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Senators ask FCC to reform rural broadband investment rules | Becker's Online Journal | HyperCrit.net

A group of 26 U.S. Senators, including both from Montana, have signed on to a letter to the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission asking him to reform the way that Universal Service Fund support is distributed.


The USF provides support to telecommunications companies to build broadband and other networks in hard-to-reach areas, such as rural America. This helps keep consumer rates affordable in areas where the network service would otherwise be very expensive.


However, reforms in 2011 to the way the USF distributes the money have made the amount of support telecoms can expect unpredictable. This, the senators say, has discouraged telecoms from taking out the necessary loans to make long-term capital investments on broadband networks for the rural parts of the country.


“We remain concerned the reform order is limiting the ability of small carriers to provide rural consumers with the broadband service they need to compete in today’s global economy,” the senators wrote in their letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.


The economics behind it all are over my head, but Cassandra Heyne of the Monitor, a communication industry blog, summarized the problem in a 2012 post.


The 2011 reforms changed the system so that the USF relies on a method called quantile regression analysis to determine which companies are eligible to receive USF support.


This established 11 caps that companies could trigger, which would limit their USF support. However, critics say the FCC is using the QR analysis incorrectly, relying on bad data, making assumptions about the quality of the data it is using, and keeping companies in the dark about which other companies they’re being compared with.


Also it seems some of these caps can be applied retroactively, meaning that investments a company has begun to take out loans for could have their USF support yanked later on if they hit any of the 11 caps when the math gets done.


In other words, if a company invests too much in an areas, and other companies have already spent in that area too, then a cap could be triggered – “and there is a high probability that today’s reasonable investments will suddenly become excessive,” Heyne wrote.


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Worcester, MA to Providence, RI 'The JetBlue of commuter rail commuting' is envisioned | George Barnes | Worcester Telegram

Worcester, MA to Providence, RI 'The JetBlue of commuter rail commuting' is envisioned | George Barnes | Worcester Telegram | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Already practically sister cities, Worcester, MA and Providence, RI may soon have a new connection — this time over the rails.

Boston Surface Railroad Co. has been formed for the specific purpose of creating a commuter rail service between the two New England cities. Vincent Bono, the largest stockholder and general manager of the new company, said plans are in the first stages of developing what he hopes will eventually be three trains per day traveling between the two cities.

"We are here today to celebrate getting funded for an engineering study to see what improvements are needed on the line for a 70-minute trip time," Mr. Bono said, as he waited at Union Station with friends and business associates to take a symbolic trip to Providence on a Providence and Worcester Railroad train.

"Our goal is to be the JetBlue of (rail) commuting," he added.

Mr. Bono, who comes to the railroad business from the technology industry, said studies show the need for the commuter service and he wants his Arlington company to provide a comfortable trip between the two cities. The first step is to conduct a study, which is expected to take six months. If the project proves feasible, an agreement would have to be forged with Providence and Worcester Railroad Co. to use its tracks, and possibly to operate the trains. If all goes well, the service could begin within 18 months.

The trains would be owned by Boston Surface Railroad Co., which would offer commuter service between the two cities. It projects only one other stop, in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, 15 miles outside Providence.

The service, which would be on a level with Amtrak's regular business class, would address what is already a significant flow of commuters now using roadways to get between the cities on the route. There are an estimated 32,800 daily commuters between Worcester and Providence and 10,000 between Woonsocket and Providence.

Mr. Bono said the line would be a good match with Worcester's population, the second largest in the state, and the fast-growing business community in Providence.


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Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker voices support for net neutrality principles | Nancy Scola | WashPost.com

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker voices support for net neutrality principles | Nancy Scola | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Before a room full of start-up entrepreneurs in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning, Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker was asked about her department's role in the ongoing debate over net neutrality, or the idea that all online content should be treated the same by Internet service providers.

The question matters because some of the 111-year-old Commerce Department's natural constituents -- big, entrenched telecommunications companies like AT&T and Comcast — have had a strong negative reaction to President Obama's call, issued a week ago, for the Federal Communications Commission to adopt the "strongest possible rules" to prevent Internet service providers from accepting money to make some Web sites and online services, like Netflix, run faster.

In response, Secretary Pritzker focused on her support for the ambitions of that proposal rather than on the controversial mechanics of Obama's approach.

"I think that what was really important were the principles that the president put out," said the secretary. "As you know, the president has supported net neutrality since he was a candidate in 2008. And really what we're focused on, and what has been our role, we have had a seat at the table in terms of making sure that these principles were well-articulated, which is really no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization, and increased transparency throughout the connectivity that goes into the effectiveness of the Internet."

Questions were submitted on index cards by both the media and the general audience; Pritzker took three, but wasn't presented by the event's moderator with one (from this reporter) about Obama's call for the FCC to apply the far-reaching authority included in Title II of the Communications Act to ensure net neutrality and its impact on the innovation economy.


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NH: Faster Internet is here; or is it? | Editorial | Keene Sentinel Source

NH: Faster Internet is here; or is it? | Editorial | Keene Sentinel Source | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

For years, The Sentinel has been advocating for expanded access to broadband Internet service in this region. In February 2013 we noted the importance of such access to local students and teachers. We’ve also mentioned, quite often, how important businesspeople consider bandwidth in deciding where to locate and whether they can expand.

