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Court: FCC Program Carriage Rules Don't Violate First Amendment | Multichannel.com

Court: FCC Program Carriage Rules Don't Violate First Amendment | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The U.S. Court of Appeals has rejected cable operators' First Amendment challenge to the FCC's program carriage regime, but did find that the commission's imposition of a standstill on prices, terms and conditions of a contract for which a complainant was seeking renewal was out of bounds.


The National Cable & Telecommunications Association had argued that the standstill needed more public vetting before the FCC adopted it.


Cable operators had also argued that the rules are content-based and needed to be subject to strict First Amendment scrutiny they had not gotten. The FCC had countered that the rules do not disfavor speech based on content, but instead regulates speech based on "affiliation with a cable operator," which, the commission points out, are the same grounds on which the D.C. circuit upheld leased access. The court agreed with the FCC on that score.


In a decision handed down Wednesday, the court said that the FCC's program carriage rules do not run afoul of the First Amendment because they are "content and speaker neutral" and thus warrant intermediate rather than strict scrutiny.


Under that test, the court said, the rules pass muster because they are "case-specific standards for identifying affiliation-based discrimination (a) serve important government interests in promoting competition and diversity in an industry still posing serious competitive risks, and (b) are narrowly tailored not to burden substantially more speech than necessary to further those interests.


The court did suggest that the FCC might want to take a fresh look at the carriage rules given the increased competition in the marketplace.


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WI: The Kauffman Foundation's incomplete, misleading message | Gegory Dorf & Daniel Isenberg Opinion | Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Throughout Wisconsin, there have been a lot of resources and energy devoted to business growth and job creation.

So it's understandable that the recent Kauffman Foundation Startup Index, reported by the Journal Sentinel and others, triggered broad concern. How is it even possible that Wisconsin is 50th out of the 50 states for numbers of business start-ups?

Perhaps our initial dismay was just our Midwestern tendency to accept bad news about ourselves to be true. Our deeper dive into the data shows that not only does the Kauffman index send an incomplete, misleading message, but it misses the dynamic environment for small but growing, middle-market and larger corporations that should make us proud and inspire more companies to grow and to choose Wisconsin.

The facts show that Wisconsin is a place where entrepreneurs not only thrive, but are in fact the drivers of job creation and economic strength.


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MN Senator Klobuchar says Feds need to make concrete plan for broadband | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband

According to the Brainerd Dispatch, on a recent trip to Northern Minnesota Senator Klobuchar spoke about broadband, the need for action and its potential role in the presidential election…

The newly-arrived presidential election season makes it a more likely time for progress on broadband, Klobuchar said, because the issue is popular in debates and campaigns. However, there is a need for concrete action along with all the campaign talk, she said.

“We need to actually put … the money where your mouth is,” she said.

Brainerd-area attendees gave anecdotes about how the lack of broadband impacts the well-being of people who need it to get information related to health care, education and business.

Richard Schulman of Leech Lake Telecommunications Company described a drought of proper Internet access on the reservation. The two-year-old company is the first tribally owned telecom firm in Minnesota, he said.


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WA: State budget deal includes tax increase for Microsoft | Jim Brunner | The Seattle Times

They haven’t advertised it, but the budget deal agreed to by state lawmakers this week quietly targeted Microsoft for a $57 million tax increase over the next two years.

And the Redmond software giant — which has drawn criticism over its corporate tax tab — is apparently willing to go along with it, raising no public objections.

The Microsoft-specific tax boost was written into the budget pact in the waning days of the Legislature’s special session as Republican and Democratic negotiators agreed to close a few tax breaks and increase delinquent tax penalties to raise $185 million in new revenue.

The tax change was referred to only obscurely in the budget-deal summary that lawmakers released, which referred to repeal of a “software machinery & equipment sales tax exemption.”

But bill language underlying that change made it clear the tax break would end just for a particular “ineligible person” — defined in Senate Bill 6138 as a software company with more than 40,000 employees in Washington that has been around since at least 1981.

Only Microsoft fits that description, state officials confirm. Other companies can continue to claim the sales-tax break enacted in 1995, which exempts manufacturers and software makers from paying sales tax on equipment they buy to help make their products.

The Legislature has frequently granted tax breaks for big employers in the state — most notably the 2013 extension of $8.7 billion in tax preferences for Boeing to secure manufacture of the 777X jet in Washington.

But targeting a single company for a tax increase? “Yes, it is unusual,” said Drew Shirk, assistant director of the state Department of Revenue. “I can’t think of (another) one.”


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Frontier Runs America's Worst Website: Dead Last in 2015 Web Experience Ratings | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Frontier Runs America's Worst Website: Dead Last in 2015 Web Experience Ratings | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Frontier Communications scored dead last in a nationwide survey of websites run by 262 companies — ranked for their usability, helpfulness, and competence.

