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F.B.I. Wiretaps and the Web | NewYorker.com

F.B.I. Wiretaps and the Web | NewYorker.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

 

The federal power to wiretap, a central issue during the Bush years, has made a comeback. The White House seems ready to endorse an expansion of wiretapping laws to give the federal government greater power to demand access to Web communications like Facebook chats. Meanwhile, the Associated Press just revealed that the Justice Department seized, without a warrant, two months’ worth of its reporters’ telephone records.

 

Critics are, unsurprisingly, up in arms about both matters. House Republicans, recently born again as staunch civil-rights defenders, are depicting the Obama Administration as, in the words of Zeke Miller and Michael Crowley, “a Big Brother–style tyrant in charge of a power-abusing surveillance state.” Techies, for their part, simply hate the idea of Web-tapping. Julian Sanchez, for Wired, writes, “The Obama administration needs to dump this ill-conceived scheme on the trash heap where it belongs.” But the issue, once you get into it, is actually rather complicated.

 

Wiretapping the Web provokes a visceral reaction for more than one reason. First and foremost, like any electronic surveillance, it’s a massive invasion of privacy by the world’s most powerful government. As Justice Louis Brandeis wrote, in 1928, “As a means of espionage, writs of assistance and general warrants are but puny instruments of tyranny and oppression when compared with wiretapping.” A wiretapping law can incidentally create a terrible innovation policy. “Build your system this way” has rarely yielded good results, and never when Congress is involved. Finally, some technologists believe that a Web-tapping law will create new Internet security risks, because it would force firms to build backdoors into their systems, which malicious hackers could then exploit.

 

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MN: Meeker County Broadband 2014 Update: nearly ubiquitous coverage | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband

MN: Meeker County Broadband 2014 Update: nearly ubiquitous coverage | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it


I’m working on a County-by-County look at the State of Broadband in MN. My hope is to feature a county a day (in alphabetical order). In November, Connect Minnesota released their final report on broadband availability. Here is how Meeker County stacked up:


  • Household Density: 14.2
  • Number of Households: 9,176
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 98.31%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 98.31%


Meeker County is well served. Mediacom made upgrades to service in some of the smaller towns in Meeker County in 2013. Some of the county is served my N-U Telecom and other portions of served by CenturyLink. PCs for People make a few stops in the area years ago to promote broadband adoption with free computers to low income families. Otherwise I haven’t tracked much happening in the area.


My hope is that these county-specific posts will help policy makers and county residents understand where they stand in terms of broadband access. Assuming it might get forwarded to folks who don’t eat and sleep broadband I wanted to provide a little background on broadband to help set the stage…


How does Minnesota define broadband?


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VT: ECFiber Seeks New Business Model Designation | community broadband networks

VT: ECFiber Seeks New Business Model Designation | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

ECFiber hopes to transform its business model in order to attract investors, reported Valley News in February. The organization is now an "inter-local contract," an entity somewhat unique to Vermont, but seeks to change to a "telecommunications union district." Similar to a municipal utility district, the telecommunications union district is created by two or more municipalities. The new business model would not change ECFiber's governance or require financial support from local towns but officials believe it would attract more outside investors.


Last year, ECFiber announced it would expand in 2015, seeking large scale funding to help speed up deployment. Since 2008, the organization has raised over $6 million for deployment from individual investors and now serves more than 1,000 subscribers. Unfortunately, this method financing slows expansion. The results are bad for ECFiber and bad for local consumers:


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At Capitol, GOP vows to serve rural concerns under fire from outstate | Patrick Condon | Minneapolis Star Tribune

State House Republicans started the legislative session setting high hopes for an agenda aimed at what ails rural Minnesota: the lack of housing options and job training for small-town workers, the scarcity of high-speed Internet connections in remote areas and state aid payments that are a lifeblood to many tiny communities but failing to keep pace with inflation.


Now, as lawmakers speed toward conclusion of the session, the centerpiece of the GOP agenda is a $2 billion tax cut plan that has left few resources for those rural-geared initiatives. Outstate advocates are criticizing House Republican plans, and even some GOP legislators are fretting about the message to voters in what has become the party’s most important base of support.