Being a somewhat rural part of a generally rural state means not being at the top of the list when telecommunications firms decide to throw money into infrastructure.

So we were understandably surprised to find the U.S. Census Bureau considers New Hampshire to rank No. 1 among states in high-speed Internet access.

That’s right. According to the bureau’s “Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2013” report, issued last week, 85.7 percent of Granite Staters live in a household that has high-speed Internet available.

But wait, you say. Wasn’t it just weeks ago that The Sentinel was citing the state’s low ranking in terms of attracting and keeping young adults, based on a study that used, in part, the criterion of broadband access? Well played, careful reader!

But here’s the rub, at least potentially. The Census study defines high-speed Internet as “an Internet service other than dial-up alone.” That’s a pretty broad band, indeed. In fact, it includes digital subscriber lines, or DSL, which can run at speeds as low as 256 kilobits/second.


Meanwhile, the Federal Communications Commission pegs 4 megabits/second as the threshold for “adequate” Internet service, and for many young adults — much less business needs — that’s still tortoise-slow.

Whatever the speed, it’s still a surprise to find New Hampshire at the head of the class in high-speed access. At least until you think about how Census statistics work — they’re based on population.


Two things to remember: The state ranks first in the percentage of residents who have access to high-speed Internet at home; also, of the state’s 1.3 million or so residents, more than 1 million live in Grafton, Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham and Stafford counties — the most urban parts of the state and in some cases essentially suburbs of Boston, one of the most Internet-accessible metropolitan areas in the country.

Now the study makes sense.

But it poses a potential problem. Sometimes federal grants, or even legislation, are based on such findings. In the case of this ranking, the access question ought not to be parsed by state, but by population density.


Cable companies, cell-tower builders and other firms investing in the necessary infrastructure for better broadband access base their decisions largely on the return on their investment.


Fewer people means less chance of recouping the major outlay to run fiber-optic or other expensive lines through a region. So they focus on the most-populous regions, at the expense of rural areas.


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Fixing The Broadband Market And Protecting Net Neutrality By Prying Open Incumbent Networks To Meaningful Competition | Karl Bode | Techdirt

Fixing The Broadband Market And Protecting Net Neutrality By Prying Open Incumbent Networks To Meaningful Competition | Karl Bode | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

While Title II is the best net neutrality option available in the face of a lumbering broadband duopoly, it still doesn't fix the fact that the vast majority of customers only have the choice of one or two broadband options.


It's this lack of competition that not only results in net neutrality violations (as customers can't vote down stupid ISP behavior with their wallet), but the higher prices and abysmal customer service so many of us have come to know and love.


Stripping away protectionist state laws can help a little, as can the slow rise of services like Google Fiber. But even these efforts can only go so far in blowing up a broadband duopoly, pampered through regulatory capture and built up over a generation of campaign contributions.

One solution is the return to the country's barely-tried implementation of unbundling and network open access, or requiring that the nation's subsidy-slathered monopolists open their networks to allow other competitors to come in and compete. There are many variations of this concept, and it's something Google Fiber promised in its markets before backing away from it (much like their vocal support of net neutrality).


Obviously being forced to compete is an immensely unpopular concept for the nation's incumbent ISPs. Given that those companies dictate and often literally write the nation's telecom laws, these requirements were eliminated in a number of policies moves starting in 2001 and culminating in the FCC's Triennial Review Remand Order of 2004 (pdf).

This was amazingly presented at the time as a way to improve competition and spur investment, but primarily resulted in a bloodbath as dozens of consumer-friendly, smaller independent ISPs and CLECs were killed off, perpetuating and further cementing the noncompetitive duopoly we have today.

One of the few small ISPs to manage to run that gauntlet and survive it was California's Sonic.Net, which has since proceeded to not only build a sizable regional network of its own in California, but to manage to treat consumers well while doing it (Sonic has been praised by the EFF repeatedly for consumer-friendly data disclosure policies). In a blog post last week, Sonic.net CEO Dane Jasper notes that neutrality issues are just a symptom of the lack of competition, and to fix these we're going to need to start thinking differently:


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Aterlo Networks wants to put a Netflix cache in your router | Janko Roettgers | GigaOM Tech News

Aterlo Networks wants to put a Netflix cache in your router | Janko Roettgers | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Netflix has more than 37 million subscribers in the U.S., but for millions more, the service is still out of reach because of data caps. A small Canadian startup called Aterlo Networks wants to change that by tricking out off-the-shelf Wi-Fi routers to turn them into Netflix caching appliances.

Aterlo Networks specifically targets uses of satellite broadband services. Those customers sometimes have data plans of as little as 10GB per month. “They really can’t use Netflix at all,” said Aterlo CTO Scot Loach during a recent interview.


However, there is a loophole: Some satellite broadband providers offer unlimited data consumption between midnight and 5 a.m. That’s why Aterlo is now testing a product dubbed Nightshift that caches your Netflix movies and TV shows in the middle of the night, and has them ready for you to view the next day.

Consumers use Nightshift by simply plugging a USB flash drive into a compatible router. The company is initially targeting Asus routers, but plans to expand to other routers capable of running the open source DD-WRT router firmware in the future.

