or 8.5 percent of total revenue. By 2018, the researchers project that profit margins will slip to 6.9 percent of sales. In part, that's because these operators will continue to contend with the high distribution costs associated with getting perishable items to customers.


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