House GOP leaders are “trying to satisfy the wants and requests of everyone,” said Rep. Debra Kiel, R-Crookston, an assistant House majority leader. “There’s a lot of give and take at this point. It might look like there’s not. My emphasis is rural, but I realize we need to look at all the citizens of Minnesota.”


Last November, 11 Republicans unseated House Democrats — 10 of which represented far-flung rural districts. With the GOP increasingly reliant on rural votes, and a projected state budget surplus that had swelled to $1.9 billion, outstate interest groups saw a prime opportunity.


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The FCC just dealt the Comcast merger a big blow | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

The FCC just dealt the Comcast merger a big blow | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Another day, another apparent blow for the Comcast merger.


Staffers at the Federal Communications Commission have recommended that the $45 billion deal be reviewed by a judge — a further sign that the firm is facing stiff skepticism over its proposal to merge with the nation's second-largest cable company, Time Warner Cable, according to the Wall Street Journal.


Such recommendations have played a role in killing major deals in the past, such as a controversial merger between AT&T and T-Mobile just four years ago. If the FCC decides to kick the Comcast merger over to an administrative law judge, Comcast would have a chance to argue for it. But some policy analysts say a hearing could effectively bring about the merger's demise.


Being referred to a judge sets up a fight with skeptical regulators and can dim the prospect of regulatory approval, the analysts said. That procedural move by the FCC helped convince AT&T and T-Mobile to call off their $39 billion merger in 2011, after the Justice Department sued to block the deal. The same tactic derailed another deal in 2002 involving DirecTV and EchoStar.


Comcast met Wednesday with the FCC, which is studying the deal to determine if it would serve the public interest to approve it. Comcast also met with antitrust officials at the Justice Department.


Officials at both agencies are particularly concerned that the merger with Time Warner Cable could give Comcast the ability to harm independent online video providers, according to people familiar with the matter. Because Comcast would wind up controlling more than 30 million high-speed Internet subscribers as a result of the deal, regulators fear Comcast could become a gatekeeper — hindering access to rival streaming services or forcing them to accept Comcast's preferred terms.


Comcast has argued that the deal would not harm other programming, in part because its content arm, NBCUniversal, is already subject to restrictions that were agreed upon in 2011 when Comcast bought NBCU.


Comcast declined to comment on its meetings with the FCC and Justice Department, saying it was inappropriate to share the content of those meetings publicly. Comcast will be submitting a regulatory filing disclosing its FCC meeting on Friday.


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ID: Ammon Brings Local Connectivity to Idaho Schools as State Education Network Goes Dark | community broadband network

ID: Ammon Brings Local Connectivity to Idaho Schools as State Education Network Goes Dark | community broadband network | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The City of Ammon's municipal fiber network recently stepped in to provide primary broadband access for School District 93 as the state's educational network went dark reports Local News 8. Watch the video of local coverage below.


When a judge ruled last year that the Idaho Education Network (IEN) contract between the state Department of Administration was void, an education broadband crisis loomed across the state. As the drama played out, however, local networks such as Ammon's muni, have come to the rescue to keep students connected.


Ammon Mayor Dana Kirkham described an attitude characteristic of municipal networks:


"I think it's just something we do in the spirit of collaboration, and I think that's always important because when we talk about the school district and the city it's all the same people, and so anytime we can keep costs down it benefits everyone involved," Kirkham said.


CenturyLink and Education Networks of America (ENA) were providers under the contract voided last year. As CenturyLink and ENA cut off service to schools, forcing them to negotiate their own contracts, they have discovered better, more affordable broadband from local providers like Ammon.  A recent Idaho State Journal reported on several school districts:


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Facebook’s focus on the future of communication continues to grow | Hayley Tsukayama | WashPost.com

Facebook’s focus on the future of communication continues to grow | Hayley Tsukayama | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Facebook doesn't just want to be your social hub, it also wants to be a bigger part of how you communicate in general.  Now Facebook's gone a little further with the introduction of a new app, Hello.


The new program, introduced Wednesday, was designed by the company's Messenger team but is essentially a calling, caller ID and search app for your phone. Available only on Android phones, the app pulls Facebook data to identify callers -- it can do this even if they aren't in your address book, thanks to Facebook's bank of phone numbers  -- and will also let you search for businesses that have put their phone numbers on the social network.