The “2015 Web Experience Ratings,” conducted by the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm, looked at how customers feel about companies based on experiences visiting their websites. The firm wanted to know whether customers would forgive a company if its website proved less than satisfactory. The answer appears to be no, and phone and cable companies were the most likely to experience the wrath of dissatisfied customers.

“It’s ironic that many of the cable companies that provide Internet service earned such poor ratings,” Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group, said.

Most household name cable companies did especially poor in the survey. Time Warner Cable, Comcast and CenturyLink all tied at 252nd place (out of 262 firms). But special hatred was reserved for the website run by Frontier Communications, repeatedly called “incompetent” by consumers, especially after the phone company disabled most of the website’s self-service functions in late April. A well-placed source inside Frontier told Stop the Cap! the company could not manage to get its website ordering functions working properly and simply decided to give up, forcing customers to call instead.

Only 29% of consumers were willing to forgive a telecommunications company for a lousy web experience, according to the findings. Other website disasters were run by: Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Spirit Airlines, Blue Shield of CA, and Haier.


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The tragedy of Puerto Rico, America's very own Greece | Felix Salmon | Fusion.net

The tragedy of Puerto Rico, America's very own Greece | Felix Salmon | Fusion.net | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The eyes of the world are trained on Greece, this week, as it teeters on the brink of disaster. Which perhaps helps to explain Alejandro García Padilla’s timing: the Puerto Rico governor chose Monday to announce that the island territory is insolvent, and cannot (will not) pay back its $72 billion in debt. Not on time and in full, in any case.

Like Greece, Puerto Rico’s economic problems aren’t new, and they aren’t likely to be resolved anytime soon. The Puerto Rico government recently asked a team of former IMF economists to write a report on the country, which makes for extremely depressing reading. The big economic picture is downright scary (see charts above).


And then comes a litany of lowlights:


  • In 1996, the US government repealed Section 936 of the Internal Revenue code, which gave tax breaks to mainland companies operating on the island, with predictable results: the Puerto Rican economy started shrinking in 2005, right as the 10-year phase-out period for the tax breaks ended.
  • Home prices have fallen by 38% from their 2010 peak. That’s very bad news in a territory where almost everybody has weak credit, and so borrowing against real estate is just about the only way to raise fresh capital.
  • The island’s banking sector is in crisis, and shrinking even faster than the economy as a whole, which means that it can’t boost lending to fuel a recovery.
  • Just 40% of Puerto Rico’s adult population is either employed or looking for work.


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Here’s How Charter Will Commit to an Open Internet | Marvin Ammori | WIRED.com

Here’s How Charter Will Commit to an Open Internet | Marvin Ammori | WIRED.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The nation’s network neutrality drama isn’t over: the FCC’s landmark rules are in court again—after courts threw out two previous FCC net neutrality orders. But there is a little-known front in the fight that has long been central to advancing network neutrality: the commitments that broadband companies make when they merger.

For the last decade, while the court kept throwing out industry-wide rules, network neutrality advocates (like me) were able to extract merger conditions to preserve an open Internet and further entrench the concept. In 2005, AT&T and Verizon each made two-year network neutrality merger commitments; in 2006, AT&T and BellSouth made a 30-month open Internet commitment; in 2011, Comcast and NBC made a 7-year commitment. As someone who has spent 10 years fighting for network neutrality, I have seen these commitments pave the way for the new, even-stronger industry-wide rule now on appeal.

Today, we have another merger, which means, thanks to our successes, another network neutrality condition on offer. Charter, a relatively small cable company, is buying the second-largest provider, Time Warner Cable, and an affiliated company called Bright House Networks. Charter’s merger sales pitch is pretty straight-forward: it argues that it has always been too small to bully Internet companies, TV makers, and its own customers, so it has“un-cable” practices they hope to extend. The slowest speed the company usually offers is 60 Mbits, which is great for online TV, and Charter has no data caps, usage-based charges, or modem-rental fees. Charter also posts a laudable no-cost interconnection policy for Internet backbone companies, and Charter has never been accused of any network-neutrality violations.

Still, we must “trust, but verify.” We need to ensure that Charter will not lose its way after taking over Time Warner and becoming four times larger. That’s where merger commitments come in. In its legal application filed today with the FCC, Charter makes its case that the merger will benefit the public, and offers several legally enforceable commitments. The FCC will review the application, along with the initial commitments made, likely for the next six months, with input from the public.

Charter hired me—which, to be honest, took some humility on its part since I have helped lead public campaigns against cable companies like Charter—to advise it in crafting its commitment to network neutrality. After our negotiation, I can say Charter is offering the strongest network neutrality commitments ever offered—in any merger or, to my knowledge, in any nation. In fact, in the end, I personally wrote the commitments. For the first time, I’d like to lay out what those commitments are and why I think they is so strong.


