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Latest TPP Leaks Reveal That US Is Isolated In Its Desire To Push Through Corporate Exceptionalism | Techdirt.com

Latest TPP Leaks Reveal That US Is Isolated In Its Desire To Push Through Corporate Exceptionalism | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

With the latest round of TPP negotiations ongoing, the folks over at Huffington Post got a hold of two leaked documents including a very useful spreadsheet highlighting all of the positions and areas of disagreement concerning every chapter of the TPP. What's quite revealing (and very good to see, though we'll see how it holds up) is that on many of the worst proposals, it appears that the US is very isolated, with either no one agreeing or maybe just one or two other countries agreeing.


Of course, the US is obviously the most powerful force in these negotiations, so never underestimate the ability of the USTR to pressure countries to agree to these harmful policies -- but so far, it appears that other governments have been willing to push back on the US's extreme view of corporate sovereignty ("investor dispute resolution settlements") which would allow companies to ignore the laws of countries and sue those countries for "lost profits" when they disagree with the legal regime (say, for example, if a patent they wanted isn't granted). These programs have been a disaster in current agreements, and hopefully it appears that other countries now recognize this.

It also appears that the US is somewhat isolated in its intellectual property proposals. Only Australia and Peru agree with the US's "patentability criteria." And no one at all agrees with the US's plans for extra protection for patents or to extend protections to new uses (such as plants, animals and surgical procedures.


The US is also the only one supporting programs favorable to pharmaceutical companies around data protection. On the copyright side, it appears that everyone disagrees with the US's view of parallel importation (which, if still the same as it was from the last leaked version, disagrees with the US Supreme Court's own ruling on parallel importation. Only the US wants "establishment of criminal offenses for unintentional infringements of copyright, related rights and trademarks."


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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Anti-H-1B senator to head immigration panel | Patrick Thibodeau | NetworkWorld.com

Anti-H-1B senator to head immigration panel | Patrick Thibodeau | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The biggest enemy facing U.S. Senate Republicans in raising the H-1B cap are Senate Republicans.

The Senate's two top Republican critics of temporary worker immigration, specifically the H-1B and L-1 visas, now hold the two most important immigration posts in the Senate.

They are Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who heads the Senate's Judiciary Committee, and his committee underling, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who was appointed by Grassley on Thursday to head the immigration subcommittee.

Grassley has been the Republican's most tenacious and unwavering critic of the H-1B program and has tried to curb use by offshore outsourcers, in particular. Sessions, however, may emerge as the Senate's most vociferous and fiery H-1B opponent.

Sessions, late Thursday, issued a statement about his new role as immigration subcommittee chairman, and said the committee "will give voice to those whose voice has been shut out,” and that includes “the voice of the American IT workers who are being replaced with guest workers."

Sessions last week accused the tech industry of perpetuating a "hoax" by claiming there is a shortage of qualified U.S. tech workers.

"The tech industry's promotion of expanded temporary visas -- such as the H-1B -- and green cards is driven by its desire for cheap, young and immobile labor," wrote Sessions, in a memo he sent last week to fellow lawmakers.

Last summer, Sessions attacked Microsoft's push for more H-1B visas as it laid off 18,000 employees. Now, as subcommittee chairman, Sessions will have the ability to conduct investigations and hold oversight hearings.


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Op-Ed: Another view on President Obama’s broadband announcement | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband

Posted upon request of Minnesota Public Broadband Alliance..

The Minnesota Public Broadband Alliance whose members are from cities and counties who provide services or funding for broadband networks would like to respond to the industry perspective with the municipal perspective. The language in quotes is from MTA’s opinion piece on the President’s speech in Iowa regarding broadband.

“Last week the President spoke in Cedar Falls, Iowa about Broadband and his administration’s ideas on how to get it to rural America connected and by whom. The President’s (and many in DC) solution is for local units of government to build competitive networks.”

We welcomed the President’s comments in Cedar Falls but we don’t think he believes that local government overbuilds are the ONLY answer to providing a robust broadband network. Nor do we as a group. We do believe that the more flexibility our citizens have in getting broadband to everyone, the better the state will prosper. This would include public – private partnerships like Lac Qui Parle county’s network as well as public – public partnerships like SMBS’ partnership with Windom.

“There are three problems with this concept. First, how does a municipality overbuilding a community where there are already one or more private providers help solve the problem of getting broadband to the areas without it?”

How does it help?