Nightshift then keeps tab of a consumer’s Netflix viewing, and automatically starts to cache content he is interested in during free, off-peak hours. For example, if a Nightshift user watches the first episode of House of Cards on their iPad, smart TV or other device of their choice, Nightshift is automatically going to cache the next three episodes up during the following night.


And if a user starts to watch a few seconds of a movie, then he will be able to watch the rest the coming day in full HD, without the need to fear costly overage fees. “If you know how to use Netflix, you can use Nightshift,” said Aterlo Networks CEO Gerrit Nagelhout.


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I’m Terrified of My New TV: Why I’m Scared to Turn This Thing On — And You’d Be, Too | Michael Price | Brennan Center for Justice

I’m Terrified of My New TV: Why I’m Scared to Turn This Thing On — And You’d Be, Too | Michael Price | Brennan Center for Justice | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

I just bought a new TV. The old one had a good run, but after the volume got stuck on 63, I decided it was time to replace it. I am now the owner of a new “smart” TV, which promises to deliver streaming multimedia content, games, apps, social media, and Internet browsing. Oh, and TV too.

The only problem is that I’m now afraid to use it. You would be too — if you read through the 46-page privacy policy.

The amount of data this thing collects is staggering. It logs where, when, how, and for how long you use the TV. It sets tracking cookies and beacons designed to detect “when you have viewed particular content or a particular email message.” It records “the apps you use, the websites you visit, and how you interact with content.” It ignores “do-not-track” requests as a considered matter of policy.

It also has a built-in camera — with facial recognition. The purpose is to provide “gesture control” for the TV and enable you to log in to a personalized account using your face. On the upside, the images are saved on the TV instead of uploaded to a corporate server. On the downside, the Internet connection makes the whole TV vulnerable to hackers who have demonstrated the ability to take complete control of the machine.

More troubling is the microphone. The TV boasts a “voice recognition” feature that allows viewers to control the screen with voice commands. But the service comes with a rather ominous warning: “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.” Got that? Don’t say personal or sensitive stuff in front of the TV.

You may not be watching, but the telescreen is listening.

I do not doubt that this data is important to providing customized content and convenience, but it is also incredibly personal, constitutionally protected information that should not be for sale to advertisers and should require a warrant for law enforcement to access.

Unfortunately, current law affords little privacy protection to so-called “third party records,” including email, telephone records, and data stored in “the cloud.” Much of the data captured and transmitted by my new TV would likely fall into this category. Although one federal court of appeals has found this rule unconstitutional with respect to email, the principle remains a bedrock of modern electronic surveillance.


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Aereo loses battle, cord-cutters may win war | Steven Vaughan-Nichols | ZDNet

Aereo loses battle, cord-cutters may win war | Steven Vaughan-Nichols | ZDNet | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

It turns out Aereo, the company that tried to bring over-the-air (OTA) TV to cord-cutters really didn't have a plan B. On November 20th, the company announced on its Web site that it was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.


In a blog post, Chet Kanojia. Aereo's CEO and founder, announced that because "The U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively changed the laws that had governed Aereo’s technology, creating regulatory and legal uncertainty. And while our team has focused its energies on exploring every path forward available to us, without that clarity, the challenges have proven too difficult to overcome."

Therefore, "we filed for Chapter 11 reorganization proceedings." This "will permit Aereo to maximize the value of its business and assets without the extensive cost and distraction of defending drawn out litigation in several courts."


This is the end of the road for Aereo. The company had argued—reasonably I thought—that renting you micro-antennas and then providing you with streaming and DVR services for your local OTA TV channels over the Internet was legal. The Supreme Court disagreed.


Aereo tried to come up with other legal arguments. None of them proved sufficient. In the end, Aereo decided that it wasn't worth pursuing the case any further.


Even though Aereo lost its battle, ironically it may have won the Internet war for cord-cutters. As Jason Perlow observed, before the decision was in, "The broadcast industry will still move on to the greener pastures of the Cloud. The tools that will be at their disposal and a superior ability to monetize their content are far too alluring to stay in the Over-the-Air and time-scheduled broadcast business for very long."


Perlow was right.


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Governments act against webcam-snooping websites | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com

Governments act against webcam-snooping websites | Jeremy Kirk | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Government officials in the U.S. and the UK are warning people to secure their webcams after websites that broadcast the contents of those cameras have sprung up online.

One of the better-known sites, Insecam, appeared to have gone offline after the warnings Thursday, but at least one site that publishes similar content was still available.

The websites show footage from security cameras used by businesses and in people’s homes, including CCTV networks that secure buildings and even cameras built into baby monitors.

Earlier Thursday, the U.K.’s data protection watchdog warned of a website based in Russia that accesses thousands of webcams using their default logins and passwords, which it said can be easily found online.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission also weighed in, warning users to ensure video feeds are encrypted and that wireless routers are protected by passwords.

“Once you’ve bought your IP camera, check its security settings and keep its software up-to-date,” wrote Nicole Vincent Fleming, a consumer education specialist with the FTC in a blog post.

Security experts have long warned that not changing the default credentials on such devices can allow them to be accessed by hackers.

The domain name Insecam.cc was registered through GoDaddy earlier this month, though whoever registered it chose to keep their registration details private in the “whois” domain directory.