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What Happens When Your Phone Network Fails? | Meredith Filak Rose | Public Knowledge

What Happens When Your Phone Network Fails?  | Meredith Filak Rose | Public Knowledge | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Fun fact: unlike traditional copper lines, most new “land line” phone technologies don’t run on their own power. When the power goes out, so does the phone line—and your ability to call for help.

It’s even more dangerous for those in rural areas. A severed copper line can isolate a remote community from the outside world. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the small customer base and the high cost of repairs means that phone companies don’t have an incentive to replace—or even service—damaged copper in these areas. Instead, companies have pushed to offload these communities onto cheap, less reliable technologies such as wireless “landline” services and VoIP. The result is a one-two punch against marginalized communities who need access the most.

This public safety catch-22—you can’t call for help at exactly the moment you’re most likely to need it, especially if you’re in a community that needs it the most—is one of the many reasons Public Knowledge, along with 28 other public interest groups, is calling for the FCC to include backup power requirements for consumer premises equipment (CPE) in their ongoing tech transition rulemaking.

The phone companies, unfortunately, don’t see any problem at all with the way they do business. The Independent Telephone and Telecommunications Alliance (ITTA) recently argued that there’s “virtually no consumer demand for” backup power solutions—and that when it is offered, “in nearly all cases, customers decline the option.”

However, what’s more likely is that:

  • this phone technology is relatively new, so
  • consumers don’t fully realize that their new phone network will stop working when the power goes out, and thus
  • underestimate the risk of losing service in an emergency.


If you need proof of how spectacularly these new systems can fail, look no further than Fire Island, New York. When Verizon decided not to repair the copper phone lines that had been damaged by Hurricane Sandy, and instead deployed its wireless VoiceLink service, residents were absolutely furious at the system’s shortcomings—including its susceptibility to bad weather.

Emergency responders were among the first critics of the VoiceLink service.


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Enabling competition from Google Fiber means FCC must reconsider pole attachment pricing | Sean Buckley | Fierce Telecom

Enabling competition from Google Fiber means FCC must reconsider pole attachment pricing | Sean Buckley | Fierce Telecom | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Google Fiber's plans to bring its 1 Gbps service into Salt Lake City and Nashville by using existing utility poles in each city not only sheds light on its ongoing buildout strategy, but also shows how important access to utility poles at reasonable rates is key to expanding broadband services.

In Salt Lake City, Google will deploy 600 miles of fiber, which will be attached to more than 20,000 utility poles which will then be attached to a point of presence on the ring.

The Nashville fiber deployment will have a similar configuration as Salt Lake City, with some differences. It plans to deploy 3,200 miles of fiber, install 18 fiber huts, and attach fiber to at least 100,000 utility poles.

While the service provider did not reveal the terms of the agreements, the Internet giant has cited gaining rights of way to utility poles as a key issue in what cities it will target with its 1 Gbps service.

Google Fiber has had various run-ins with local utilities and telcos over pole access. In December 2013, AT&T said that it does not have to provide access to Google Fiber in Austin. The telco's decision was later overturned when Austin's City Council, which owns the remaining 80 percent, drafted an ordinance to make AT&T open up the poles.

Earlier, Google Fiber had to resolve a dispute with the Kansas City Board of Public Utilities, the owner of the city's utility poles, over where exactly it would place its fiber cables.

During the Spring COMPTEL event, Google's VP of access Milo Medin said that local utilities and incumbent telcos and cable operators should not be allowed to delay the "make ready" process when a competitor wants to build out fiber in a new region on existing poles.

Regardless of what deals Google Fiber was able to make, pole attachment and the associated fees continues to be a big issue for cable and competitive telcos alike.


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How States Are Fighting To Keep Towns From Offering Their Own Broadband | Leticia Miranda | Techdirt

How States Are Fighting To Keep Towns From Offering Their Own Broadband |  Leticia Miranda | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Earlier this year, the Federal Communications Commission voted to ease the way for cities to become Internet service providers. So-called municipal broadband is already a reality in a few towns, often providing Internet access and faster service to rural communities that cable companies don't serve.

The cable and telecommunications industry have long lobbied against city-run broadband, arguing that taxpayer money should not fund potential competitors to private companies.

The telecom companies have what may seem like an unlikely ally: states. Roughly 20 states have restrictions against municipal broadband.

And the attorneys general in North Carolina and Tennessee have recently filed lawsuits in an attempt to overrule the FCC and block towns in these states from expanding publicly funded Internet service.

North Carolina's attorney general argued in a suit filed in May that the "FCC unlawfully inserted itself between the State and the State's political subdivisions." Tennessee's attorney general filed a similar suit in March.

Tennessee has hired one of the country's largest telecom lobbying and law firms, Wiley Rein, to represent the state in its suit. The firm, founded by a former FCC chairman, has represented AT&T, Verizon and Qwest, among others.