The Hello announcement came shortly before the company released mixed results for its first-quarter earnings. Facebook reported lighter-than-predicted revenue of $3.54 billion for the quarter versus analyst expectations of $3.56 billion.


The firm beat analyst predictions for earnings of $.41 per share, by one cent. And the company's focus on mobile has also continued to pay off, with 73 percent of its advertising revenue coming from smartphones and tablets. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg called it a "good quarter and a good start to the year" in the company's earnings call with analysts.


But most of his remarks focused on Facebook's future plans for expansion, including in the world of messaging.


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Comcast Merger With Time Warner Is Scrapped | Donald Kaufman | Techdirt.com

Comcast Merger With Time Warner Is Scrapped | Donald Kaufman | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Last year, Comcast announced its plan to buy Time Warner Cable for $45 billion dollars and merge the two cable providers into one. On Friday, however, the companies said the takeover was off. The deal’s collapse—a huge blow to Comcast, which had spent some $237 million on efforts to get it approved—comes shortly after outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder told regulators at the Department of Justice that they had his approval to challenge the merger.


Regulators had expressed fears that the deal would harm competition and consumers alike.


The New York Times reports:


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The FCC chairman is a former cable lobbyist. And he just helped kill the Comcast merger. | Brian Fang | WashPost.com

The FCC chairman is a former cable lobbyist. And he just helped kill the Comcast merger. | Brian Fang | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Nobody can claim that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is an industry puppet anymore.

Comcast's spectacular failure to close its $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable undercuts the age-old Washington wisdom that money and political connections — of which Comcast has a great deal — are the keys to power.


But it also upends a longstanding narrative about the tendency of private sector officials like Wheeler to favor their former colleagues when they enter public service.


The collapse of the Comcast merger is a landmark moment for Wheeler, a former chief lobbyist for a leading cable industry association. Seventeen months into his tenure, Wheeler's FCC has emerged as one of the most aggressive regulators the industry has ever seen.


"It is a tribute to Tom Wheeler for demonstrating willingness to take on the politically powerful cable industry," said Andrew Schwartzman, a law scholar at Georgetown University. "There has been, and there [will] be, a lot of political heat for doing this."


Many consumer advocates were on edge when Wheeler, who declined to be interviewed for this article, took office. They believed he would begin pushing policies that would benefit the industry he once represented. Instead, Wheeler took a series of surprising actions that have now culminated in the collapse of the biggest cable merger regulators have ever faced.


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After Comcast’s failed bid, Charter wants to give Time Warner Cable another try | Celilia Kang & Brian Fang | WashPost.com

After Comcast’s failed bid, Charter wants to give Time Warner Cable another try | Celilia Kang & Brian Fang | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Time Warner Cable, blocked from merging with Comcast this week by federal officials, may have a new suitor: Charter Communications

Charter, the nation’s fourth largest cable company, has begun exploring a bid for Time Warner Cable, an industry official familiar with the matter said Friday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no public announcement has yet been made. Charter declined to comment.


Charter had pursued a takeover of Time Warner Cable in 2013. It first offered to buy the company for nearly $130 a share. Officials at Time Warner Cable, the nation’s second largest cable company, rebuffed the figure, leading Charter to increase its bid to $132 a share.


Comcast then swooped in with a bid of nearly $159 per share, leading to a merger announcement in February 2014. Fourteen months later, however, the deal fell apart as regulars moved to block the deal. Federal officials had concluded that the combined company would hold too much sway over the entertainment and television industries.


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Comcast Hints At the Price of Its New 2Gbps ‘Not for Your Average Joe’ Fiber Internet: Around $400 a Month | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Comcast Hints At the Price of Its New 2Gbps ‘Not for Your Average Joe’ Fiber Internet: Around $400 a Month | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

As Florida wakes up to news that Comcast will deliver its 2Gbps broadband service in the cities of Jacksonville, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, the rest of the country is learning the estimated price of the service, targeted to the “techno-elite.”


Cindy Arco, spokeswoman for Comcast in Jacksonville told the Florida Times Union final pricing hasn’t been established yet for 2 Gigabit Pro for Florida, but it likely will be in the range of the highest residential broadband tier, which amounts to $400 a month for 505Mbps.