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The promise of big data still looms, but execution lags | Barb Darrow | GigaOM Tech News

The promise of big data still looms, but execution lags | Barb Darrow | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

When something is hyped as much as the notion of big data, there’s bound to be disappointment when results don’t meet expectations right this second.

That realization — that implementation of big data analytics and related technologies hasn’t matched expectations — is a common thread across a recent spate research reports. While corporate execs now “get” the possible impact of aggregating and analyzing all the data their companies generate, very few companies have realized that potential.

A new McKinsey Quarterly report acknowledged that earlier predictions that retailers would parlay big data analytics to boost operating margins by more than 60 percent, and that the healthcare sector could likewise use the technology to slice costs 8 percent, haven’t played out.

While massively scaled companies like Amazon and Google use data analytics to wring out significant costs, data analytics success at most legacy companies is limited to a few test projects or narrow pieces of the overall business. Very few of those accounts “have achieved what we would call ‘big impact through big data,’ or impact at scale,” according to McKinsey.

The cognitive dissonance between big data hype and actual production adoption will be a topic for speakers at Gigaom’s Structure Data event in March.


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Allow highly skilled immigration and boost the economy | Alex Howrasteh, Cato Institute | The Hill

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) just introduced the bipartisan Immigration Innovation Act (I-Squared), which aims to liberalize and expand the immigration system for highly skilled workers.

As virtually all the research shows, attracting more high-skilled immigrants will stimulate economic growth and job creation by boosting innovation and productivity.

Hatch touted I-Squared by writing that even “[t]he president recognizes we face a high-skilled worker shortage that has become a national crisis.” Although there are tight labor markets for some high-tech occupations, the information sector is not one of them, and it’s by no means a national crisis. Wages for computer scientists, many engineers, and scientists are growing more quickly than for other occupations, but wage increases and a tight labor market are not the same as a shortage.

The real benefits of I-Squared wouldn’t come from filling jobs in “shortage” occupations, which don’t exist for most technology occupations, but from increasing the productivity of the American economy.

Economists at Rutgers and Princeton found that a 1-percentage-point increase in college-educated immigrants as a share of the population increased patents per capita by 9 percent to 18 percent. Economists from Harvard and the University of Michigan also found a 10 percent increase in the number of workers with H-1B visas in a city boosts the entire city’s patent output by almost 1 percent, a huge increase given the small numbers of H-1Bs relative to the workforce. They concluded that H-1B workers boost patents and innovation so much that they have a significant effect on long-term economic growth while also creating more jobs for Americans with similar skills.


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What We Learned About Network Neutrality This Week | Kevin Taglang | Benton Foundation

What We Learned About Network Neutrality This Week | Kevin Taglang | Benton Foundation | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

“I intend to protect a free and open Internet,” President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address on Tuesday, January 20.


For many that was a clear, albeit truncated, reiteration of his statement in November 2014 calling on the Federal Communications Commission to “create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online.”


In November, the President asked the FCC to “reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services.”

On Tuesday, the White House released Middle Class Economics for the 21st Century - Helping Working Families Get Ahead, summarizing the proposals introduced by the President over the past few weeks. It includes:

Building on Net Neutrality to Increase Access and Reduce Cost for Broadband: Affordable, fast broadband is crucial to the future of our economy and nation. That’s why in November, the President outlined his plan to ensure the Internet economy remains open to new competition and innovation by safeguarding net neutrality — which, at its core, will help ensure no one company can act as a gatekeeper to digital content.


To that end, communities around the country are refusing to settle for subpar service that can make it hard to keep business local and attract new entrepreneurs. As a result, communities like Lafayette, LA, Chattanooga, TN, and Kansas City, MO have broadband almost one hundred times faster than the national average.


To help more communities do the same, and ensure a level playing field for all competitors, in the lead-up to the State of the Union, the President called to end laws that harm competition, expand the national movement of local leadership for better broadband, unveil new loan opportunities for rural providers, remove regulatory barriers, and improve investment incentives.

The broadband access industry believes Title II would saddle them with a litany of regulations on matters such as pricing and how they manage their networks.


Seemingly to slow the momentum of the President’s proposal and the call of millions of commenters at the FCC, Republicans in Congress late last week started circulating a discussion draft of legislation that would carve out new authority for the FCC to enforce net neutrality.