James Tierney, director of the National State Attorneys General Program at Columbia Law School, said it is not unusual for attorneys general to seek outside counsel for specialized cases that they view as a priority.

Asked about the suit, the Tennessee attorney general's office told ProPublica, "This is a question of the state's sovereign ability to define the role of its local governmental units." North Carolina Attorney General's office said in a statement that the "legal defense of state laws by the Attorney General's office is a statutory requirement."

As the New York Times detailed last year, state attorneys general have become a major target of corporate lobbyists and contributors including AT&T, Comcast and T-Mobile.


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Approval of AT&T-DirecTV Merger Expected Next Week | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Approval of AT&T-DirecTV Merger Expected Next Week | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

AT&T Inc’s proposed $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV is expected to get U.S. regulatory approval as soon as next week, according to people familiar with the matter, a decision that will combine the country’s No. 2 wireless carrier with the largest satellite-TV provider.

The Department of Justice, which assesses whether deals violate antitrust law, has completed its review of the merger and is waiting on the Federal Communications Commission to wrap up its own, according to three people familiar with the matter.

The FCC, which reviews if deals are in public interest, is poised to approve the deal with conditions as early as next week, according to three other people familiar with the matter.

All the sources asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak with the media. An AT&T spokeswoman and FCC spokesman declined comment. Justice Department representatives were not immediately available for comment.

AT&T’s merger with DirecTV, announced in May 2014, would create the country’s largest pay-TV company, giving DirecTV a broadband product and AT&T new avenues of growth beyond the maturing and increasingly competitive wireless service.

The deal has been expected to pass regulatory muster in contrast with the rival mega-merger between cable and Internet providers Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which was rejected in April largely over the combined companies’ reach into the broadband market.

The FCC and AT&T have been in negotiations over conditions for the merger for several weeks, the people said, adding that none of the conditions are controversial enough to break the deal.


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We’ve finally hit the breaking point for the original Internet | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

We’ve finally hit the breaking point for the original Internet | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

It's finally happened. The North American organization responsible for handing out new IP addresses says its banks have run dry.

That's right: ARIN, the American Registry for Internet Numbers, has had to turn down a request for the unique numbers that we assign to each and every smartphone, tablet and PC so they can talk to the Internet. For the first time, ARIN didn't have enough IP addresses left in its stock to satisfy an entire order — and now, it's activated the end-times protocol that will see the few remaining addresses out into the night.

IP addresses are crucial to the operation of the Internet. They're the numbers behind URLs like "google.com" or "facebook.com." They identify every device that connects to the Web, from servers to connected cars. The original designers of the Internet thought they'd only need around 4 billion unique combinations, derived from the series of dots and digits that make up IP addresses everywhere.

How wrong they were.

By 2020, humanity will be living alongside 25 billion Internet-connected devices, according to Gartner researchers. The rising global demand for Web-enabled devices is far outstripping the original system's ability to keep up. Left, uh, unaddressed, this problem would have put a stranglehold on the Web, keeping it from growing. It would've kept you from using new devices like smartwatches or smart refrigerators. Entirely new technologies we haven't dreamt of might never have emerged. We'd have been stuck with the Internet that we now have, forever.

If you haven't already guessed, we have a backup system in place so that Xboxes and Playstations of the future can continue to get online. Internet engineers have actually been anticipating this day for decades. To understand how they've solved it, let's let one of the original designers of the Internet explain:


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NY: Critics blast PSC on telecom analysis | Casey Seiler | TimesUnion.com

NY: Critics blast PSC on telecom analysis | Casey Seiler | TimesUnion.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is one of the signatories to a letter sent Thursday to the state Public Service Commission (PSC) criticizing its action so far on a comprehensive analysis of New York's telecommunications system — a study that's months past its original deadline.

Miner is one of many who have complained that, a decade after the state deregulated the telecom industry, the state's system is overpriced and under-responsive to the needs of upstate residents, rural and urban alike.

The letter, dated Thursday, comes in response to this week's release of a 97-page PSC staff report that will serve as the factual foundation for the final product, and its scheduling of a series of hearings around the state.

The letter notes the Capital Region and Hudson Valley aren't on the list, something its authors called "inadequate and discriminatory."

"We note that only one-third of the hearings take place in the region of the state having at least two-thirds of the state's population," the letter said of the schedule, which includes stops in Smithtown, New York City, Utica, Binghamton, Lake Placid and Buffalo.

The letter also complains the PSC has yet to release "a series of broad questions" that would also guide its work. While those questions weren't included in the staff report, they were offered in a separate filing from PSC that was recently included in the record of documents related to the telecom study.

The letter was signed by Miner as well as Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause, and Robert Master of the Connect New York Coalition.