“It’s the type of thing for early adopters — those people who want to have the latest, newest tech gadget and the latest everything related to tech,” Arco said.


In Florida, the residential customers will need to live within a third of the mile of the fiber optic service lines offered by Comcast.

Arco downplayed the relevance of the arrival of 2Gbps service from Comcast.


“It’s exciting, but it’s not for your average Joe,” Arco said.

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FCC Staff Recommends Sending Comcast/TWC Merger to Seventh Level of ‘Deal-Killing’ Hearing Hell | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

FCC Staff Recommends Sending Comcast/TWC Merger to Seventh Level of ‘Deal-Killing’ Hearing Hell | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The staff at the Federal Communications Commission decided Wednesday to make a non-decision decision regarding the merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, and are recommending turning over the matter, including millions of pages of company documents and 14 months of investigative findings to an administrative law judge to sort out.


The procedural move, dubbed by many regulatory experts as a “deal-killer,” is known officially as a “hearing designation order.” But executives at Comcast know it really means the FCC is sending a strong signal it does not believe the merger is in the public interest.


The sudden recommendation by the FCC is seen by some observers as a coordinated move with the U.S. Department of Justice to let Comcast CEO Brian Roberts know the deal is in serious peril. In 2011, the Justice Department declared its opposition to another blockbuster merger between AT&T and T-Mobile, and the FCC announced its own opposition just a few hours later. The merger was declared dead shortly thereafter.


Placing the matter in the hands of an administrative law judge would mean a drawn-out, complicated hearing that would probably last longer than the 1995 trial of O.J. Simpson. Few companies bother. Even if Comcast decides it will fight, if the Justice Department successfully challenges the merger in court, the hearing designation order is moot and the merger fails.


Most observers expect Comcast will call off the merger before dragging the matter out in a court or hearing room.


The Wall Street Journal broke the story last night, calling it a “significant roadblock.”


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Bloomberg: Analyzing The Decision by Comcast to Drop Time Warner Cable Bid | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Bloomberg News reports the decision has already been made, with an official announcement as early as tomorrow that Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable is over and dead.


Bloomberg reporters analyze the reasons the deal collapsed and what has changed in America’s regulatory climate.


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MI: Could Google be moving out of downtown Ann Arbor? | Nathan Bomey | Detroit Free Press

MI: Could Google be moving out of downtown Ann Arbor? | Nathan Bomey |  Detroit Free Press | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Internet giant Google has signed a lease for new office space south of downtown Ann Arbor as the company considers the future of its presence in the city's central business district.


Google signed a deal for 30,000 square feet of the South State Commons II building northeast of the corner of South State Street and Eisenhower Parkway in the Briarwood Mall area, said Jeff Harshe of MAVDevelopment Company.


"I think it's an indication of the vibrant business climate in this area," said Harshe, who declined to discuss terms of the new lease. "My experience with them is they continue to grow, and they're good corporate citizens."


But a person familiar with Google's local presence but not authorized to speak publicly said the company has not yet decided whether to stay in downtown Ann Arbor. The person said the company needed the new office as overflow space to accommodate job growth.


It's still possible Google could renew or adjust its current lease. Google officials were not available to comment.


The company currently leases about 85,000 square feet of the McKinley Towne Centre office complex at the corner of Liberty and Division in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor. The office primarily handles sales for Google's AdWords search advertisements, its primary source of revenue, and had about 300 employees as of two years ago.


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Media accounts lament lack of "broadband competition" in U.S. but overlook the solution: open access fiber infrastructure | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom

Media accounts lament lack of "broadband competition" in U.S. but overlook the solution: open access fiber infrastructure | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

This is how Internet speed and price in the U.S. compares to the rest of the world: So why are Americans paying more for slower service? The answer: There’s limited competition in the broadband market.

In fact, half of American homes have only two options for Internet service providers for basic broadband, according to the Federal Communications Commission. And for faster speeds, a majority of households have only one choice.