The Republican legislation is aimed at avoiding common-carrier regulation but would prevent broadband providers from blocking, slowing down or accepting money to speed up delivery of certain websites. The authors say the legislation:


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How the CIA made Google | Nafeez Ahmed | Medium.com

How the CIA made Google | Nafeez Ahmed | Medium.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project, breaks the exclusive story of how the United States intelligence community funded, nurtured and incubated Google as part of a drive to dominate the world through control of information. Seed-funded by the NSA and CIA, Google was merely the first among a plethora of private sector start-ups co-opted by US intelligence to retain ‘information superiority.’

The origins of this ingenious strategy trace back to a secret Pentagon-sponsored group, that for the last two decades has functioned as a bridge between the US government and elites across the business, industry, finance, corporate, and media sectors. The group has allowed some of the most powerful special interests in corporate America to systematically circumvent democratic accountability and the rule of law to influence government policies, as well as public opinion in the US and around the world. The results have been catastrophic: NSA mass surveillance, a permanent state of global war, and a new initiative to transform the US military into Skynet.


In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, western governments are moving fast to legitimize expanded powers of mass surveillance and controls on the internet, all in the name of fighting terrorism.


US and European politicians have called to protect NSA-style snooping, and to advance the capacity to intrude on internet privacy by outlawing encryption. One idea is to establish a telecoms partnership that would unilaterally delete content deemed to “fuel hatred and violence” in situations considered “appropriate.” Heated discussions are going on at government and parliamentary level to explore cracking down on lawyer-client confidentiality.


What any of this would have done to prevent the Charlie Hebdo attacks remains a mystery, especially given that we already know the terrorists were on the radar of French intelligence for up to a decade.


There is little new in this story. The 9/11 atrocity was the first of many terrorist attacks, each succeeded by the dramatic extension of draconian state powers at the expense of civil liberties, backed up with the projection of military force in regions identified as hotspots harbouring terrorists. Yet there is little indication that this tried and tested formula has done anything to reduce the danger. If anything, we appear to be locked into a deepening cycle of violence with no clear end in sight.


As our governments push to increase their powers, INSURGE INTELLIGENCE can now reveal the vast extent to which the US intelligence community is implicated in nurturing the web platforms we know today, for the precise purpose of utilizing the technology as a mechanism to fight global ‘information war’ — a war to legitimize the power of the few over the rest of us. The lynchpin of this story is the corporation that in many ways defines the 21st century with its unobtrusive omnipresence: Google.


Google styles itself as a friendly, funky, user-friendly tech firm that rose to prominence through a combination of skill, luck, and genuine innovation. This is true. But it is a mere fragment of the story. In reality, Google is a smokescreen behind which lurks the US military-industrial complex.


The inside story of Google’s rise, revealed here for the first time, opens a can of worms that goes far beyond Google, unexpectedly shining a light on the existence of a parasitical network driving the evolution of the US national security apparatus, and profiting obscenely from its operation.


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Community Broadband Pioneer, Sascha Meinrath, to join Freedom2Connect Foundation Board of Directors | Freedom2Connect Foundation

Sascha Meinrath, cyber-technology visionary and renowned advocate for unfettered Internet access, joins the board of the Freedom2Connect Foundation, a nonprofit organization devoted to Internet freedom.

“The Freedom2Connect Foundation is fortunate to have someone with Sascha Meinrath’s experience on our board to help us achieve our vision of universal, uncensored Internet access,” said Craig Newman, the Foundation’s chief executive officer and a managing partner of Richards Kibbe & Orbe, LLP. “At a time when repressive regimes across the globe are stepping up surveillance of online communications, the Freedom2Connect Foundation’s mission of supporting technologies that circumvent censorship has never been more important,” he added.

“I’m honored and delighted to be joining the stellar team at the Freedom2Connect Foundation,” stated Sascha Meinrath. “I can’t think of a more pressing issue facing our society than the growing threats to free speech, a free press, and freedom of expression that we currently face. Providing safe, ubiquitous communications for everyone on the planet is a grand, but surmountable, challenge.”

Mr. Meinrath currently serves as the director of X-Lab, a newly launched effort to rethink the ways in which technological advances help or hinder individual freedoms. Previously, he founded and directed the Open Technology Institute, which quickly became a leader in the development of “mesh” networks that provide communities with local communications, free of outside interference.


He also previously held the position of Vice President of the New America Foundation. Mr. Meinrath partnered with Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the Internet, in the creation of Measurement Lab, a platform that allows researchers to use Internet measurement tools to give people useful information about the efficacy and security of their broadband connections.