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CO: Working together for broadband | Ken Brenner Letter to the Editor | AspenTimes.com

I have just attended this year’s Mountain Connect conference in Vail, CO where the theme was developing rural broadband infrastructure through public/private partnerships. The conference was excellent and well attended by more than 350 people, including local technology planning teams, county officials and industry representatives from every corner of the state. They came together to hear from industry experts on the latest trends in technology and local technology planning teams on their successes and lessons learned.


Governor Hickenlooper’s staff announced at the conference that building broadband infrastructure throughout the state is their No. 1 economic development priority. Last fall, the governor announced that the Department of Local Affairs was making $20 million available to local governments for planning and building open access rural broadband infrastructure.


The good news is Department of Local Affairs has already committed or spent $19 million and is working with almost every part of rural Colorado, including Northwest Colorado, to put these funds to work. There also are substantial sources of funds available from the federal government to build broadband infrastructure for three of our most important entities: schools and libraries, hospitals and first responders.

Here in northwest Colorado, your counties, regional council of governments and local technology planning teams are busy planning and building the broadband infrastructure needed for our future economy. Pitkin County has just received $150,000 from Department of Local Affairs for network engineering and connectivity within the Roaring Fork Valley. In Steamboat Springs, our local technology planning teams (Northwest Colorado Broadband Inc.) has used a public/private partnerships to built a carrier neutral location, purchased middle mile capacity for a group of community anchor institutions and seen their cost of broadband service drop by up to 90 percent.


Our next step, in both cases, is to prepare a comprehensive broadband plans to identify the options for providing abundant, reliable and affordable service for all of our residents. Similar efforts are under way throughout the 12,000 square miles of Colorado Mountain College’s district.

There is still a lot of work left to do and we will need your help to be successful. Please watch for more details as we move forward.

Ken Brenner

Colorado Mountain College, trustee and representative to

Northwest Colorado Broadband Inc.

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Mexico: Ifetel hits Telmex with LLU order; telco has 60 days to prepare terms | TeleGeography.com

Mexican telecoms regulator Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (Ifetel) announced yesterday (30 June) that Telmex, the country’s Agente Economico Preponderante (AEP), must open up the so-called ‘last mile’ of its fixed line networks to its rivals for the first time. The telco, which is owned by Carlos Slim’s America Movil (AM) group, now has 60 days within which to prepare terms for its competitors.

In announcing the move, Ifetel noted: ‘Effective unbundling of the local network will allow other concessionaires to provide telecommunications services through the infrastructure of the AEP. The conditions for this process help ensure effective access to the local network of the leading company in the telecommunications sector, in order to remove barriers to competition and market entry.’

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, a local loop unbundling (LLU) decision has been on the cards since Ifetel took over from the Comision Federal de Telecomunicaciones (Cofetel) in September 2013, with legislation passed in April 2013 compelling the incoming regulator to enact the changes.

TeleGeography notes that Telmex accounted for 63.5% of all PSTN lines in service as at 31 December 2014, while Mexico is one of the few Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries not to currently offer LLU.

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MA: Cape Cod has state-of-the-art connectivity | Andrea Goode | OpenCape.org

OpenCape and CapeNet are marking the second year of successful operations. Together, they have created a state-of-the-art 475-mile fiber optic network, an integrated microwave system and a modern data center built and operated to advance the economic, social and public safety interests of the communities of southeastern Massachusetts, including Cape Cod, the south coast and South Shore.

OpenCape Corp., a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, owns the system and exclusively operates the data center. CapeNet, OpenCape’s operating partner, sells a variety of Internet and Voice-Over-Internet services and maintains the network. This unique partnership model was designed so that the nonprofit owner of the system could focus on advancing the interests of the community while the economic viability of the network is sustained by an expert commercial operator that delivers much-needed services.

As a result of our partnership, a competitive broadband marketplace now exists for entities that require high-speed Internet access and data transfers. Wireless carriers have begun to receive fiber optic cables to the towers that service ever-increasing numbers of mobile users, needing ever-increasing speeds. Public safety officials on the Outer Cape have fiber optic and microwave pathways to ensure essential communications remain available in harsh conditions.

Right now, broadband services are being provided over the OpenCape network to more than 100 institutions, including libraries, government buildings, schools, colleges, hospitals, public safety agencies and research institutions. The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority and Massasoit Community College chose the OpenCape network for their critical data transport and Internet services.

CapeNet has assisted Falmouth in leveraging this technology to create a comprehensive municipal network of 19 buildings with super-fast connectivity among town buildings and aggregated Internet and voice service. Barnstable County is delivering services to towns in an efficient and effective model using a regional Wide Area Network created specifically to advance economies of scale and lower Internet access costs. Falmouth, Nauset and Barnstable public schools, and six more high schools, now have access to reliable, high-speed bandwidth enabling the use of mobile devices and modern online teaching and research tools.

A great deal has been accomplished, but a great deal remains to be done.