The U.K. information commissioner has reportedly urged the Russian authorities to take down the site.

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China's 600 Million Searchers Push Global Internet Toward Censorship | Shai Oster | Bloomberg.com

China's 600 Million Searchers Push Global Internet Toward Censorship | Shai Oster | Bloomberg.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A few days before the anniversary of China’s crackdown in Tiananmen Square this June, Patrick Poon posted a video commemoration on his LinkedIn Web page. The Hong Kong-based researcher for Amnesty International soon got a message saying the post was prohibited in China so it had been blocked from the site -- and by extension from users worldwide.

“I was shocked,” said Poon. “I didn’t expect a foreign social media company would ever send such a message to clients.”

As its Internet population grows and its companies become global powers, China is using domestic tactics like censorship and fake Twitter accounts to shape public opinion abroad.

“They’re thinking about this as a global game,” said David Bandurski, editor of the China Media Project at the University of Hong Kong. “It’s no longer just a question of domestic control and international image.”


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Aereo Seeks Bankruptcy After Losing Supreme Court Fight | Alec Bannka & Michael Bathon | Bloomberg.com

Aereo Seeks Bankruptcy After Losing Supreme Court Fight | Alec Bannka & Michael Bathon | Bloomberg.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Aereo Inc.’s quest to shake up the television industry with its online-streaming service has come to an end.

The Barry Diller-backed startup sought bankruptcy protection after the U.S. Supreme Court said its TV service violated programming copyright protections. The nation’s highest court rang the death knell for Aereo in June, handing a victory to broadcast giants including CBS Corp., Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal and 21st Century Fox Inc.

Aereo had been striving to revolutionize broadcast TV viewing, offering live and recorded programs via the Internet for as little as $8 a month. The Internet-TV startup’s failure eliminates an alternative to cable and satellite bundles, which can cost $100 a month and include channels many subscribers don’t watch.

“We asked a very blunt question about the future of this industry, and I think consumers have connected with that,” Aereo Chief Executive Officer Chet Kanojia said today in a phone interview. “We were in a regulatory no man’s land. We were sort of a cable company without the protections.”

The startup ceased operations following the Supreme Court’s ruling, which said Aereo operated akin to a cable company. The company then struggled to obtain the correct licenses to continue doing business like a traditional TV provider.


Kanojia said he considered selling the company or its intellectual property before making the decision to file for bankruptcy. However, buyers were deterred by the unresolved litigation, he said.


Aereo filed the petition “to preserve estate value as it works toward its goal of consummating a sale of substantially all of its assets, recapitalizing or entering into some other reorganization transaction,” Chief Financial Officer Ramon A. Rivera said yesterday in a court filing. The company appointed Lawton Bloom of Argus as chief restructuring officer.


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AT&T Challenges Government's Warrantless Acquisition Of Cell Site Location Data | Tim Cushing | Techdirt

AT&T Challenges Government's Warrantless Acquisition Of Cell Site Location Data | Tim Cushing | Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

AT&T, of all companies, has just handed in an amicus brief challenging the warrantless acquisition of cell site location data. At the center of this discussion is Quartavious Davis, who was sentenced to 162 years in prison for his involvement in a string of seven robberies, and his cell location records -- 67 days-worth which were obtained by investigators without a warrant.

An earlier appeals court ruling found that cell location records are sensitive enough to be afforded Fourth Amendment protection. The government sought a rehearing and so there's now an en banc rehearing of the case before the full slate of judges from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

AT&T has normally been very cooperative with law enforcement and national security agencies. This filing may look like a shift in loyalties, but what AT&T is asking for isn't exactly revolutionary, or even in line with the panel's previous decision regarding cell site location records.

AT&T said in its filing that it wants the courts to set a clear standard for the type of approval the government needs in order to obtain cellphone location data, and that it isn't taking a position on whether the standard should be a warrant.

While this lack of solid stance may be only minimally encouraging, AT&T's challenge of the government's Third Party Doctrine rationale is a bit more weighty.


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John Hodgman: ‘The government should be laying down broadband like Eisenhower laid down interstates’ | Brian Fung | WashPost.com

John Hodgman: ‘The government should be laying down broadband like Eisenhower laid down interstates’ | Brian Fung | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Long before John Oliver called for an end to "cable company f**kery," another comedian also named John was beating the net neutrality drum. As far back as 2006, author and actor John Hodgman was using postal envelopes to explain how Internet service providers might let content from Google and Amazon through to consumers very easily while discriminating against content from other companies.

Now Hodgman is back at it. In an essay on Tumblr posted Monday night, Hodgman takes aim at large telecom companies who can "control what is increasingly a mandatory purchase" for many Americans: access to high-speed broadband that connects them to information, entertainment and economic opportunity.

Hodgman has some personal stake in the issue as a performer. Arguing that the Internet helps promote artists and small businesses that drive the U.S. economy, Hodgman added that many of the country's dominant telecom providers would not be in their successful position today had they not benefited from public resources such as land and wireless airwaves.

The issue has clearly been on Hodgman's mind for some time. At the end of a lengthy response to a separate BuzzFeed article, Hodgman told his readers he'd be holding an impromptu Q&A session on Tumblr for an hour to discuss Obamacare, net neutrality as well as any other issue his followers thought important. Amid queries on his favorite vegetable (brussels sprouts) and whether to see the movie "Interstellar," (…yes?) Hodgman saved his longest response for last.