Everyone favors competition for Internet services. But what most media stories miss including this one is the only way to get it is through open access fiber to the premise telecommunications infrastructure that offers wholesale access to Internet service providers and other vendors selling services to consumers such as is the case in some of the comparative nations. In the U.S., competition is limited because vertically integrated providers like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon own the infrastructure over which they offer services like data, video and voice.

The story goes on report that "a handful of cities have chosen to create their own municipal broadband services to compete with private broadband providers: Chattanooga, Tennessee, Bristol, Virginia, Lafayette, Louisiana, Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Wilson, North Carolina."

This is inaccurate. These municipalities have not endeavored to compete with the legacy incumbent telephone and cable companies. Rather, they acted to address private market failure on the sell side. Their citizens and businesses want fiber to the premise Internet connections the incumbent providers are unable to offer them.


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Community Broadband Media Roundup - April 25 | community broadband networks

Community Broadband Media Roundup - April 25 | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The big news this week was about the fall of the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger. We like to think it was because of our incredibly brilliant, insightful (also: "witty", "pithy", "charming"...) letter to Comcast.


Once Comcast’s Deal Shifted to a Focus on Broadband, Its Ambitions Were Sunk By JONATHAN MAHLER, New York Times


At the end of the day, the government’s commitment to maintaining a free and open Internet did not square with the prospect of a single company controlling as much as 40 percent of the public’s access to it… it didn’t really matter if Comcast and Time Warner’s cable markets overlapped. The real issue was broadband.


Blocking Comcast Is a Start. But if We Want Better Broadband, We Need Much More by Peter Kafka, Re/Code


'Fast, fair and open:' FCC Chairman lays out his big picture for broadband, WRAL TechWire


In case you missed it, here is a transcript of Chairman Wheeler’s remarks to Broadband Communities in Austin.


“Our idea of rock stars would be the leaders of Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina.”


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Bush-Era Docs Show Official Misled Congress About NSA Spying | Jordan Robertson | Bloomberg.com

Bush-Era Docs Show Official Misled Congress About NSA Spying | Jordan Robertson | Bloomberg.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales misled Congress by downplaying a dispute between George W. Bush’s White House and the Justice Department over the legality of the National Security Agency’s warrantless spying program, according to previously classified documents.


The documents released Saturday from the inspectors general of the Defense Department, Justice Department, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Office of the Director of National Intelligence concerned their investigations of the surveillance programs initiated by then-President Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


They show that intelligence and law-enforcement agencies had mixed views toward Bush’s emergency order authorizing the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone and Internet data. For example, agencies other than the NSA had difficulty accessing information on terrorism suspects because of secrecy surrounding the program, lack of training and the large volume and confusing structure of the data.


The report, which was dated July 10, 2009, concerned programs that ran under Bush’s emergency authorizations from 2001 to 2007. Some programs have continued under different legal statutes.


The stepped-up surveillance has been documented by press accounts and the leak of classified materials in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.


The Snowden revelations touched off a debate around the world about the scope of the U.S.’s intelligence gathering and whether the surveillance undermined crucial civil-liberties protections, especially Fourth Amendment defenses against unreasonable searches and seizures. Surveillance records of U.S. citizens are included in the data sweeps.


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Cablevision actually wants you to cut the cord | Cecilia Kang | WashPost.com

Cablevision actually wants you to cut the cord | Cecilia Kang | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Here's the clearest sign yet of the decline of cable television: Cablevision is offering a new broadband Internet package aimed at getting users to cut the cable cord.


On Thursday the cable and broadband Internet provider announced monthly broadband Internet packages between $35 and $45 that come with a digital antenna for free local broadcasting and access to WiFi hotspots in its service area of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and parts of Pennsylvania. With the new broadband offering, users can add HBO Now for $15 a month and additional streaming subscription services. By picking and choosing streaming services, the company said, consumers will be able to replace the cable television bundle of hundreds of channels.


Cablevision's announcement comes amid a dramatic shakeup of the traditional cable television industry, with Verizon FiOs also departing from the big cable bundle with new, slimmer packages at lower cost. The cable firms have seen users steadily drop cable subscriptions, and the pressure is on to adapt to new competition online as cable programming from the likes of ESPN, HBO and  Viacom offer their own streaming services.