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NY: Officials avoid issue with Buffalo Billion — transparency | David Cay Johnston Opinion | Democrat & Chronicle

NY: Officials avoid issue with Buffalo Billion — transparency | David Cay Johnston Opinion | Democrat & Chronicle | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

When government hides records about how it spends our tax dollars, alarm bells should go off. When it comes to the Buffalo Billion, taxpayers should ask why the dministration mocks those who seek disclosure.

The Cuomo administration funnels the Billion through a charity, the Fort Schuyler Management Corp., which asserts it does not have to comply with the state open records law. The executive director of the State Committee on Open Government says "it is cut and dried" that records must be produced under the state Freedom of Information Law, calling the charity "in essence, a governmental agency."

Jim Heaney exposed these concealment efforts in a June 21 article in the Democrat and Chronicle and other newspapers. Heaney was a longtime Buffalo News investigative reporter until he founded the nonprofit Investigative Post in 2012. The D&C followed up with a nuanced editorial that asked reasonable questions.

A guest essay in this newspaper last Sunday tried to divert attention from these serious issues by making the ludicrous claim that the D&C editorial "seemed to confuse conspiracy theories with facts."

The essayist was Sam Hoyt, a regional vice president of the Empire State Development Corp., which directs tax dollars to corporations. Hoyt wrote that "I wondered if there was any value in refuting each item point by point," but decided against that. Smart move because it allowed Hoyt to avoid the only issue — transparency in government spending.

As president of the Investigative Post board, I have watched Heaney's careful reporting on the Buffalo Billion. He is one of the best, a judgment I am in a position to make as the past president of the 5,700-member Investigative Reporters & Editors Inc.

Contrast this concealment with a bizarre demand by Fort Schuyler that the Investigative Post, under the Freedom of Information Law, turn over our financial records and donor names. We are not a state agency, get no government funds and are not subject to that law. However, the Investigative Postdiscloses all of its donors and publishes its financial statements and tax filings.

The only conspiracy theories are those conjured by Hoyt. No one is opposing economic development. What we seek is accountability. I hope readers call, email and write the governor to demand that he disclose the records of how our tax dollars are being used.

David Cay Johnston is president of the Investigative Post board.


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Vivint Becomes First Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) to Offer Fiber-Fast Speeds Through the Air | KSL.com

Vivint Becomes First Wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) to Offer Fiber-Fast Speeds Through the Air | KSL.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Vivint, a leading provider of smart home technology, today announced Vivint Internet, a pioneering broadband service that offers residential customers high-speed Internet access through the air. The service is a fast and affordable alternative to the high-speed services offered by competing Internet service providers. Vivint Internet offers symmetrical 100 Mbps download and upload speeds for suburban customers — faster than any other wireless Internet service provider in the U.S.


Vivint designed its antenna to be easy to install, reliable and weatherproof in all conditions.

To ensure that customers have maximum speeds, even during peak evening periods, Vivint uses a unique "hub home" deployment model. Vivint beams high-speed data from local fiber optic access points to a hub home located centrally in a neighborhood. The hub home then relays Vivint Internet to nearby customer homes. This approach maintains the speed and integrity of the signal, ensuring that networks are not overburdened, even during the busiest hours.

Vivint Internet speeds are more than nine times faster than the average connection speed in the U.S. (11.1 Mbps) reported in Akamaiâ"™s Q4 2014 State of the Internet Report.


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Chicago Extends 9% Entertainment/Use Tax to Almost Everything You Do Online | Phil Dampier Stop the Cap!

Chicago Extends 9% Entertainment/Use Tax to Almost Everything You Do Online | Phil Dampier Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Starting Sept. 1, Chicago residents will be paying 9% more for everything from Netflix to income tax filing as city officials impose a recently reinterpreted entertainment/use tax on almost every online subscription content provider, even those peddling adult entertainment.

The Chicago Tribune reports the city’s Finance Department has vastly broadened the reach of Chicago’s amusement and personal property lease transaction taxes to apply the 9% tax to virtually any content that a customer borrows, leases, or subscribes to that is not purchased outright. Buying a CD on Amazon.com would not be subject to the tax but a Spotify subscription allowing you to listen to that same CD as long as your subscription is maintained will be taxed. Buying a digital copy of a movie will not be taxed, but watching it through a subscription service like Apple TV, Amazon, or Netflix will be.

Although some are dubbing it the “Netflix Tax,” it will also apply to cloud storage, paid television programming — including satellite, cable, telephone, and online-delivered content, financial and investment services, and almost anything else accessed online with a paid subscription. Even paying to host a website (or having someone manage it for you) will be subject to the tax.

The expanded tax is part of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s strategy to deal with Chicago’s huge budget shortfall with fees, fines, and broadening taxes. The city predicts the expanded tax will capture up to $12 million a year from Chicago residents and businesses.