"I believe in capitalism but not monopolies," Hodgman wrote. "I believe in entrepreneurship and I am not against government efforts to foster it. I believe more communities should invest in their own broadband to break regional telecom monopolies. Personally I believe that the federal government should be laying down broadband like Eisenhower laid down interstates. And I believe preferential fast-laning for big companies will decrease competition and quality and ultimately hamper what is poised to be the most important area of economic, cultural, and technological innovation of our time."


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The Trauma Trinity: Comcast, Time Warner, Charter Now America's Most-Hated Companies | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap!

The Trauma Trinity: Comcast, Time Warner, Charter Now America's Most-Hated Companies | Phil Dampier | Stop the Cap! | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Americans would rather deal with unwanted telemarketing calls, fight their insurance company, or pay top dollar for oil and gas because almost anything is better than dealing with the cable company, if it happens to be named Comcast, Time Warner Cable, or Charter.

As state and federal regulators contemplate allowing these three companies to co-mingle, Americans have bottom-rated them like never before in the most recent YouGov BrandIndex survey of consumer satisfaction.

Any number below 60 results in the failing grade of “F” and shame for all concerned. The three cable operators managed a grade of just 13.2, nearly twice worse than the next lowest scoring industry – wireless providers. The cable sector once again achieved the lowest scores among 43 rated industries and has sunk to a level reserved for a war criminal popularity contest.


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California Emerging Technology Fund Helps Bridge the State’s Digital Divide | Austin Allen | BroadbandBreakfast.com

Although some believe that the digital divide is not a problem, there are Americans who have not adopted broadband due to the cost or lack of access. Some states have played an active role in getting their citizens online, and one such organization is the California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF), which has been working since 2008 to help increase broadband adoption among Californians.

CETF currently has more than 15 active projects, mostly in rural and low income communities. The foundation’s latest campaign, Internet for All Now, reminds people that the digital divide is still real and that affordable Internet access for rural and low income individuals is essential for participating in our society and the modern economy.

The campaign urges Americans to tell the FCC to include social benefit clauses in the conditions of its approval of the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger, which would hold “Comcast accountable for improving and expanding its existing affordable Internet offer, Internet Essentials.” Comcast is actively opposing it, CETF Senior VP Susan Walters told Broadband Breakfast, and is sending representatives out to school district board meetings to urge members to not sign on to CETF’s initiative.

CEFT was created in 2006 by the California Public Utilities Commission as a condition to their approval of the telecom mergers of SBC with AT&T and Verizon Communications with MCI. The parties and channeled $60 million — $45 million from SBC and $15 million from Verizon – into the new foundation.

Although CEFT was created by the state PUC, the entity operates as a separate, non-profit foundation with the goal of closing the digital divide in a sustainable way to keep the state competitive.

“You can take all of the terrain where people live and didn’t have broadband, it would be the size of Kentucky,” said Susan Walters, senior vice present of CETF, on California’s broadband adoption rate in 2008

CETF’s work started in 2008 with its first annual survey that measured the digital divide across the state by measuring adoption rates of home broadband. It found that the state adoption’s rate was 55 percent. Los Angeles had one of the lowest rates at 48 percent. In order to find out where the gaps were located, CETF started to look at the state’s demographics. They worked to find ways to make it cost effective for companies to build out infrastructure in the different areas of the state. Over the past six years, CETF has helped to increase the adoption rate to 75 percent.


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Americans believe they live in a privacy dystopia, report finds | Andrea Peterson | WashPost.com

Americans believe they live in a privacy dystopia, report finds | Andrea Peterson | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Americans are very worried about governments and private businesses tracking their online behavior in the post-Snowden era, a new report from the Pew Research Center found, and most want to do more to protect their privacy online.

Eight in 10 Americans believe the public should be concerned about the government's monitoring of phone calls and Internet communications according to a survey conducted by the organization in January. Some 61 percent said they "would like to do more" to protect the privacy of their personal information online.

And it's not just the government consumers worry about: Americans increasingly feel they aren't in control over how private companies collect and use information about them. Over 90 percent of those surveyed by Pew agreed or "strongly" agreed that they have lost control over how their personal data is collected and used by companies. Nearly two-thirds believe the government should do more to regulate advertisers while over 60 percent were skeptical that providing personal information to companies made their online experiences better in a meaningful way, disagreeing with the statement: “I appreciate that online services are more efficient because of the increased access they have to my personal data.”

But 55 percent agreed they were willing to share some information in exchange for free online services. This type of cognitive dissonance explains how even as consumers become more and more wary of the ways data about them is being hoarded, the underlying economic model of most online services continues to rely on turning user data into a commodity that can be sold to advertisers.

Distrust of advertisers is widespread according to Pew. Only 1 percent of respondents to the survey said they trusted advertisers to do what's right "just about all of the time," with an additional 11 percent trusting advertisers "most of the time." The government fares only slightly better in terms of public perception, with 2 percent trusting them almost all the time and 16 percent most of the time.