“As a connectivity company, Cablevision is reimagining its relationship with its customers,” Kristin Dolan, chief operating officer of Cablevision, said in a release. “Our new ‘cord cutter’ packages take a modern approach to traditional triple-product bundles and provide real alternatives that fit new consumer lifestyles."


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Detroit's '2.0 Mode' Can Open Doors for Minority Entreprenurs, Advocates Say | Alan Stamm | Deadline Detroit

Detroit's '2.0 Mode' Can Open Doors for Minority Entreprenurs, Advocates Say | Alan Stamm | Deadline Detroit | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Carla Harris, a senior executive at Morgan Stanley headquarters in midtown Manhattan, sees "an interesting opportunity" for Detroit to become to be a model city for minority business start-ups.


Harris, who moderated a Techweek panel at the Detroit Athletic Club last week, is among influential backers of an effort to make Detroit the American city that attracts and nurtures minority tech entrepreneurs, Sarah Schmid reports at the Xconomy national news site.


Morgan Stanley sponsored a three-day PowerMoves@Detroit event with boot camps and public pitches by minority business developers from Michigan and beyond.


Schmid, Detroit editor for the site reporting on business, life sciences and technology news, quotes Harris, vice chair of global wealth management and senior client adviser:


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The rise of Amazon Web Services | Amrita Jayakumar | WashPost.com

The rise of Amazon Web Services | Amrita Jayakumar | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Nearly a decade after it started as an internal project for a group of engineers, Amazon.com’s cloud services unit has turned into the online retailer’s fastest-growing business.


The company gave a rare glimpse into the growth of Amazon Web Services on Thursday, saying that during the first quarter, it had reached $1.57 billion in revenue, up nearly 50 percent from the same period last year. It had operating income of $265 million, up from $245 million last year. It was the first time Amazon has released such details about what many investors consider the most lucrative part of the retailing giant.


“Amazon Web Services is a $5 billion business and still growing fast — in fact it’s accelerating,” Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s founder, said in a statement. (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)


Seattle-based Amazon Web Services is widely known for providing computing power to start-ups and companies such as Netflix and Airbnb, and media organizations, including The Washington Post.


At its D.C. office, which opened last fall, the mood is more like a start-up than a multibillion-dollar business. A single elevator leads to the top floor, where you’re greeted by a mural of dogs. (A photo of the late Rufus, Amazon’s office dog, also adorns the wall.)


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And it’s official: Comcast has announced the Time Warner Cable deal is no more | Brian Fang | WashPost.com

And it’s official: Comcast has announced the Time Warner Cable deal is no more | Brian Fang | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Comcast has officially called off its $45 billion proposed merger with Time Warner Cable.


"Today, we move on," said Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts in a statement. "I couldn't be more proud of this company and I am truly excited for what's next."


The mega-deal would've joined the two biggest cable companies in America, creating a massive player that regulators feared could exert undue leverage over not just others in the cable business, but over other industries in the media and entertainment space.


The Federal Communications Commission effectively killed the deal this week when staffers at the agency recommended that the merger be designated for a "hearing" — a procedural move that would have led to years of fruitless legal wrangling, analysts said.


"Once you have even the implication of [a hearing], you have no choice but to walk away," said Richard Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG.


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Comcast chief’s last-minute pleas to a former ally fell on deaf ears | Cecilia Kang & Brian Fung | WashPost.com

Comcast chief’s last-minute pleas to a former ally fell on deaf ears | Cecilia Kang & Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

On Monday, the chief executive of Comcast made a Hail Mary call to Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Brian Roberts told the regulator that his intention to buy Time Warner Cable was for the good for the entire country because it would bring faster Internet speeds to millions. His cable and media company would of course become a behemoth, but Roberts promised to behave and to not use his company’s power to unfairly thwart competitors.


The two men knew each other well. Wheeler, 69, was the former head of the cable industry’s leading lobbying organization. Roberts, 55, had spent his entire career at Comcast, where he once climbed telephone poles and sold cable subscriptions door-to-door. Both had been major fundraisers for President Obama’s campaigns.


But whatever history the two men had was now irrelevant as they talked. Roberts’ plea had come too late.