He also serves on the board of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee and is an advisory committee member of the Anti-Hate Speech Initiative at the Berkman Center at Harvard University and a co-founder and advisory council member of the Alliance for Affordable Internet.

In 2013, TIME magazine named Mr. Meinrath to the “TIME Tech 40” as one of the most influential figures in technology. He was also named among Newsweek Magazine’s “Top 100” in their Digital Power Index in 2012.

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Verizon nears “the end” of FiOS builds | Jon Brodkin | Ars Technica

Verizon nears “the end” of FiOS builds | Jon Brodkin | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

It's been nearly five years since Verizon decided to stop expanding its FiOS fiber network into new cities and towns, so this week's news won't come as a huge surprise: Verizon is nearing "the end" of its fiber construction and is reducing wireline capital expenditures while spending more on wireless.

"I have been pretty consistent with this in the fact that we will spend more CapEx in the Wireless side and we will continue to curtail CapEx on the Wireline side. Some of that is because we are getting to the end of our committed build around FiOS, penetration is getting higher," Verizon CFO Fran Shammo said yesterday in the Q4 2014 call with investors.

Wireline capital spending totaled $1.6 billion in the most recent quarter and $5.8 billion for 2014, down 7.7 percent from 2013, Verizon said.

Verizon posted a net loss of $2.23 billion in Q4 2014, despite making a profit of $9.63 billion for the full year. The loss included "significant non-operational items... primarily related to the annual actuarial valuation of benefit plans and mark-to-market pension adjustments," Verizon said.

The numbers look better when examining individual divisions.


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U.S. Senator Cory Booker Introduces Community Broadband Act | community broadband networks

U.S. Senator Cory Booker Introduces Community Broadband Act | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Senator Booker has taken the lead in introducing the Community Broadband Act to the U.S. Senate along with Senators McCaskill and Markey. We are thankful for their leadership on the issue. As part of their announcement, they included the following statements:

“As Mayor of Newark, I saw firsthand the value of empowering local communities to invest and innovate. The Community Broadband Act provides cities the flexibility they need to meet the needs of their residents,” Sen. Booker said. “This legislation will enhance economic development, improve access to education and health care services, and provide increased opportunity to individuals in underserved areas. At a time when local governments are looking for ways to ensure their communities are connected and have access to advanced and reliable networks, the Community Broadband Act empowers local governments to respond to this ever-increasing demand.”

"Barriers at the state level are preventing communities from developing local solutions when there is little or no choice in their Internet service provider,” Sen. Markey said. “This legislation will support the ability of cities to decide for themselves whether or not they would like to build their own broadband networks and provide community members with high speed Internet service. I thank Senator Booker for his leadership introducing the Community Broadband Act, which will support more options in the broadband market and greater local choice. I also continue to urge the FCC to act now to use its authority to end any restrictions placed upon local communities to make these decisions for themselves.”

“Folks in small towns and rural communities should have the same access as everyone else to the Internet, and the jobs and business opportunities it brings,” Sen. McCaskill said. “Large Internet providers too often aren’t willing to offer service in rural America, so this bill ensures local communities can come together to provide their residents with access to the opportunities high-speed broadband offers.”

And we included this statement:

We believe these decisions about how best to expand Internet access are best made by local governments, who are most informed of the need and challenges. We applaud Senator Booker for this bill to ensure communities can decide for themselves if a partnership or an investment in network infrastructure is the right choice.

The Coalition for Local Net Choice was also included, saying:

Senator Booker has been a great champion of local communities, both as a longtime mayor and now as a member of Congress. As a former mayor, he clearly understands the importance of local decision-making regarding critical economic development infrastructure. CLIC applauds Senator Booker for his affirmation of local Internet choice and his support for the authority of local governments to work on next generation broadband networks with their private sector partners and local communities.

This bill (read it here) is effectively the same language from previous, bipartisan bills in 2005 and 2007. However, in the years since, many elected Republicans have changed their mind and others no longer want to be associated with an issue that President Obama supports.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Jamaica gets US help in islandwide Internet coverage | Jamaica Observer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Thousands of U.S. gas stations exposed to Internet attacks | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com

Thousands of U.S. gas stations exposed to Internet attacks | Lucian Constantin | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Over 5,000 devices used by gas stations in the U.S. to monitor their fuel tank levels can be manipulated from the Internet by malicious attackers.