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An FCC Commissioner's Reddit AMA Went About as Terribly as You'd Expect | David Griner | AdWeek.com

An FCC Commissioner's Reddit AMA Went About as Terribly as You'd Expect | David Griner | AdWeek.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Passionate support of net neutrality and vocal skepticism of government regulators are two of the few opinions shared by a majority of Redditors, as an FCC commissioner learned first-hand in a Friday AMA.

Reddit's AMA ("Ask Me Anything") sessions have become frequent stops on the PR train for everything from new movies and music to startups and sports. Most of the public figures subjecting themselves to the questioning get responses ranging from fawning worship to fuming hatred.

The reaction FCC commissioner Mignong Clyburn received, however, was all fuming and no fawning.

"This AMA looks to me like a political stunt to say something along the lines of, 'Yeah, I went on that interweb thing and talked to the American people! We had discussions about everything from Net Neutrality to Eminem!'," Noted the top-voted comment. "However, I haven't seen one solid, thought out answer to any of the big questions here. The majority of your replies, Ms. Clyburn, seem to me to be rushed, half-assed, and quite vague."


Clyburn answered 29 questions over two hours, though she took no polarizing or strongly phrased stances on the issues of net neutrality or corporate influence on the regulation process. Most questioners and observers felt her answers fell far short of insightful.


Take, for example, this direct question from one participant: "Why do I only have one option for high speed internet and television at my house?"


Clyburn's unsatisfying answer, which was downvoted deep into the negative, was: "Our goal is to create incentives for more competitive options, particularly as technologies transition. For example, some electric utilities have started to offer broadband service. Wireless and satellite companies are offering alternatives, and their services continue to improve. We hope that over time, sound policies will lead to more choices."


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Meet the Fortune 500 companies funding the political resegregation of America | Andy Kroll | Mother Jones

Meet the Fortune 500 companies funding the political resegregation of America | Andy Kroll | Mother Jones | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Over the past four to five years, the United States has been resegregated—politically. In states where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans and presidential races can be nail-biters, skillful Republican operatives have mounted racially-minded gerrymandering efforts—the redrawing of congressional and state legislative districts—that have led to congressional delegations stacked with GOP members and yielded Republican majorities in the state legislatures.

In North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, to name just three, GOPers have recast state and congressional districts to consolidate black voters into what the political pros call "majority-minority districts" to diminish the influence of these voters. North Carolina is an especially glaring example: GOP-redistricting after the 2010 elections led to half the state's black population—1.1 million people—being corralled into one-fifth of the state legislative and congressional districts. "The districts here take us back to a day of segregation that most of us thought we'd moved away from," State Sen. Dan Blue Jr., who was previously North Carolina's first black House speaker, told the Nation in 2012.

A major driving force behind this political resegregation is the Republican State Leadership Committee, a deep-pocketed yet under-the-radar group that calls itself the "lead Republican redistricting organization." The RSLC is funded largely by Fortune 500 corporations, including Reynolds American, Las Vegas Sands, Walmart, Devon Energy, Citigroup, AT&T, Pfizer, Altria Group, Honeywell International, Hewlett-Packard. Other heavyweight donors not on the Fortune 500 list include Koch Industries, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the US Chamber of Commerce. At the same time these big-name firms underwrite the RSLC's efforts to dilute the power of black voters, many of them preach the values of diversity and inclusion on their websites and in corporate reports.

As part of its Redistricting Majority Project—which, tellingly, is nicknamed REDMAP—the RSLC, starting in 2010, poured tens of millions of dollars into legislative races around the country to elect new GOP majorities. Next it provided money and expertise to state officials redrawing political boundary lines to favor the Republican Party—and to shrink the clout of blacks, Hispanics, and other traditionally Democratic voters. Unlike its Democratic equivalent, the RSLC has vast sums at its disposal, spending $30 million during the 2010 elections, $40 million in 2012, and $22 million in 2014.

Here is a partial list of RSLC donors—how much they donated to the group in the past four years and what they each have had to say about their own efforts to foster diversity.


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FCC Proposes Some Consumer Protections As They Inch Closer To Killing Off Copper Landlines | Kate Cox | Consumerist

FCC Proposes Some Consumer Protections As They Inch Closer To Killing Off Copper Landlines | Kate Cox | Consumerist | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Phones are wireless, consumers are cutting back, and copper is expensive: all are reasons why the big phone companies want permission from the FCC to walk away from old-fashioned landline networks and to keep moving toward an internet-based future. The FCC tentatively agrees, and voted 3-2 today to take another baby step in the process that will end up making the nation’s century-old copper landline network obsolete.

Formally, the FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that sets down the broad strokes of the commission’s requirements for the next steps in what’s known as the IP transition (where voice service moves from copper wires to internet protocol). The key areas the FCC’s proposal addresses are:

  • Protecting consumers’ ability to call 911 from their home phones in a power outage
  • Requiring transparency to consumers about the transition to new tech
  • Making sure new tech actually works before old tech is allowed to be discontinued
  • Preserving competition among services that use and rely on copper networks when those networks are shut down


The commission also clarified that carriers will need to seek approval to discontinue “legacy” service based on “the practical impact of its actions,” rather than based on existing regulatory fine print. The declaratory ruling “ensures that there will be a public process to evaluate a proposed discontinuance,” or, in English, guarantees that companies like Verizon and AT&T can’t just disappear landline phone service overnight all at once because they said so.