“In an environment in which technologies and emerging industries evolve quickly, the City periodically issues rulings that clarify the application of existing laws to these technologies and industries,” mayoral spokeswoman Elizabeth Langsdorf said in a statement issued Wednesday. “These two rulings are consistent with the City’s current tax laws and are not an expansion of the laws. These ensure that city taxation is uniformly and fairly applied and that businesses are given clear guidance on the applicability of the City’s tax laws to their operations, and they clarify that the amusement tax and personal property lease tax apply to digital services.”


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Are We Expecting too Much from WiFi? | Doug Dawson | POTs and PANs

Are We Expecting too Much from WiFi? | Doug Dawson | POTs and PANs | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

I don’t think that a week goes by when I don’t see somebody proposing a new use for WiFi. This leads me to ask if we are starting to ask too much from WiFi, at least in urban areas.

Like all spectrum, WiFi is subject to interference. Most licensed spectrum has strict rules against interference and there are generally very specific rules about how to handle contention if somebody is interfering with a licensed spectrum-holder. But WiFi is the wild west of spectrum and it’s assumed there is going to be interference between users. There is no recourse to such interference – it’s fully expected that every user has an equal right to the spectrum and everybody has to live with the consequences.

I look at all of the different uses for WiFi and it’s not too hard to foresee problems developing in real world deployments. Consider some of the following:


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Why the government is about to approve the AT&T and DirecTV mega-deal – and the one thing that remains a big concern | Cecilia Kang | WashPost.com

Why the government is about to approve the AT&T and DirecTV mega-deal – and the one thing that remains a big concern | Cecilia Kang | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A decision on AT&T's merger with DirecTV is expected any day now, and suddenly federal officials are being swarmed with visits and calls by the companies who are arguing over details of the conditions attached to any approval.

That's actually a good sign for the merger's chances. To understand why, it's useful to compare how regulators are approaching this deal to Comcast's failed attempt to buy Time Warner Cable, which was rejected in April.

Throughout the Justice Department and FCC's review of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, government officials were convinced that the deal would harm competition so the companies didn't even get a chance to talk about conditions in depth. Federal officials eventually made it clear that nothing could make them change their minds, according to regulators.

But public filings show that top AT&T and DirecTV executives have met with antitrust officials and commissioners at the Federal Communications Commission to answer a slew of last-minute, detailed questions in recent weeks -- a major sign that regulators are likely to approve the $45 billion merger that would create a mobile video powerhouse.


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Will Maine Create a $500 Municipal Broadband Fund? | Colin Wood | GovTech.com

Will Maine Create a $500 Municipal Broadband Fund? | Colin Wood | GovTech.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

he state of Maine is firmly committed to municipal broadband — it just doesn't want to pay for it.

If Maine Gov. Paul LePage signs LD1185, the state will create a new fund that would endeavor to provide residents with a wider array of high-speed broadband providers in the coming years. The fund would offer grants to research how municipalities might build open-access gigabit broadband networks, expanding competition in a rural state dominated by Time Warner Cable and Fairpoint Communications.

When the bill was introduced, the fund was $12 million, then reduced to $6 million; now the fund is a $500 placeholder that Congress will revisit next year.

Originally municipalities would have been eligible to apply for up to $200,000 in funding to research the development of an open-access gigabit network. The old version of the bill required that a minimum of 50 such grants be made available, at least half of which would be granted to low-income areas. If signed, the new fund will exist in spirit, but with no funds to distribute.

The organization that would distribute the funds should they become available would be the ConnectME Broadband Authority, the state’s broadband advocacy and engagement arm. Lisa Leahy, associate executive director of ConnectME, said the bill is an excellent idea that has had a lot of support from all directions.

“It establishes that there can be a fund and now the work will continue in regard to ‘OK, how do we fund it?’” Leahy explained. “At this time, I think there’s been such a concern around budget that any bill that has a fiscal note attached to it is being looked at very closely.”

When or how the fund would contain more than $500 is unknown, but it’s something the state Legislature will look at next year, Leahy said.

Chris Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance said that what the state is doing is smart, though the lack of funding is disappointing.


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The rise of niche video streaming: Even Lifetime movies have their own service now | Andrea Peterson | WashPost.com

The rise of niche video streaming: Even Lifetime movies have their own service now | Andrea Peterson | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Lifetime movies are a genre unto themselves: The television channel even aired a deadpan take on its particular brand of melodrama starring Will Ferrell and Kristin Wiig -- "A Deadly Adoption" -- earlier this summer.

And now, Lifetime movies will have a streaming service unto themselves.

The channel rolled out an iOS app that will give subscribers access to a selection of roughly 30 Lifetime movies for $3.99 a month, according to Variety, just in time for binge-watching over the Independence Day weekend.

When most people think of streaming services, they think of the big three: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. But there's also an expanding world of niche standalone streaming services -- some tied to specific channels, genres, or even shows.