These devices, known as automated tank gauges (ATGs), are also used to trigger alarms in case of problems with the tanks, such as fuel spills.

“An attacker with access to the serial port interface of an ATG may be able to shut down the station by spoofing the reported fuel level, generating false alarms, and locking the monitoring service out of the system,” said HD Moore, the chief research officer at security firm Rapid7, in a blog post. “Tank gauge malfunctions are considered a serious issue due to the regulatory and safety issues that may apply.”

Earlier this month, Moore ran a scan to detect ATGs that are connected to the Internet through serial port servers that map ATG serial interfaces to the Internet-accessible TCP port 10001. This is a common set-up used by ATG owners to monitor the devices remotely.

“Approximately 5,800 ATGs were found to be exposed to the Internet without a password,” Moore said. “Over 5,300 of these ATGs are located in the United States, which works out to about 3 percent of the approximately 150,000 fueling stations in the country.”

Rapid7 decided to run the scan after being alerted of the problem by Jack Chadowitz, the founder of Kachoolie, a division of BostonBase that provides secure tank gauge access services.

Chadowitz had already developed an online service where ATG owners, particularly those using “a Gilbarco/Veeder Root TCP/IP card or a TCP/IP to serial converter such as those commonly available from Digi or Lantronix,” can check if they are at risk.

Some systems provide the capability to protect serial interfaces with a password, but this functionality is not commonly enabled, according to Moore.


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MN: Crow Wing County Broadband 2014 Update: Part of the Resilient Region striving for better broadband | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband

MN: Crow Wing County Broadband 2014 Update: Part of the Resilient Region striving for better broadband | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

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

  • Household Density: 22.5
  • Number of Households: 26,033
  • Percentage serviced (without mobile): 36.66%
  • Percentage serviced (with mobile): 59.76%


Part of Crow Wing County got an upgrade last summer when TDS finished their ARRA-funded project, which mostly served Michigan. And there was concern with another ARRA-funded project that also brought some middle fiber to Crow Wing County about the network competing with existing commercial efforts. (CNS has issues with Eventis building infrastructure in the area as they already had fiber in areas.)

The disconnect I suspect is that Brainerd is well served, the outskirts of the county are not. There’s clearly some service, but regardless of which number you look at (36% or 60%) there are lots of people without services. Crow Wing County is one of the few counties were there’s a drastic difference between the wired and wireless coverage. And while the wireless service meets the state goal speeds one issue is the potential cost of data caps.

Crow Wing County is part of Region Five (the Resilient Region), which was just named a Blandin Broadband Community last November. They have a long-standing (yet renewed) focus…


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You can now store Docker container images in Google Cloud | Jonathan Vanian | GigaOM Tech News

You can now store Docker container images in Google Cloud | Jonathan Vanian | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Google Cloud users can now load up their private Docker container images into the search giant’s new Google Container Registry, which Google said Friday is now available in beta and the company noted “is not covered by any SLA or deprecation policy and may be subject to backward-incompatible changes.”

If you are a Google Cloud customer, your Docker container images — which contain all the necessary components for spinning up containers, like the source code and binary files — will be “automatically encrypted before they are written to disk,” according to the Google blog post detailing the registry.

From the blog post:


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What we want to hear from the State of the Union address, according to Google and Facebook | Hayley Tsukayama | WashPost.com

What we want to hear from the State of the Union address, according to Google and Facebook | Hayley Tsukayama | WashPost.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Despite anticipation that this could be the most tech-heavy State of the Union speech of President Obama's time in the Oval Office, it doesn't seem like tech issues are very top of mind for those searching for the speech online. Instead, bread-and-butter issues such as national security, health care, immigration and jobs dominate the searches on Facebook ahead of Tuesday night's speech, followed by concern about "Israel and Palestine."

Here's the top 10 most-talked about topics on Facebook — collected between Jan. 11 and Jan. 17 — headed into the speech:

1. Terrorism

2. Obamacare

3. Immigration

4. Jobs and the Economy

5. Israel and Palestine

6. Taxes

7. Community College Funding

8. The NSA

9. ISIS

10. Paid Sick Leave

Google, meanwhile, took a regional view at what its users are looking for ahead of the speech.


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The tecnologhy arrives at 'white house'

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MN: Hennepin County Geo:Code - Two upcoming open data/open gov/civic tech events | Ann Treacy | Blandin on Broadband

I’m sharing this on hope that some folks can make it and so others might get some ideas to replicate…

Hennepin County and Open Twin Cities are proud to present Geo:Code; an open data code-a-thon hosted at Hennepin County Library – Minneapolis Central on Saturday, February 21st and Sunday February 22nd! This event is free and meals will be provided.