The specifics of the proposed rule put forward today address several areas of consumer concern. Verizon in particular has been accused in the past of permitting their copper-wire networks to degrade in order to push consumers into adopting VoIP services whether they want to or not.

The FCC and consumer advocates have also voiced concern about the ability to contact emergency services in a power outage. Copper-wire landline phones still work in most outages, but internet-based phones need to rely on a backup battery with a much shorter lifespan.

Today’s vote was the latest step in a long process that the FCC has been moving through for some time. In January of this year, the commission approve limited regional tests replacing old-fashioned landlines with new tech to see how they went. That process is still underway.

The NPRM adopted today doesn’t change anything yet. First, like every FCC rulemaking, it has a pleading and public comment period to go through. Then the commission gets to work crafting and voting on a final version of the rule.


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Net neutrality looks doomed in Europe before it even gets started | David Meyer | GigaOM Tech News

Net neutrality looks doomed in Europe before it even gets started | David Meyer | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Here come more leaks, and more reasons to suspect that the European Union is not going to get the hard-won net neutrality law it seemed likely to get just months ago.

After last week’s letter from new European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker to his commissioners, suggesting that former digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes’s “Telecom Package” will be pulled and started again as a “Digital Single Market Package”, digital rights group EDRi has published documents that appear to show the neutering of that legislative package’s net neutrality provisions.

A quick recap on how this all works: Commissioner Kroes came up with the Telecom Package, which also proposed the abolition of intra-EU roaming fees and the harmonization of radio spectrum across the union. The package then went to the European Parliament, which strengthened the net neutrality provisions by giving strong definitions to both the term “net neutrality” and the kinds of “specialized services” that carriers would be able to treat differently from normal internet services – the point being that a carrier couldn’t just decide that Netflix, for example, is a “specialized service” and treat it differently from other video-streaming services.

The final stage of the legislative process involves negotiations between the Commission and the Council of the European Union, which includes representatives of all the member states. The Council has a rotating presidency, and at the moment Italy has it. The leaked documents EDRi published on Thursday — and EDRi has been reliable on this stuff in the past — come from the Italian presidency, which sent them to delegations from the member states for comment.

Gone: The definition of “net neutrality”. Gone: The definition of “specialized services”. Instead, the documents say that discussions are “converging” around a “principles-based approach, in order not to inhibit innovation and to avoid technological developments making the regulation obsolete.”


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EU Parliament Wants To Break Up Google... Because It's Big & American Or Something | Mike Masnick | Techdirt

EU Parliament Wants To Break Up Google... Because It's Big & American Or Something | Mike Masnick |  Techdirt | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

On Friday, the Financial Times broke the story that the European Parliament is going to call for breaking up Google. Of course, the European Parliament can't actually do that, but it appears designed to put pressure on the EU Commission, which has been talking about antitrust actions against Google for quite some time. While it had looked like there was a settlement earlier this year, those plans more or less appeared to fall apart. Just recently, we wrote about efforts to force Google to change some of its search results in Europe -- and noted how problematic it gets when governments start telling search engines how to program their algorithms.

But, actually breaking up Google would go a hell of a lot further. The idea had been floated earlier this year by a top German official, but who would have thought anyone would take it seriously.

And here's the thing: as far as I can tell, there isn't any real reason for trying to break up Google, other than the fact that it's very big and very not European.

There's no discussion about any actual harm... just the fact that some people don't like the fact that the company is so big (and not European):

Since his nomination to be the EU’s digital commissioner, Germany’s Günther Oettinger has suggested hitting Google with a levy for displaying copyright-protected material; has raised the idea of forcing its search results to be neutral; and voiced concerns about its provision of software for cars.

Google has become a lightning rod for European concerns over Silicon Valley, with consumers, regulators and politicians assailing the company over issues ranging from its commercial dominance to its privacy policy. It has reluctantly accepted the European Court of Justice’s ruling on the right to be forgotten, which requires it to consider requests not to index certain links about people’s past.

If they were alleging real consumer harm, that would be one thing, but no one seems to be discussing that.

The NY Times has more details on the expected resolution, which talks about "unbundling" Google's various other services from the search engine:


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Can LittleBits Save RadioShack? | Rebecca Greenfield | Fast Company

Can LittleBits Save RadioShack? | Rebecca Greenfield | Fast Company | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

RadioShack has had a rough year. In March it announced the closure of 1,110 stores. Six months later its brand-new CFO resigned. The electronics store is running out of cash and earlier this year hinted it could be forced to liquidate or seek bankruptcy protection if it didn't turn things around soon, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Faced with imminent death, RadioShack is going back to its roots, launching a last-ditch effort to appeal to its original customer base: makers.


Starting this week, the gasping retailer will prominently display and sell LittleBits, the darling of the maker community, in 2,000 of its stores. "For us, they represent the origins of the maker movement, the DIY movement in electronics," LittleBits CEO Ayah Bdeir told Fast Company. The original makers—hardware hobbyists who build their own gadgets—went to RadioShack to stock up on circuits, LED, batteries, and other necessary parts for DIY projects. Bdeir, for example, grew up tinkering with RadioShack kits that her dad used to bring back to Lebanon, where she grew up.