HBO Now, the premium cable brand's subscription streaming service that launched this spring, is probably the best known of the channel-specific options. But CBS also offers a streaming service: For $5.99 a month, people can watch current and previous seasons of its shows online -- plus live television in some markets, with the exception of some sports content.


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Leaked TPP Chapter Shows How It's A Massive Gift To Big Pharma And Against Public Health | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

Leaked TPP Chapter Shows How It's A Massive Gift To Big Pharma And Against Public Health | Mike Masnick | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Over the last few years, we've seen leaks here and there of the various chapters of the TPP agreement, but generally ones that are quite out of date. The latest public leak of the "intellectual property" chapter that I'm aware of was done last October by Wikileaks and was the version from the previous May (2014). Now, Politico claims that someone has leaked the May 2015 version, though Politico has not published the document (which, frankly, is pretty lame for a journalism property). But, based on Politico's report, the agreement still looks to be what everyone's been saying it would be: a huge gift to giant corporate special interests, such as Big Pharma:

The draft text includes provisions that could make it extremely tough for generics to challenge brand-name pharmaceuticals abroad. Those provisions could also help block copycats from selling cheaper versions of the expensive cutting-edge drugs known as “biologics” inside the U.S., restricting treatment for American patients while jacking up Medicare and Medicaid costs for American taxpayers. “There’s very little distance between what Pharma wants and what the U.S. is demanding,” said Rohat Malpini, director of policy for Doctors Without Borders.

In response, the USTR falls back on its standard lame reply, about how draft texts are not "final." But this is why it's actually important to post these draft texts publicly, because what the draft Politico saw appears to show is that, whether or not it gets it, the USTR is fighting for policies that would harm poor, sick people, and massively benefit giant pharmaceutical conglomerates.


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Windstream's Kinetic TV Barely Competes With Time Warner Cable in Nebraska | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

Windstream's Kinetic TV Barely Competes With Time Warner Cable in Nebraska | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

If Windstream was hoping to make a splash with its new Kinetic IPTV service, Time Warner Cable certainly isn’t reaching for a towel.

Kinetic debuted in April in Lincoln, Neb., the first community to get Windstream’s fiber to the neighborhood TV service. Three months after being introduced, it’s available in about half of the city. But it is not proving much of a threat to incumbent Time Warner Cable because Windstream set rates roughly the same or higher than what the cable company charges.

In fact, a Stop the Cap! reader contemplating a trial run of Kinetic was quickly dissuaded when he learned Windstream charged $10 more than what he already paid Time Warner Cable.

“Windstream either does not understand Time Warner’s pricing or is artificially trying to limit demand for the moment,” our reader tells us. “I have to believe it is one or the other because the alternative is they don’t know what they are doing and are creating an experiment built to fail. When I told Time Warner I was toying with the idea of trying Kinetic, they cut my bill another $30 a month and Kinetic is now dead to me.”


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22 Towns in Massachusetts Are Building Their Own Gigabit Fiber Network | Jason Koebler | Motherboard

22 Towns in Massachusetts Are Building Their Own Gigabit Fiber Network | Jason Koebler | Motherboard | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Large swaths of rural Western Massachusetts are about to get gigabit fiber internet after residents in 22 separate towns decided to join a government cooperative designed to bring high speed broadband to places where traditional cable companies refuse to offer service.

The towns have secured $34.5 million in government bonds to undertake the project, which is expected to cost a total of $79 million. The Massachusetts state government is expected to pick up 40 percent of the overall cost as part of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (the $34.5 million is not included in that total), according to the coop, called WiredWest.

WiredWest hopes to eventually wire a total of 32 towns in the state. Of those, 22 have formally joined, meaning that 40 percent of the households in a given town agree to buy the fiber service and have made a $49 deposit to secure their spot. Town councils must also pass a measure agreeing to contribute their share of the overall costs.

"This is a major commitment for a town. In time WiredWest’s revenues from the network may cover all or part of the principal and interest on that debt," WiredWest wrote on its site, explaining why wiring the towns may be a controversial issue. "But the town will be on the hook, and some townspeople may oppose borrowing the money. If you want high-speed internet service, you need to be at town meeting to vote yes."

In the end, enough towns have decided to join to make it a reality. So far, 6,700 people have placed deposits for service, which represents a third of the area's overall number of households.

The collective is notable because it's one of several throughout the country attempting to bring high speed internet to places that are primarily served by dial-up or slow DSL lines. The Federal Communications Commission has said that such arrangements are critical to eventually wiring the country, because companies such as Comcast and Verizon have made it clear that it's not worth their investment to connect rural areas.

WiredWest says it will offer 25 Mbps speeds for $49 per month, 100 Mbps for $79 per month, and 1 gb/s speeds for $109 per month. DSL or satellite internet, which is common in the area, usually tops out at just a couple Mbps, at best.


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