By the time of the phone call, Wheeler and his staff at the FCC had already decided to block the $45 billion megadeal, one of the largest ever to come before Washington regulators, people familiar with the matter said. On Wednesday, Comcast executives were summoned to a meeting in a nondescript conference room at the agency to hear the verdict: No amount of concessions would save the deal. Comcast and Time Warner would simply be too big and threatening to an array of competitors, particularly online video providers.


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BREAKING Bloomberg News: The Comcast-Time Warner Cable Merger is Dead | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Comcast Corp. is planning to walk away from its proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc., people with knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News, after regulators decided that the deal wouldn’t help consumers, making approval unlikely.


A formal announcement on the deal’s fate may come as soon as Friday, said one of the people, who asked not to be named discussing private information.


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States can't do it alone -- federal funding needed to modernize U.S. telecom infrastructure | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom

States can't do it alone -- federal funding needed to modernize U.S. telecom infrastructure | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Coalition seeks overhaul of Maine broadband plan - The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram: A coalition of Maine businesses, towns and nonprofit groups on Tuesday threw its support behind a bill to overhaul the state’s broadband policy for the first time in nearly a decade, a component of which suggests financing the expansion of high-speed Internet service through a new tax on cellphones.

The proposal, introduced by state Rep. Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, would require an updated strategic plan to expand broadband access in Maine and stronger efforts to support community broadband planning efforts.

Members of the Maine Broadband Coalition – a collection of more than three dozen towns and cities, businesses and nonprofit organizations – said expanding access to high-speed Internet service is expensive, but necessary for economic development.

“This is not a million-dollar problem. It is far larger,” said Fletcher Kittredge, chief executive officer of Great Works Internet and a member of the coalition.


Kittredge nails it. State telecommunications infrastructure financing programs provide funding in the modest millions for infrastructure that costs billions to deploy. The United States needs to revamp its telecommunications for the Internet age just as it financed electrical distribution facilities and highways in the 20th century.

Given the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has deemed Internet telecommunications a common carrier utility -- one that plays a vital role in supporting interstate commerce  -- the federal government clearly has a stake. It should appropriate comprehensive funding to get the job done and not leave it solely to the states that lack the economic resources to do it themselves. Federal funding for telecom infrastructure modernization would produce a multiplier effect that will return much of it to the U.S. Treasury through increased economic activity.

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Telco Trade Group USTelecom 'Supports' FCC Neutrality Rules, Just Not The FCC Actually Being Able To Enforce Them | Karl Bode | Techdirt

Telco Trade Group USTelecom 'Supports' FCC Neutrality Rules, Just Not The FCC Actually Being Able To Enforce Them | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Despite the endless, breathless proclamations about "outdated, utility-style regulation" or the death of innovation, there's really only one reason ISPs don't want to be reclassified as common carriers by the FCC: the billions to be made by abusing the uncompetitive broadband last mile. The very threat of a regulator actually doing its job and establishing what are relatively thin consumer protections (just ask ISPs like Frontier, Cablevision, Sprint or Sonic.net) is really only a problem if you plan to make money off the backs of a captive audience that can't vote with its wallet.

Not too surprisingly, "we want the absolute right to aggressively abuse an uncompetitive U.S. broadband market" isn't a very sexy or compelling sales pitch. As such, ISPs have worked very hard to paint Title II as a bogeyman of mammoth proportions; an implementation of outdated regulations that will utterly demolish an amazing, hyper-competitive broadband landscape that doesn't actually exist. We've debunked these claims time and time again, but expecting to find a middle ground with lobbyists paid to be intractable is a bit like playing whac-a-mole with an army of invincible undead.

Enter USTelecom, an AT&T-dominated trade group that filed one of five lawsuits last week against the FCC's net neutrality rules. Trying to justify the group's lawsuit to the media, USTelecom boss Walter McCormick this week proclaimed that the group really was ok with the FCC's rules -- it just wasn't ok with the agency having the ability to enforce them:


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What Washington Didn’t Like About the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

What Washington Didn’t Like About the Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal: Comcast is planning to walk away from its proposed takeover of Time Warner Cable, people with knowledge of the matter said, after regulators decided that the deal wouldn’t help consumers, making approval unlikely.


Bloomberg’s Peter Cook, Scarlet Fu, Alex Sherman and Cory Johnson have more on “Street Smart.”


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