  • Share Project Ideas and Open Data Requests
  • RSVP for Geo:Code Code-a-thon
  • RSVP for January 31st Geo:Code Accessibility Jam


Transparency & Accessibility

Hennepin County is celebrating the first year of its Open GIS policy by taking part in International Open Data Day and Code for America’s CodeAcross. Residents are invited to explore government data, experiment with civic technologies, and collaborate with Hennepin County on solutions for problems facing your community. Inspired by civic technology principals, we’re excited to support the creation of a more transparent Hennepin County and information and services that are accessible to all residents.


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Why data science matters and how technology makes it possible | Derrick Harris | GigaOM Tech News

Why data science matters and how technology makes it possible | Derrick Harris | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

When Hilary Mason talks about data, it’s a good idea to listen.

She was chief data scientist at Bit.ly, data scientist in residence at venture capital firm Accel Partners, and is now founder and CEO of research company Fast Forward Labs. More than that, she has been a leading voice of the data science movement over the past several years, highlighting what’s possible when you mix the right skills with a little bit of creativity.

Mason came on the Structure Show podcast this week to discuss what she’s excited about and why data science is a legitimate field. Here are some highlights from the interview, but it’s worth listening to the whole thing for her thoughts on everything from the state of the art in natural language processing to the state of data science within corporate America.

And if you want to see Mason, and a lot of other really smart folks, talk about the future of data in person, come to our Structure Data conference that takes place March 18-19 in New York.


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Google Fiber’s next construction spot is reportedly in North Carolina | Jon Brodkin | Ars Technica

Google Fiber’s next construction spot is reportedly in North Carolina | Jon Brodkin | Ars Technica | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Google is holding events in Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte, North Carolina, next week and is reportedly planning to begin Google Fiber construction in the state as early as April.
Further Reading
Fed up, US cities take steps to build better broadband

Increasingly, cities control their broadband future—with both low- and high-tech methods.

There's no official announcement, but WRAL TechWire quoted "industry sources" as saying that Google Fiber is coming to the Research Triangle area in Raleigh and Durham.

"A formal announcement might come as early as next week at Google events in Raleigh and Durham, but the company won't say what those events are about," WRAL reported today. "Speaking to WRAL TechWire, a source who asked to remain anonymous said Google is seeking bids to begin building a fiber network as early as April. 'Drill crews' have been sought for the fiber-laying process."

Raleigh and Durham events are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Vague invitations were received:

Looks like Google Fiber has chosen Raleigh and Durham as its next expansion cities pic.twitter.com/FUMQ3GnP7S

— New Raleigh (@NewRaleigh) January 23, 2015

Google also sent out a Save the Date invitation for an event in Charlotte on Wednesday, according to the Charlotte Observer.

Google declined comment when contacted by Ars.


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Free Press Action Fund Welcomes the Community Broadband Act | Tim Karr | FreePress.net

Free Press Action Fund Welcomes the Community Broadband Act | Tim Karr | FreePress.net | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

On Thursday, Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) introduced the Community Broadband Act to put an end to protectionist state laws that prohibit cities and towns from creating homegrown broadband facilities.

A growing number of communities are looking to build their own networks as an alternative to the pricey and inadequate Internet services offered by communications giants like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. But these companies have convinced legislators to pass 19 state-level laws that restrict communities from building such networks. The Community Broadband Act would nullify existing laws and make it illegal for states to prohibit municipal networks in the future.

Free Press Action Fund President and CEO Craig Aaron made the following statement:

"We welcome this legislation and urge other members of Congress to support communities' right to build their own networks. By removing these protectionist state laws, Congress will enable cities to create local alternatives in a broadband marketplace that has far too few options.

"The industry's monopoly-minded campaign to regulate away local competition is one of the worst examples of its undue influence in policymaking. Internet innovation happens at the local level, when you let cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Cedar Falls, Iowa, experiment with their own high-speed networks. Innovation stalls when you let cable companies control access and lock out competition.

"Offering choice in the high-speed Internet marketplace has been a boon for local economies. Every American home should be connected to high-speed fiber; every person should be able to use that infrastructure to access a diverse range of affordable high-quality communications services. This legislation gives communities much more control over their communications and should become the law."

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