"Makers have long been a loyal customer for us—and for several years I think RadioShack moved away from one of their core competencies and core customers," CEO Joe Magnacca told Fast Company. Indeed, the company now gets about half its revenue from cellphones, tablet, and related accessories sales, commodities available at lots of other places. "Our new leadership team is committed to embracing the parts of our heritage that allow us to differentiate RadioShack in a crowded market," Magnacca said.


LittleBits fits into that "heritage" because as the company releases more sophisticated bits. people can make actual, useful objects. Today, LittleBits is launching a new product, the Smart Home Kit, which will retail at RadioShack for $249. The kit lets tinkerers turn regular household items into smart ones. Some potential projects include a monitor that beeps and sends a text alert when the fridge door has been left open, or something as simple as an app controlled lamp. "As opposed to purchasing things in the Internet of things space, why not allow people to invent whatever they want?" Bdeir says.


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Obama Is Still Pushing Two Giant Trade Deals -- Here's What You Need to Know | Joshua Holland | BillMoyers.com

Obama Is Still Pushing Two Giant Trade Deals -- Here's What You Need to Know | Joshua Holland | BillMoyers.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Last week, Barack Obama called once again for establishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a mega-deal regulating trade in 12 countries that account for about 40 percent of the world’s economic activity. The deal has been in the works for almost a decade.

Last summer, Barack Obama and leaders of the European Union announced that negotiations would commence on another trade deal, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), a treaty that’s gotten significantly less attention than the TPP. Also known as the Transatlantic Free Trade Area (TAFTA), it would harmonize trade rules between the US and the EU, which constitutes the world’s largest economy.

While negotiations on the deal started last July, proposals for creating a giant transatlantic trading bloc date back to the early 1990s.

Wondering what all of these deals are about? Here’s a primer on the Obama administration’s vision for global trade.


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Court Stays FCC Merger Contract Decision | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com

Court Stays FCC Merger Contract Decision | John Eggerton | Multichannel.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Third parties will not gain access to program contracts in the Comcast/Time Warner Cable and AT&T/DirecTV deals, at least not until a federal court reviews the underlying arguments against doing so.

In a one-page decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Friday granted a stay of the FCC's decision to make those documents available to hundreds of outside parties subject to protective orders the FCC said were sufficient to protect that info given the public interest in making them available.

The court said petitioners, which included CBS, Fox, and others, had satisfied the requirements for the stay, which means it concluded they had a good chance of winning and would be harmed absent the stay.

It pointed out the FCC still had access to the documents and could vet them itself.

The companies sought the stay after the FCC's Media Bureau approved modified protective orders and rejected their challenge to making the information available to third parties like public interest groups and competitors. They refiled the stay after a politically divided full commission voted to uphold the Media Bureau.

The parties to the deal had opposed the stay, concerned, and with reason, that it could delay the FCC's vetting of the deals. The FCC itself said that the stay could lead to delay, and even affect the deals themselves.

Companies seeking the stay were CBS, Scripps, Disney, Time Warner, Twenty-First Century Fox, Univision, and Viacom, joined by the National Association of Broadcasters in support. On the other side were the FCC, joined by AT&T, Comcast, Charter, DIRECTV DISH, and Time Warner Cable, which all oppose the stay.

The court now has to set a briefing schedule, then presumably hold oral argument, then issue a decision, which will take months. In the meantime, the FCC gets to see all those documents, but not third parties.


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Connecticut consumers squawk over poor Internet service quality from Frontier | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom

Connecticut consumers squawk over poor Internet service quality from Frontier | Fred Pilot | Eldo Telecom | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

More than a decade ago, AT&T was looking to offer TV programming via Internet protocol (IPTV) as part of its U-verse branded triple play service offering. To deliver that bandwidth intensive service, rather than replace its decades old copper plant designed to deliver what's referred to as "plain old telephone service" or POTS with modern fiber to the premise infrastructure, AT&T instead opted to soup up its Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) service to a more robust version, VDSL.

The initiative, dubbed by AT&T as Project Lightspeed, is a hybrid design that brings fiber to field distribution units. Customer premises are connected to those units using the existing POTS copper infrastructure. This is the proverbial weak link in the chain given the often deteriorated condition of the copper pairs in these cables.

That weak link may now be coming home to roost in Connecticut for Frontier Communications, which purchased AT&T's wireline operations in the state earlier this year. Arstechnica reports complaints about Frontier's service have gone through the roof and state regulators and officials are scheduling hearings.


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Chris Mitchell in Mount Vernon, Washington: Video Now Available | community broadband networks

Chris Mitchell in Mount Vernon, Washington: Video Now Available | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Over the past few months, Chris Mitchell has been globe trotting to communities giving presentations and learning more about municipal networks across the country. After spending some time in Seattle, he headed to Mount Vernon, Washington to present at the Connect with the World conference on October 9th.

The event took place at Skagit College and included other speakers such as Craig Settles, Susannah Malarkey, and Mark Anderson. The video of his presentation is now archived and available to view.

Mount Vernon has operated its open access fiber network since 1995, serving public facilities and local businesses. We spoke with Kim Kleppe, Information Systems Director, and Jana Hansen, Community & Economic Development Director, in episode 38 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.


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